The Public Interest

Schumpeter’s curious politics

Bernard Semmel

Winter 1992

THE AUSTRO-GERMAN economist and social theorist Joseph A. Schumpeter, who in the 1930s became professor of economics at Harvard and a U.S. citizen, has often been described as John Maynard Keynes’s principal rival for the title of greatest twentieth-century economist. In the 1979 Ely Lecture before the American Economic Association, Stanford’s Tibor Scitovsky called Schumpeter “America’s most brilliant economist,” and in 1983, the centennial year of Schumpeter’s birth, the social scientist Peter Drucker contrasted Schumpeter’s wisdom with Keynes’s mere cleverness. Admirers of Schumpeter have waited over forty years since his death in 1950 for a biography to appear. Robert Loring Allen’s two-volume Opening Doors: the Life and Work of Joseph Schumpeter,† published last year, can only have shocked those who have long regarded Schumpeter as quintessentially liberal in his politics and economics. Allen’s revelations-that in the 1930s and throughout World War II Schumpeter was an anti-Semite (well beyond the conventional anti-Semitism of the time), as well as a supporter of the war aims of fascist Germany and Japan—give cause for sadness.

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