mccraw

Review copies waiting in my pile

1. Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation, by Stuart Buck.

2. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creation Destruction, by Thomas McCraw, new in paperback.  I loved this book, you can Google back to my previous reviews.

3. Anthony de Jasay, Political Philosophy, Clearly: Essays on Freedom and Fairness, Property and Equalities.  This one is a Liberty Fund edition.

4. The Great Reset: How New Ways of Working and Living Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, by Richard Florida.

5. 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, by Simon Johnson; a public choice analysis of the unholy alliance between finance and politics.

6. Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades, by Jonathan Phillips.

There are others, too.  All of these appear to have merits.

A very good two sentences

Back in 1970, the economist Harry G. Johnson pointed out that all
successful founders of schools not only are geniuses with profound
insights but also provide a road map that tells their followers and
successors what to do to make a successful academic career within the
school. Schumpeter did not do that second part.

Here is the full review, Brad DeLong on Thomas McCraw and Schumpeter.

What I’ve Been Reading

1. A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States, by Stephen Mihm.  This book offers interesting tales of 19th century counterfeiters — an understudied topic — but it is too quick to slush together counterfeiters, capitalists, and Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man.  I read about 80 pages, some of you will wish to read more.

2. Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, by Ha-Joon Chang.  This is a less subtle version of the "free trade isn’t always best" arguments made by Dani Rodrik.  Reread my post The New Attack on Free Trade.

3. Bill Clinton, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.  Should we resent that this book is essentially a campaign prop for Hillary?  Still, it was better than expected.  It’s not deep but it does stress the virtues of commercialization and the profit motive.  Less surprisingly, globalization and micro-finance are portrayed as positive forces as well.

4. Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke.  The NYT gave it a rave, lead review, as did The Washington Post and other sources.  So far it is being framed as the major American novel of the year.  It’s an almost anachronistically modernist in its structure and seriousness.  And is there really anything more to say about the Vietnam War?  First I was bored but then I reread the first 150 pages and now I love it. 

5. Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life, by Mark Francis.  It’s the best intellectual history I’ve read since McCraw’s Schumpeter book, and did you know that he and George Eliot had a non-consummated fling?  It’s a highly specialized topic, so I can’t recommend this book to everyone but I loved it and no you don’t need to care about Spencer the libertarian.

Schumpeter revealed

Here is my review of Thomas McCraw’s new Schumpeter biography.  Excerpt:

Prophet of Innovation is so splendid because it succeeds on so
many different levels. If the book were simply an account of the
Harvard economics department, it would stand as a lasting and
significant contribution to the history of economic thought.
Alternatively, it is one of the best treatments of what it was like for
European intellectuals to migrate to the United States.  Or are you
interested in why Austria fell apart during the 1920s, and how someone
with as little real world experience as Schumpeter became Minister of
Finance?  The book is also a love story, and an account of how a
possibly dysfunctional man can nonetheless find romantic happiness
after repeated failures and tragedies.

Joseph Schumpeter at Harvard

In grading his daily performances, he gave himself numerical credit for writing and research — including his endless effort to master mathematics — but seldom for teaching, counseling students, or any other duty.  He enjoyed reading Latin and Greek texts, as well as European novels and biographies — Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Morley’s multivolume Gladstone, Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians.  Sometimes he indulged himself with Ellery Queen and other detective novelists.  He loved to dine out and to attend art exhibitions and classical music concerts.  But he regarded most of these activities as unseemly distractions.  The only thing that really counted as work.  On that dimension Schumpeter held himself to unattainable standards and wrestled constantly with his conscience.  He was still trying to work out an "exact economics; and in doing so he was setting a real intellectual trap for himself.

That is from Thomas McCraw’s superlative Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction.  Here is David Warsh on the book.

It is not often a book just blows me away

Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, by Thomas K. McCraw.  It is beautifully written, suspenseful throughout, full of love and intrigue, a story of European migration, also a history of Harvard economics, reassesses Schumpeter’s thought, and is as good a biography of an economist as has ever been written.  I do not make the latter claim lightly.