Shattered Empires and Exploded Continents

Lord John Maynard Keynes wrote, “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,” Lord Keynes continues, “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 the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.”

Writing about the great economists in his book The Worldly Philosophers, Robert Heilbronner says, “Few of them ever lifted a finger in action; they worked, in the main, as scholars — quietly, inconspiculously, and without much regard for what the world had to say about them.

“But they left in their train shattered empires and exploded continents, they buttressed and undermined political regimes, they set class against class and even nation against nation — not because they plotted mischief, but because of the extraordinary power of their ideas.”

Who says economics is boring?