Listen to the economic debates of the past couple of years, and it’s tempting to conclude that no progress has been made in the field in over half a century. There’s John Maynard Keynes on the one side, arguing for deficit spending to offset the aftereffects of a once-in-a-lifetime financial crisis. On the other side there’s Ludwig von Mises (his fellow Austrians Joseph Schumpeter and Friedrich von Hayek seem too moderate for the role), thundering that all government intervention in the economy is doomed to failure. Keynes and Mises are of course both long dead. But it is the resilience of their ideas that makes studying the history of economics so rewarding for noneconomists. As a rule, economists don’t know much about history. So at times like these, anyone with a bit of familiarity with the giants of the past can weigh in on big economic issues with about as much authority and credibility as the credentialed experts.
more from Justin Fox at the NY Times here.