My favourite 20th century economics text is Henry Clay’s Economics: an Introduction for the General Reader. It turns out that in 1921, the Professor of Economics at Ohio State University, H. Gordon Hayes, wrote a booklet on “Problems and Exercises to Accompany Clay’s Economics for the General Reader” which I discovered on the net a few weeks ago and which has just arrived. So I thought, as we prepare for the weekend, that we might ponder this question from Professor Hayes for which I have no ready answer myself:
‘The policy of laissez-faire is based upon the same social philosophy as the policy of “free love”.’ Is this true? Discuss.
Hint: it’s fair to say that Clay wasn’t in favour of either.
I might note that Clay may be the only economics text to have shown up in a work of great literature. This is from Chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby:
The rain cooled about half-past three to a damp mist, through which occasional thin drops swam like dew. Gatsby looked with vacant eyes through a copy of Clay’s Economics, starting at the Finnish tread that shook the kitchen floor, and peering toward the bleared windows from time to time as if a series of invisible but alarming happenings were taking place outside. Finally he got up and informed me, in an uncertain voice, that he was going home.
Economics texts and vacant eyes is an old story.