rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Pay No Attention To That Dead Man Behind the Curtain

Events sometimes get drowned out by other events, I guess, especially when the drowned events involve individuals who are not well known, however much influence they might have had on the world. Neo-classical economist Jude Wanniski died on August 29th. Even had it not been upstaged by the most costly natural disaster in American history, his death would probably not have gotten much press. Wanniski is the guy who coined the term "supply side economics" and was the prime mover behind the shift of official American economics away from Keynesianism.

An adviser to Ronald Reagan, he left many conservatives disgruntled when, in 2003, he opposed the Bush Administrations plans to invade Iraq. His fans on the right were even more distressed by his endorsement of John Kerry in last year's election, which he announced saying "Mr. Bush has become an imperialist — one whose decisions as commander-in-chief have made the world a more dangerous place."

Academic theorists seldom acquire wide public name recognition, and Wanniski was no exception. His passing has caused barely a ripple in the media, despite the fact that a great deal of what the world is today is the result of his influence on people in possession of great power. I never more than moderately impressed by his economic theories, and have seen little in the course of events since his influence became dominant in government policy that would change my opinion about them.

I feel that way about the theories of most economists. It is a profession whose practitioners, more often than not, give me the uncomfortable feeling that they're just blowing second-hand smoke up our asses (second hand because they've blow it up their own asses first.) Still, some of them do make things happen, for better or worse. Wanniski was one of those who made things happen. Many influential people still believe that the things he made happen were for the better. I remain doubtful. I suspect that much of what appears to have been his success can be attributed to very lucky timing, and to his having had his ideas adopted by the American President who had more sheer, dumb luck than any other in history. But it's likely that, by the time history decides, I'll be as dead as he is.

Jude (the Obscure) Wanniski

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