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More Food for Thought: Mill, Coleridge and the Dismal Science of Economics

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Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 52)

Abstract

Mill and Coleridge make for odd bedfellows. Not only were they at opposites ends of the political spectrum, Mill a liberal if not a socialist, and Coleridge a staunch conservative after a jejeune brush with the Jacobites, but they also drank from two different philosophical streams, Mill from British empiricism and Coleridge from German idealism. Mill endorsed the forward march of Newtonian physics, and argued that economics was a science in the same manner. Coleridge, a Romantic, found the reductionist appeal to atomism and the deductive theory of Ricardo almost repulsive. Mill was respectful of Christian belief but kept his economics entirely secular. Coleridge was deeply religious and built his economics on a duty to care for the poor and destitute. For some forty years, Coleridge wrote extensively on the political and economic debates of his day, both as a journalist and as an essayist. While there is nothing that approximates the theoretical depth offered by Mill’s economics, I will argue that there is nonetheless evidence of Coleridge’s imprint, for example the fostering of individual freedom, strong dislike of the “commercial spirit” and romantic appeals to the end of economic growth.

Notes

Acknowledgement

I would like to acknowledge the contributions of Alexander Dick, Larry Stewart, C. Tyler DesRoches, and Christopher Mole in preparing this essay, as well as funding from SSHRC. I also benefitted from presenting this paper to the UKHET conference in Shanghai (September 2016).

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© Springer International Publishing AG  2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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