A Brief History of Economic Genius

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Categories: Business
Publisher: Texterity, Inc./Texere | Date published: 06/28/2004


Paul Strathern's A Brief History of Economic Genius is a lively and ambitious series of linked biographies of notable visionaries in the world of economics. The cast includes schemers, dreamers, unheeded prophets, utopians, sages, mountebanks, dour pessimists, megalomaniacal optimists, socialists, laissez-faire extremists, mighty eccentrics, and, within their own rights, geniuses of all ranks. Some of these are well known--John Maynard Keynes, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Robert Malthus, George Marshall, and John Nash of A Beautiful Mind fame. Others are obscure: John von Neumann, inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove character; Luca Pacioli, "inventor" of double-entry bookkeeping; John Gaunt, the father of statistics; John Law, a good candidate for the title of "richest man in history," who, in the early 18th century, almost single-handedly bankrupted France. Strathern weaves the men's lives and contributions with notable marketplace milestones such as Holland's 17th-century bout of tulipmania, Britain's notorious South Sea Bubble, the Great Depression, and the rebuilding and retribution strategies following the two world wars. A Brief History of Economic Genius is an amiable, measured, delightful, instructive, and, at times, extremely humorous narrative. In Strathern's hands, the "dismal science" becomes anything but.

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