Blogs > Liberty and Power > Robert Heilbroner, R.I.P.

Jan 12, 2005 11:16 am

Robert Heilbroner, R.I.P.

Robert Heilbroner, the socialist, died the other day. As far as I can tell, he said two good things:

"Mises was right [about the socialist-calculation problem]."


“Mathematics has given economics rigor, but alas, also mortis.” (Sounds like Lachmann!)

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Sheldon Richman - 1/15/2005

Sorry to hear this. I hope he rests in peace anyway.

Roderick T. Long - 1/13/2005

On the other hand, I do have a word of compassion for Heilbroner: his book on the history of economics (not a very good book, but never mind) is titled The Worldly Philosophers. So of course bookstores everywhere and always shelve it in the philosophy section instead of the economics section. That frustrates me every time I see it. It must have been much more frustrating for him!

Roderick T. Long - 1/13/2005

Unfortunately, Heilbroner later qualified his praise of Mises in a way that shows he missed the point. In his book 21st Century Capitalism Heilbroner said that Mises was right that socialism was unworkable, but right for the wrong reason: socialism has incentive problems, but no informational problems. Everybody knew that there was a shortage of shoes, he said, but no one had any incentive to do anything about it (as though Mises' calculation argument were about absolute quantities of consumer goods rather than choices among relative quantities of producer's goods).