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Remarks Upon Certain Aspects of the Theory of Costs

  • Lionel Robbins

Abstract

The Theory of Costs is not one of those parts of Economic Analysis which can properly be said to have been unduly neglected. It has always occupied a more or less central position, and in recent years it has been the subject of a quite formidable body of new work. There is, indeed, no part of his subject about which the contemporary economist may legitimately feel more gratified, either as regards the quality of the work which has been done or as regards the temper in which it has been undertaken. Yet, in spite of this, the present state of affairs in this field is not altogether satisfactory. The various problems involved have been tackled by different sets of people; and the conclusions which have been reached in one part of the field have sometimes a rather disquieting appearance of incompatibility with conclusions which have been reached elsewhere. No doubt some of this apparent incompatibility is real. It is not to be expected that here — any more than elsewhere — economists should have reached finality. But some of it is probably illusory; and if, in discussing these matters, we were to state more decisively the problems which we are attempting to solve, and the assumptions on which we proceed, it seems likely that not only should we be able to clear up our outstanding real points of difference more quickly, but that, in the course of doing so, we should also discover that many of them depended essentially upon subtle differences of object and assumption, hitherto insufficiently stated. At any rate, it is in the belief that this would be so that these very tentative remarks are put forward.

Keywords

Political Economy Supply Curve Final Equilibrium External Economy Pure Competition 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Friedrich von Wieser, Uber den Ursprung und die Hauptgesetz des Wirtschaftlichen Werthes (Vienna, 1884), pp. 146–70; Natural Value (London, 1893), pp. 171–214; “Theorie der gesellschaftlichen Wirtschaft,” Grundriss der Sozialökonomik (Tübingen, 1914), pp. 61–4, 73–81, 142–6; also the juvenile work, “Uber das Verhältnis der Kosten zum Wert,” Gesammelte Abhandlungen (Tübingen, 1929), pp. 377–404.Google Scholar
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    [“Increasing returns and economic progress,” Economic Journal, vol. 38 (1928) pp. 527–42.] I ought perhaps to state explicitly that this merely my own interpretation. It is not a transmission of any esoteric oral tradition. My own views on these matters spring chiefly from reflections on the remarks on the variations of productivity in [Fred] Taylor’s Principles of Economics (Ann Arbor, 1911), pp. 141–2.Google Scholar
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    The distinction between these two stages of the theory of variations is not often clearly recognised in the English and American literature. It is, however, very clearly stated by V. Pareto (Manuel d’economie politique [Paris, 1909], p. 147), and it has recently been the subject of important studies by Mayer, Rosenstein-Rodan and Schams.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lionel Robbins

There are no affiliations available

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