The Credibility of Liberal Economics

  • Alan Peacock


In 1836 at the close of an article in the London Review on ‘Whether Political Economy is Useful’, the protagonist of political economy, ‘Mr B’, whom James Mill uses to expound his views to ‘Mr A’, concludes with the resounding words:

The people, therefore, in the legislature, void of knowledge, who say they distrust and despise political economy, make no presumption against the doctrines against which they vent only a senseless noise. ... There is no branch of human knowledge more entitled to respect; and the men who affect to hold it in contempt afford indication only against themselves.1


Political Economy Welfare Economic Liberal View Liberal Economic Liberal Idea 
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  1. 1.
    James Mill, Selected Economic Writings (introduced and edited by Donald Winch), published for the Scottish Economic Society by Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh and London, 1966, p. 382.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lord Kobbins, Foreword to Harold Wincott, The Business of Capitalism Institute of Economic Affairs, 1968.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
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    It says a good deal for the Department of Industry that it allowed the publication of the excellent study by Mr Nick Gardner, ‘Economics of Launching Aid’, in The Economics of Industrial Subsidies (edited by Alan Whiting), HMSO, London, 1976, from which these figures are derived. It was Mr Edmund Dell, when Secretary of State for Trade, who remarked (before he became a minister) that ‘Doubtful as governments might be of their ability to promote economic development in general, in aerospace and nuclear energy they seemed to have no doubt. Though the costs far exceeded the costs of empire, they have gone on. They have spent magnificently ... the pressures of national prestige and of the thousands of persons employed in these industries are likely to determine the nation’s future course rather than any more scientific calculations regarding investment and return.’ (Political Responsibility and Industry, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1973, pp. 30–31.)Google Scholar
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    In a provocative and stimulating paper, ‘The British Disease: A Public Choice and a Property Rights Perspective’ (mimeo). See also the conclusion of Jo Grimond, The Bureaucratic Blight, Unservile State Papers No. 22, 1976.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© The Wincott Foundation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Peacock

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