The Economics of W. S. Jevons

By Sandra Peart | Go to book overview

11

CONCLUSION

There can be no doubt as to the broad range of Jevons’s preoccupations and talents. This investigation has shown him to be intensely interested in theoretical matters—microeconomic decision-making—and at the same time very much concerned with how an economy develops through time. In addition, he devoted his attention to philosophical issues important to economics, the utilitarian conception of ‘welfare’ that remains the underpinning for much economic policy-making today. His writings on policy—on the establishment of museums and libraries; on taxation; on the regulation of workers in an early capitalist setting; on the benefits associated with concert halls; on working women and child care issues; on co-operation; on how to alleviate poverty—reveal a mind willing to tackle social and economic problems using an extraordinarily broad range of policy instruments and recommendations. In his methodological investigation, Jevons made some of his most significant contributions to economics, recommending the systematic appropriation and use of statistical techniques for measurement and approximation in economics. His own forays into measurement and quantification—the attempt to measure the influence of the gold discovery and to convince his audience that the alteration in prices was due to a change in the value of gold; his work with the Davenant corn data; his careful estimates of currency wear in the United Kingdom; and his analysis of economic data regarding fluctuations—demonstrate an ability to undertake a wide range of economic problems with resolve, and imagination.

In fact, this investigation has focused on Jevons’s research into economic questions, leaving a substantial body of work on meteorological and other scientific concerns largely untouched: he was even more the polymath than the foregoing suggests. One specifically striking essay that we have neglected, ‘Cram’ [1877], highlights a keen interest in pedagogical matters, as well as a serious commitment to teaching. I frequently share the colourful description of learning contained there with my own students, who appreciate that technological change has enabled them to escape the fate of the ‘lecture-room benches’ for the relative comfort of desks, and chairs. 1

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The Economics of W. S. Jevons
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Appendix 1.1 Chronology of Jevons’s Life 8
  • Part I - Macroeconomic Concerns 19
  • 2 - Jevons’s Theory of Economic Growth 21
  • Appendix 2.1 Coal Consumption 42
  • Appendix 2.2 Population Data 44
  • 3 - Sunspots and Expectations 45
  • Part II - Microeconomic Theory 71
  • 4 - Jevons’s Theory of Political Economy 73
  • 5 - Jevons’s Theory of Exchange 90
  • Appendix 5.1 Physics and Neoclassical Economics 114
  • 6 - Production 115
  • Part III - Economic Policy 135
  • 7 - Jevons and Utilitarianism 137
  • 8 - Jevons’s Analysis of Policy 155
  • Part IV - Methodology 171
  • 9 - The Rise of Empirical Methods 173
  • 10 - Jevons’s Empirical Studies 194
  • Appendix 10.1 Jevons’s Commodity Groups, Enlarged Sample 214
  • Appendix 10.2 The Currency Wear Calculations 217
  • Appendix 10.3 The Davenant Corn Law 219
  • Appendix 10.4 Jevons’s 1875 Buys-Ballot Table 220
  • 11 - Conclusion 221
  • Notes 232
  • References 295
  • Index 307
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