Wednesday, March 24 was the anniversary of the birth of Robert Heilbroner. And I, for one, am very grateful for what he accomplished. He was a great, socialist economist. And people who know me may find it strange that I would feel a debt to him. But were it not for his book The Worldly Philosophers, I would not be who I am or what I am. (If you're not familiar with the book, you should be. I'm adding it to my carousel, at left.)
For it was The Worldly Philosophers which helped spark a lifetime of studying and learning about economics through the lives of the influential economists. Heilbroner brought the great minds to life, and gave insights into their work and their thoughts.
It was at a small high school in Michigan where I was teaching that I assigned the book in one of my first economics classes. I had discovered the book the summer before and was anxious to share it with my students. Some were a bit perplexed. This wasn't a traditional textbook. But by the end of the semester, most of them were finding what I had discovered. That economics was a method for looking at and finding solutions to problems. And economists were not just "abstract thinkers" but real people trying to explain the real world and solve real problems. Heilbroner's style was part of the reason they came to that view. He made economics entertaining, engaging and challenging. For that, I thank him - as a student and as a teacher.
You can learn more about Robert Heilbroner in this brief biography. And you can read some classic Heilbroner in this article on "Socialism" from the Library of Economics and Liberty.
If anyone else has memories, fond or otherwise of Heilbroner's work, I welcome your thoughts.