Thursday, 11 July 2013

Great moments in economic punditry

By Tim Worstall

This is an interesting assertion by the American writer Matt Yglesias:
The big issue that gets left out in pious lectures about comparative advantage is that Smith and Ricardo didn't believe that long-term economic growth was possible! This was the era of economics as the "dismal science", meaning that political economy was essentially the study of how to optimally allocate a fixed pool of resources.
Well, no, the dismal part of the dismal science came a little after Smith and Ricardo. The coinage is actually from Thomas Carlyle in 1849 (long after the deaths of both Smith and Ricardo) and was referring to the awkward fact, awkward for Carlyle, that economics indicated that reintroducing slavery might be a not very good idea. A very bad one in fact and given that Carlyle was advocating its reintroduction in the West Indies a finding that he was a tad angry about and thus the naming.

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