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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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Paradigms Lost

Paradigms Lost

(p.130) Chapter Six Paradigms Lost
The First Serious Optimist

Ian Kumekawa

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces the gradual decline of Pigou's optimism regarding welfare economics, founded as it was on the desire to make things better and built on an optimism that it could actually bring about a happier, more just world. By the end of the 1920s, Pigou could no longer be considered an optimist. In a bitter 1939 presidential address to the Royal Economic Society, Pigou no longer held that economics was meant to help people, to bear fruit, but merely to theorize, to bear light. It was a pursuit that was, if not helpful, “at least not ignoble.” As Britain descended into the Depression, Keynes's theories emerged dominant at Cambridge, and economics redefined its conception of objectivity and its status as a rigorous science, Pigou himself slipped from dominance into pessimism.

Keywords:   optimism, welfare economics, John Maynard Keynes, economic science, Great Depression, The General Theory, objectivity

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