Just a few names that come to mind …

Jack the Insider had a bit of an incoherent rant on Friday about the MUP kerfuffle.  But this comment seems strange:

I am trying to remember the last time anyone who spent their lives in the cloistered world of academia wrote a bestseller. It may have happened, but I can’t think of when or who.

In no particular order, here are some names that immediately come to mind.

Adam Smith.

John Maynard Keynes.

FA Hayek.

John Kenneth Galbraith.

Yuval Harari.

Jordan Peterson.

Thomas Sowell.

Deirdre McCloskey.

Paul Krugman.

Joseph Stiglitz.


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43 Responses to Just a few names that come to mind …

  1. Pyrmonter

    Milton Friedman

    Ian Plimer

  2. Roger

    Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

    And Richard Dawkins has had a couple since he became exercised about God.

  3. stevem

    Umberto Eco – Name of the Rose

  4. Tel

    Textbooks seem to make big sales, but perhaps that’s not a precisely free market as such.

    Jordan Peterson became popular for leaving academia, so I’m not sure if you can count him.

    Does Matt Ridley count as an academic?

    FWIW … this “Jack the Insider” fellow … what exactly is he stuck inside of? It’s not the sort of name you expect from a boots on the ground worldly explorer type … is it?

  5. Stanley Parks

    Jared Diamond
    Tony Abbot
    King James 1

  6. HGS

    Considering the numbers of paid academics world wide who are supposed to write, there is very little worth reading from the relatively slight output.

  7. Malcolm

    None of them were published by MUP though. I think that’s what Jack the Insider meant

  8. Stephen Hawking? I have read A Brief History of Time, may still have a copy. Some are saying he was not good with mathematics similar to Einstein. It appears neither understand infinity or what happens when you divide by zero. Hawking originally said that nothing could escape a black hole -no light or even thought. Then he changed his mind when evidence showed radio waves coming from a space which is supposed to be a black hole. May be there are no black holes and maybe the Universe is infinite. There are a lot of people with their hands out wanting money in the astronomy game especially does looking for the big creation about 14 billion years ago.

  9. Geoffrey Blainey is only interested in facts and has published lots of books based on a huge amount of research (which is listed in all his books). I like and have his “A Short History of the World” and “The Great Seesaw -a new view of the western world 1750-2000”. In the latter in part 3 he mentions “The long economic waves”. A good read for you Sinclair.

  10. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Stephen Oppenheimer of Oxford University – 2004 bestseller ‘The Real Eve” – the Out of Africa story.
    Also a couple of years later for ‘The Origin of the British: A Genetic Detective Story”.

    I am most grateful to him for some very encouraging comments about my preliminary Arthurian work recently published in Quadrant, September 2018. In our own ways, we have both been working towards a new interpretation of some aspects of British history and language in the pre-Roman period, during Rome’s uncertain hegemony, and following the Roman withdrawal.

    Not what I was doing as an academic though. Nowhere near.
    Now I just have to turn it into a best seller. 🙂

  11. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Honourable mention must also go to Niall Ferguson, historian of great renown.
    For ‘The Ascent of Money’, The Pity of War’, ‘Civilization’ and numerous other books that are very thoughtful and, in their favour, greatly disliked by the left. Wikipedia does a very grudging account of his oeuvre and fame, which is always a good sign of lefty hatred.

  12. Clam Chowdah

    Dawkins has bestsellers in biology before he had them on superstition.

    Jonathan Haidt
    Steven Pinker

    Both have had several best sellers.

  13. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Does Matt Ridley count as an academic?

    Goodness, I hope so. His ‘The History of Everything’ is a great popular sweep, and his ‘The Red Queen’ is scientifically very acute. Again, he is another who is hated by the left, especially for his general optimism. Again, a good sign.

    The recent ethologists, socio-biologists and evolutionary psychologists can be very interesting too. A popular tradition started in the 60’s with Desmond Morris’ ‘The Naked Ape’.

    Sinc, I have Yuval Harari’s ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ but I find him a bit too ‘progressive’ in some opinions for my taste. He could do with a good dose of ethology and evolutionary theories of mind when it comes to gender, for example. And he’s rather keen on a pan-global Empire of goodness. Good luck with that. Ridley is better, offering nation states the optimism of a well-tamed capitalism in a resource rich world of trade.

  14. Clam Chowdah

    Stephen Hawking? I have read A Brief History of Time, may still have a copy. Some are saying he was not good with mathematics similar to Einstein. It appears neither understand infinity or what happens when you divide by zero. Hawking originally said that nothing could escape a black hole -no light or even thought. Then he changed his mind when evidence showed radio waves coming from a space which is supposed to be a black hole. May be there are no black holes and maybe the Universe is infinite. There are a lot of people with their hands out wanting money. in the astronomy game especially does looking for the big creation about 14 billion years ago.

    Once matter passes the Schwarzchild radius it cannot escape. But matter is blasted away as it collides toward the event horizon.

  15. Clam Chowdah

    Lizzie there was a scathing review of Harari on Spiked. He’s an elitist misanthrope.

  16. Dr Fred Lenin

    Barbara Cartland she wrote thousands of books ,Mills and Boon published millions of books more than all those econmists .

  17. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Bill Bryson. Don’t laugh. Or do, if you read his amusing take on things.
    He’s a writer who went the other way, to become a University Chancellor – at Durham, till 2011.
    I hope he managed to do some good there; heaven knows there’s work to be done in such positions.
    Bryson’s ‘Short History of Nearly Everything’ is very informative about all sorts of technologies and developments, even if one approaches some of his researched material with just a soupcon of suspicion, for he does enjoy weaving a good tale. Wiki tells me his major mistakes in this work have been listed. His travel observations are well drawn, although his style can at times be repetitive. His American history ‘One Summer: 1927’ is excellent social history and I find his books on language useful for ideas and etymologies.

    Bryson is a lefty, well-honoured by universities and a popular author, with a Wiki a mile long.

  18. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    He’s an elitist misanthrope.

    Gathered that somewhat from my dipping in and out of his work. Couldn’t sit with it for long.
    Doesn’t surprise. He was recommended to me by my first husband, The Lefty Philosopher. 🙂

  19. Squirrel

    There was that little-known mathematics lecturer at Oxford who wrote about Alice…..

    To the extent that the popular/middle-brow publications of MUP are cross-subsidising its more esoteric output, it is difficult to understand why anyone would want to tamper seriously with that.

  20. Rafe

    At MUP Manning Clarke.
    Geoffrey Blainey.

  21. Sinclair Davidson

    I loved Harari’s books.

  22. Rafe

    Maybe Manning Clarke is deservedly forgotten.

  23. Tel

    I did a bit of research and I think this Jack guy is a moron, who gets his history lessons from South Park. He here is talking about why Trump’s wall is a failure.

    Tell that to the Jin dynasty (1115-1234), Mr President. They had a wall, a fine wall, a good old-fashioned wall that is still standing today and is known as the Great Wall of China.

    As walls go, it was (and is) a beaut. Three metres high with guard towers every 100 metres or so. An almost perfect wall designed to keep out ne’er-do-wells from the north. With their wall as a form of security blanket, the Jin dynasty lived happily ever after, or at least they did until a gentleman by the name of Genghis Khan came along.

    Sad to say, the Jin dynasty quickly lapsed into the footnotes of history, slaughtered almost to a man with the children and womenfolk enslaved. Ironically, the wall remained standing, a testament to false hope and confirmation of the axiomatic weakness of walls: for every wall there are two ladders.

    There’s so much wrong with that … besides the hilarious image of a bunch of Mongolians attempting to push their ponies up a ladder; he has managed to get almost every single point screwed up. The Jin dynasty was formed out of a Jurchen tribe rebellion against the the Liao dynasty and at no time were they living in a “happily ever after” peaceful state. After the initial battles to defeat the Liao, they regularly squabbled with the Song dynasty in the South and they exerted uneasy dominance over the Goryeo kingdom, on the Korean peninsula. It was Khabul Khan who started fighting the Jin dynasty in 1135, Genghis Khan (grandson of Khabul) was KIA in 1227 while the Jin were still fighting and eventually defeated by a combination of the Song dynasty and Ögedei Khan (son of Genghis). That’s four generations of Khans that it took to finally defeat the Jin. At the Siege of Kaifeng the Jin military had trebuchets and explosives as well as city walls; they were eventually defeated by famine and attrition (after a 12 month siege) not by military means. The entire history of the Jin dynasty, they had been fighting someone, and towards the end were fighting on two fronts. They exhausted themselves.

    The Song dynasty in the South (builders of fortified walls and fortified cities) were defeated by Kublai Khan but only with help from heavy siege equipment (trebuchets, not ladders), designed in Europe and imported by Muslim traders which the Mongolians had discovered after defeating the Jin.

    What’s more, after the Mongolians did finally establish the Yuan dynasty in China, it was NOT a mass slaughter and enslavement, actually it was a relatively open, multicultural and tolerant empire (by the standards of the day). It did collapse fairly quickly (lasting less time than the Jin dynasty) and once again the Han Chinese rose up and established the Ming Dynasty (starting 1368). It was the Ming who built the series of walls that most people think of as the “Great Wall of China” (hundreds of years after Genghis Khan had been and gone). These Ming walls were stone (earlier walls were dirt), and the Ming were quite successful in maintaining several hundred years of peace … eventually weakened internally with corruption, and mismanagement.

    The Jin dynasty did not simply vanish into history … the Jurchen tribes regrouped and once again started a rebellion, becoming the “Later Jin” and then renamed themselves “Manchus”. They had by now incorporated many traditions from the Mongolians, and secured the support of the Koreans, as well as adopting modern technology such as firearms, maritime fleets, and explosives. They eventually defeated the Ming but only after 50 years of struggle, and many of the Ming wall garrisons simply surrendered (bad management, poorly supplied, lack of loyalty). In other cases Ming walls were very successful, such as the Siege of Ningyuan (1626) where the city defenders made good use of cannons.

    If Jack wants me to believe that the history of China somehow represents a history of bad military defense then he must believe there have been millions of stupid people all through China trying to build fortifications (and plenty of stupid people in Europe as well, which is full of castles). If the take away point is that every empire crumbles sooner or later then sure, but they are replaced with another empire which grabs same fortifications and generally adopts similar military technology. Survival of an empire is usually limited by political stability and maintenance of the power structures; as well as strategic treaties and alliances. The Ming dynasty (builders of the “Great Wall”) was one of the most successful; it was not as physically large as the Mongol Empire or the Yuan dynasty, but it outlived both of those put together in terms of longevity.

  24. vlad

    Isaac Newton?!

    Let’s confine ourselves to Australians in the last 60 years.

    That leaves us with Manning Clark (who did sell, undeservedly) and Blainey and … and … Bueller?

  25. Mique

    J.R.R. Tolkien did pretty well.

  26. Boambee John

    #2924464, posted on February 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm
    Maybe Manning Clarke is deservedly forgotten.

    A somewhat heavy handed writer of historically based novels.

    Better that Red Bandanna Man, not that that is saying much.

    His best line was about civilisation arriving in Australia in the late 18th Century. Strangely, that line is not much mentioned by modern “progressive” academics.

  27. mc

    Apart from that… what have academics ever done for us?

  28. Re Hawking and Big Bang -here is a video, just forwarded, that states there is evidence that the Big Bang does not exist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8lKQMEYYLw

  29. Leo G

    What about the original academic?
    Now what was his name? You know- the chap who established the foundations of Western philosophy and science. He’s still in print, too.

  30. Rob

    In no particular order, here are some names that immediately come to mind.

    Adam Smith. …

    Paul Krugman.

    Joseph Stiglitz.

    Yeah, I couldn’t work out the order, but it certainly ended on crazy.

  31. Buccaneer

    Did Galbraith publish enough peer reviewed papers to actually count as an academic?

  32. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    And what is it that Harari wants us to acquiesce to? That there is no alternative to the status quo. ‘At the end of the day’, he writes, ‘humankind won’t abandon the liberal story, because it doesn’t have any alternative’. So, if there is no political alternative, then, the masses will finally begin to accept that the problems are so big that we need new forms of technocratic rules and governance to ensure our survival. Instead of taking control, people should be humble, accept there is no alternative, and bow down to the experts. This is why he offers no solutions. Because they already exist, in the hands of technocrats.

    From the linked review in Spiked of one Harari’s oeuvre. I’ve only read (perused) the ‘Sapiens’ one, but from the review above feel I was wise in picking its problems immediately, and am saving my brain and time by not addressing anything else of his. Sinc probably finds some of the specious globalizing of ‘liberalism’ and immigration fits his libertarian perspective, but goodness gracious, it seems there is a lot of other worrying stuff of the sort that leads to Pol Pot in the end in Harari’s prescriptions, i.e. the elites-know-best school of thought. There is nothing at all libertarian about that. Perhaps because it is embedded with lots of other very reasonable-sounding stuff, the essential frailty of Harari’s perspective is missed.

    Thanks for the link, Clam. I had already made up my own mind to pretty much the same effect.

    So – academics can write popular books.
    But read them as critically as one approaches anything else, imho.

  33. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Matt Ridley, btw, was not an academic, although he had good degrees. As an aristocrat and well-heeled, he went straight into science communication and writing for interest and pleasure, eschewing the constraints and perils of academia (lucky, lucky man). He also came a cropper in the GFC, which he is not allowed by many on the left to forget.

  34. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    As I mentioned above, Harari was recommended to me by my first husband, a supreme example of the highly intelligent and well-read academic in thrall to the ideas of the elites, who has remained lifelong ensconced in an extremely leftist intellectual and social environment within universities in ‘the humanities’; what Da Hairy Ape (my husband number two who knows a thing or two about academia) calls a ‘sheltered workshop for the intellectually enabled’.

    I am an escapee. I never did fit in anyway. 🙂

  35. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Tel, Hadrian’s Roman Wall across the top of what is now England did pretty well too, as both a military repulsing point vs the Hairy Scots and Irish and especially as a control point for trade and immigration into the Roman world and the picking up of Roman ways (which Rome encouraged). Trump’s Wall would be similarly useful.

    Walls, moats, channels, seas and oceans are all protective in their own way.
    The English channel: ‘As a moat defensive to a house’, wrote Shakespeare.
    The US elites all live in secure and guarded premises. lol.

  36. Sinclair Davidson

    Clam Chowdah – I normally enjoy Spiked – but that review is not consistent with my reading of Harari. I’ve read all three of his books and enjoyed them all.

  37. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Well, I’ve admitted I haven’t read all three of them, Sinc.
    Still not convinced to try again on the other two.
    Better things to do.

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