A Survey of Contemporary Economics

A Survey of Contemporary Economics

A Survey of Contemporary Economics

A Survey of Contemporary Economics

Excerpt

As readers of The Wealth of Nations know, the gain in product from the division of labor "is owing to three different circumstances; first, to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labor . . ." Economists have undoubtedly increased their dexterity, saved time, and invented many machines by reason of the division of labor within their science. But they may also be uncomfortably aware of the picture drawn by Smith of the narrow specialist: "The torpor of his mind renders him, not only incapable of relishing, or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interests of his country he is altogether incapable of judging."

The American Economic Association would regard with dismay an incapacity of its members--because of a too confining division of labor-- to conceive noble sentiments, judge of private duties, and assess the interests of their country. These qualities rest upon more than technical expertise: they require a knowledge of human history, philosophy, and politics. But, more immediately, they require that the economist look beyond the regression coefficients, propensities, balances of accounts, and equilibria of forces within his own laboratory to the whole arena of economic life. The primary purpose of the present volume is to provide to the economist outside a particular field an intelligible and reliable account of its main ideas--both analytical devices and their practical application to public policy--which have evolved during the last ten or fifteen years. For most of the less abstruse and technical subjects, it is hoped that the qualified layman, the beginning graduate student, and the public servant will also read with profit.

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