Jude Wanniski, RIP

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The popularizer of supply-side economics, and to hear him tell it, a great many other things as well, has died suddenly of a heart attack. Jude Wanniski was an idea man to his core. Big ideas, small ideas, brilliant ideas, silly ideas. Talking to him, or better still watching him work a room of power brokers, was a series of declarations and questions. "You should do this," "have you tried that?" Ideas careened out of the man.

His fascination with Louis Farrakhan rivaled the minister's own fetish for the Washington Monument, perhaps the best example of Wanniski thinking so far outside of the box as to wander off the edge of the Earth. But only Jude would keep hammering at Charlie Rangel about high marginal tax rates in Africa; the brutal, capricious levies that Wanniski was convinced hold the key to explaining the continent's chronic, abject poverty.

Jude also knew how to cut to the quick, as he often did when Paul Krugman was at issue. Way back in 1996 Wanniski unleashed this gem:

Krugman's childish attempts at economic analysis are able to fool Mother Jones' editors only because you have nobody on the staff who is competent to assess his scribbles. Do any of you know the difference between income and wealth?

For all his association with the supply-siders, he was no GOP toady. Recently, Jude's distinctive memos—Bolton Nomination Another Affront to Sanity is a personal fave—turned up on antiwar.com, more of his absolute conviction that the power of his ideas would blot out all other considerations. He was obviously right about that a good bit of the time, as evidenced by the business he built consisting of telling investors and money managers what Jude Wanniski thought about the world's financial and political picture.

"Nobody else, I believe has accomplished what Jude Wanniski has without institutional sponsorship, without formal political or financial power, and with merely will and brainpower," is how my old boss Bob Novak described Wanniski in an introduction to The Way The World Works. Wanniski regarded that book as his magnum opus, linking as it does the Senate's votes on the Smoot-Hawley tariff to the stock market crash of October 1929.

And it is precisely that kind of head-snapping, original idea that the world will miss without him.

NEXT: Stars and Stripes Forever

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  1. Dude certainly wasn’t one to question himself just cause almost everyone disagreed with him. I best remember him for claiming it was most likely Iran and not Saddam who gassed the Kurds.

  2. His work as WSJ economics explainer has had huge influence, from the 70s – the Laffer Curve and the Tax Wedge.

    Later he seems to have gotten visions that he could not communicate.

    He probably had the first blog with comments, and was fairly patient until you’d disagreed for years, and then asked you politely to leave.

    I don’t think he understood gold or mathematical averages, or that you have to listen to oddball politicians but you don’t have to follow them.

    Maybe he liked the charisma.

    I think the WSJ in the last few years sometime gave him the epithet “maniacal self-promoter Jude Wanniski.’

  3. I`ll miss him at LewRockwell.com

  4. Is it my imagination or are “our” people dying faster than “theirs”?

    I fervently hope Hit and Run is a sort of Madrassas (sp?) for “our” people.

    Excuse me, but at my age, I’m sensitive to obituaries.

    Will society end with a War on Peaceful People, the likes of us? I don’t think so. Wars never work. Whew!

  5. I havent been this sad since Robert L. Bartley died a few years back. Jude was one of a kind and will leave a humongous intellectual gap in the economics community. While I disagreed with him over the war in Iraq, Jude taught me more about political economics than any other human being on the planet. Jude was a brilliant teacher when it came to explaining how the economy works and nobody understood the importance of monetary policy in the health of the economy better than Jude.

    My biggest regret is that I didnt get the chance to fly him and his wife out to Santa Barbara to address my organizations Economic Action Summit as he had repeatedly reminded me he wanted to do.

    Im sorry Jude. Say hello to Saint Peter for me…

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