The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, & Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers

The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner

This book isn’t too difficult to read as I’ve thought it would be. The title was initially intimidating as I got it off some lecture slides at Universität Hamburg. Yes… I did – it was a wild card search. But it paid off for me. I couldn’t stop reading it everywhere I go.

Heilbroner explained in a most fascinating way how philosophy and economics, two fields which I’ve always thought were necessarily divorced, must be put together to understand how societies functioned in the past. I was also amazed by his seemingly gargantuan bank of vocabulary – his use of bombastic words to describe relatively simple ideas was rife, so much so that I started to get suspicious about whether these words existed only because he made them so.

Philosophy is indeed interesting, all the more so because it inevitably implicates history, revealing the state of mind of the greatest people around the world at different points of time. I personally became a fan of Thomas Robert Malthus after reading this book because I, too, believe that earth’s resources will run out one day, which means that man is currently on the path towards self-immolation as the world population shoots up. By not having children, I am thus doing my part to save up earth’s 0.000000000001 percent resources.

Raise your hand if you second this opinion.

Back in my junior college days, none of my teachers ever mentioned any of these great economists to us. It would certainly be much more polite of them to introduce to us the rightful owners of the theories and concepts than to get us to, during the first lesson, draw the demand and supply curves and memorise the definition of ‘opportunity cost’.

My favourite quote from this book has got nothing to do with economics though:

You have undertaken to ruin me. I will not sue you, for law takes too long. I will ruin you.’
~ Cornelius Van Derbilt ~

(Which got a lot of reaction from friends on Facebook insisting that I could not possibly have such vengeful sentiments in myself.)

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