Three Great Economists: Smith, Malthus, Keynes

Three Great Economists: Smith, Malthus, Keynes

Three Great Economists: Smith, Malthus, Keynes

Three Great Economists: Smith, Malthus, Keynes

Synopsis

Great Economists contains studies of three of the most influential economic theorists: Smith, whose masterpiece of economic theory, The Wealth of Nations, advocated free trade; Malthus, whose polemical first Essay on Population generated more misunderstanding and personal vilification than any comparable figure in the history of social and political thought; and Keynes, a central thinker of the twentieth century, whose doctrines continue to inspire strong feelings in admirers and detractors alike. Providing unmatched background information for readers and students of economics, philosophy, sociology, and politics, Great Economists is the only volume to bring together texts on the three most important economists of all time. It also includes the only short introduction to Keynes's life and work available. A Foreword by Sir Keith Thomas and a comprehensive Index and Notes section further illuminate the theories of these three leading figures in economic thought.

Excerpt

What is economics? The dictionary tells us that it is the science relating to the production and distribution of material wealth. But that science requires the study of human behaviour in all its aspects. In a famous passage, John Maynard Keynes wrote that:

the master economist must possess a rare combination of gifts . . . He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher -- in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man's nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard.

The first of the three thinkers to whom this book is devoted certainly conformed to this description. For Adam Smith was a man of the widest intellectual interests. Author of The Wealth of Nations(1776), undoubtedly the most influential book on economics ever written, he was also a moral philosopher and psychologist, a historian and philosopher of science, an authority on rhetoric and belles-lettres, a student of law and government, and a comparative sociologist. It is not surprising that previous commentators have attempted to show inconsistencies between different parts of his work. In particular, it has long been urged that there is a conflict between Smith's assumption in The Wealth of Nations that self-interest is the most constant human motive and his emphasis in his Theory of Moral Sentiments(1759) on the social importance of the binding force of sympathy. In his study, D. D. Raphael shows how this so-called 'Adam-Smith problem' was mistakenly . . .

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