Utility and All That: And Other Essays

By D. H. Robertson | Go to book overview

1
UTILITY AND ALL THAT1

THESE lectures are in the nature of an interim report by an idiot to his fellow-idiots; and I must therefore appeal to any non-idiot present to judge them with indulgence. By an idiot in this connection I mean one who has had no training in modern philosophy or in the higher mathematics, who is indeed easily fatigued by prolonged stretches even of simple algebra and geometry, and who therefore finds it difficult to follow the general drift, and impossible to follow the detail, of arguments couched largely in philosophical or mathematical terms. But I had better add that it is only for a particular class of idiot that my report is intended, namely for those who, being professional students or teachers of economics, feel it incumbent on them to try to form some idea of what their fellow-practitioners are saying. To the idiot who is happily absorbed in the tasks of practical life, whether in making money or doing good or both, most of what I have to say will be of repellent aridity; and if any such has strayed inadvertently into this room, I hope he will feel free to slink quietly out through the door and back into the real world.

The subject of my report, though arid, is on the face of it of some importance. As though they had not enough to dispute about in the way of dollar shortages, employment policies and the like, economists, or rather some of the most gifted spirits among them, have continued in recent years to conduct a running debate on the more elemental, though by no means more elementary, topic of what sort of a study economics is, and what it is all about. This is a topic which, when I started to read

____________________
1
Two lectures delivered in the University of Manchester in December 1950, and printed in The Manchester School, May 1951. In reprinting here, I have used a shorter version of the passage about Marshall's doctrine of consumers' surplus. I am indebted to Mr. H. Houthakker for saving me from some errors, but I cannot of course claim his support for my general arguments.

-13-

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Utility and All That: And Other Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 7
  • Contents 9
  • Part I 11
  • 1 - UTILITY AND ALL THAT 13
  • 2 - THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK 42
  • 3 - ON STICKING TO ONE'S LAST 60
  • 4 - REVOLUTIONIST'S HANDBOOK 66
  • Part II 81
  • 5 - WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE RATE OF INTEREST 83
  • 6 - SOME NOTES ON THE THEORY OF INTEREST 97
  • 7 - BRITISH NATIONAL INVESTMENT POLICY 116
  • Part III 133
  • 8 - THE PROBLEM OF EXPORTS 135
  • 9 - DOES BRITAIN FACE COLLAPSE? 140
  • 10 - WESTERN EUROPEAN ECONOMIC UNION 148
  • 11 - BRITAIN AND EUROPEAN RECOVERY 157
  • 12 - BRETTON WOODS 169
  • 13 - THE TERMS OF TRADE1 174
  • Part IV 183
  • 14 - IS THERE A FUTURE FOR BANKING? 185
  • 15 - NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD STORY 192
  • 16 - STABLE MONEY 201
  • INDEX OF PERSONS 206
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