Evert Schoorl 1940-2018

Let me add to the reminiscences of Evert Schrool with whom I had corresponded but had met only a couple of times, the distance between Europe and Australia being as wide as it is. What I am however able to say is that he was an engaging person and wonderful company, as well as being a great scholar whose work I enjoyed, especially his biography of J.B. Say, my review having been published on these pages in 2013. You may find the review here.

I do not think I am giving away anything personal if I include his response to my review as well as my reply to him. He wrote:

Dear Steve,
Thank you for your extremely kind and positive review of my Say biography. I’ve been eagerly waiting for the first reviews,
and yours is the very first coming to my attention. As I am retired since 2005, I have to carefully consider which conferences to attend, but I hope we’ll meet again in the circuit.
Very best regards,

To which I replied:

Dear Evert

You know the only thing that I regret about the review was that I was constrained to 1000 words. There was more to say and I hope to say it elsewhere. Most economists, I suspect, specially in the modern world, have no seriously interesting personal biography. We graduated from X, took our PhD from Y and then taught for Z years at some place or another publishing this and that. Not so in days gone by where a Say, Mill, Ricardo or even a Schumpeter lived quite exotic lives with more to tell than a mere intellectual history. Just the map he drew that you mentioned at the start was quite extraordinary being as I understood a unique event and first of its kind. And I had even seen sacks of sugar with the name Say on it but had not realised that it was that Say and how J-B was instrumental in setting him on the right path. I do hope lots of people read it. Every word I wrote I meant. And I will only add that you may not get around as much as you used to but European conferences in these days of austerity are looking fewer and farther between for us Australians. But I do hope we catch up some time soon and if I am in your vicinity I will definitely let you know.

With kind regards


Happily we did catch up that one more time at the first J-B Say Conference at Auchy-les-Hésdin in 2014. And I do wish to add how much I agreed with him that one of the main purposes of studying the History of Economic Thought is to influence the economic theories of the present. The note by Prof Tieben states the following: “Evert wore a T-Shirt with Say’s portrait and the text: Set markets free. That, of course, was an example of how not to study the history of economic thought.” So I will say, if I might, that this is the way to study the history of economic thought. I will just take one excerpt from my review that might help emphasise the point.

I am compelled to note that Schoorl has brought me into the story but should you be concerned that my positive review is in return for his own positive discussion of my own work, let me first note this: where Schoorl has written ‘he has given the best explanation of the law of markets’ the ‘he’ referred to is Murray Rothbard. Well I might dispute this, but not here; all is forgiven since what we find is the most judicious short discussion of two centuries of debate over the law of markets to be found anywhere, with myself found at the extreme end of the pro-Say spectrum, which I fear is actually the case.

And my fear was and is that no one any longer understands the nature of Say’s Law properly and how great a misfortune it is to the study of economics that this pivotal principle has been all but totally suppressed.

I join you in mourning his passing, but am happy to be able to contribute to his memory among our colleagues in HET.

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