Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Three Great Writers

In reading Schumpeter, he explained that the work of Adam Smith explained reasons for colonial expansion better than Marx. I did not recognize the name, so I googled him here. I had heard of his Wealth of Nations but have never read it. It amazed me to see how many ideas that seem so "modern" can be attributed to that five-volume series published in 1776. He expounded the benefits of specialization, self-interest as a proponent of economic well-being for a system, and the differentiation of wage rates. Somehow when I studied those concepts as an undergraduate, I took them to be fairly new, at least from the last fifty years. I might some day seek a copy of that series to enlighten myself further.

On Adam Smith's page, I saw a reference to Milton Friedman, someone I had heard of (there were also pages on Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, who I'd heard of but didn't choose to click on). I got a kick out of how many ideas from Keynesian economics - which is still taught in many undergraduate courses as a logical method for governments to curtail depressions - he shot to pieces. He showed that the Great Depression had more to do with poor government policy than to do with rampant capitalism, and so offended the Federal Reserve that they commissioned a defense of their efforts from another economist (they also quit publishing the minutes of their meetings). I almost laughed out loud (yes, I probably do belong in the ranks of nerds and professors) at how many times he inspired the revision of a Keynes disciple in his textbooks over the years. Any time someone can compel the competition to literally change their point of view, that is success in my view. So I might be looking for the works of Milton Friedman as well in the future. My stack grows without any real shrinkage resulting from my having completed any of these texts. Still, I can see I am learning, which is what matters (hopefully).

-- Robert

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