In the history of political theory a number of excellent books of selected readings are available for the beginning student. Such is not the case in the comparable field of economics. Although the student of the history of economic thought has access to several texts in that field, there is no volume of selected readings which traces the continuity of economic thought and the rise and fall of various schools of economists. The need of such a companion volume in courses in the history of economic thought has been evident to the author from his classroom experience in teaching this subject for a number of years at the University of Pennsylvania.
The author's first intention was the preparation of a comprehensive work of at least two volumes. But the existence of excellent, cheap editions of the great masters, as well as abridged economic classics, seemed to make such an effort as useless as it would have been expensive. Each student of the history of economic thought can easily provide himself with Smith "Wealth of Nations," Ricardo "Principles of Political Economy and Taxation," and John Stuart Mill "Principles of Political Economy." Moreover, to provide adequate selections from the masterpieces of these great giants of the past would of itself have taken at least one stout volume of readings. Consequently, these three great economists are not represented, except for a few selections, generally taken from their less important and less familiar works.
It will be noted also that recent writers are not included. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that they are generally treated in a course in recent developments, rather than in one in the history of economic thought. Thus, Alfred Marshall and John Bates Clark, the two great modern defenders of the faith, have been omitted. Their work is too recent and their present importance is too great to permit of selection. Moreover, each has been a great system builder, whose economic philosophy seems to stand or fall in its unified entirety.
The various selections in Monroe's readings in "Early Economic Thought" carry the story from its beginnings down to and through the Physiocrats. Consequently, it seemed wise in this volume to omit the early writers and to begin with the immediate predecessors of Adam Smith. Even François Quesnay and David Hume have not been included here because selections from them are to be found in the work of Professor Monroe.
In short, this volume of "Readings in the History of Economic Thought" covers the long period from the Father of Economics down to . . .