The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Dalton, Edward Hugh John Neale (1887–1962)

  • Alan Peacock
Reference work entry


British fiscal economist and prominent Labour politician, Hugh Dalton was a student of A.C. Pigou and J.M. Keynes. His main professional interest was in the use of taxation as an instrument for the redistribution of income and wealth, an interest inspired by Pigou’s teaching and by his revulsion at the contrast between the sufferings inflicted on younger generations by the First World War and the material gains of those who financed or profited from the war itself. (Dalton spent four years on military service in France and Italy and lost several close friends, including the poet Rupert Brooke.) His main contribution was to investigate the properties of a modification of Bernoulli’s formula dw = dw/x where w = economic welfare and x = income but in which equal increases in welfare should correspond to more than proportionate increases in income, a condition satisfied by Dalton’s formula dw = dx/x2 so that w = c − 1/x where c is a constant. Using this formula he concluded that economic welfare would be improved by transfers from rich to poor (Dalton 1935), a proposition that has excited the interest of ‘modern’ public finance theorists of the neo-utilitarian school (see Fishburn and Willig 1984). He elaborated his ideas in several works including his highly successful standard text Principles of Public Finance and in his lectures as Reader in Economics at the London School of Economics (1923–36). There he was responsible for teaching and for recommending Lionel Robbins to be Professor of Economics, a typical example of his desire not only to ‘corrupt the young’ (as he termed it) but also to promote the interests even of those with whom he disagreed.


Bank of England Bernoulli’s formula Bonds Cheap money Dalton, E. H. J. Public finance Redistribution of income and wealth Taxation 

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  1. Davenport, N. 1961–70. Hugh Dalton. In Dictionary of national biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Fishburn, P.C., and R.D. Willig. 1984. Transfer principles in income redistribution. Journal of Public Economics 25: 323–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Pimlott, B. 1985. Hugh Dalton. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Peacock
    • 1
  1. 1.