Alexander Gray (18821968) was a British economist with a particularly keen appreciation of the Austrian contribution to the history of ideas. As with others of his generation, he was super well-educated and an outstanding stylist of the English language. Even by standards of his time, Professor Gray excelled in depth of research and clarity of prose, and his classic treatise on the history of ideas is a prime example: it is a real page turner from first to last.
It was also Rothbard’s own favorite book on socialism, next to Mises’s own.
“Alexander Gray is my favorite historian of economic thought,” wrote Rothbard. “Gray’s demolition of socialist writers was apt and devastating. Gray was also a poet and a translator of poetry into the Scottish language; and we find that his translations into broad Scots of European ballads and of Heine were sensitive and much admired.”
The book was published in 1934, so the narrative is spared the supposed innovations of Lord Keynes. This is why the book is called the “development” of economics: it was written before the majar setback. In fact, Austrians will thrill to encounter this mighty work for the first time, since he not only treats the Austrians at length; he regards their work as the very culmination of all good things that came before.
The existence of this treatise alone is enough to establish what is sometimes disputed today: the Austrians were squarely in the mainstream of economic thought before the Keynesian revolution when fallacy triumphed truth.
Gray’s work is as learned as it is charming, a romp through intellectual history with a particularly British flare for the ironic turn of phrase. This book is smart, witty, and penetrating on every page.