The man who invented supply side economics and sold it to Ronald Reagan has died.

“Jude Wanniski,” writes James K. Glassman, “one of America’s great contrarians and polemicists and the man who turned me — and thousands more — on to free-market economics, died suddenly Monday afternoon of a heart attack. He was 69.

“Wanniski was always cheerful, always provocative, always spoke his mind. His writing was innovative, surprising and confident in a manner largely unknown in journalism today. Wanniski, a disciple of the Columbia University economist Robert Mundell, who won a Nobel Prize in 1999, valued history and — at least until the final years — logical clarity.”

Let Glassman (who was my own boss at an alternative weekly in dear old New Orleans in those days when we all were still liberals) explain how Wanniski influenced him:

“I had taken economics courses at Harvard that solely stressed the Keynesian view that the well-being of citizens was shaped by government interventions to increase or lower demand. I had voted for McGovern and Carter, but, as a young entrepreneur, I was troubled by a model that held that, if the feds extracted more money from business owners and spent it on government projects, the beneficial economic effect would be multiplied many-fold.

“Wanniski painted a different picture. By lowering taxes, government could get out of the way of people’s normal propensity to create, work hard, and produce — that is, boost the supply of goods and services. This idea is at the heart of classical economics, which Wanniski resurrected when he and economist Alan Reynolds coined the term ‘supply-side fiscalism’ (later revised to supply-side economics) and popularized the notion as an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal….

“One of the reasons I was drawn to Wanniski was his faith in the innate intelligence of average citizens, both American and otherwise. Here too, he was ahead of his time. The left wing, which has turned more and more elitist, now rejects ideas like Social Security personal accounts because, it believes, most people won’t be able to invest reasonably.”