Uncle Miltie on Economic Communication
| Peter Klein |
No, not Milton Friedman, but John Milton. See “Areopagitica: Milton’s Influence on Classical and Modern Political and Economic Thought” by Isaac M. Morehouse in the excellent new online journal Libertarian Papers. Says Morehouse:
Milton’s work has something to teach economists not only in its content but in its style and strategy. Milton did not restrict his theories on free speech to scholarly journals. Though his rhetorical style hardly seems accessible to the masses today, he intentionally wrote a short pamphlet with conscious allusions to popular sentiment in order to communicate rather complex ideas to the body politic. Economists who lament the lack of economic knowledge among the “man on the street” and the preponderance of antigrowth economic policy which result have much to learn from Milton. He wrote his work because he truly wanted change. For that reason, he made it accessible to the people whose hearts and minds he would have to win to see change come about. Modern economists would do well to more frequently attempt communication with more than a handful of scholars.
Along these lines I have to admit that I admire Paul Krugman, not because of the substance of arguments, which I find puerile and unformed, or his writing style, which is haughty and shrill, but because he tries to write for a popular audience, not just to his fellow specialists. (OK, actually, Krugman seems to have quit doing or writing about serious economic research, and doesn’t seem to have read a journal article in the last 15 years, but you get my point.)
Update: See also “Heroic Milton, Happy Birthday” from the NYRB.