Edited by Ingo Barens, Volker Caspari and Bertram Schefold
. . . the ideas of economists and political philosophers, 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. Thus did John Maynard Keynes (1936, p. 383) begin his paean of praise to thinkers in general, and to economic thinkers in particular. No wonder economists of all persuasions are familiar with this passage. It expresses one of the most agreeably comforting thoughts that any of us is likely to encounter in a working lifetime. George Stigler’s (1982) message about the political role of intellectuals is less soothing, and less widely discussed as well, probably for that reason. He conjectured that ‘their support is . . . available to the highest bidder, just as other resources in our society are allocated’ (1982, p 32). And, perhaps with Keynes’s contrary view at the back of his mind, though he did not say so, Stigler elaborated as follows: That intellectuals should believe that intellectuals are important in determining the course of history is not diﬃcult to understand. The position is less easy for even an intellectual economist to understand, since it sets one class of laborers aside and attributes special motives to them. On the traditional economic theory...
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