The most memorable book I read this past year was Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, Tom McCraw’s biography of the great economist, Joseph Schumpeter, who is probably most known for his classic, “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.” Not only was Schumpeter one of the “greats” among economists historically, he also was an extraordinary individual — a womanizer, a bigamist, a chronic depressive, and a poseur, as well as a workaholic, a showman, and a revered teacher. McCraw, probably the country’s leading business historian (now emeritus at Harvard), had access to S’s voluminous personal diaries and letters. So armed, he presents a fluid narrative adding to a concise lesson in the history of economic thought and business development world wide for much of the 20th century. Although among the many emigres from central Europe who tirelessly promoted the myth of the Free Market (e.g., Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises) and who settled in Chicago to produce offspring such as Milton Friedman, Schumpeter (who settled at Columbia) was no rigid free marketeer. Whatever your political or economic views, you will likely both enjoy and benefit from McCraw’s biography.
But probably the most “inspiring” reading I have done, and which I heartily recommend, has been in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Yes, the editorials and op eds are almost uniformly breathtakingly reactionary and partisan, esp. since Murdoch took over the paper. And most of the lead articles increasingly slant in favor of the big corporations and the Republican party and their venal leaders. Still, you will find no better coverage (and exposure) of the thievery, corruption, incompetence, and all-around self-righteous chutzpah that has typified the behavior of our business leaders at home and abroad. Sometimes you have to read between the lines, but the info is there however mildly camouflaged and distracted by misleading article-heads (written by editors, not by the reporters). Its coverage extends far beyond the business world to domestic and foreign politics, the arts, sports, and all things international. It even has a first-rate crossword puzzle on Fridays. All in all, the paper still has the best staff of investigative reporters in the country, maybe in the world. It makes the NYTimes appear like a naive baby brother. For “inspirational reading,” I do recommend the WSJ.