The worldly philosophers: the lives, times, and ideas of the . Worldly Philosophers will continue to open the vista of economics to readers who go on to. Similar Free eBooks. Filter by page count, Pages The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers, 7th Edition But as the reader of Worldly Philosopher will learn, books combative, Eva Worldly. The Worldly Philosophers not only enables us to see more deeply into our history but helps us better understand our own times. In this seventh edition, Robert L. Heilbroner provides a new theme that connects thinkers as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Heilbroner reminds us.

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From time we find books like this. A book full of insight, information and lessons about the world. Yes, from time to time you read a book that is more than its. The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner - The bestselling classic that examines the history of economic thought from Adam Smith to Karl Marx—“all the . of the Great Economic Thinkers, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers E-Books, The Worldly Philosophers.

I particularly enjoyed the section on Ricardo and Malthus.

Ricardo saw rent as the theft of what would otherwise be productive profit from both workers and capitalists. The only problem I had with this section was that the author — after explaining surplus value as that portion of the wages of labour that is produced by labour after it has produced enough to reproduce itself and is then expropriated by the capitalist, we are told that since people no longer work 10 or 12 hour days the labour theory of value no longer applies.

It is the oddest statement in the book and one that made me wonder if the author had been paying attention to his own explanation of the theory only a page or so beforehand. Later he says that the labour theory of value had been completely disproven — I guess it would have been nice to have had this disproof presented in the pages of the book, rather than asserted.

Keynes was that and then some. I was particularly impressed that he realised that the Treaty of Versailles would cause the problems it ought to have been concerned to avoid — vengeance against Germany meant little more than forcing Germany to be an economic menace and eventually to build resentment to a point where war was inevitable. The last version of this book seems to have been written in — you might think there would be more said about neo-liberalism or rather radical free market economics.

This is a worthwhile overview and, although perhaps a little too much on the side of biography, there is still enough theory to make the journey a profitable one. It is clearly written and written in a style that makes this most dry of subjects both interesting and engaging. A classic and for good reasons. View all 16 comments. More or less the story of British Empiricism versus mainland European Idealism, but without the empiricism, told in a handful of lives the 'worldly philosophers' of the title, or economists as they are often known, but Heilbroner did not want to use as off putting a term as economists, having an eye on potential sales.

The book feels quite smug now rereading it, the Cheshire cat has got the cream and leaves a self-satisfied smile on almost every page. My sense is that it is overall less than the More or less the story of British Empiricism versus mainland European Idealism, but without the empiricism, told in a handful of lives the 'worldly philosophers' of the title, or economists as they are often known, but Heilbroner did not want to use as off putting a term as economists, having an eye on potential sales.

My sense is that it is overall less than the sum of its parts and deliberately sets out to be self sufficient and discourage any reading of the 'philosophers' themselves. This makes it ideal for the reader who fancies a non-technical, breezy account of some well known names.

The introduction and first chapter give an overview of the history of the universe down to the eighteenth century from an economic view point. I think it obscures matters and makes it sound more forbidding and complex than it is, or was. Then an overview of his ideas a la Heilbroner, from which we see Smith as the Newton of economic thinking - his vision seems distinctly mechanical, except the constituent parts are ignorant of each other and of how they interact the vision of Adam smith is a testimony to the eighteenth-century belief in the inevitable triumph of rationality and order over arbitrariness and chaos p.

Both seen as pessimistic in relation to Smith - his political economy was a self regulating machine, while Heilbroner has it that Malthus and Riccardo had discovered the tragedy of continual growth. Mill apparently a socialist, which is a bit of a surprise as I though in Britain he's generally considered a fairly classical Liberal, but then I recalled that Heilbroner was from the USA. Simon and Fourier are presented as crazy, but they spoke it appears to a wider audience than Smith, which raises the question of the criteria for inclusion in the book, is Heilbroner interested in the development of economic thinking or of the impact of economic thinking or does he have no particular criteria view spoiler [ I incline to the last idea hide spoiler ].

Karl Marx the same procedure as every year, the quirky life boils, bad handwriting, couldn't manage his own finances without bail outs from Engels a presentation of ideas principally that Marx was wrong but important, I had the distinct impression that I understood less at the bottom of some pages than I had at the top.

I had thought that the economic focus meant that some, maybe many of these thinkers were utterly shredded by Heilbroner, the economy was for Marx as for Smith a part of their overall vision, just looking at that fragment I felt misrepresented what they were about.

Hobson I thought interesting - arguing that certain countries were forced into Imperialism in order to find new markets for the excess of industrial goods that could not be consumed domestically - an interesting idea but plainly wrong since the colonies were mostly too poor - other wealthy countries were always far more significant as trading partners, but this is true for all of these economic thinkers, they have some interesting ideas but their actual empirical knowledge when you scratch the surface seems mostly to be limited or misleading, while their first hand experience of the economy was generally even more limited - look at Adam Smith there was literally an invisible hand in his life who put dinner on the table for him and picked his dirty underwear up off the floor - his mum.

Thorstein Veblen the greatest, but not the easiest to read and frequently impossible to quote. Reading this chapter led me to read The Theory of the Leisure Class , and that made this book worthwhile. John Maynard Keynes quirky life homosexual relationships, married a ballerina, liked champagne.

Keynes is I felt a bit of a problem for Heilbroner, on the one hand Keynes explained a way out of the Great Depression, Keynesian appeared to work, but Heilbroner doesn't seem to have liked that, I had the suspicion that Heilbroner was more than a bit uncomfortable with Keynes the man, particularly as he was the only only of any of these economists to have had any kind of success at running a business or making money.

Joseph Schumpeter Curious, Heilbroner plainly likes Schumpeter a lot, but there doesn't seem in his account to be an obvious reason why. The Schumpeter chapter led me to conclude that the sub-Suetonius life and times approach of Heilbroner opened up the potential for alternative biographical readings of these economists, therefore Schumpeter likes entrepreneuers because they are in his opinion an aristocracy of talent - which was how he perceived himself, Marx believed in revolution because he was born and brought up in Prussia during a very oppressive period of its history, the economics is just a by-product.

Veblen is the anthropologist of the economy because he was the naturalised alien lost between the American shores. It strikes me that what most of these thinkers have in common is not economics, but sociology. A drive to explain what the human world is and how it functions, all of these writers I believe wrote, with the possible exception of Adam Smith, for political reasons broadly speaking, to either push for certain policies or wider cultural changes.

Looking at them purely from the perspective of economic thinking is like looking at half and elephant and concluding that it must have walked upright on two legs and probably didn't need a head.

Each thinker is a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that remarkably and apparently to Heilbroner's surprise fit together to form a harmonious picture, suggestive of a perfect university syllabus. Heilbroner admires the Scandinavian economies finding they have produced far better in his opinion societies than the USA yet he is more critical of the thinking and ideals which underpinned the Scandinavian economies.

It is noticeable that these people are almost all from the English-speaking world and when he seeks for examples he reaches for those from Anglo-Saxon Capitalism giving the impression of a restricted view of a complicated picture. Well it is what it is, a breazy life and times approach. No mathematics required. View all 9 comments. View all 4 comments. Overall presents an affective dialectic, positioning various theorists of political economy in relationship to each other on the basis of how they feel about the future.

Smith is pragmatically optimistic; Malthus and Ricardo are independently despairing; Owen, Fourier, Saint-Simon are presented as insanely optimistic; and so on.

This presentation sweeps up the whole: It was this: Incidentally, this hasty conclusion arises out of an under- analysis of Marx's dispute with Proudhon, which was carried out through the writing of contending pamphlets--telling, then, that this author regards strident disputation in writing to be "antipathy for democracy"--I suppose this reveals my own antipathy for democracy by disagreeing with author in writing.

Such tyranny! None of that, surely, stamps the imprimatur of a capitalist consecration of infallibility, nor does it evidence an absolute inability to entertain dissenting opinions. Surely not, no! Easy to persuade all of those corpses, no? Why not go recruit some Nazi war criminals to help with all that? We know this is a hit piece in which the cold warrior lines up all of classical political economy against Herr Marx when--after frivolously suggesting that marxism acts religiously, even though all economics attempts to predict the future--he dicks up the summation of marxist theory: This is of course a misstatement of the thesis that the rate of profit tends to fall; the marxian formulation of that thesis is definitional, rooted in other terms of art, and not easily conflated with the cursory statements by other political economists on how profits go down as a matter of diminishing returns or because other capitals rush in to compete down the price.

Otherwise, safe to say that this text is in some ways the gold standard for non-fiction writing: Often gossipy and trivial, focusing on personal details Veblen is an interesting cat--but this is economics? Accordingly, not a substitute for a proper history of economic theory.

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Oct 09, Erik rated it liked it. My estimation of economic science lies somewhere between where I rate astrology and phlogiston, but I'm giving this a chance to convince me otherwise A little breezy, but so far it is interesting to read that Adam Smith was a lot brighter than his latter day followers.

He recognized that the division of labor did not create economic growth by any sort of magic, but by the systematic exploitation of available resources including labor. He thought that eventually wages would either rise My estimation of economic science lies somewhere between where I rate astrology and phlogiston, but I'm giving this a chance to convince me otherwise He thought that eventually wages would either rise so high that profit was impossible or wages would fall with a rising population of workers competing their way to the bottom.

He even predicted that eventually capitalism would expand to exploit every available resource and then reach an equilibrium where wages are as low as possible and profits are impossible because there are no inefficiencies left, the market is as perfect as it can be. No more growth after that.

His treatment of Mill is good, never someone I would have otherwise considered a great political philosopher, but I changed my mind.

Mill is the intellectual father of the modern welfare state compromise, because he admits the power of politics to control distribution through tax policy. The treatment of Marx is however too breezy.

He does a good job with the surplus value argument against capitalism--Marx's one trump card it seems to me, and still one that has extraordinary power, but only if you overlook Marx's labor theory of value and its weaknesses. Labor power was to Marx a fact of nature to be integrated in his faulty edifice of Hegelian inspired metaphysics-rubbish.

But labor power makes no sense in economics unless we say what the labor produces and whether or not it has any social value. I once met a woman who made Goblin head flower vases for a living.

They're all different, she said, I never make two alike. While that may be a fascinating fact about the amount of labor power and thought and creativity she put into these Goblin heads, I did not feel inclined to value them for that reason.

Probably the nicest chapter is about Thorstein Veblen. His second book about the rise of the Engineers is even more interesting than his Theory of the Leisure Class. The chapter on Keynes is more focused on his personality, but I got the point. I did not see what merits Schrumpter a place in the pantheon however. Some catchy words, entrepreneurship, the swarm, scientific rational socialism etc.

The Worldly Philosophers Study Guide

I did however come to appreciate Heilbroner's point that economics should be seen as a foster child of philosophy rather than a dismal science of numbers and data crunching. Ultimately it is about the structure of society and human relationships in a practical way to their environment and each other. Probably for our own time period this is also far too simple an analysis of the toxic and volatile mixture of economic, political and social forces currently twisting and churning out of control, and by no means headed toward greater human enlightenment.

Jan 29, Rajat Ubhaykar rated it it was amazing Shelves: In this excellent summary of the evolution of economic thought over the last two centuries, Professor Robert Heilbroner delves into not just the philosophies, but also the lives and the backgrounds of various economic thinkers and tries to find common ground between how they experienced their lives and what they wrote in their books.

He starts the book off with one essential question: To explain this, Heilbroner postulates two means throughout history by which those in power ensured that everyone performed the duties according to their social station: The modern economy, not unlike the Biblical moment of creation, began with Adam. In this case, with Adam Smith, an eccentric Scottish professor known as the father of modern economics.

The rational man was thus born. Rational, in this context, meant that a man would rather have more of a product than less of it.

Thus, the age of accumulation began. Increasingly, a certain section of the society began to be accorded more power: Simply put, prices and quantities produced were governed efficiently by demand and competition. For example, if high demand drives up prices higher than their cost of production, competition will ensure that a flood of new players and new products will bring prices down to their original levels of profitability.

Ricardo, a great analytical thinker, in addition is also credited with flagging off the abstraction of economics. Ricardian vice now denotes the dangers of abstraction, a point at which an abstract model ceases to replicate reality around it and yields counterproductive results. As capitalism sunk deeper into the increasingly interconnected and interdependent global economy, fresh theories were necessary to explain the workings of this complex monster that often spiralled out of control.

Heilbroner analyzes the lives, times and philosophies of Karl Marx, Robert Owen, John Hobson, Thornstein Veblen, John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter, thus tracing the evolution of economic thought over the last two centuries through these important thinkers. In particular, the chapters on Karl Marx and Thornstein Veblen are especially well-written.

He explores their eccentric lifestyles and unconventional thoughts and the relation between the two in enthralling prose. He explains the often complicated and dull economic concepts in wonderfully precise prose, provides the right historical context and makes this an entertaining read. View all 7 comments. Jul 16, J. Keely rated it really liked it Shelves: Read as an audiobook. As far as I know, this is an excellent and amusing introduction to economics. I certainly enjoyed the breadth and depth to which Heilbroner explored the topic, arguing intelligently for how, why, and when economics came about, and the tracing its strange, wavering history through the politics, war, and geography of the modern world.

The inclusion of not only scientists and revolutionaries but satirists, idealists, religious fanatics, armchair hobbyists, and social theorists h Read as an audiobook. The inclusion of not only scientists and revolutionaries but satirists, idealists, religious fanatics, armchair hobbyists, and social theorists helped to show the many ways in which goods, services, value, and power affect us all, personally and socially.

I wish I knew more on the subject of economics, because I would like to say more about this book, but I have little to compare it to. As of this point, it's the best economics text I've read, which basically means that it's better than a semester's worth of Marxist apologists. It has been one of the leading textbooks for economics since it was published half a century ago, which either means it is remarkable and beyond reproach, or it is ill-informed, confused, and out-of-date.

I suspect something closer to the former. I'll be seeking out some of more interesting texts mentioned here, and hopefully I'll have some chance to improve my economics education in the future. I read the first edition of this text, published in It is now in its seventh edition, and I assume that there have been changes in it, changes that I do not know about.

My comments here can only relate to the edition that I read. In this book Heilbroner explores the personalities and roles of prominent economists from Adam Smith in the 18th century until the time this book was published in Economics as an academic discipline, or even as a concept, was not possible in traditional soci I read the first edition of this text, published in Economics as an academic discipline, or even as a concept, was not possible in traditional societies, based as they were on either tradition or authoritarian rule.

Heilbroner clearly places Smith in his historical context and clarifies the societal conditions that he addressed.

Heilbroner next takes on the close friends Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo, a pair that posited different concerns about the future of economic and social development but who both presented a decidedly pessimistic view of the economic future of the world, constrained as they viewed it to be by irreconcilable contradictions and economic trajectories.

Although the conditions they saw and posited have proved largely incorrect, their observations and theories did result in a view of social and economic progress that was pessimistic rather than optimistic.

They argued that an economic order left to itself to drift would have grim and tragic consequences. Marx and Engels are the figures whose work Heilbroner next addresses.

Working from the Hegelian-based theory of dialectical materialism, Marx predicted that capitalism must inevitably collapse, this being an historical necessity. Actual organization and implementation was fitful and unstable, each manifestation lasting for a time and then disintegrating as various factions went their own ways, disenchanted by the narrowness of vision and intolerance of variation that the author and founder demonstrated.

Whether it will occur in the future, and for the reasons that Marx foresaw, remains an open question, a question hinging in part on the issue of social instability that Marx described. Hobson, and Alfred Marshall. Most were fringe figures, thinkers who made little headway during the years of growth, unbridled capitalism, and accelerating imperialism of the latter half of the 19th century.

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Hobson, however, was especially perceptive in his conclusion that capitalism inherently requires expanding markets, thus necessitating imperialism in fact if not in name, and therefore increasingly risking war and ultimately its own demise. This is a critique that has as yet not been adequately refuted, a prophecy that may in fact be correct. Of course, Hobson did not say that all this would inevitably come to pass. It was up to Lenin to take that step. And, of course, as the trajectory of the 20th century has shown, gross imperialism in the form of colonialism has given way to the struggle for economic hegemony by the most capitalistic nations.

Thorstein Veblen, that odd loner who dispassionately critiqued industry, business, and the economy, proposed to demonstrate that the economy existing in its form at the turn of the 20th century had as its implicit purpose not the production of goods but the use of financial chicanery by industrial leaders to feather their own beds. And he then extrapolated from this not only, as he had done previously, a theory of the leisure class, but a prophecy of inevitable social change that would result from this economic system, social change that divided society into increasingly fiercely competing groups that spoke virtually different language based on different premises, until the system as a whole threatened to degenerate into Fascism.

Turning next to one of the most fascinating economic thinkers of the 20th century, we arrive at a true polymath, a man of multiple interests with positions in academia, government, and Bloomsbury, John Maynard Keynes. He recognized the relationships and consequences between savings and investment, a key to the boom and bust cycles that seemed endemic to capitalism. His insight was that saving and investing were not in an inverse relationship and, thus, that the boom-bust cycle was not self-correcting.

In fact, during a bust savings dried up and, although consumer wants remained, demand plummeted because there was no consumer ability to download. Since, then, the economy depends on business investing, and since the willingness to invest always reaches a limit because it is dependent on limited market size, the cycles of boom and bust are inevitable.

Some might conclude thus. Although this was interpreted by business as government interference with their prerogative, Keynes did not mean such government involvement to be perpetual but rather only a temporary emergency expedient until consumer spending resumed and business began investing again.

During World War II, when the problem was the opposite, with rapid investment triggering inflation and savings lagging, Keynes turned his attention and talents to this issue and was instrumental in economic and financial strategies during and immediately after the War.

In , Heilbroner was able to reflect upon the economy in the US and try to make some educated guesses about its trajectory.

He noted that for most groups in this country incomes were gradually rising, and the income gap between rich and poor was actually narrowing. Poverty seemed more a political and social problem than an economic one. There seemed to be reason for optimism. But Berle and Means pointed out that all was indeed not well. Resources were beginning to be concentrated in the hands of too few large firms, making the idea of competition increasingly meaningless and the concept of responsiveness to the consumers less viable.

Senior management was becoming a power unto itself, able to reward itself and make business decisions without direct reference to the little owners, the shareholders. Other voices, like that of Friedrich Hayak, argued that the problem was not huge business but rather huge government. Hayak argued that the involvement of government in business regulation and planning inevitably continued to grow, stifling the market.

A third concern was the question of whether capitalism could continue to grow, a concern raised by Alvin Hansen. With the rate of population growth and thus new markets slowing, Hansen argued that continued involvement of government with the economy was a necessity, if only to provide stimulus to technological innovation, the essential ingredient for continuing prosperity.

The environment for capitalism was growing riskier. A fierce defender of capitalism, even as he was also its most incisive critic, he concluded that capitalism, in the end, probably could not survive. Heilbroner presents him as a champion of the romantic entrepreneur, destined to fade with the emergence of the rational, cautious, and managerial business leader, capitalism finally fading away with a shrug or whimper.

Thus, capitalism ultimately will fail for noneconomic reasons, and with the displacement of economics as central to a society or culture, an important shift has taken place and the age of the centrality of economic man comes to a close. The tale of two hundred years thus is one in which pure economic forces unchecked and uninfluenced formerly could exert their effects. Now, however, we are experiencing a change into a system in which other noneconomic societal values have been interjected, thus making the system less predictable in some ways, more predictable in others, but certainly different.

Heilbroner at the end of this edition raises questions the answers to which he was unable to envision: It is my understanding that in subsequent editions of this book, Heilbroner attempted to bring his history and arguments up to date.

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I have not had the opportunity to read those arguments. And, I must confess, I feel in a poor position to critique his book and arguments as a whole. I do know that he writes well and clearly. But I admit to a general disinterest in economics, a lifelong disinterest that has resulted in a deficit of any critical capacity to do more than accept what I read. And that can result in inexcusable naivete. Nonetheless I found his book of interest and am glad that I read it.

View 2 comments. Sep 08, Bruce rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: If you're a Goodreader or a Virtual Bookshelfer? I mean it as the height of compliments to say that reading Heilbroner is like reading McCandless and Jones.

Malthus, Mill, and Marx all put in an appearance, among others, and the tone is always light, easy to read, thought-provoking, and entertaining. This book is apparently in its 7th edition, which I'll have to pick up, as the copy I read was the "Revised" 2nd edition from , thanks in no small part to my spouse's real as opposed to virtual bookshelf.

That said, it's remarkable how current and applicable this historical review remains.

The Worldly Philosophers

I guess Galbraith, with his segregation of public and private activity into separate economies might say no, or at least not quite.

It sounds to me like a great shell game. Just keep hopes high and everything in motion and prosperity will follow. But if defense spending ultimately got us out of the Depression, we know it bankrupted the Soviet state.

War is hell on both people and economies. The arts? America seems to have a preference for indulging millions of individual cruelties over running the risk of collective incompetence. In any case, I feel strongly that economic and social policy public or private should promote in some positive way one or more of the essentials for life food, shelter, clothing, personal safety, and mutual tolerance without sacrificing one or more of another.

In our mutually inconsistent priorities and definitions, there the devil lies. Rant over. Two more 'what I learned from this book' observations.


First, I wonder if Heilbroner has evolved from his position of almost half a century ago that in occasionally regulating market forces to promote moral ends for example, favoring the tyranny of oligopoly over that of outright monopoly, investing in social security, workfare, or unemployment plans, health and safety regulations, etc. Rather, why can we not include in our calculus the value of improving the lot of our neighbor, or less altruistically, just simply enjoying Life-on-Earth, the Ride?

It would seem to throw wide open the realm of economics into an impossible-to-predict iterative complex like the weather, as wholly incompatible individual value systems are understood to influence communal activity.

Case in point, as this Goodreader indulges in, er… invests his time in… his passion for online blather, an activity that in conjunction with the like activity of millions of others around the world presumably helps drive the engine of the internet as a whole.

And thanks again to the McCandlesses and Joneses whose shared passion adds tremendously to my weekly literary consumption. Second, I note that Heilbroner ends the Revised Edition pp. The distribution of wealth, therefore, depends on the laws and customs of society. This is a red herring; Heilbroner illustrates throughout the book how the output of these major thinkers was of their time and yet resonates still.

A Goodreads proof -- check the consensus -- good books make a reader verbose. Dec 26, Savil Srivastava rated it it was amazing Shelves: Wonderful book that I highly recommend, because Heilbroner not only lucidly explains the core ideas but also puts them into context: Can capitalism survive the test of time?

In this book, Heilbroner tries to answer this question by surveying what he calls the worldly philosophers. He starts with the father of economics Adam Smith who of course answers with a resounding yes albeit with some qualifications.

Next, he examines the resourceful Ricardo who isn't as optimistic but still has enough confidence in the system as long as the aristocratic landlords are pushed away. His pessimistic friend Malthus, however, disagrees and Can capitalism survive the test of time? His pessimistic friend Malthus, however, disagrees and predicts that overpopulation will be the undoing of capitalism and prosperity birth control and the green revolution proved him wrong, though.

Heilbroner after that turns to the Victorian age and particularly to John Stuart Mill who envisions that capitalism will one day reach a point where it gradually and peacefully turns into a more socialist and benevolent system. But then Marx declares that he can already hear the violent distant echoes of the death knell of capitalism. Heilbroner doesn't like that, though, so he tries to brush him off.

Next, the academic Marshall appears and he has only concern for microeconomics. The nonconformist Veblen, however, has no taste for conservatism and proposes the heretical idea that one day engineers and scientists will start a revolution that will transform capitalism into a technocracy. Meanwhile, the bourgeois Keynes dismisses all the anti-capitalist talk and asserts that capitalism will survive as long as governments keep on pushing it when it falters. The elitist Schumpeter is the last worldly philosopher we meet and he agrees with Marx that capitalism will eventually dissolve into socialism but a socialism where the most naturally gifted ie, the bourgeoisie will always be on top.

Finally, Heilbroner, who used to be a democratic socialist but embraced capitalism when the Soviet Union fell down, gives his own opinion and tells us that a social capitalist system, something like what the Scandinavians have today but more refined and idealized, is the way to go.

Oct 28, Palash Bansal rated it it was amazing Shelves: Having studied economics for the last 3 years, in all fairness to the professors and myself, I did imbibe the concepts of it. But all the theories were like little pieces of autarky islands. What was missing was a common thread that could join everything together such that it all ends up making complete sense. This book certainly helped a lot in doing so! Jan 19, Jason Furman rated it it was amazing Shelves: The Worldly Philosopher should be required reading for all economists and is also a book I would highly recommend to all non economists as well.

I last read it about 30 years ago and although I have learned a lot in the interim, and economics has advanced some as well, it has actually aged reasonably well. Moreover, much of the writing is genuinely beautiful and makes you want to read it aloud to various people you come across, a feeling one rarely if ever gets with an economics book. The Wordly The Worldly Philosopher should be required reading for all economists and is also a book I would highly recommend to all non economists as well.

Most of these men get a chapter with a thumbnail biography, a description of their major intellectual arguments, and a critical appraisal of them. In few cases he does a combination portrait e. The biographies are interesting and fun, although they generally cover the familiar stories and well trod ground that a number of readers will already be familiar with.

More important, Robert Heilbroner does an excellent job of providing historical context and, sometimes, consequences for that authors he writes about. In his interpretation, as long as the economy was run by a combination of tradition and authority there was no need for economics.

And that someone was Adam Smith. Keynes writing in the middle of the Depression was focused on the permanence of bad equilibria and Schumpeter writing following an era of increased industrial concentration chose to lionize it etc.

While Heilbroner emphasizes the historical roots of the different ideas, he also includes a slightly history of ideas that is less of a Whig history of progression and more a complicated story of accretion of knowledge but also accretion of flawed ways of thinking as well as alternation between all of the above. For example, Heilbroner describes the ways that the presentation of ideas alternates, from the vivid, lifelike descriptions of Smith and Marx to the bloodless abstractions of Ricardo, Malthus and Keynes.

From the treating everyone as similar types of agents Marshall to thinking of them in classes Ricard and Marx. And many other different approaches that appear, disappear and reappear over time. He argues that economics should be about understanding comparative systems and institutions, like the US vs. Scandinivaian model. I agree that more comparative institutional analysis would be welcome in economics but strongly disagree with his characterization and dismissal of much of the field.

The aspirations of economics to a more scientific basis are just that, aspirations, but mostly it is a health aspiration that has produced internally coherent theories and, more importantly, convincing causal empirical evidence on a wide range of really important questions.

Not that everything is perfect, but with some exceptions I think a Whig history would be closer to right when it comes to the last 50 or even years of economics. View 1 comment. Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter etc. The accounts of their lives are studded with anecdotes and amusing asides which disguise the fact that the reader is actually learning classical economic theory painlessly.

Nov 22, Jackson Cyril rated it it was amazing. A fascinating book. Heilbroner effortlessly communicates the ideas of classical economic theory while providing the reader with amusing anecdotes about the men behind this theoretical development.

Feb 10, Holly rated it really liked it Recommended to Holly by: So interesting and what an introduction! The idea that has most stuck with me in the book, I felt, is that in a group of non-industrialized peoples, increasing wages will result in a voluntary decrease of hours instead of an increase or no change. The concept of accumulating wealth while sacrificing free time is not inherent!

Imagine that I would never even think of cutting my hours if I got a raise So interesting and what an introduction! Though, as this was written much earlier than Bryson I would not be surprised if he had read it Both are infused with just enough history, personality quirks, and good stories to make you feel the subjects are simply the most interesting available. Perhaps your economics teachers, history teachers and science teachers deserve a good walloping for making such rich subjects so completely boring in high school Jun 28, Jeremy rated it it was amazing Shelves: Like many weepy humanists, I don't read many books that deal with economics in a sincere, deep way too dry, too mathy, the usual wimpy criticisms.

Heilbroner's overview is wonderful, not simply because he breaks down several notoriously byzantine, ideologically fraught economic world systems, but because he shows the reader the sincere human inquiries at the center of them.

What is our world like? How did it get that way? Is it possible to exert control over it? Economics in our age is, like so Like many weepy humanists, I don't read many books that deal with economics in a sincere, deep way too dry, too mathy, the usual wimpy criticisms. Economics in our age is, like so much else, polarized along militantly political lines.

We demonize the thinkers on the other side of the fence just as readily as we tend to ignore, misunderstand or simply forget those we think are in our camp. This book shows the history of a set of men who struggled to make sense of their world, of its nature and its cycles of boom and bust as our planet transitioned and still continues to from a primitive agrarian society to an increasingly market-centric one.

It's a potent and important reminder that, aside from its reputation, economics is at root an intensely humanistic field. This is an excellent primer on the subject at large.

Highly recommended. Oct 18, Phoenix2 rated it really liked it Recommends it for: The measure of the value of the ball is its price. How much is it sold for? How was the price determined and who ultimately gets a share of the price? Team Smith believes that the Caterpillarist is entitled to negotiate and pin down its costs of input, and therefore it is solely entitled to whatever profit it can generate by playing the game or scoring a goal.

The fact that these other contributions were required does not entitle the contributors to a profit share. Half Time Score In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the Caterpillarists might have thought they were winning, but the world got pretty close to Revolution everywhere, not just in Russia.

Ironically, what avoided World Revolution was a rule change that allowed the Referee to influence the play. Rather than allow the Caterpillarists to thrash the Workers by a margin that would depress everyone, the Referee in the form of Social Democratic Governments legislated to achieve a level playing field. Minimum wages were set. Working conditions were protected by law.

Workers suffered less misery. They got a little more comfortable and lost their revolutionary fervor. They just got paid a better wage, usually whether or not the Caterpillarist generated a profit. So the risk-taking Caterpillarist could go down the gurgler, while the Workers still got paid although they might lose their jobs.

Team Smith and the Caterpillarists still believe that some form of equilibrium has been and will be achieved, albeit with the intervention of the Referee against the wishes of the laissez-faire Caterpillarists.

Even if a Revolution has been avoided, the outcome is not the self-regulating equilibrium the Caterpillarists were seeking. Team Marx appears to have been irreparably damaged by the failure of attempts to do without Caterpillarists in Communist economies and the complacency of the Workers who are doing alright. These rule changes have forced a reconsideration of the strategies of each Team. Some on Team Smith e. Thus, the differential between capital and labor would diminish and potentially manifest itself in a distinction only between Workers and Management.

Ultimately, even this difference would be reflected primarily in the relative level of remuneration. Late in the second half, the players were confronted by new rule changes. Once again, the Referee intervened to make sure the game continued.

The Referee supported the Caterpillarists with cash and credit, so that they in turn could pay wages and salaries to the Workers and Management. Nobody quite knows at what cost this support will come.

The important thing is that the Referee mitigated the misery of the Workers and Management. The surplus value created by its Workers is being aggregated by the State or State-owned Enterprises.

Thus, China, in a reversal of the dynamic of Colonialism, is actually capitalizing on investment opportunities in the West to create greater domestic wealth, while making itself an indispensable source of economic stability in the West. In other words, public profit good, private profit bad. Team Work It seems to me that these disputes about profits are effectively arguments about the relative entitlement to profit as between labor and capital.

For the Marx Team, at least, its importance derives from the fact that it dictates the relationship of Workers with the product of their labor alienation , as well as the quality of their life subjugation to Caterpillarists. However, you have to wonder why the alienation should be any different in the case of State Caterpillarism. Does it matter who appropriates the profit? Does it matter who subjugates the Worker?

What seems to be missing is a greater role for Worker Profit Sharing, whereby the Workers share in the surplus value that they have created within the framework of a joint venture.

Philosophically, this recognises that it is their labor that generated a proportionate part of the profit, while giving them greater financial security. Retirement Incomes There is another justification for profit that has become more important as the average lifetime of the public has increased. Assuming that Workers still retire from active, full-time work, it will be necessary for them to fund some, if not all, of their retirement income for the rest of their lives.

Thus, remuneration should not just be about funding a subsistence lifestyle while you are working. It must also fund post-retirement incomes.

If the Worker is not to bear some or all of the burden of their incomes, the burden would fall back on pensions funded by the State. Ultimately, someone Workers or State would still have to generate sufficient funds to fund these pensions. Thus, the question seems to be not whether profits need to be generated, but who is entitled to them.

The Vision Thing Heilbroner laments the fact that these types of economists and philosophers seem to have exited the field of economics in favour of dismal mathematical and mechanical economists. Nobody is trying to extend the dialectical narrative into the future. Nobody is telling the story anymore. In a way, the game hasn't finished yet, but nobody is trying to predict the outcome, Butterfly or Moth. And if you don't try to predict the outcome, how can you hope to influence it?Even then he wasn't the first as people have been developing economic theory long before he appeared on the scene.

Does it matter who subjugates the Worker? A good example is the Fugger banking family of Bavaria, which failed to pursue the amassing of wealth begun by their patriarch, Anton Fugger. Although I originally wanted to be a chemical engineer, I am terrified by any book that contains mathematical formulae. It was not until the nineteenth century that the Wealth of Nations made its full impact. Not what you do with the ball, but the composition of the ball.

Finally, the laws of the market also regulate incomes of producers. Another name for this arrangement is capitalism. Even worse, Owen and his lieutenants quarreled and ended their association. Does it matter who appropriates the profit?

LEONIA from Medford
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