Grant on “Economic Genius”
Jim Grant has an interesting take on Sylvia Nasar’s new book, “Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius.” It is unsurprisingly contrarian:
“Ms. Nasar divides her book into three “acts,” like a play. They are “hope,” “fear” and “confidence.” “Hope” is what the Victorian thinkers, including Dickens, in his role of social reformer, and Karl Marx (of all people), gave the world concerning the possibility of solving the economic problem through conscious effort. “Fear” is what the interwar economists — confronting first hyperinflation and then the Great Depression — had to wrestle with and surmount. “Confidence” is what returned after World War II, as governments implemented the allegedly constructive notions of the Keynesians and monetarists. Her collected geniuses, Ms. Nasar claims, were “instrumental in turning economics into an instrument of mastery.” I find nothing in these pages remotely to substantiate that contention.
The musicologist Ludwig von Köchel systematized, cataloged and published the musical output of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — he’s the “K” that denotes a particular Mozart composition. Köchel was a botanist and mineralogist as well as musical scholar, but Mozart was the genius. In the matter of income and wealth, savings, and investment, the Köchels are the Friedmans and Schumpeters and Hayeks. The Mozarts are the Fultons and Edisons and Jobses.”