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« LSE Hayek - Keynes Debate Update | Main | Stop those juggling tricks »


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Bastiat was a true master, of course. David Friedman has a bunch of very interesting quotes too (such as "ask not what you can do for your government - ask what your government is doing to you").

Donald J. Boudreaux, master of letters.

Favorite Rothbard quote of all time:

"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance."

Favorite Rothbard exchange --- commentator "It is difficult to criticize Prof. Rothbard, who we must remember wrote a 1000 page book and committed less than 10 errors." Rothbard's response, "Well, it is easy for me to criticize because you wrote a 10 page paper with 1000 errors in it."

Another such biting and witty writer was the French economist and classical liberal Yves Guyot (1843-1928).

Inspired by Bastist, he wrote a number of books amusingly criticizing and ridiculing socialism, protectionism and interventionism.

Among his best are:

"The Comedy of Protectionism"

"The Tyranny of Socialism"

"Socialistic Fallacies"

The latter two are available online at Liberty Fund.

Richard Ebeling

Murray was sui generis. I cannot count the number of wonderful evenings spent with him, and the amazing group of people I met on those evenings. Murray's talent for witty commentary went far beyond economics.

both david and milton friedman are excellent communicators. Richard Posner is usually easy to read.

Mises himself was no slouch when it came this ability. I remember one story where Samuelson was making some comment or complaint about loopholes and Gotfried Haberler replied, "Capitalism breathes through those loopholes". The next day Samuelson told Gotfried how much he admired the quote and Gotfried said that it was not he, but Mises who was the source of it. Did I get this story right? And, of course, "They wish to play at market as boys play at train..." These, of course, are just a few...


Yes, you do have that story right about Samuelson and Haberler.

I have heard from a number of the now gone older Austrians who lived through the Vienna days between the wars that in German Mises was particularly witty, sarcastic, and biting in his comments.

In one essay in German, for example, he refers to the slogans on the banners of the Austrian socialists. But in colloquial Austrian-German, I was told, the word he used for "slogans" can also mean "bird droppings."

Also, I would reinforce those who have commented on Rothbard's humor, wit, and cutting remarks.

First, he was a brilliant writer who wrote with clarity, insight, and rhetorical flair, with great turn of phrase.

Second, it was hilarious to be around Rothbard. He was almost always full of joy -- the libertarian "happy warrior" -- who knew a seemingly unending stream of stories about people, events, and history, and all related with funny charm.

He could sing, recite, recall at the drop of a hat. And he would "hold court" until the wee hours of the morning. And however tired one became, one could not bear to leave his delightful company.

Many knew him far better and more intimately than I, but my memories of the many occasions in his company are all joyful recollections.

Richard Ebeling

I like this one from Frank Knight: "However, we cannot extend our inquiry to cover all the grounds on which men, even educated men, actually make decisions, or it will degenerate into a catalogue of superstitions." From Risk, Uncertainty and Profit.

I agree about Bastiat as the best. Also, James Grant has a great way with words, although he is not an economist, but a journalist, if I am correct. Now, Henry Hazlitt comes to mind too.

Somewhat off topic, but only slightly, I would point out that Vernon Smith's analysis of electricity markets suggests there are likely shortfalls in supply at peak times, when a "must serve" restriction is lifted in a market-based system. Hence the causal link between "government regulated" and consumption constraints need not be in the direction implied by Mises quote.

Axel Leijonhufvud has a great wit that comes through in his writings (e.g., "Life among the Econ.").

Everyone has their own tastes, but I very much enjoy listening to Douglas North lecture. Even in old age, he still has a very interesting style and clear thinking. For some reason he also reminds me of the guy who narrates the old NFL highlight videos. He has a great baritone speaking voice and a tough guy kind of demeanor.

“In my looking at 10,000 years of human economic history, polities have been nothing but extortion devices, they have not been concerned with welfare, and indeed it would be surprising if they were.”-Douglas North

David Friedman is really good at telling small stories that exhibit a point.
Milton Friedman was really good at making very profound and concise statements.
Don Boudreaux can write a letter like no one's business.
Mike Munger can make stuff really, really funny.

Also, Bastiat was The Man.

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