Speaking in Tongues

Our economic vernacular

Peter J. Dougherty

Published: March 2003

Over the past half century, a global economic language—a vernacular—has emerged. This vernacular, like any such language, has formed the foundation of much of contemporary economic culture across nations, and has facilitated communication on economics around the world. Two books have served as particularly rich sources of this economic vernacular, Paul Samuelson’s Economics (now with William Nordhaus), originally published in 1948, and Robert Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers, first appearing in 1953. Peter J. Dougherty traces the history of these two modern classics and their influence—the former on scientific understanding, the latter on critical perspective—on the millions of students who passed through economic principles courses in the generations since the post-war publication of these books.

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