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History of Political Economy 32.1 (2000) 181-185
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Comments on Books Received, 1998:
The Works of Irving Fisher. 14 volumes. Edited by William J. Barber, with the assistance of Robert W. Dimand and Kevin Foster. Consulting Editor: James Tobin. London and Brookfield, Vt.: Pickering & Chatto, 1997. $1,395.00.
This collection is a tribute to the scholarly dedication of historians of economic thought. William J. Barber, as editor, illustrates the commitment of serious scholars from our smaller liberal arts institutions to the organization and preparation of materials to facilitate the research of others. Volume I begins with a sketch of Fisher's long and productive life (1867-1947). The volumes are organized thematically and cover Fisher's concerns with capital and interest, money, statistics, and banking policy.
This collection marshals the material in a way that will make it easy for a methodologist to study the philosophy of mathematics that Irving Fisher brought to economics and to appraise the oftentimes pedestrian and mechanistic influence of such a discipline.
What insights can be derived from Fisher's intellectual saga for evaluating the development of formal economics during the last half of the twentieth century? This collection provides the core ingredient for such a study. It contains much personal correspondence and many speeches that help tie Fisher's theory to the issues of the day. The collection stands, therefore, as a basic research source for the reflective scholar.
Classics in Institutional Economics: The Founders, 1890-1945. 5 volumes. Edited by Malcolm Rutherford and Warren J. Samuels. London: Pickering & Chatto, 1997. $680.00
These five volumes bring together the most significant writings of the major figures in American Institutionalism: Thorstein Veblen, Richard T. Ely and John Rogers Commons, Robert Franklin Hoxie and Walton Hale Hamilton, and Wesley Clair Mitchell. [End Page 181]
This collection must be treated as a reference for those wishing merely to familiarize themselves with Institutionalism. Anyone interested in serious research should note that new perspectives require investigation of the less well known or ignored portions of a writer's work.
Some might wish that Clarence Ayres and the focal point of Institutionalism associated with the University of Texas had been included. Others may feel that Henry Charles Carey should have been included as a representative of a distinctive American body of innovative, institutionally oriented theory in the mid-nineteenth century.
This collection of the more vital and influential institutionalist writings will facilitate the formulation of a coherent picture of the philosophical and policy themes of early-twentieth-century thought and clarify the enduring influence of American Institutionalism while encouraging students to study today's policy issues with a richer background.
The Corruption of Economics. By Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison. London: Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers), Ltd., 1994. 266 pp. $19.95.
This contribution in the Georgist Paradigm Series contains a thought-provoking essay by Mason Gaffney that makes up about half the book. The piece, "Neo-Classical Economics as a Stratagem against Henry George," is a thoroughly documented survey of the popular impact of Georgist arguments and the degree to which academic economics responded with defensive analyses. This aspect of the evolution of U.S. economic thought that took place between 1870 and 1930 is seldom given much theoretical attention, since the populist and Georgist emphasis on land does not fit into contemporary generalizations of land as just another form of capital. As Gaffney brings out, however, this problem of the theoretical discontinuities between land and industrial assets was at the heart of the debate during this period.
Gaffney supplemented this material in an unpublished paper presented at the International Conference on Henry George in November 1997 entitled "Henry George, Fr. Edward McGlynn, and Pope Leo XIII." This paper, available on the Internet, summarizes the influence of Georgism on papal policy at the turn of the century. In addition, John K. Whittaker's 1997 article, "Enemies or Allies? Henry George and Francis Amasa Walker One Century Later" (JEL 35:1891-1915), adds a careful reappraisal of George's economic sophistication and the frustration he caused academic economists in...