This is the title of an eight-page essay by Allan Carlson, located here.
Mr. Carlson introduces Karl Polanyi to us as being "Among the more enigmatic thinkers" of the twentieth century, and the author of the 1944 book, The Great Transformation, a work of economic history.
I had been only very slightly familiar with Polanyi before reading this article today, so in this matter, as in most matters, I am an expert in nothing whatsoever. But insofar as I have read any economic history, Mr. Carlson's extracts of Polanyi's writing indicate the mind and heart of a man who seems to understand a great deal about the strengths and weaknesses in economic theory. Mr. Polanyi, I would suggest, stands somewhere in the tradition of natural-law economists, but he speaks with his own voice.
At a time when Ayn Rand's ideas (some of which I agree with, and some I do not) become more influential with the current release of the movie based on her famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, I think it is important to consider some very different alternatives in the broadly libertarian and Austrian tradition. Polanyi has one.
And at a time when the post-Civil War economic order in the United States is (quite inevitably and quite properly) coming apart, it is good to get beyond handwringing and anguish and consider what might, or what could, follow it -- preferably something much better.
To any readers of this post, especially those who have pondered the thinking of Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Ludwig von Mises, Peter Drucker (a personal friend of Polanyi), G. K. Chesterton, G. B. Shaw, Wendell Berry, and others, I think there is something here to invite your research and comment.
Mr. Polanyi and Mr. Carlson refer to events, crucially important to their thinking, about which I must confess I have no knowledge. I, for one, have got to do some research on "Speenhamland," The Great Transformation, Polanyi's theory of "double movement," and much more; and I hope eventually to post something in the comments section below. I would be delighted for any readers to beat me to the punch. Thanks.
* * *
Allan Carlson is a professor of history at Hillsdale College.
Thanks to Peter Goodgame for bringing this article to my attention. Let's call it, Economics in One Lesson, part 2.