Political Economy

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Political Economy

There is reference to 'economics', and also to 'political economy'. Does it become political economy when the government assumes a critical function and role? That would be logical, as the French require. In fact, political economy is the older term. In the early professional discussion of the subject in Britain - that started by Adam Smith with Wealth of Nations in 1776 and continued by David Ricardo, Thomas Robert Malthus and John Stuart Mill in the first half of the last century - the reference was to political economy. No sharp line was drawn between the role of the consumer and business firm on the one hand and that of the state on the other. All were seen as part of one great system.

Then, toward the end of the last century, the term 'economics' came into use. It reflected a more virginal view of the sub-jeer, from which the government was largely excluded. Producers and consumers came together in the market; the market was the all-powerful regulatory force in society. All important needs were so supplied. The state had only a minor and often rather derogatory role. Economics was political economy cleansed of politics.

In very recent times there has been an effort to revive the older term and bring the reference to political economy back into use. This, as you might suppose, is on the grounds that the distinction between economics and politics is now an artificial one, that government has a necessary and powerful influence on economic behaviour and performance. Even the term 'political economy' is now misleadingly narrow in its connotations.


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Other Reasons For Disagreement

There are still other reasons for disagreement.

Some economists are very economical of thought and bring the lessons of their profession into their personal lives.

They seek, accordingly, to make any ideas, once acquired, last a lifetime.

A measure of disagreement comes, we suppose, from some being more intelligent than others, although that, too, is a thought that all decent and modest scholars suppress.

There isn't much difficulty in telling who has an axe to grind; our oldest instinct is to ask who is paying.

Also, if an economist gets too much applause from the... see: Other Reasons For Disagreement


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