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Inside this Book – No, the great economists pursued an inquiry as exciting—and as dangerous —as any the world has ever known. The ideas they dealt with, unlike the ideas of the great philosophers, did not make little difference to our daily working lives; the experiments they urged could not, like the scientists’, be carried out in the isolation of a laboratory. The notions of the great economists were world-shaking, and their mistakes nothing short of calamitous. “The ideas of economists and political philosophers,” wrote Lord Keynes, himself a great economist, “both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.” To be sure, not all the economists were such titans. Thousands of them wrote texts; some of them monuments of dullness, and explored minutiae with all the zeal of medieval scholars. If economics today has little glamour, if its sense of great adventure is often lacking, it has no one to blame but its own practitioners. For the great economists were no mere intellectual fusspots. They took the whole world as their subject and portrayed that world in a dozen bold attitudes—angry, desperate, hopeful. The evolution of their heretical opinions into common sense, and their exposure of common sense as superstition, constitute nothing less than the gradual construction of the intellectual architecture of much of contemporary life. An odder group of men—one less apparently destined to remake the world —could scarcely be imagined. There were among them a philosopher and a madman, a cleric and a stockbroker, a revolutionary and a nobleman, an aesthete, a skeptic, and a tramp. They were of every nationality, of every walk of life, of every turn of temperament. Some were brilliant, some were bores; some ingratiating, some impossible. At least three made their own fortunes, but as many could never master the elementary economics of their personal finances. Two were eminent businessmen, one was never much more than a traveling salesman, another frittered away his fortune.
Inside this book –The Worldly Philosophers PDF Book by Robert L. Heilbroner – So remarkable, in fact, that society’s existence hangs by a hair. A modern community is at the mercy of a thousand dangers: if its farmers should fail to plant enough crops; if its railroad men should take it into their heads to become bookkeepers or its bookkeepers should decide to become railroad men; if too few should offer their services as miners, puddlers of steel, candidates for engineering degrees—in a word, if any of a thousand intertwined tasks of society should fail to get done—industrial life would soon become hopelessly disorganized. Every day the community faces the possibility of breakdown—not from the forces of nature, but from sheer human unpredictability. Over the centuries man has found only three ways of guarding against this calamity. He has ensured his continuity by organizing his society around tradition, by handing down the varied and necessary tasks from generation to generation according to custom and usage: son follows father, and a pattern is preserved. In ancient Egypt, says Adam Smith, “every man was bound by a principle of religion to follow the occupation of his father, and was supposed to commit the most horrible sacrilege if he changed it for another.” Similarly, in India, until recently, certain occupations were traditionally assigned by caste; in fact, in much of the unindustrialized world one is still born to one’s social task. Or society can solve the problem differently. It can use the whip of authoritarian rule to see that its tasks get done. The pyramids of ancient Egypt did not get built because some enterprising contractor took it into his head to build them, nor did the Five Year Plans of the Soviet Union get carried out because they happened to accord with hand-me-down custom or individual self-interest. Both Russia and Egypt were Command societies; politics aside, they ensured their economic survival by the edicts of one authority and by the penalties that supreme authority saw fit to issue.
The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner PDF : eBook Information
- Full Book Name – The Worldly Philosophers
- Author of this Book – Robert L. Heilbroner
- Language – English
- Book Genre – Non-Fiction, Biography, Economics, History
- Download Format – PDF
- Size – 2.1 MB
- eBook Pages – 318
- Price – Free