Saturday, November 14, 2015

Opening paragraphs........................

This is a book about a handful of men with a curious claim to fame.  By all the rules of schoolboy history books, they were nonentities:  they commanded no armies, sent no men to their deaths, ruled no empires, took little part in history-making decisions.  A few of them achieved renown, but none was ever a national hero;  a few were roundly abused, but none was ever quite a national villain.  Yet what they did was more decisive for history than many acts of statesmen who basked in brighter glory, often more profoundly disturbing than the shuffling of armies back and forth across frontiers, more powerful for good and bad than the edicts of kings and legislatures.  It was this:  they shaped and swayed men's minds.
      And because he who enlists a man's mind wields a power even greater than the sword or the scepter, these men shaped and swayed the world.  Few of them ever lifted a finger in action;  they worked, in the main, as scholars - quietly, inconspicuously, 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 were these men?  We know them as the Great Economists. ...

-Robert L. Heilbroner,  The Worldly Philosophers:  The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers

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