Mervyn King, the former Bank of England governor who served under three British prime ministers, chose Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince” as his favorite book and said it offers lessons for today’s rulers.
Unlike the movies, life rarely permits second takes. But the Second World War gave John Maynard Keynes, the patron saint of government activism, and Friedrich Hayek, the Cassandra who warned of the state’s destructive potential, just such opportunities.
The greatest debate in the history of economics began with a simple request for a book. In the early weeks of 1927, Friedrich Hayek, a young Viennese economist, wrote to John Maynard Keynes at King’s College, Cambridge, in England, asking for an economic textbook written 50 years before: Francis Ysidro Edgeworth’s exotically titled “Mathematical Psychics.” Keynes replied with a single line on a plain postcard: “I am sorry to say that my stock of ’Mathematical Psychics’ is exhausted.”