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The First Serious OptimistA. C. Pigou and the Birth of Welfare Economics$
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Ian Kumekawa

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691163482

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691163482.001.0001

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Bearing Fruit as Well as Light

Bearing Fruit as Well as Light

Pigou’S welfare Economics

(p.61) Chapter Three Bearing Fruit as Well as Light
The First Serious Optimist

Ian Kumekawa

Princeton University Press

This chapter takes a look at Pigou's welfare economics, particularly through his most famous work, Wealth and Welfare, which began circulating in 1912. This book marked the formal start of Pigou's work on the economics of welfare and, arguably, the birth of the field of welfare economics. Pigou's welfare economics was concerned with analyzing and correcting imperfections in the market that resulted in suboptimal levels of societal wellbeing. This premise—the idea that the market was not self-regulating—meant that much of the ameliorative potential of Pigou's welfare economics depended on the actions of a competent administrator located outside the market. Amid a surging public respect for science and a burgeoning pressure for government to take a more active role in the economy, Pigou's work not only made a major theoretical contribution, it was also able to provide a rigorous justification for state action at a propitious time.

Keywords:   welfare economics, Wealth and Welfare, societal wellbeing, state action

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