Wading Through Schumpeter
By Arnold Kling
From the book du jour, Thomas K. McCraw’s Prophet of Innovation:
Compared to Keynes, Schumpeter had no reason to think that life was something a person could expect to enjoy automatically. It was one thing to grow up in Britain–stable, prosperous, and ever-victorious in its many wars–and quite another to be a child of the vanquished, and now vanished, Austria of Schumpeter’s youth…By the time he married Elizabeth Boody [his third wife, when he was in his fifties], he had lived in nine cities and five countries…He had relocated his household twenty-three times…he came to feel something close to contempt for what he regarded as the stagnationist provincial vision of his British counterparts.
I am not one of those who would put this biography on a must-read list. Maybe in some other year, but not in 2007. Even in the historical arena, Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism and Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man are much more rewarding. With Prophet of Innovation, I felt like I waded through an awful lot to get relatively little in return. I felt sorry for McCraw, who had to wade through much more. Schumpeter was a prolific writer, much was written about him, and he and some of his women were dedicated diarists and correspondents. McCraw should be thankful that Schumpeter wasn’t a blogger.