Consolidating Walter Block's Scattered Legacy

The all-time record for the publication of peer-reviewed scholarly economics articles is held by the late Harry Johnson, who died in 1977. He published 526 articles, in addition to 41 books and pamphlets. He died at age 53. I doubt that this record will ever be broken by somebody age 53.

My friend Walter Block, age 76, has now beaten Johnson’s record: 528. He publishes something in the range of 25 articles a year. You can read about him on Wikipedia.

He now faces a major career decision. I have been reminding him of this for several years. His enormous legacy is scattered across academia. There are a lot of economics journals, most of them obscure, and he has at least one article in most of the obscure ones. The articles are not all online.

Every once in a while, like maybe every two days, he answers a letter submitted by one of his acolytes. They are published in Lew’s blog section. Following the tradition of fans of the Grateful Dead, who were known as Deadheads, these acolytes have become known as Blockheads. They are pretty sharp students. They want him to comment on this or that topic. He comments on each topic by listing at least a dozen articles that he has written on the topic. There is no way that anybody else could have found all of these articles.

Time to buy old US gold coins


He needs to create a site that gives people access to all of these articles. He needs to get permission from all of the publishers to allow him to provide a PDF of his articles that were published in their specific journals. I think most publishers would grant this permission. It would increase traffic to their websites. It would be to their advantage to do this. Since they are in the field of economics, they understand economic advantage.

The site must have a search engine that lets people search for a term or phrase to pull up all the articles relating to this term or phrase. I have such a search engine on my website.

The website would be broken down into specific topics. There would have to be at least three dozen topics. I may be underestimating this. An individual would click a topic’s link, and he would be taken to links to all of the articles related to this topic. There would be dozens of links for some of these topics.

Some energetic researcher could discover Dr. Block’s opinions on any specific topic. There is no way that anybody is going to read all of his articles, other than an industrious graduate student who is writing his Ph.D. dissertation on Dr. Block’s views. I would not recommend that anyone attempt this. First, he is too controversial. The graduate student will not get his dissertation through his dissertation committee unless he goes to considerable lengths to show why he doesn’t agree with Dr. Block’s opinions. Second, Dr. Block has written too much. That would be a tremendously difficult dissertation to write. It would be at least 50% footnotes.

When somebody is as productive as Dr. Block, he is tempted to continue to be productive in the same old way. He has developed good habits, and these good habits interfere with his legacy at age 76. He has to stop writing articles. Instead, he has to start thinking carefully about how to get them into one place, so that they will have long-term impact. His legacy is scattered. Nobody is going to be able to find all the pieces to this gigantic puzzle.

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