Uncle Miltie on Economic Communication

23 September 2009 at 8:43 am 5 comments

| 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.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Classical Liberalism, People, Teaching.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. REW  |  23 September 2009 at 9:50 am

    Peter, your nod to Krugman may be the paragon of left-handed compliments.

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  23 September 2009 at 9:57 am

    You noticed!

  • 3. srp  |  23 September 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I’m left-handed and my compliments are almost always sincere.

  • 4. Peter Klein  |  23 September 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Maybe this post belongs in one of our academic insults threads:


  • 5. Rafe Champion  |  23 September 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Maybe it is the secondhand dealers in ideas who will win the battle of ideas and right now we are losing under the weight of numbers. Most of the non-left commentators and bloggers at least in this country steer a wide berth from ideas and stick to political commentary. Catallaxy is the exception where Sinclair Davidson has stepped up since I was bumped off the list.

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