Some of the most popular economist of the world are as follows: 1. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 2. Bechers, Johann Joachim 3. Say, Jean Baptiste 4. Schultz, Theodore W. 5. Hildebrand, Bruno 6. Sen, Amartya and Others.
All Time Best Economist # 1. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770 – 1831):
Hegel was a philosopher and one of the few to “rival Aristotle,” and although not an economist as such, his works, ‘Philosophy of Rights’ in particular, dealt with familiar subjects like Law, Freedom, Right, the State and the individual’s relation to the State.
To him, the “real is the ideal,” and the State and its institutions “reflect the rational spirit which is reality.”
After graduation from the Tubingen University (1790), and while working as a private tutor in a family at Berne, he made time to complete a treatise on the Fiscal System of the Canton of Berne. He acquainted himself with the works of Hume, Montesquieu and Gibbon and kept himself abreast of the social changes in other countries, for example, the English Poor Law Bill (1790), and wrote a few treatises on social problems, but he did never deviate from his devotion to philosophical studies.
His work ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’ was his “voyage of discovery,” and the “dressing rehearsal” for the astonishing performance of his ‘Science of Logic.’ By philosophy, he meant the science which defined the limitations of the various ‘sciences,’ and exposed the propositions upon which they were based, freeing thereby the “mind from the tyranny of abstraction.”
In his ‘Philosophy of Right,’ a treatise on political theory, he conceived of the State as an “organic whole” of which the human members are but parts, analogical to arms and legs of living organisms, and his conception of the State as a ‘being’ and as an embodiment of the ‘divine! spirit without any disregard for the principles of right and justice, respect for law as the voice of reason, insistence on constitutional government etc. shows that he was neither in favour of ‘totalitarianism’ nor in favour of, literally speaking, ‘idealism.’
Hegel’s basic concept that Nature contained an element of contradiction (the idea of contradiction) and his dialectical process working through thesis, antithesis and synthesis proved exceedingly fruitful for illustrative use in many aspects of human experience.
A major tenet of Hegel’s philosophy (the dialectical process) is that as white and black, good and evil, high and low etc. are arranged in opposite pairs, so are ideas, beliefs, status of thought etc. In other words, every positive, a thesis, has its negative, an antithesis, and the opposition of the two would lead to a new concept, synthesis, which, in turn, would become a thesis with its appropriate antithesis, and so on.
The idealist school of thought based on Hegel’s philosophy, known as ‘Hegelianism’, encouraged diversity in its interpretation, for example, ‘Old Hegelians’ thought that religion could be brought into harmony with philosophy, while the ‘Young Hegelians’ saw philosophy as being essentially critical of religion.
It was Marx who was influenced by the “Young Hegelians,” and while accepting the notion of “dialectics,” he believed not in Hegel’s “dialectics of spirit,” but, affirming only material substances as real, in “dialectical materialism,” based on the Hegelian concept of “inevitable conflicts” between “opposites,” resulting in a “synthesis” incorporating everything that was important in the “original opposites” in a higher and more significant way. Marx applied this doctrine to account for a process of economic and social change based on man’s concern with material things.
Hegel’s chief works are:
Philosophy of Right, 1821; Phenomenology, 1807; Science of Logic: Vols. I & II, 1812, and Vol. Ill, 1816; an Essay on the British Reform Bill etc.
All Time Best Economist # 2. Bechers, Johann Joachim (1635 – 82):
A 17th century economist, Bechers dealt with class distinction in a society and enunciated rules for their regulation. He favoured classification of productive agents and laid stress upon trade and exchange, much more on the mercantilist line than otherwise. This apart, his other contribution was towards State regulation in the absence of which, he viewed, business interests would turn to be ‘motivated’ to the detriment of the society.
He identified four classes in a society, namely, the upper classes, the artificers, the Jews and the beggars but was nevertheless in favour of production, giving emphasis upon quantity, and control over quality, selling price, harmful speculation etc. Farmers, artisans and merchants constituting the productive agents, he held, would do well if they discharged their respective functions in cooperation with each sector and with such state assistance as would ensure an increase in output and exchange.
Following the mercantilist tradition, he was opposed to use of foreign goods, and said, “… it is always better to sell goods to others than to buy from others, for the former brings a certain advantage and the latter inevitable damages.” To him, merchants stood next to nature as the “mother that nurses, that makes the desert bloom, because it is through them that the State earns its revenue.”
While distinguishing between inland and overseas markets, he was in favour of overpowering the latter by producing ‘cheap’ but ‘quality goods’, for which he suggested “cheap living” through lower import duties on food etc. and for giving encouragement to good artisans and good masters and material.
He suggested that the evil of monopoly, poly-poly (demand exceeding supply) and pro-poly (stocking of goods when cheap and selling when dear), all causing a disharmony in the market price, could be eliminated by the establishment of state-regulated bodies, and, furthermore, there should be state control of the flow of precious metals and establishment of exchange banks.
‘Political Discourse’ is his major work.
All Time Best Economist # 3. Say, Jean Baptiste (1767 – 1832):
An eminent economist and exponent of classical concepts in the Continent, Jean Bapiste Say was born of Protestant parents who had to live in Geneva. He had a chequered career, for instance, a commercial apprentice, an insurance worker, a businessman, a statesman, an editor, an academician and, topping all, an economist of international repute leaving behind a permanent imprint in the history of economics.
After an apprenticeship in business houses in England, he joined an insurance concern of one Claviere who later became an important political figure and brought Say into a government post under Napoleonic regime, which he gave up on the ground of certain principles. During the period 1794-1800, he edited a review ‘Decade philosophique, litteraire et politique, par une Societe de Republicans’, and was nominated as a member of the Tribunate in 1799.
His ‘Traite d’ Economic Politique’ was published in 1803, which made him leave the Tribunate. He disapproved of the directorship of the Droits as a change and set up instead a factory of his own at Auchyles-Hesdins, living comfortably as a manufacturer until his return to Paris when he published a second edition of his said work. In 1816, he delivered a course of lectures, probably the first, in France, on political economy, which were published in 1817 (Catechisme d’Economic Politique).
With the fall (1815) of the Napoleonic regime, he was commissioned to study the industrial conditions in England, after a successful mission of which he was appointed by the Restoration Government to the Chair of Industrial Economy at the Conservatorie National de Arts et Metiers, and then as Professor of Political Economy (1831) at the College de France where he remained until he died.
Say was a sharp critic of Physiocracy and was the founder of the French classical economic thought, upholding the ideas of Adam Smith but interpreting and arranging them in a logical order to “render the doctrine popular,” since “The work of Smith is only a confused assemblage of the soundest principles of Political Economy, supported by luminous examples and by the most curious notions of statistics, mingled with instructive reflections; but it is a complete treatise neither of the one nor of the other; his book is a vast chaos of just ideas, jumbled with positive knowledge…”
He broadened Smith’s meaning of wealth, namely, material things bearing a value capable of being preserved, to include ‘immaterial products’ as well, such as, physicians’ and musicians’ services etc. He was not in agreement with Ricardo’s analysis of rent and insisted that the real basis of rent was the surplus over cost of production included in the price where the demand exceeded the supply.
He considered interest also as the result of supply and demand, adding that it was disposable capital and not production capital which influenced interest and further that any other factors — for example, risk and liquidity etc. — might also influence interest rates.
According to Smith, and so to Say, the function of money was merely to facilitate exchange of goods, having no value in itself and creating none. He also made a distinction between ‘profits of industry’ and ‘profits of capital’, which was somewhat confusing.
He would deservingly claim credit for stressing the concept of utility in value determination, considering money as neutral, and for introducing the concept of entrepreneurship in economic theory for production and distribution of income, but his name and fame did actually spring from his ‘Loi des Debouches’ (Law of Markets), more commonly known as ‘Say’s Law’, and not unlikely that Keynes’s criticism of the Classical Economists’ endorsement of Say’s Law made his prominence world-wide.
Say’s law meant that supply created its own demand, for example,”… a product is no sooner created than it, from that instant, affords a market for other products to the full extent of its own value,” and “… the total supply of products and the total demand for them must of necessity be equal, for the total demand is nothing but the whole mass of commodities which have been produced; a general congestion would consequently be an absurdity.”
His ‘law’ explained that goods were paid for by other goods and services, and once exchange took place, product for products, which meant that production of a new product created a market for other products, making overproduction impossible; there might be excess production of certain commodities but it was because of deficiency at some other place, to cure which (overproduction in one direction), there must be production in larger quantity, in other direction, to create a market.
No doubt his ‘law’ seemed to exhibit a ‘basic’ truth, but it suffered from his ignoring the distribution of national income in a ‘money market’ mechanism, as against a barter economy and further, from his not taking into account the ‘store of value’ function of money, which created the problem of ‘effective demand’ deficiency causing supply-demand imbalance and the resultant overproduction or underproduction.
Despite, however, these shortcomings, Say’s law did expose a basic truth much more in his own time, but not so nowadays without a number of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. ‘Cours complete d’ Economic Politique Practique’ 1828-9, is his other notable work.
All Time Best Economist # 4. Schultz, Theodore W. (1902 – ):
Professor at the Chicago University and a Nobel Laureate (1979), Schultz would be remembered for his fundamental contribution to the “economics of population quality.” He held that compared to the traditional concept of investment meaning enlargement or improvement of physical plants and equipment, investment in human resources covering health, education, aptitudes and skills was no less effective in contributing to productivity and personal satisfaction. “Increase in the acquired abilities of people throughout the world and advances in useful knowledge,” he said, “hold the key to further economic productivity and to its contribution to human well-being.”
The thrust of his argument was that “investments in population quality and in knowledge in large part determine the future prospects of mankind,” and that when these investments were taken into account, “forebodings concerning depletion of the earth’s physical resources” did not matter. He was an optimist and said, “An integral part of the modernization of ‘high and low income countries’ is the decline in the economic importance of farmland and a rise in that of human capital, skills and knowledge.”
Schultz came to the conclusion—not inconsistently with the findings of his research work—that the rise of production in the U.S.A. faster than investment in plants and machinery was due to improvement in the quality of labour, that differences in earnings were mostly a consequence of differences in the amount of investments in people, and that wages and salary structure was primarily determined by investment in schooling, health, on-the-job training, job information opportunities and migration. Changes in human capital, he held, were the basic factors in reducing income inequality through appropriate distributive method.
He affirmed by comparative figures that investment in ‘persons’ in the U.S.A. grew more rapidly than investment in “tangible capital” (buildings, machinery and other equipment). Schultz stressed upon the importance of “human capital” and the necessity of investment on health, skills and knowledge of human resources for realization of their potential economic productivity and well-being.
Investing in People:
The Economics of Population Quality, 1981, is his principal work.
All Time Best Economist # 5. Hildebrand, Bruno (1812 – 78):
Born in Naumburg and educated at Breslau with specialization in history and philosophy, Hildebrand began his career as a teacher of Political Science at the Marburg University, but owing to his opposition to the government, he left for Switzerland where he first joined Zurich University and then the University of Berne. His last assignment in the academic line was at the University of Jena as Professor of Political Economy (1861).
Hildebrand belonged to the German Historical School. He was very much inquisitive and his enquiry covered business, social affairs and even teaching. He believed in the historical method of study of any subject, political economy in particular, not as much for tracing illustrations as using past events as a comparable guideline for ‘re-creation’ of ideas and methods of solution of problems.
He said that the “object is to open a way for an essentially historical standpoint in political economy and to transfer the science of political economy into a body of doctrines dealing with the economic development of nations.” He questioned the validity of natural laws and was critical of the classical doctrines and their claim for universality.
Hildebrand classified economic development as a ‘three-stage’ phenomenon, namely, natural economy, money economy and credit economy. He asserted that the science of economics had objective criteria, and said, “…Its task is to show how humanity has progressed despite all the transformations of economic life and how the economic life has contributed to the perfection of mankind. Its task is to follow the economic evolution of nations as well as of humanity as a whole, and to discover the basis of the present economic civilization as well as of the problems that now await solution.”
His principal work is:
The National Economy of Present and Future (1848).
All Time Best Economist # 6. Sen, Amartya (1935 – ):
An honorable Fellow and then ‘Master’ of Trinity College, Cambridge, and, furthermore, a Nobel Laureate (1998), Prof. Sen is best-known for his works on development economics, devoted to the cause of the poorest in society. Born in a respectable Bengali family, Sen had his education first at Tagore’s ashram at Santiniketan and then in Calcutta and Cambridge with specialization in economics, and took to teaching and research work at universities in India (Jadavpur and Delhi) and abroad (London, Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard), earning a place of distinction in his career.
He is well-versed in his subject and his repertoire — economic history, economic development, planning, choice of techniques, growth economics, social choice theory, poverty and inequality, moral and ethical philosophy, famine, malnutrition etc. — is so vast that few economists can claim to be his equal.
Prof. Sen has made a “number of noteworthy contributions to central fields of economic science” and has restored by “combining tools from economics and philosophy,” an “ethical dimension to the discussion (and treatment) of vital economic problems” such as “majority rule, individual rights and the availability of information about individual welfare.”
His famous treatises on food, hunger, poverty and equality have enhanced an “understanding of the economic mechanisms underlying famines.” He challenges the common view that shortage of food is the most important explanation for famine, showing that famines have occurred even when the food supply was more or less the same as during previous years or that food was sometimes exported from famine-stricken areas and establishing that famines have “less to do with food supply than with simple economics,” and that famines occur “even when supply is high but people can’t buy the food because they don’t have the money.” (Poverty and Famine, an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981).
His argument that famines are rare in democratic countries where the administration is subject to accountability but not so in undemocratic countries where the rulers are “unaffected by famine”, there being none to hold them ‘accountable’, even “when millions die”, may have some basis in principle, but is nevertheless not un-debatable.
A few of his works are:
Choice of Techniques, 1960; Growth Economics, 1970; On Economic Inequality, 1973; Poverty and Famines, an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981; Choice, Welfare and Measurement, 1982; On Hunger, 1990-91; and India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity, 1995.
All Time Best Economist # 7. Hume, David (1711 – 76):
Basically a philosopher and a literary figure but occupationally a lawyer and a businessman, Hume was also a contributor to the economic thought of his time. His analytical mind, power of observation, clarity of expression and capability of harmonizing made him achieve perfection as an author.
Hume’s ideas on economics were on the border line of Mercantilism and classicism as expressed in his ‘Essays in Political Discourse’ constituting a complete treatise on economics, and his name could accordingly be placed as a top-ranking pioneer of the subject.
An original thinker, systematic in his treatment of the subject, he presented, as a liberal Mercantilist, the ‘price-specie-flow’ mechanism (movement of specie affecting price and hence merchandise), acting as a preventive to permanent imbalance (surpluses or deficits) in international trade and providing a definite tendency towards self-correction and equilibrium.
Hume held that money was a symbol of price and interest, and while establishing a relation between the quantity of money and price, he did likewise as regards the inter-relation between profits and interest. He distinguished between the short-run and long-run effects of money, indicating that money was not neutral and that it might, through price, stimulate industry and employment. Hume’s ideas were, in fact, much ahead of his time, and might have influenced, not unlikely, not only his contemporaries but even Keynes.
Hume believed in ‘reasoning’ and said:
“If we take in our mind any volume of divinity or school of metaphysics let us ask: Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity and number? No. Does it contain experimental reasoning of matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it contains nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
He indicated in his ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’ that the creator of Nature must be something of an ‘engineer’ since ‘Nature is a Machine,’ a view opposed to the traditional and customary “religious, aesthetic and intuitive” modes. Hume’s liberalism and approach towards economic ideas mostly helped Adam Smith formulate new economic doctrines known as ‘Classical Economics.’
His works on economics include:
Political Discourses (a collection of Essays) — Of Money, Of Interest, Of Commerce, and Of Balance of Trade.
All Time Best Economist # 8. Beveridge, William Henry (Lord Beveridge) (1879 – 1963):
Beveridge was the Director of the London School of Economics for about two decades (1919-37), but his interest lay mostly in matters pertaining to unemployment, about which he had his major publication ‘Unemployment’ in 1931. As a measure of solution, he recommended, inter alia, ‘labour exchanges.’
In 1942, Beveridge submitted, at the request of the Government, the Beveridge Report, on Social Insurance and Allied Services on Social Security, namely, a system of children’s allowances, comprehensive health services, and full employment.
It is learnt from Galbraith’s ‘A History of Economics’ that Beveridge was assisted by Kaldor — originally at the London School of Economics — in the preparation and submission of the Report in which he (Beveridge) recommended higher employment benefits, children’s allowances, medical attention and pension (with a view to preventing hardship resulting from pension income falling below ‘subsistence level’).
The Report was followed by his work ‘Full Employment in a Free Society’ in 1944, in which he stated that to arrive at a reasonable definition of ‘full employment’, a three-percent ‘unemployment’ might be allowed or ignored, or, in other words, ninety-seven percent ’employment’ could be-taken as ‘full employment,’ which definition became a ‘reference point’ in subsequent policies, official or otherwise.
His Report, as aforesaid, it may be recalled, formed the basis of the Family Allowance Act (1945) and the National Health Service and the National Insurance Acts (1946).
It goes to his credit that his works were and are still well-received.
All Time Best Economist # 9. Serra, Antonio (1580 – 1650):
An exponent of Mercantilism, having origin in Italy, Serra’s contribution to economic thought deserves being noted. His pamphlets set forth certain rules for an adequate supply of precious metals (new production as well as natural supply), including a number of factors, such as, emphasis upon manufactures, abundant population, extensive foreign trade with a positive balance, and efficient government regulation persuading and —at the same time—protecting such trade.
Serra was virtually a Neapolitan writer in the mercantile tradition with a view to analyzing and taking into account visible as well as invisible items, and obtaining a favourable exchange rate for promotion of export. His prescription was such as to promote ‘manufacture export’ rather than primary goods export since, he considered, the former ensured certainty, durability and profitability while the latter was subject to climate and vagaries of nature. He was in agreement with Thomas Mun that ‘If money is exported for any purpose whatsoever, it will return with a profit into the kingdom from which it was sent.’
His principal works include:
A Brief Treatise on the Causes which make Gold and Silver abound in Kingdoms where there are No Mines (1613).
All Time Best Economist # 10. Shultz, George P. (1920 – ):
A specialist in business economics and Professor at the School of Business, University of Chicago, and Shultz discovered certain special characteristics in his industry-wise, location- wise and scale-wise investigations of business enterprises.
The characteristics were visible in product nature, scale of competitive firms, cost structure and use of production facilities, and in tracing the causal reason, Shultz (along with George Baldwin of Vanderbilt University) observed an evolutionary process of technological changes in a “realistic perspective” called ‘automation.’
“Automation”, according to them, was not a “synonym for technological progress” but a “generalized form of technological change … potentially applicable over a wide range of manual and white collar operations in a great many industries…” As regards its impact upon unemployment, they saw in it “Social shock- absorbers such as severance pay, the guaranteed annual wage, unemployment benefits, careful thinking of labour-saving innovations to coincide with business upswings and additional information sharing between management and unions” which were “likely to receive increased attention as automation spreads.”
In regard to changes internal to a particular industry, their observation was that ‘management and unions’ were likely to “have much greater control over the effects it will have and the ways in which these will be handled.”
Shultz and Baldwin both upheld the importance of “upgrading” as a “standard for continued employment,” in which ‘ability to learn’ would gradually replace ‘ability to do’ the job. They also argued that although some jobs would be duller, others could open up a great “intellectual challenge and produce a new job mix that would increase the relative weight of managerial, professional and skilled elements in the job.”
Shultz endorsed workers’ participation in management as a viable means of converting losses into profits with the workers’ productive ideas, suggestions and cooperation, and for establishing a cordial relationship between management and labour, helping formation of a cooperative team providing for a participative framework to satisfy the employees’ needs and to contribute to the economic welfare of an organization.
His works are:
Pressures of Wage Decisions, 1951; Automation – A New Dimension to Old Problems, (jointly with George Baldwin), 1954; and Workers’ Participation in Production Problems.
All Time Best Economist # 11. Sismondi, Jean Charles De (1773 – 1842):
A historian and an economist toeing, at the outset, the line of English classical economists, but later differing with them about the objective and method of studying economics, Sismondi was born in, and a native of, Geneva. He was an Italian by birth, his family having taken refuge in France in the sixteenth century and migrated to Geneva after the Protestant persecution (Revocation of the Edict of Nantes).
After completion of his studies, he served as a bank clerk in France, but the Revolution (1789) and its repercussion in Geneva forced the family to leave for England. Later, on return to France, it was found that the family fortune was virtually confiscated, and, in the circumstance, with whatever amount the family could secure by disposing of the available remainder, a farm was bought in Italy.
As a historian, his scholarly works on the history of the Republics in the Middle Age and on the history of France made him famous. In the area of economics, although initially influenced by Smith and the English classicists, he was later convinced of their limitations and observed: “…Say, Ricardo, Malthus and McCulloch … put aside obstacles which embarrassed them in the building up of their theories, and … arrived at false conclusions …”
He protested against the conceptual thinking of the English classical school bearing little relevance to Pragmatism, and his ‘Nouveaux Principles d’Economie Politique’, in its revised form, represented his views against the classical economists’ ‘laissez-faire’ policy as a means of increasing wealth without caring for human welfare.
He attacked “orthodoxy, as dangerous an enterprise in philosophy as in religion,” and invoked
‘… interference of social power to regulate the progress of wealth instead of reducing Political Economy to that most simple and apparently most liberal maxim ‘de laissez- faire et laissez-passer’ … asserting that ‘… increase of wealth is not the end in political economy, but its instrument in procuring the happiness of all …’
Sismondi ruled out the Classicists’ concept of economic laws as a safeguard of ‘natural benevolence’ of human welfare, and insisted that attention must be given to the ‘human aspects of business’ without depending upon ‘natural benevolence.’
He was very much critical about ‘unbridled’ economic competition, foreseeing the emergence of antagonistic classes, for example, the rich (landlords and capitalists) and the poor (working class), widening, in such a situation, income inequality in between the two, the former few in number, while the latter (working class) much larger.
He was “one of the earliest economists to speak of the existence of two social classes, the rich and the poor, the capitalists and the workers, whose interests he regarded as … in constant conflict with one another.” (A History of Economic Thought: Eric Roll).
Using rather the Smithian and Ricardian theories as the starting point, and while denouncing the effects of capital, he made it clear that economics was a ‘war of machines against man’, and that labour was the creator of value, and that interest charge was unjust against the rightful claims of labour, which showed that his theories as an economist rested basically upon socialism.
Since, he held, prices were set by the freely operating market forces and since, for that matter, wages and employment were subject to the employers’ competitive self- interest, exploitation and impoverishment of the wage-earning population were inevitable, Sismondi, in his concern for safeguarding human welfare, mostly of the wage-earning population, recommended ‘state paternalism’, or ‘state intervention’ or ‘state socialism’, trade union rights, labour hour limitations,—women’s and children’s in particular — provision for sickness, old age and lock-out reliefs etc.
His initial adherence to Smithian and Ricardian deductive and rigid formulas was surpassed and overshadowed by his later belief in the humanitarian aspect in close touch with historical facts, from which the later socialists did find inspiration.
He disliked overproduction and underproduction resulting from unequal income distribution and concentration of private ownership to a few having the advantage of machinery use and depriving the labourers of their dues, and although he was not that clear in his explanation of business cycles, he suggested state intervention and regulation with a humanitarian outlook, keeping in view, on a realistic observation, the interest of a stable economy with production and purchasing power remaining more or less stable.
He said that “… Absolute propositions, and abstractions, must, generally speaking, be avoided in political economy…”, since, according to him, “political economy was not a science de calcul but a science morale”, meaning that it was not a natural but a cultural science in the context of the ‘historio-sociological’ movement, of which he was a pioneer.
His further statement that economics concerned man, not wealth, in the context of which again he brought to notice, long ago, the concept of “social cost” until an exhaustive elaboration was made by Pigou, much later, in his ‘Economics of Welfare.’
The idea of ‘guaranteed wage’ may “with justice be said to have been visualized by him. The originality of his suggestion stands out in one point: his idea was to turn the social costs of labour-saving improvements into business costs of employers.” (History of Economic Analysis: Schumpeter).
Sismondi’s ideas of socialism influenced later socialists and he was, historically speaking, the layer of the foundation for a ‘great synthesis between French sociology, German philosophy of history, and British economics.’
He did, in fact, make his conclusions by what he saw, like Marx, in England, looking towards, unlike the latter, a return to small business, union of property and labour, and a social legislation as a solution of the evils of capitalism, which accounted for Marx’s dismissal of Sismondi as a ‘petty bourgeois’ Utopian socialist.
His works include:
De la Richesse Commerciale, Nouveaux Principles d’Economie Politique, 1819; and Etude Sur 1 ‘Economie Politique, Vols. I & II, 1837.
All Time Best Economist # 12. Sombart, Werner (1863 – 1941):
Sombart was a notable economist belonging, along with Weber, to the German historical school which was pioneered by Knies, Hildebrand, List and Roscher during the mid-nineteenth century, succeeded by Schmoller and others during the end-century, and later by Sombart and Weber during the first three decades of the twentieth century.
Son of a landowner, settled in Berlin, Sombart had a Doctorate from the University of Berlin and began his career as an economist in the Bremen Chamber of Commerce.
In his ‘Der Moderne Kapitalismus’, he gave an exhaustive history of economic thought and events from the pre-capitalist ‘sustenance economy’ up to and including the emergence of modern capitalism, a ‘historical individual’ having a distinct ‘social form’ with its unique characteristic of spirit or mentality of the entrepreneur as the ‘key figure.’
In tracing the development of capitalism, he used historical materials and inductive reasoning since, according to him, ‘economic stages’ could not be understood except within the historical framework which he divided into three distinct stages, namely, early capitalism (handicraft stage with strong traditionalism covering the period from mid-thirteenth to mid- eighteenth century), full capitalism (market and business scale expansion strengthened by scientific and technological development from the mid-eighteenth century to the World War I), and late capitalism— meaning modern capitalism.
He said that while the capitalistic spirit at the ‘full capitalism’ stage was ‘at its prime’, the ‘late capitalism’ phase exposed a declination of the ‘strength of specifically capitalistic elements of economic life’ with the emergence of public undertakings, private- public or mixed undertakings, state and community public works and non-capitalistic endeavours increasing in number, size and importance, followed by a “gradual decay of the entrepreneurial mentality” giving place to a “bureaucratic mentality.”
Sombart was influenced by Marx, became a nationalist, and was again inclined to ‘Marxism’, but while Marx predicted that capitalism was nearing its end, he held that capitalism would endure, and he visualized the existence of large private enterprises side by side with national planning.
His principal works include
Die Drei National Okonomie (1930), Der Moderne Kapitalismus, The Jews and Modern Capitalism.
All Time Best Economist # 13. St. Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.):
St. Augustine’s thought came to be known as ‘Augustinianism’ meaning, in essence, that an “inward empiricism which has little in common with later variants, starts from things without, proceeds within to the self, and moves upwards to God,” and that “Order is the distribution which allots things equal and unequal each to its own place and integrates an ensemble of parts in accordance with an end.”
Born in North Africa, he studied rhetoric in Carthage (an ancient city destroyed by the Romans), taught that subject there, and in Rome and Milan. Attracted successively to Manichaeism (a religio-philosophical doctrine), Scepticism and Neo-Platonism, Augustine eventually found intellectual and moral peace with his conversion to Christianity, and became a priest, Bishop of Hippo.
Augustine was the author of an ethico-religious work ‘City of God’, a Utopia (an expression used by Thomas More in his ‘City of Joy’) meaning an imaginary state of ideal perfection. His ‘City of God’ was “chiefly remarkable for a brilliant journalistic attack upon the old order of Rome,” in which he pictured at a time of “universal and critical confusion,” a “future city on earth and heaven where men would do good to all within their reach.”
His ideal was “despairing self, cast all its hope on God,” for which his advocacy was for a perfect “ecclesiastical organization.”
His concepts were presumably influenced by his predecessors and had — consequently and mostly — few original elements.
Of his works, ‘City of God’ is the most notable.
All Time Best Economist # 14. Sweezy, Paul M.:
Paul Sweezy, a former Assistant Professor of Economics at Harvard, was known as the “most noted American Marxist” and a spokesman of the Marxist group urging for a theory of social and political development. His inclination to Marxism was an “understandable reaction against the way in which orthodox classical economics had drained off all specific social content from economic theory,” and he held that socialism “will have to develop a code of law which ensures the maintenance of labour discipline in much the same way that capitalism had developed a code of commercial law which ensures the maintenance of discipline in such matters as payment of debts, fulfillment of contract and the like.”
Monopolists’ disinclination to reinvest their increased profits, he believed, would result in investment falling short of surplus savings with consequent unemployment and under-consumption, population not remaining static but continuing to increase. He had no faith in the liberal socialists’ “trial-and-error” or “piece-meal” planning, and believed that a “socialist economy will need real central planning rather than a mere price-fixing agency,” and that it should “start from the investment problem, not from consumers” preferences,” and concluded that planning must become “all-inclusive.”
Sweezy was appreciative of certain practical aspects of Keynesianism but was nevertheless critical of the Keynesian theory as a whole, since it was conceptually capitalistic, having emanated from the conventional thought without admitting that the economy was an integral part of the social system.
He viewed that Keynesianism could prove its real worth if there was a profound change in the social system and structure as a whole, and suggested a central planning, real and all-inclusive, for improving and maintaining economic prosperity through government action, which would gradually and eventually involve into a full-fledged socialist order. ‘The Theory of Capitalist Development,’ 1942, is his chief work.
All Time Best Economist # 15. Taussig, Frank William (1859 – 1940):
An economist in the tradition of Ricardo and Marshall and having the distinction of relating his theory to established statistical data, Taussig spent his whole career at Harvard except the period from 1917 to 1919 when he was the Chairman of the U.S. Tariff Commission. His ‘Principles of Economics’ (1911) met the requirement of a long generation of teachers and students of economics.
He defined the value of a commodity as “its power of commanding other commodities in exchange,” and classified capital as consumer’s capital (finished economic goods in enjoyable form) and producer’s capital (goods directly used in production process).
As against distinguishing labour from the viewpoints of mobility, supply and use, he gave prominence to five categories, namely, the diggers and delvers, those possessing some degree of specialization, skilled workmen, clerks and small tradesmen, and the professionals with emphasis on the fact that they would all merge into one another.
On rent, his view was that “…rent arises because of difference in the amounts brought forth by equal quantities of labour …” “The rate of interest,” he stated, “depended upon the race between accumulation and investment.”
A dealer, he said, was somebody who “virtually guarantees a certain price for the future, and takes his chance as to whether the guarantee will bring him loss or gain …” He favoured cooperative stores which, he stated, apart from reducing wastes, “… not only make savings, they act also as savings banks.” His description of the New York Exchange that it “is at once the greatest institution in the world for facilitating investment and the greatest of gambling hells,” was unique. (Groundwork of Economics: R. D. Richards).
His other works are:
Tariff History of the United States, 1888; Wages and Capital, 1896; and International Trade, 1927.
All Time Best Economist # 16. Bogart, Ernest Ludlow:
An American economist during the first quarter of the 20th century, Professor Bogart was noted for his work ‘Economic History of the American people’ in which he traced, inter alia, the emergence of ‘big combines’ and gave a picture of their ‘extraordinary development’ in the United States of America.
“They control more or less successfully the production of tobacco, petroleum, sugar, linseed oil, iron and steel, copper, ship-building, beef, starch, flour, cotton seed, candy, chewing gum, candles, salt, ice, glucose, crackers, matches, whisky, anthracite coal, fertilizers, tin cans, farming tools, locomotives, writing paper, school furniture, sewer pipes, glassware, rubber goods, buttons, leather and electrical supplies.” (‘Economic History of the United States’)
This apart, he gave an interesting account of the ‘extraordinarily rapid’ development of transportation, the ‘very intensive railway mileage’ in particular, in the United States, a country which had already proved to be a viable ‘commercial’ one.
All Time Best Economist # 17. Tawney, R. H. (1880 – 1962):
An English economist and sociologist, Tawney was born in Calcutta, India, but was educated at Rugby and at Balliol College, Oxford. He taught at Oxford (1908), served in the World War I, and became a Fellow of his alma mater (1918-21).
His first work ‘The Acquisitive Society’ was an original and critical approach to economic life, having aroused a worldwide interest among economists. Saint-Simon’s technocratic vision of “functional autonomy or technical competence” helped Tawney form a “moral basis,” and he argued that property ownership had lost its “moral claim for reward,” and that it had instead become a criterion of “esteem.”
He defined it as “an activity which embodies and expresses the idea of social purpose,” by which he seemed to have meant “professionalism” implying an element of “competence and authority” without “technical, social, ethical and moral responsiveness.”
As against Max Weber’s description of Calvinism as a powerful stimulus to the evolution of modern capitalism, Tawney in England and Sombart in Germany contended that it was rather the other way round, namely, the rise of modern capitalism preceded and caused the Reformation and its early acceptance. “The capitalist spirit’ is as old as history,” Tawney observed, “and was not, as has sometimes been said, the offspring of Puritanism. But it found in certain aspects of later Puritanism a tonic which braced its energies and fortified its already vigorous temper.” (A History of Economics: Galbraith).
Tawney and G. D. H. Cole, both leaders of ‘Guild Socialism’, a “less violent form of Syndicalism”, believed that by “gradual evolutionary means, workers organized along industrial lines can assume control of industry without at the same time controlling political institutions.”
His principal works include:
The Acquisitive Society, 1920; Religion and the Rise of Capitalism 1926; and Equality, 1931.
All Time Best Economist # 18. Thompson, William (1783 – 1833):
Thompson was an Irish landowner but surprisingly enough a leading representative of the early Socialist School. A disciple of Owen (Utopianism), he had faith in Ricardian economics, and trust in Bentham’s philosophy (happiness). He was attracted by the Ricardian labour theory of value but had disregard for his suggestion for reform, namely, population control etc. highlighting, instead, education for all, emancipation for women and various other liberal changes for a radical social change.
He held that since labour was the source and cause of value, rent, interest and profit meant undue deductions from labourers’ deserving reward, and that property ownership without any labour of the holders amounted to defrauding the labourers of their rightful dues. He concerned himself, unlike others, not as much with production as with distribution having an impact upon human happiness and said that the “important problem to be solved is how to reconcile equality with security; how to reconcile just distribution with continued production.”
He was after the happiness of all in the society but since the main constraint to happiness as a whole was ‘mal-distribution’ of wealth, his suggested measures for achieving equality were ensuring safety and security to labour (source of all wealth), free and voluntary exchange, cooperative enterprises and such other measures as would be adjudged pertinent, justified and necessary.
According to Haney, “Thompson’s great significance lies in the fact that the basal ideas of such later socialists as Rodbertus and Marx may be traced to him.” ‘An Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth most Conducive to Human Happiness’, 1824, is his principal work.
All Time Best Economist # 19. Boileau (1636-1711):
Boileau was an economist during the last and the early years of the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, respectively, and could claim as having used the term “distribution” in the subject of economics. His treatise ‘Introduction to the Study of Political Economy’, which was published in 1811, was divided into four “books”, namely, Nature and Origin of the Wealth of Nations, Increase of the Wealth of Nations, Of the Distribution of the Wealth, and Consumption of the Wealth of Nations. He wrote this treatise to examine “the manner in which the wealth of Nations is produced, increased, distributed and consumed,” the third part having been entitled “Of the Distribution of the Wealth of Nations.”
Incidentally, the earlier economists recognized only three income shares: wages, profits and rent, and even Adam Smith, for example, regarded income as divisible into what he termed the “wages of labour,” the “profits of stock”, and the “rent of land”, which classification was adopted by Ricardo. The earlier economists, with certain exceptions, Boileau being one, did not even pay much attention to the “theory of consumption” prior to the “last three decades.” (cf. “Groundwork of Economics”: R. D. Richards, Second Impression. University Tutorial Press Ltd., 1930).
All Time Best Economist # 20. Toynbee, Arnold (1852 – 83):
His life span was short, but he left behind a “beautiful memory, filled with … love of truth and an ardent and active zeal for … public good,” and his works “some fragmentary or unfinished … deserve attention… for… intrinsic merit … indicating the … drift of … highest nature … in the treatment of economic questions …” (A History of Economic Doctrines: Gide and Rist). His “Pioneer” lectures on ‘Industrial Revolution’ (a term said to have been first-coined by him) were published in 1884. Incidentally, he was the uncle of his contemporary namesake, the noted historian.
Arnold was an economist belonging to the Historical School which was in his days understood as a ‘reaction’ to the English Classical School, but his line of argument had a difference. He felt that “history was a living thing which could not be relegated to the background by the student of social phenomena” (The Progress of Capitalism in England: Cunningham).
He was critical of the Classicists’ “deductive reasoning process and …hasty generalizations,” but while commenting upon the relative claims of historical and deductive approach to the study of economics, he said, “There is no real opposition between the two,” and asserted that history, if sensibly conceived, could and should verify the ‘deductive analysis’ conclusions and demonstrate their relative validity or otherwise.
He wrote in his article on Ricardo and the Old Political Economy, “A logical artifice became the accepted picture of the real world. Not that Ricardo himself..: could have wished or supposed … that the world of his treatise actually was the world he lived in; but he unconsciously fell into the habit of regarding laws which were those only of that society which he had created in his study for purposes of analysis as applicable to the complex society really existing around him. And the confusion was aggravated by some of his followers and intensified in ignorant popular versions of his doctrines,” and endeavored to search for historical support to identify the ‘valid portions’ of Ricardian and Malthusian ‘deductive conclusions.’
He admitted, however, that the historical approach was not a ‘substitute’ since history might not produce “general laws” owing to so many facts remaining unexplored, but he was, nevertheless, convinced that it (historical approach) was capable of serving as an indispensable aid to identify the accuracy or otherwise of deductive conclusions or theories. In the context of the ‘labour question’ he wrote in his said article : “It was the labour question, unsolved by that removal of restrictions which was all deductive political economy had to offer, that revived the method of observation. Political economy was transformed by the working class.”
Toynbee was not a socialist in the sense of the term, but he was a social reformer, having devoted himself to a close study of labour and its problems. He was appreciative and optimistic about free trade, factory legislation, trade unionism, wage improvement and mutual help through cooperative societies, and although not against private property as a principle, he favoured extension of public enterprises and housing. His life was short, but his views were categorical and convincing, as expressed in his lectures on Industrial Revolution published in 1884.
All Time Best Economist # 21. Malynes, Gerald (1586 – 1641):
A merchant and also a government official, Malynes was a leading exponent of Mercantilism in England. He favoured foreign trade but advocated, as a Mercantilist, imposition of high tariff on import and prohibition of bullion exports because of his belief that a country’s economic growth was related to accumulation of precious metals, and further, since British exports were ‘elastic’, he suggested exchange control with a view to improving the country’s ‘terms of trade.’
His concept that an “outflow of precious metals would lead to a fall in prices at home and a rise abroad” was an important contribution to the economic thought of his time. It is said that the views of Malthus on population problems was anticipated by Malynes as an observant during the early Stuart period (seventeenth century). Of a number of books left behind by him, mention may be made of the following: The Maintenance of Free Trade, 1622; and The Center of the Circle of Commerce, 1623.
All Time Best Economist # 22. Boisguillebert, P.:
An 17th century French intellectual, Boisguillebert, along with like-minded contemporaries, was an earnest antagonist of ‘mercantilism’ or ‘Colbertism’, having insisted on, not infrequently, his conviction that national wealth did not mean “gold and silver, but useful things, agricultural products in particular.”
He was appreciative of the liberalism and rationalism of his contemporary English thinkers and held that government interference in the matter of National Wealth was ‘arbitrary and unhealthy,’ ‘derogatory and least wanted,’ that ‘natural laws of the economic order’ could neither be ‘violated or neglected’, and that there should not be any differentiation between individual and ‘class-wise’ social interests.
He equated the position of an individual to a town with that of the nation to the world, and favoured ‘unfettered’ intercourse which would result in peace, harmony and also ‘plenty’. In his class division in between those ‘having nothing but enjoying everything’ and those ‘working from morning to night often without a bare subsistence,” his preference for the latter, supported by his contemporaries, helped “sowing the seed of socialism.”
He believed that a “revived and prosperous agriculture” would bring economic well- being. Taxation reform for securing equality and elimination of all ‘arbitrary elements’ were what he stood for. His study of the order of human wants, for example, with an increase in wealth, necessity, convention, comfort, superfluity and ostentation would succeed each other, and with a decrease in wealth, the order would be reversed, contained a great deal of truth in his time and no less even later.
His Works are:
Detail de la France sous le present, 1697; Factum de la France, 1707; and Traite del la nature et du commerce des gains, etc.
All Time Best Economist # 23. Trosne, G. F. Le:
An eighteenth-century jurist (an advocate at the Court of Orleans), Trosne was a firm believer in ‘Physiocracy’ meaning or signifying the “rule of nature,” a distinctive phase of ‘economics’. He was all praise for Quensnay’s ‘Tableau economique’ and said, “Economic science, being a study of measurable objects, is an exact science and its conclusions may be mathematically tested. What the science lacked was a convenient formula which might be applied to test its general conclusions. Such a formula we now have in the Tableau Economique.”
He highlighted the absolute importance of land and said that “it owes its fertility to the might of the Creator, and out of His blessing flow its inexhaustible riches,” and “man simply makes use of it.” He viewed that “Labour applied anywhere except to land is absolutely sterile, for man is not a creator,” that the “physical truth that the earth is the source of all commodities is so very evident that none of us can doubt it,” and further, that the gains in industry and commerce were immaterial to the Physiocrats, for “they were gained, not produced.”
“Exchange,” he said, “is a contract of equality, equal value being given in exchange for equal value,” and consequently, “it is not a means of increasing wealth, for one gives as much as the other receives,” but “it is,” nevertheless, ” a means of satisfying wants and of varying enjoyment.”
Money was to him something more than as a measure of value, since it had an intrinsic value, apart from the value by virtue of fiat or stamp of the Royal symbol. His premier work ‘De 1’Interest social, per rapport a la valuer, a la Circulation, a ‘ I ‘Industrie et au Commerce’ was published in 1777.
All Time Best Economist # 24. Varro, Marcus Terentius (116 – 27 B.C.):
Roman contribution to economics lacked in theoretical analysis, although it could be assumed that there was no lack of concrete ideas about economic relationships. Varro was a high-level naval officer, but was nevertheless a celebrated writer in almost every department of literature, which earned him the reputation as “the most learned of the Romans.”
He was one of the chief exponents of agriculture (scriptores de re rustica), and held— along with Cato and Columella — that agriculture was the most honorable economic activity and occupation. Besides, he produced, like other writers, semi-technical treatises on rural economy, for example, production of wine, oil, raising of different grains/crops, grazing etc., and decried large estates (latifundia), absenteeism and the spread of slavery on economic grounds. It was Varro who said as against the use of slaves as labour that “… it pays to use hired help rather than slave labour at all times … for the more difficult tasks of husbandry like the harvesting of the vintage and the crops.”
He said that “… articles which can be raised on the farm or manufactured … none of those should be bought… nearly all … in the manufacture of which you use osiers and other materials at hand in the country … But in the case of things … you cannot produce on the farm, make your purchases with a view to their usefulness … good in quality, close at hand, and cheap in price.” (History of Economic Thought: Lewis H. Haney).
His other contributions are: recognition of utility, admitting importance of industry in a helping attitude to labour, beautifying the city and surroundings etc.
‘De re Rustica’ is his principal work.
All Time Best Economist # 25. Mc Culloch, John Ramsay (1789 – 1864):
McCulloch was born in Withor, educated at the Edinburgh University and became Professor of Political Economy, University of London (1828). He is reported to have viewed that the “laws which regulate the prosperity and decay of nations are as certain as those which govern the celestial bodies; but more interesting, in as much as man may modify them by his interference”, (cf. American Economic Review, May 1965).
Before establishing himself in academic career, McCulloch completed a number of worth-noting works which were held in high esteem until Mill’s ‘Principles of Political Economy.’ He had a preference for statistics and statistical data, which he justified in a number of essays and monographs.
A friend and also a follower of Ricardo, he held that capital was ‘accumulated value,’ that labour was the determinant of value, and further, that of the two types of values, real and exchange, it was the latter which gave rise to profit. This sounded, more or less, identically with the Ricardian concept and none the less with the “surplus value” theory of Marx. McCulloch was less critical of the Mercantilists’ concept of free trade.
His works are:
Principles of Political Economy, 1825; Lectures on Ricardo’s Works (Ricardian Memorial Lectures); and Smith’s and Ricardo’s principal works (ed. by him).
An engineer in military and civil services, Vauban had a genuine feeling for the common man’s living conditions during the reign of Louis XIV. He was a contemporary of Boisguillebert who was a talented economic theorist. Vauban described the deplorable condition of the working classes of France in his time, and urged that the aim of the government should be the welfare of all orders of the community, to which all were entitled without discrimination.
He said that the “often despised and wronged” lower class was the basis of the social organization, and laid stress upon labour as being the foundation of all wealth, the labour in agriculture seeming to be most important. He said that the most essential condition of successful industry was freedom and that all unnecessary or excessive restrictions on manufactures and commerce should be swept away.
He protested against unequal distribution of income, the defective taxation system, and the exemptions and privileges enjoyed by the higher ranks, and in his desire for a radical reform in the taxation system he said “that persons of all conditions should contribute to the public expenses in proportion to their revenue and industry without privilege and exemption; that taxes ought to be easily collected in such a manner as not to give rise to contests or to vexations on the part of the fiscal agents; and that, as far as possible, the contributor should be able to pay all his taxes at one time.”
He suggested, in addition to some duties on consumption, a “single tax” on income and land, applicable to all classes, which he described as “Dixme Royale,” meaning that a tenth of all agricultural produce — and similarly a tenth of the money income of manufacturers and traders — should be charged to ensure reduction in income inequalities and relief measures to the common man’s living conditions. His outspoken views (‘Project d’une Dixme Royale’, 1707) caused him loss of the sovereign’s favour, but are faithfully remembered by posterity. (History of Political Economy: Ingram; and History of Economic Thought: Haney).
All Time Best Economist # 27. Bowley, Arthur Lyon (1869 – 1957):
A distinguished mathematician and an exponent of the use of statistics in the study of economics, Bowley held the Chair of Statistics, University of London, until 1936 where-after he became the editor of the London and Cambridge Economic Service and also the Acting Director of the Oxford University Institute of Statistics.
Besides, he was a former Secretary and Recorder of Section F (a particular section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in which economists and statisticians present papers to economists and non-economist audiences on the mode and particular aspects of economics and statistics.)
It was Bowley who said in his work ‘The Importance of Scientific Method in Statistical Research’ (1906) that “As economists and statisticians we are not concerned with palliatives or methods of expediency, but with a correct knowledge and true diagnosis of the extent of the evils, on which can be built reasoned and permanent remedies,” and also that the “economic analysis of problems is constantly in need of help from statistics.”
All Time Best Economist # 28. Bray, John Francis (1809 – 95):
A nineteenth century economist, influenced by Owenism, Ricardianism and Benthamism, Bray distinguished himself by giving an exposition of ‘Social Reform’ in a realistic manner. An American by birth, he went to England at an early age and involved himself in the agitation for social reforms during the period 1832-45, and gave expressions to his socialistic views, anticipating, rather unwittingly, the advent of socialism in its real form, known as ‘Marxism.’
Bray was opposed to the physiocratic doctrine of private ownership of land which was everybody’s property and appropriation whereof by some meant depriving others of its full productive uses. He was dead against ‘property inheritance’ and called for confiscation of a deceased’s property by the State for common benefit.
He held that it was “labour which bestows value” and that full exchange value was the inalienable claim of labour without any justification for deviation — real or ethical. He felt that man was a “product of environment” but a “victim of circumstances,” fashioning the “good or evil,” and that all troubles arose because of unequal distribution, depriving labour of not less than fifty percent value of their effort, the balance being inappropriately appropriated by the capitalists, which, he called, was a sort of “legalized robbery.”
“Wealth” he said “has all been derived from the bones of the working classes during successive stages, and it had been taken from them by the fraudulent and slave-creating system of unequal exchange”. ‘Equal exchange’ was what he sought for, to implement which he suggested “joint-stock modification” of society, beginning with “friendly societies” and culminating in a “confederation”.
Bray’s views, expressions and practices were appreciated by Marx whose scheme of ‘communism’ was, however, far more revolutionary.
“Labour’s Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy” is his most important work.
All Time Best Economist # 29. Menger, Karl (1840 – 1921):
Karl Menger studied economics and law at the Universities of Vienna and Prague, and, after serving the Austrian Civil Service Department for some time, took to academic life. He became Professor of Economics at the Vienna University and established himself as a good teacher (1873-1903). He was the founder of the Austrian School of Economics (also called the Psychological School).
Menger was a pioneer of the “marginal concept” along with Jevons and Walras, and held that value was a “judgement of the mind,” having little connection with labour or capital but depending upon the relation between wants and supply of goods available for satisfaction, and by goods he meant commodities as well as services which “serve the satisfaction of human needs.” He said that the “importance which goods have for the satisfaction of human needs constitutes their value.”
His ‘theory of imputation’ emerged from his classification of goods as being “of the first order” and “of higher order” and meant that the value of “higher order” goods was a “reflection back” of the value of goods belonging to the “first order.” His “marginal concept” had a tendency away from the “social and realistic aspects of life, towards the individualistic and idealistic aspects, and his exposition of the fundamental idea of the “utility theory of value” was made “basing the theory of value and price on individual man and his individual psyche.”
Menger held national economy as an “agglomeration of individuals competing for scarce commodities…,” arguing that “He who wishes theoretically to understand the phenomenon of national economy … must go back … to its true elements, the single economies in the nation, and try to fathom the laws according to which the former arise from the latter,” and while trying to deduce the laws of the social occurrences in a market from the laws of the “pre- social” psyche of the individual, he added that “Our needs spring from our instincts, and these have their roots in our nature.”
He described the essence of the economic system as the “competition of all members of society for scarce quantities of goods,” and this, he felt, moved the “individuals who endeavour completely to satisfy their needs,” justifying the reality of his concept (evolution of individualism).
It was Wieser who said that “Menger sees … in all social formation of economic life nothing more than unintended social resultants of teleological endeavors of individuals.”
Menger’s concepts of ‘marginalism’ and ‘imputation,’ serving as a catalyst, eventually unifying production theories and consumption (subjective as against objective) in value determination, and his preference for ‘over-consumption” to the Classicists’ “over-production” were all valuable contributions to the evolution of economic thought.
His works are:
Principles of Economics; Studies in the Methods of the Social Sciences and of Political Economy in Particular, etc.
All Time Best Economist # 30. Cournot, Antoine Agustine (1801 – 77):
A nineteenth century mathematician and an economist, Cournot held important academic positions at important universities in France, and was a pioneer in the study of economic problems through mathematics and statistical techniques, better known as ‘econometrics’, with provisions for testing of theories and making quantitative predictions. His mathematical demonstration of monopoly profit and his tracing of a logical line from monopoly through duopoly or oligopoly to imperfect competition were also pioneering.
He demonstrated a correlation between variations in the supply and the price, constituting a general equilibrium theory in econometric terms. His analysis covered monopoly, and also monopolistic competition, and he became a source of inspiration to later-day economists working on this line. Walras, another French economist, belonged to his class.
Cournot’s idea and workings, although first published as early as 1838, could not have attracted public attention but for the well-known English economist Jevons. He compared the relation of the economist to economy as similar to the relation of the grammarian to language, whose work was conditioned by the language.
In his contribution to the economic thought, he gave a mathematical framework of understanding economic problems along with Thunen, who were followed by the trio of the 1870s (Menger, Walras and Jevons) and also by Marshall. It was particularly the economic concept of elasticity which “Mill hinted, Cournot discussed, and Marshall refined” amply and applicably.
He felt that neither the classical school nor any other group of thinkers knew what the “social good” really was, and that competition could ever produce this “undefined social good.” He believed in changes for the better, for which state intervention could not be avoided. Recherches sur la principes mathematiques de la Theorie des Richesses, (1838). Principes de la Theorie de Richesses, (1863).and Revue Sommaire des Doctrines Economique, (1877) are his principal works.