Economics and its Enemies: Two Centuries of Anti-Economics

Economics and its Enemies: Two Centuries of Anti-Economics

Language: English

Pages: 313

ISBN: 1403941483

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Anti-economics is described as the opposition to the main stream of economic thought that has existed from the Eighteenth-century to the present day. This book tells the story of anti-economics in relations to Smith, Ricardo, Mill, Walras, Keynes and Hicks as well as current economic thinkers. William Coleman examines how anti-economics developed from the Enlightenment to the present day and analyzes its various guises. Right anti-economics, Left anti-economics, Nationalist and Historicist anti-economics and Irrationalist, Moralist, Aesthetic and Environmental anti-economics.

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critics of physiocracy before the revolutionary outburst. Justus Möser (1720–94) was a conservative critic of capitalism, who wrote against physiocracy, and its ‘Iroquois philosopher’ Quesnay. And in Germany, as in France, the advent of the revolution brought an encyclopedic inquisitor of subversion, Johann August Starck (1741–1816). In his Der Triumph der Philosophie im Achtzehnten Jahrhundert (1804) Starck faults (among Masons, Protestants, British empiricists) physiocracy’s ‘critique of the

equality population would press with more force against the means of subsistence than it does now’ (Ricardo 1952b, p. 49), and on account of his denial indulged Owen’s plan to cover England in quadrilateral communes. In the same vein, Mill’s Malthusianism never deterred him from seeking remedies for the ‘prodigious inequality’ of wealth.20 Further, it must be allowed that some who expressly sought economic doctrines favourable to property found classical economics singularly disappointing for

civilisation have been absolutely beneficent or absolutely detrimental’ (quoted in Oncken 1926, p. 325). 3. The nation was a unity. ‘Just like life itself, national life forms a whole, the different expressions of which are deeply interwoven. Whoever aims to understands any one aspect of the science must understand them all’ (quoted in Priddat 1995, p. 19). Bruno Hildebrand (1812–78) exemplifies a more combative nationalism, and anti-economics. Hildebrand was an editor, statistician, professor,

of orthodox economics, Richard Theodore Ely (1854–1943), who had studied at Heidelberg, and Ely’s institutional colleague, John R. Commons (1862–1945). Commons’s starting point was Veblen’s suggestion that an ‘evolutionary theory of value must be constructed out of the habits and customs of social life’. In Legal Foundations of Capitalism Commons was concerned to trace property and transaction in Anglo-American law from ‘our Teutonic ancestors’ in ‘German forests’ through three stages:

in the mid and late nineteenth century it was more frequently complained that ‘economics is too unscientific’; economics was lost in verbal disputes, and it should instead embrace the measurable and quantifiable, and become more like physics. This was the complaint of the Comtean positivists, such as J.K. Ingram ([1888] 1910). The strictures over language have been parallelled by strictures over the use of mathematics. It has been frequently held that economics is too mathematical (Rothbard

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