Two (or Four) Interesting Economists

Both of whom I hope to write about in the not-too-distant future. Here’s Roger Kimball in The New Criterion on Hayek. And here are a couple of links to reviews of the new Thomas McCraw bio of Joseph Schumpeter, which looks to be excellent: The Economist, NY Sun. I hadn’t known that Schumpeter is now more cited than Keynes. That’s a step in the right direction.

To add some updates on a couple more interesting economists: later this year Jorg Guido Hulsmann’s full-scale biography of Ludwig von Mises is being published by the Mises Institute, and David Gordon’s intellectual biography of Murray Rothbard is already in print, and highly recommended too.

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3 thoughts on “Two (or Four) Interesting Economists

  1. Tim May 3, 2007 / 1:14 pm

    The David Gordon book on Murray Rothbard is excellent and highlights many aspects of his intellectual contribution that non-libertarians, non-Austrian economists and even non economists would be interested in. I’ve been mainly interested in Rothbard the historian and sometime journalist, rather than Rothbard the economist or Rothbard the philisopher. Here are some thoughts I put together after reading Gordon’s Rothbard.

    “Rothbard’s work is linked by a single theme, his vision of a free society based on individual rights and private property derived from an Aristotlean natural rights perspective, Austrian school economics, “Old Right” isolationism and a “Jeffersonian” perspective on American history. Add to this his defence of anarcho-capitalism and championing of power elite (i.e. class) analysis of politics. This guy couldn’t make himself more unpopular in conventional academic circles if he tried. Especially writing as he was, mainly through the sixties, seventies and eighties. The first two of those decades were lean times for hard line free market folks. Still Rothbard soldiered on and seems to be saying to the intellectual establishment of his day “you want scholarly, I’ll give you scholarly.” Had he been willing to compromise even a tad, he probably would have had a lucrative as well as a long career.”

    “Rothbard’s liberty theme links all his work as a skeleton, but it’s the flesh that’s really interesting. And it’s the flesh that could be and should be of interest to readers who don’t share Rothbard’s overall libertarian viewpoint. His writings on history of economic thought provide a welcome relief to the “it all started with Adam Smith” school. Rothbard was anti-Smith, disparaged “the invisible hand” and highlighted the role of the French physiocrats. Similarly he demolishes the Max Weber “protestantism as the source of capitalism” idea and shows how Calvinist and Catholic strands in economic thought intertwined and diverged. He illustrates the role of Herbert Hoover as an unrecognised Progressive and proto-New Dealer, as well as the role of Wall Street interests in influencing, and at times directing, both US foreign policy and the Progressive movement. Here he names names. He castigates the left for watering down it’s “muckracking” traditions, now letting corporate elites off the hook, as the fashion for “mixed economy” has displaced old style socialism. He looks into the interactions between eschatology and politics in American history and, surprisingly, in the roots of secular humanist movements like Marxism and New England liberalism. My guess is that since 9-11 the academic study of eschatology will become a growth industry, but Rothbard was there first and dug deeper. ”

    The book is not biographical but I would have liked more discussion of the relationship between Rothbard and revisionist historian Harry Elmer Barnes. Rothbard is quite strong in his admiration for H.E.B. and there are even stylistic similarities. I imagine Rothbard would be quite happy to call himself a Barnesian historian. It’d be interesting to hear what others think of this.

  2. Daniel McCarthy May 4, 2007 / 1:17 am

    Thanks, Tim, I’ll second all you’ve said. I hope that readers of Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism who read about Rothbard and want to know more about who this influential guy was will check out David’s book. Rothbard admirers like myself find a lot to like in it, but as the best short introduction to Rothbard available, even his critics will discover something useful in it.

  3. Tim May 4, 2007 / 4:03 am

    I don’t want to detract from Rothbard’s work in any way but very often his non-economic writings are the best. I suppose this may be that when he was writing economics he was “talking in school”, i.e. outlining the Austrian school of economics position. In the other subjects he was “talking out of school” and offering an unorthodox and independent position, difficult to pigeon hole, predict or characterise.

    The Gordon volume is also tight, all told relatively brief and concise. I actually wished it was longer.

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