The Desirability of Economic Development

  • Lord Robbins


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.


Economic Development Productive Power Real Income Moral Sentiment Greek Philosopher 
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© Lord Robbins 1968

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  • Lord Robbins

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