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The Desirability of Economic Development

  • Lord Robbins

Abstract

I have now touched, if only in a very superficial way, upon the main historical answers to what I have called the why — as distinct from the how — questions concerning economic development; questions relating to population, accumulation, education and knowledge, organisation and money; and at this point, therefore, the exposition could perhaps stop. Before quitting the subject, however, it may be interesting to survey — even more superficially than in the preceding lectures — various historically important attitudes on the desirability of economic development. Granted that development is possible, is it worthwhile ? Or to put the question in a more reasonable manner — which has seldom been the case in the more conspicuous historic discussions — how has development to be valued at the margin in comparison with other ends ? This plainly takes us far outside the bounds of analytical economics as it is usually, and in my judgment, properly, conceived. But, as I once said in an early essay which has given rise to much misunderstanding ‘our methodological axioms involve no prohibition of outside interests.’1 We may therefore proceed without bad conscience to investigate tentatively the history of the answers to one of the main questions of political economy in the wide, non-strictly scientific sense of that term.

Keywords

Economic Development Productive Power Real Income Moral Sentiment Greek Philosopher 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Robbins, An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, 2nd ed. (1935) p. 150.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    K. R. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 2nd ed. (1952) vol. i, especially ch. 10.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Aristotle, Politics, trs. Welldon (1901) pp. 21–26.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    See B. Jarrett, St. Antonino and Mediaeval Economics (1914) ch. vii.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    Eli Heckscher, Mercantilism (1935) part 11, Mercantilism as a System of Power.Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    Jacob Viner, Power versus Plenty as Objectives of Policy in the 17th and 18th Centuries, reprinted in The Long View and the Short: Studies in Economic Theory and Policy ( Glencoe, Illinois, 1958 ) pp. 278–305.Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, Lith ed. (1808) p. 444.Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    Bentham, Works, ed. Bowring (1843), vol. iv, Codification Proposal, P. 543.Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    Smith, The Wealth of Nations, vol. i, p. 5. On this aspect of Smith’s thought, Dugald Stewart’s comments in his Biographical Memoirs of Adam Smith, of William Robertson and of Thomas Reid(1811) pp. 84–7, are very relevant.Google Scholar
  10. 2.
    John Millar, quoted by Dugald Stewart in Biographical Memoirs (1811) pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  11. 2.
    Mill, On Liberty (1859) pp. 198–9.Google Scholar
  12. 1.
    John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, new ed. (1896) vol. iii, pp. 259–60, 456.Google Scholar
  13. 2.
    J. A. Froude, Thomas Carlyle: A History of his Life in London (1884) vol. ii, p. 449.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lord Robbins 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lord Robbins

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