TEACHINGS FROM THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHY by Robert Heilbroner

TEACHINGS FROM THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A lively medley of readings from nearly 20 economists who have left their mark on Western civilization. In a landmark work on the evolution of economic thought published over 40 years ago, Heilbroner (Visions of the Future, 1995, etc.) felicitously dubbed fellow practitioners of the dismal science worldly philosophers. He now fulfills a longstanding ambition to provide a companion piece that allows influential figures from the distant and recent past to speak for themselves. While prototypical economists and their ideas occupy center stage, the author does not hesitate to offer either brief critiques or his own opinions on innovative canons and consequential schools of thought. The result is an agreeable guided tour that begins with the Judeo-Christian Bible (which took a decidedly dim view of wealth) and ends with Joseph Alois Schumpeter (the father of entrepreneurship theory). On his trek through time, Heilbroner presents Aristotle (no friend of commerce), early mercantile apologists (Richard Cantillon, Thomas Mun), and a brace of physiocrats (Fran‡ois Quesnay, Anne Robert, Jacques Turgot) whose conviction that land was the source of all riches provided a bridge from prehistory to the classical era adorned by Adam Smith. Although the illustrious Scot is accorded pride of place, the author makes room aplenty for his intellectual heirs, including Thomas Robert Malthus, John Stuart Mill, and David Ricardo (a wildly successful securities speculator). In Heilbroner's compendium, John Maynard Keynes, along with Karl Marx (capitalism's hanging judge) and Thorstein Vehlen (of conspicuous consumption fame), is in a class by himself. Judicious and generous selections from the key writings of masters of the economics game, complete with perceptive commentary from their latter-day Boswell.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0393316076
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton