Taking On Adam Smith (and Karl Marx) - NYTimes.com: Academic economics is so focused on getting the econometrics and the statistical interpolation technique correct, he said, “you don’t really think, you don’t dare to ask the big questions.” American economists too often narrow the questions they examine to those they can answer, “but sometimes the questions are not that interesting,” he said. “Trying to write a real book that could speak to everyone meant I could not choose my questions. I had to take the important issues in a frontal manner — I could not escape.”
He hated the insularity of the economics department. So he decided to write large, a book he considers as much history as economics, and one that is constructed to lead the general reader by the hand.Tell stories. They educate people beyond the narrow specializations within our ivory towers.
He is also not afraid of literature, finding inspiration in the descriptions of society in the realist novels of Jane Austen and Balzac. Wealth was best achieved in these stories through a clever marriage; everyone knew that inherited land and capital was the only way to live well, since labor alone would not produce sufficient income. He wondered how that assumption had changed.