Robert Heilbroner, fully Robert Louis Heilbroner

Robert
Heilbroner, fully Robert Louis Heilbroner
1919
2005

American Economist,Historian of Economic Thought and Author best known for his book "The Worldly Philosophers"

Author Quotes

It is often thought that the idea of socialism derives from the work of Karl Marx. In fact, Marx wrote only a few pages about socialism, as either a moral or a practical blueprint for society. The true architect of a socialist order was Lenin, who first faced the practical difficulties of organizing an economic system without the driving incentives of profit seeking or the self-generating constraints of competition. Lenin began from the long-standing delusion that economic organization would become less complex once the profit drive and the market mechanism had been dispensed with??as self-evident,? he wrote, as ?the extraordinarily simple operations of watching, recording, and issuing receipts, within the reach of anybody who can read and write and knows the first four rules of arithmetic.?

The great economists can be called the worldly philosophers, for they sought to embrace in a scheme of philosophy the most worldly of all of man's activities?his drive for wealth.

You cannot get them to talk of politics so long as they are well employed.

David Ricardo saw that the escalator worked with different effects on different classes, that some rode triumphantly to the top, while others were carried up a few steps and then kicked back down to the bottom.

It is one of the dangerous self-deceptions of our society to pretend that mechanisms of control do not really exist, and to maintain, without qualification, that we are an economically "free" people.

The rise of the welfare state, on the one hand, and of the military bureaucracy, on the other, are instances of the manner in which technology is enforcing a socialization of life.

Economic freedom is a highly desirable state - but in bust and boom we must be prepared to face the its consequences.

It may strike us as odd that the idea of gain is a relatively modern one; we are schooled to believe that man is essentially an acquisitive creature and that left to himself he will behave as any self-respecting businessman would. The profit motive, we are constantly being told, is as old as man himself. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The secret to economic growth lay in the fact that that each generation attacked Nature not only with its own energies and resources, but with the heritage of equipment accumulated by its forebears.

Even today-in blithe disregard to his actual philosophy ? Smith is generally regarded as a conservative economist, whereas in fact, he is more avowedly hostile to the motives of businessman then most New Deal economists.

It was the unemployment that was the hardest to bear. The jobless millions were like an embolism in the nation's vital circulation; and while their indisputable existence argued more forcibly than any text that something was wrong with the system, the economists wrung their hands and racked their brains and called upon the spirit of Adam Smith, but could offer neither diagnosis or remedy.

The system that evolved under Stalin and his successors took the form of a pyramid of command. At its apex was Gosplan, the highest state planning agency, which established such general directives for the economy as the target rate of growth and the allocation of effort between military and civilian outputs, between heavy and light industry, and among various regions. Gosplan transmitted the general directives to successive ministries of industrial and regional planning, whose technical advisers broke down the overall national plan into directives assigned to particular factories, industrial power centers, collective farms, and so on. These thousands of individual subplans were finally scrutinized by the factory managers and engineers who would eventually have to implement them. Thereafter, the blueprint for production reascended the pyramid, together with the suggestions, emendations, and pleas of those who had seen it. Ultimately, a completed plan would be reached by negotiation, voted on by the Supreme Soviet, and passed into law. Thus, the final plan resembled an immense order book, specifying the nuts and bolts, steel girders, grain outputs, tractors, cotton, cardboard, and coal that, in their entirety, constituted the national output. In theory such an order book should enable planners to reconstitute a working economy each year?provided, of course, that the nuts fitted the bolts; the girders were of the right dimensions; the grain output was properly stored; the tractors were operable; and the cotton, cardboard, and coal were of the kinds needed for their manifold uses. But there was a vast and widening gap between theory and practice.

Few socialists outside the Communist Party are willing to acknowledge that real socialism means trading our "Millian liberties" for the purported good of economic planning and "a morally conscious collectivity.

Karl Marx did not call for an opposition to the forces of history. On the contrary he accepted all of them, the drive of technology, the revolutionizing effects of democratic striving, even the vagaries of capitalism, as being indeed the carriers of a brighter future.

The total amount of electric power generated by India would not suffice to light up New York City.

For it is certain that the future will bring realities for which our traditional optimism fails to prepare us and against which our economic momentum fails to arm us.

Keynes disdained inside information ? in fact, he once declared that Wall Street traders could make huge fortunes if only they would disregard their "inside" information ? and his own oracles were nothing but his minute scrutiny of balance sheets, his encyclopedic knowledge of finance, his intuition into personalities, and a certain flair for trading.

The Wealth of Nations may not be an original book, but it is unquestionably a masterpiece.

For one who has read the works of Marx it is frightening to look back at the grim determination with which so many nations steadfastly hewed to the very course which he insisted would lead to their undoing.

Marx did not call for an opposition to the forces of history. On the contrary he accepted all of them, the drive of technology, the revolutionizing effects of democratic striving, even the vagaries of capitalism, as being indeed the carriers of a brighter future.

There was no simple riddance to the power of a dangerous political idea; no assassination possible to avert a disruptive change in technology; no natural death to be counted on to stop an economic change that ripped up ancestral estates or stirred up class discontent.

He who enlists a man's mind wields a power even greater than the sword or the scepter.

Nobody wanted this commercialization of life.

To make the Society Happy... it is requisite that great numbers should be Ignorant as well as Poor, wrote Bernard Mandeville, the shrewdest and wickedest social commentator of the early eighteenth century.

History, as it comes into our daily lives, is charged with surprise and shock.

Author Picture
First Name
Robert
Last Name
Heilbroner, fully Robert Louis Heilbroner
Birth Date
1919
Death Date
2005
Bio

American Economist,Historian of Economic Thought and Author best known for his book "The Worldly Philosophers"