You may believe that a presidential campaign is taking place between President Obama and Mitt Romney. But with the addition of Paul Ryan to the Romney ticket, and the devolution of the race into a battle between warring visions of obese and anorexic governments, two figures have emerged from the past, and they're not named Hamilton and Jefferson.
One's a tweedy, pipe-smoking, slightly bohemian English don with an interest in ballet, Newton and economics: John Maynard Keynes. The other, a cynosure of Ryan and much of the GOP (overlooking his European-ness), is an Austrian-turned-Brit economist with a philosophical bent: Friedrich Hayek. Long ago, after another economic cataclysm, the two debated the basics of what we now call macroeconomics. Keynes died in 1946; Hayek lasted until 1992. Both saw their ideas, which often clashed, wax and wane in popularity in the decades since, though their differences were hardly as fundamental as their later, often-contentious disciples insist.
Today, they have been summoned again by the political gods, thin, ghostly visages, simple in outline, rendered cartoonlike with time. Somewhere, Ayn rattles her chains.