Robert L. Heilbroner (1919–2005) was an American economist. He taught economic history at the New School, where he was appointed Norman Thomas Professor of Economics in 1971.

Acts of an Apostle

The second volume of Robert Skidelsky’s remarkable biography of John Maynard Keynes opens in 1921 with Keynes in Cambridge reading an after-dinner speech at a meeting of the Apostles, the select society of Cambridge of which at age thirty-eight he was president. The speech describes the career of one of …

The Deficit: A Way Out

The US is now suffering from a “contained” depression. It is visibly present in the social pathologies surrounding us, which are particularly pervasive in our disintegrating cities, and less visibly present in the decade-long decline of real incomes of all families, save those at the very top. At least 60 …

His Secret Life

My serious studies in economics did not begin until the fall of 1939, my last year at Harvard, when I took a course with Alvin Hansen in which we wrestled with the problem of understanding the incomprehensible Depression that had been devastating the economy for almost a decade. From time …

Lifting the Silent Depression

At the apparent zenith of its triumph, its enemies confounded, America seems headed for disaster. What may seem a hyperbole is only to repeat what I hear on every side. The country is visibly decaying. I do not know of anyone who sees a bright future for it. Yet I …

Three Faces of Capitalism

Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism is the culmination of Alfred Chandler’s long and distinguished career as a business historian.[^1] Chandler has never been interested in capitalism as an abstract economic order. He is interested in it as a social terrain in which business corporations, the central institutions …

Seize the Day

America is falling behind. I do not mean only that we are losing ground against Europe and Japan. I mean that we are falling behind with respect to our own capacities. We are not the country we once were, or the country we could be. I do not need to …

Economics Without Power

The four gigantic volumes of The New Palgrave—nearly 2,000 entries, more than 700 biographies, over 4 million words—may be said to represent more or less everything that is known about what is called economics. The subject is far more sprawling than most people think. We would expect a dictionary of …

Economists at High Noon

There are many things wrong with John Kenneth Galbraith’s twenty-fifth book, but there is one important thing right with it. What is wrong will disturb economists—an often slapdash exposition of economic ideas, occasional mistakes of some consequence, a few cavalier historical expositions. But what is right is a perspective on …

The Murky Economists

Men always endeavour to persuade others to be of their opinion even when the matter is of no consequence to them. If one advances any thing concerning China or the more distant moon which contradicts what you imagine to be true, you immediately try to persuade him to alter his …

The Coming Invasion

Fifteen years ago Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber sent a chill through the West with the opening words of The American Challenge: “Fifteen years from now it is quite possible that the world’s third greatest industrial power, just after the United States and Russia, will not be Europe, but American industry in Europe.” …

The Way of All Flesh

Why is there a Nobel prize for economics but not for the other social disciplines? Is it because we are so in debt to economics for the welfare and happiness it has brought about? I think not. The reason for the prestige of economics lies in something quite apart from …

A Pitch for Socialism

Branko Horvat has written an impressive blueprint for socialism which raises more questions than it answers. “In a sense,” he writes on the first page, this book represents a life’s work…. I have been thinking about its content throughout my life. Ever since my class left the secondary school of …

The Missing Link

Modern thought tends to divide things into two worlds—a world of the empirical, the concrete, the particular, and a world of the abstract, the logical, the universal. Here lies the basis for the famous distinction between synthetic and analytical knowledge, the first covered with the fingerprints and grime of the …

The Demand for the Supply Side

Supply-side economics has taken Washington by storm. Both a diagnosis and a prescription, supply-side economics comprises ideas about what is wrong with the economy and remedies to put it right. As its name would indicate, both diagnosis and prescription emphasize the actual production of goods and services rather than the …

The Swedish Promise

The Swedes, all of whom seem to love their country dearly, often complain that it is dull—“just a suburb of New York,” a Swedish sociologist told me last spring. Yet it is here that a social experiment of truly historical significance is taking place: a test of the limits, or …

The Inflation in Your Future

A great deal of our current confusion about inflation, I believe, arises because we do not think about it correctly. We spend most of our time trying to decide whether the main cause of inflation lies in rising oil prices, or burgeoning money supplies, or mushrooming government spending, or declining …

The Road to Selfdom

Television is dramatic. It appeals to the emotions. It captures your attention. Yet, we remain of the opinion that the printed page is a more effective instrument for both education and persuasion. The authors of a book can explore issues deeply—without being limited by the ticking clock. The reader can …

The New Economics

I suppose that philosophy is still queen of the social sciences, but I fear that economics has become the knave. The awed regard in which the discipline was once held has given way to something bordering on disrespect. This change in public esteem primarily arises from the inability of the …

Inescapable Marx

We are in the midst of an extraordinary outpouring of literature on, about, into, out of, and by Marx.[^1] As with all such efflorescences, much of the writing is of small importance and will be of short life, all the more so because the field is being taken over by …