Lionel Robbins by D. P. O’Brien (auth.)

By D. P. O’Brien (auth.)

A examine of the paintings of Lionel Robbins, the best recognized and most sensible enjoyed of British economists in this century. It explains the frilly underpinnings in monetary literature which underlay Robbins's large participations in public debates in either the pre- and post-war periods.

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N. 71 It is all the more surprising since some commentators have, with justice, Methodology 29 seen similarities between Robbins's methology and that of John Maynard Keynes. 72 3. CRITIQUES Robbins seems to have been little influenced by his critics. Cannan's adverse reaction73 can have come as no surprise. Objection to his identification of 'economic' with 'materia1'74 had been a fundamental starting point of ENSES. 75 His restatement of his position missed (or deliberately ignored) the central point that Robbins was making: choice, of necessity, involved non-material as well as material ends.

This was coupled with the view that Robbins's definition of economics implied that methodological purity required abstention from policy problems;85 Robbins had no difficulty in replying that he was not asserting that economists· should keep free of policy issues, merely that extra-scientific value judgements should be clearly distinguished. 86 4. THE FULL METHODOLOGICAL POSITION (i) Theory Robbins's methodological position, as stated in ENSES and as amplified in subsequent publications, started from the position that there had been substantial progress in economics.

L35 His natural egalitarianism is stamped on the report, and one of the things of which he was most proud in this harmonious enterprise was the 'pool of ability' demonstration. 136 The report was a remarkable seller; by 1969 the only official reports to have sold more copies were Beveridge on social insurance and Denning on Christine Keeler. 137 Partly as a result of these endeavours, honorary degrees were showered upon him; the list of them occupies ten lines in Who's Who and includes honours from Italy, the United States, Argentina, the United Kingdom, France and Portugal.

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