A History of Canadian Economic Thought

A History of Canadian Economic Thought

A History of Canadian Economic Thought

A History of Canadian Economic Thought


In A History of Canadian Economic Thought, Robin Neill relates the evolution of economic theory in Canada to the particular geographical and political features of the country. Whilst there were distinctively Canadian economic discourses in nineteenth-century Ontario and early twentieth-century Quebec, Neill argues that these have now been absorbed into the broader North American mainstream. He also examines the nature and importance of the staple theory controversy and its appositeness for the Canadian case. With full accounts of the work of major Canadian economists including John Rae, H. A. Innis and Harry Johnson, A History of Canadian Economic Thoughtis the first definitive treatment of the subject for 30 years.


If there must be a conclusion to this account of the history of economic thought in Canada, I offer the following.

It is possible to discern a distinctive Canadian economics prior to 1900, indeed, a separate, distinctive economics in each of English and French Canada. After 1900, by using and defending themselves against a common Euro-American discourse in economics, the separate economics of English and French Canada expressed themselves in the schools associated with H. A. Innis and F.-A. Angers. After 1950, beginning with the acceptance of Keynesian theory, Canadian economics, as a whole, integrated itself into a broader, positivist, Euro-American discourse.

Major contributions in Canadian economics have come in the field of economic development, particularly in the works of John Rae and H.A. Innis; and we may conclude that the staple theory is an adequate explanation of Canadian economic development only in one period, though it is an adequate explanation of Atlantic Canadian and western Canadian development in all periods. Canadian monetary theory and policy have been anchored in nineteenth-century British Banking School theory and policy.

But such a summary is a gross oversimplification. An understanding of Canadian economics requires familiarity with all the details and nuances of the full account.

There are outstanding economists dealing with the history of economic thought and with economic methodology who teach and write in Canada: Sam Hollander, The Economics of David Ricardo (I give only examples); and Larry Boland, The Foundations of Economic Method. They have no place in this history of economic thought in Canada, because this history is about economics as a product of the Canadian experience. There are members of my own Department at Carleton who have continental if not international reputations: Richard Carson, Comparative Economic Systems, and three more recent texts; Soo-Bin Park, ‘Some Sampling Properties of Minimum Expected Loss (Melo) Estimates of Structural Coefficients’; and Richard

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