By forcing ambiguities, sloppy reasoning, and implicit theorizing out into the open, Professor Machlup has alerted his own students and the profession at large to the tyranny of words. He has been a life-long foe of Mephistopheles, who advised the student in Goethe’s Faust to use words to conceal ignorance, to substitute words for what he did not understand….
DBx: Among the most fortunate events in my life – a life filled with a super-abundance of fortunate events – is that I had, and seized, the opportunity at NYU in 1981 to take a graduate course in international trade from Fritz Machlup. Machlup’s careful thought and use of language – along with that of another remarkable teacher of mine, Leland Yeager – has made me forever attentive to the countless ways that error sneaks into economic analysis simply because of the careless use of language. And in no area of economics is the careless use of language more common and more dangerous than in international trade.