The Economist as Public Intellectual

The Economist as Public Intellectual. 2013. Edited by Tiago Mata and Steven G. Medema. Supplement to volume 45 of HOPE. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

"Cultures of Expertise and the Public Interventions of Economists," by Tiago Mata and Steven G. Medema (pp. 1–19). The public interventions of economists have been of profound consequence for both the structure and the content of the public sphere.

"'Perhaps I'm a Don Quixote but I'm Trying to Be a Paul Revere': Irving Fisher as Public Intellectual," by Robert W. Dimand (pp. 20–37). Fisher was a fully engaged public intellectual, seeking to influence not only economic policy but also compulsory health insurance, diet reform, and eugenics, among others.

"Observers, Commentators, and Persuaders: British Interwar Economists as Public Intellectuals," by Chris Godden (pp. 38–67). The economic confusion of the 1920s and 1930s prompted British economists to move beyond the confines of academic journals in order to identify factors that undermined the rhythmic influence of the postwar cycle and defend economic doctrine against attacks from a misguided public.

"Inside Out: Keynes's Use of the Public Sphere," by Roger E. Backhouse and Bradley W. Bateman (pp. 68–91). Keynes was not merely a contributor to public debate; he also sought to control the media through which he presented his ideas to the public and his fellow economists.

"Walter Lippmann: The Making of a Public Economist," by Craufurd Goodwin (pp. 92–113). Lippmann was a remarkable public economist, one who did not patronize his audience and was resolutely nonpartisan, laying out arguments simply and without jargon.

"Lionel Robbins: Public Economist," by Susan Howson (pp. 114–36). Robbins saw it as his duty to use his expertise to enlighten nonexperts, a duty that had its roots in his nonconformist (Strict Baptist) childhood.

"Henry Hazlitt as an Intellectual Middleman of 'Orthodox Economics,'" by Peter Boettke and Liya Palagashvili (pp. 137–65). Hazlitt was the principal voice of orthodox economics at a time when the tides had turned against orthodox ideas

"Federal Reserve Bank Presidents as Public Intellectuals," by Rob Roy McGregor and Warren Young (pp. 166–90). Federal Reserve Bank presidents clearly communicated their ideas to the public and in some cases actively took issue with the mainstream view of the Fed as a whole, fulfilling a dual function as public bureaucrats and public intellectuals.

"Age of Uncertainty: Galbraith, Friedman, and the Public Life of Economic Ideas," by Angus Burgin (pp. 191–219). At a moment of intense debate over economic policy, the most prominent public exemplars of left- and right-wing economic views found themselves engaged in competing attempts to reach a mass audience through the maturing medium of television.

"Economic Indicators as Public Interventions," by Gil Eyal and Moran Levy (pp. 220–53). The term "public intellectual" should be replaced by the broader concept of "public interventions," with the design and diffusion of economic indicators as an example.

"Becker and Posner: Freedom of Speech and Public Intellectualship," by Jean-Baptiste Fleury and Alain Marciano (pp. 254–78). Becker and Posner's blog grew out of prior efforts to write for nonacademic audiences, and the two took advantage of the blog's flexibility in expressing and disseminating their provocative views.

"Private Intellectuals and Public Perplexity: The Economics Profession and the Economic Crisis," by Philip Mirowski and Edward Nik-Khah (pp. 279–311). The financial crisis revealed a severe epistemological contraction at the heart of the modern economics profession, forcing economists to foster ignorance as they duck and weave between trust in experts and trust in the market.