Magazine December 31, 2009, Issue

Richard Ely’s Golden Calf

Professor Richard T. Ely (Public domain/via Wikimedia)

In a lecture to Harvard students in 1886, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. spoke of the sort of thinker of whom it can be said that, “a hundred years after he is dead and forgotten, men who never heard of him will be moving to the measure of his thought.”

Perhaps more than any other leading progressive intellectual, Richard Ely is dead and forgotten, save among a few economists and a few historians. The American Economic Association, which Ely founded, still has a prestigious Richard Ely memorial lecture, and such neo-progressives as the late Richard Rorty tried valiantly to restore Ely’s stature.

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The Copenhagen climate summit devolved into an international farce, an episode of Carbon-Police Squad! as ridiculous as anything directed by David Zucker.

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