Friday, June 20, 2008

Pass the Prozac!

So I take a tour around the economic blogosphere. What do I find: Delong pointing to Weintraub trashing Steve Marglin's new book. Tyler Cowen's and Steve Dubner's commenters (more than a few) telling me that the Greatest Thinker of Our Time is.......AYN RAND or THOMAS SOWELL. I'm not making this up. Right. Then the Greatest Cook Of Our Time is the guy who lowers the fry basket in the McDonald's down the street. Good Grief!

12 comments:

Simon Halliday said...

Ayn Rand and 'Objectivism'. I read it on Cowen's blog and laughed out loud. Surely you can propose someone else? If the proviso was that they were living who would you choose?

kevin quinn said...

Simon, From the Econ tribe, I'd nominate Kenneth Arrow; from the lovers of wisdom, Quine and Cavell.

jamzo said...

so some people are impressed by the ideas of ayn rand

her most powerful contemporary
disciple was alan greenspan

she was an proponent of laissez-faire capitalism

there has little comment on the extent to which greenspan's policies reflected her
laissez-faire capitalism views

jimbino said...

Deal with it: Ayn Rand's books almost outsell the bible and her Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead have been cited by the top of polls asking, "What books have changed your life"?

She also influenced Murray Rothbard and Alan Greenspan, two highly esteemed Americans.

Thomas Sowell is one of the few Black Americans who has spoken truth to racism.

Rand was an acclaimed author and screenwriter who did it all in English, in spite of having Russian as a first language.

Y'all are just showing your envy.

Anonymous said...

If we're going by sales volume you would have to put L. Ron Hubbard up there too.

-- Miracle Max

PGL said...

I'm sorry but the thought of McDonald's french fries is making me hungry. But Sowell is the greatest thinker of our time? Now I'm feeling sick.

Peter H said...

I am fan of Brad DeLong, but why does the mention of certain heterodox economists (Duncan Foley, Paul Sweezy, now Stephen Marglin) seem to set him off?

Sandwichman said...

I can only conclude that since we live in hackneyed times, the greatest thinker OF OUR TIME has to be a hack.

Brenda Rosser said...

I try to imagine how the world would be if John Galt (Ayn Rand's hero in her novel 'Atlas Shrugged') was free to mass produce his revolutionary new motor powered by ambient static electricity. And sidestep the monopoly of big oil.

I wonder what sort of novel Ayn Rand would have written if she'd ever realised the inconvenient truth. Why didn't it occur to her that big (interlocked and concentrated) business could turn into a horror every bit as dreadful as a large centralised and totalitarian state.

What prompted her ideological disciples (like Greenspan) to become big government cronies, after all?

Where would all of Rand's disciples be be today without their extraordinarily-privileged access to government and nationwide propaganda networks such as Hollywood and the mainstream (transnational corporate) press? Who gave them such access to begin with?

From Ayn Rand to a continuation if socialism only for the rich. A US Federal Reserve chairman would certainly appreciate that.

Peter Dorman said...

Kevin, you should think of the responses to the Cowen/Freakonomics Greatest Thinker quiz as a sociology experiment: who reads these guys? Now you know.

Anonymous said...

Deal with it: Ayn Rand's books almost outsell the bible and her Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead have been cited by the top of polls asking, "What books have changed your life"?

Rand herself noted that being popular has absolutely no bearing on whether something has merit. In the case of her own works, that comment seems more than applicable.

She also influenced Murray Rothbard and Alan Greenspan, two highly esteemed Americans.

Rothbard is only "highly esteemed" by members of the right-"libertarian" cult. His arguments are pretty dire, as is his laughable claim of being an anarchist. But if you know very little about anarchism or economics, then I guess you could "highly esteem" him.

Rand was an acclaimed author and screenwriter who did it all in English, in spite of having Russian as a first language.

Yes, her followers do acclaim her as an author. Most others do not. Deal with it :)

Y'all are just showing your envy.

And if all else fails, project...

Having read quite a bit of Rand and Rothbard, I really fail to understand why anyone could take them seriously as thinkers. But since they idolise capitalism, I guess their arguments would appeal to those seeking to rationalise their own extremely narrow, one-sided and ultimately self-defeating "egoism".

Iain
An Anarchist FAQ

kevin quinn said...

Just to be clear. I was unkind to Rand and Sowell not because of their politics. I consider Hayek a great thinker, and Roger Scruton a great political philosopher. I don't see Rand and Sowell in that class at all. (Sowell actually wrote several good articles on Marx in his younger days; he's a good historian of classical economics. But the popular stuff is pretty awful and predictable.)