Knut Wicksell on Poverty: No Place Is Too Exalted

By Mats Lundahl | Go to book overview

Preface

The present book began as an academic accident. I was approached by the Department of Economic History at Lund University to write a chapter for a book on how great economists have looked at the causes of poverty. The suggestion was that I should write a chapter on Knut Wicksell. I was not at all happy with the suggestion and did all I could to turn down the offer. I had read Torsten Gårdlund's masterpiece The Life of Knut Wicksell and knew that Wicksell's views were closely linked with those of Malthus, seemingly to the point at which Wicksell at times appeared to be something of a carbon copy, definitely not as original as in his other writings. The department insisted, however, so I gave in and promised to give it a try. I thought I could always write a short account.

At that point I recalled that I had been at a conference outside Lund in 2001, on the occasion of the centennial of the appointment of Knut Wicksell to the chair in Political Economy and Fiscal Law. There, Professor Hitoshi Hashimoto had shown photocopies of the unpublished manuscript that Wicksell had presented to a competition for a scientific prize in France in 1891. Gårdlund had an account of it in his book, and I thought that maybe a study of that manuscript could yield a new thing or two. So I contacted Professor Hashimoto, who kindly sent me the manuscript. Equipped with that and a number of Wicksell's pamphlets that had been in my possession for years, I somewhat reluctantly began to sketch the essay.

In two months I had a manuscript for a small book. It had almost written itself. After having read a few of the central works I saw that Wicksell was arguing in a fashion that looked very much like a general equilibrium system based on the so-called specific factor model. Organizing the book then was easy, I got carried away and the first draft was written in a frenzy.

That draft was circulated to some people with the provisional title Condoms from the Pulpit, to make sure that they would read it. However, as Professor Hashimoto gently reminded me, that title was a bit too low for the subject, so in the final instance I changed it, retaining mainly the pulpit.

-xv-

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Knut Wicksell on Poverty: No Place Is Too Exalted
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Tumultuous Beginnings 8
  • 3 - The Causes of Population Growth 23
  • 4 - The Centerpiece of Wicksell's Theory 30
  • 5 - Overpopulation, Specialization, and Trade 39
  • 6 - Emigration 50
  • 7 - The Optimum Population 59
  • 8 - Wicksell's Views 69
  • 9 - Why Was Wicksell Accused of Lack of Originality? 86
  • Notes 105
  • References 109
  • Index 117
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