I have arrived at the conviction that the neglect by economists to discuss seriously what is really the crucial problem of our time is due to a certain timidity about soiling their hands by going from purely scientific questions into value questions… Friedrich August von Hayek


In A Beautiful Mind Nasar relates the biography of an economist whose powers of reason were crippled by paranoia, schizophrenia and delusions. In spite of that he was a Nobel laureate which says a great deal about both economics and the Nobel Prize – in our opinion none of it particularly good.

In this latest book you will not find Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises nor any advocate of market based economies where people have their rights of self determination recognized and are given the freedom to pursue their goals without state planned hinderance.

Interestingly enough the last book we presented here was a compilation of Vasily Grossman – who knew at first hand the restrictions of the most centralized state of the first half of the 20th century – and his definition of freedom is as eloquent as any we have come across; I used to think freedom was freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of conscience. But freedom is the whole life of everyone. Here is what it amounts to: you have to have the right to sow what you wish to, to make shoes or coats, to bake into bread the flour ground from the grain you have sown, and to sell it or not sell it as you wish; for the lathe operator, the steelworker, and the artist it’s a matter of being able to live as you wish and work as you wish and not as they order you to. And in our country there is no freedom – not for those who write books nor for those who sow grain nor for those who make shoes.

Economics is a subdivision of political thought which in turn is a subdivision of philosophy – which has a one of its other subdivisions ethics – when you treat these as mutually exclusive subdivisions the rational mind becomes alienated and you wind up crippled by paranoia, schizophrenia and delusions and, turning once again to Grossman, man will cease to exist and there will remain only man-like creatures that have undergone an internal transformation. Nasar’s error is the same as Engel’s in that freedom is not, as Engels thought, “the recognition of necessity.” Freedom is the opposite of necessity. Freedom is necessity overcome. Progress is, in essence, the progress of human freedom.

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The largest problem we see with this book is that you could read it cover to cover without ever coming across an opposing viewpoint. Like its predecessor it has no balance and is the product of a world where the moral order has been alienated from the economic order and the people are being ground between the rapacity of the followers of Ayn Rand and the totalitarianism of socialism. We prefer freedom with all of its problems and all of its glories.

Grand pursuit : the story of economic genius Sylvia Nasar New York : Simon & Schuster, 2011 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xv, 558 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 467-526) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The author of A Beautiful Mind takes us on a journey through modern history with the men and women who changed the lives of every single person on the planet. It’s the epic story of the making of modern economics, and of how economics rescued mankind from squalor and deprivation by placing its material fate in its own hands rather than in Fate.

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Nasar’s account begins with Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew observing and publishing the condition of the poor in mid-nineteenth-century London, the richest and most glittering place in the world. This was a new pursuit. She describes the often heroic efforts of Marx, Engels, Alfred Marshall, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, and the American Irving Fisher to put those insights into action — with revolutionary consequences for the world.

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