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REVIEWS MILL ON ECONOMICS AND SOCIETY' Lord Robbins, in an introductory essay which is as fair as the mature Mill, justly complains of the arrogance and dogmatism of the most youthful work of John Stuart. I shall lament later a basic deficiency in Mill's latter-day major essays on labour and economic reform. But Lord Robbins' complaints leave plaintless a large number of splendid essays, which fill most of these two volumes and spill over into forthcoming volumes on related subjects. There can be little doubt that Mill's reputation as an economist, which reached a nadir in the generation between the world wars, is On the ascendant and will be given a thrust upward by this splendidly presented collection of his economic essays. Mill's reputation as an economist inevitably decline after his death. His reputation suffered also as economics became more formal in both its abstract and its empirical work and thus moved away from his style and shared less his interest in the relationship between political and economic institutions. And it suffered because this modest man did not shout his analytical achievements. IncreaSingly Mill became known as a faithful, enormously talented defender of the Ricardian economics to which he attached (but could not really join) a broad and compassionate social philosophy. Sir Erich Roll will serve as an example of a patronizing critic: In short, his economic theory lacks the logical rigor and his social philosophy , the unllinching consistency which are nowadays more frequently demanded. But although he was not original as an economist, and although he did not leave behind one of the great systems of political philosophy, Mill is not to be dismissed as unimportant. His significance lies precisely in the fact that he was able to make .eclecticism in theory and compromise in politics into something like a generally accepted system. CA Hiiitory of Economic Thought, New York 1942, 388.) The picture of a mind without rawr edges was drawn in writings vastly more authoritative than the textbooks: one may cite Schumpeter (History of Economic AnalYSiS, New York 1954; especially Part III, Chaps. 5 and 6); who nevertheless was on the whole an admirer of Mill; Blaug (Ricardian Economics, Chap. 9, New Haven 1958) ; and the very dean of historians of economics, Viner ("Bentham and Mill," American Economic Review, March 1949). "'Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, vols. IV, V: Essays on Economics and Society. Introduction by Lord Robbins. Textual Editor, J. M. Robson. Toronto: University of Toronto Press [London, Roucledge and Kegan Paul] 1967. Pp. lv, 847. $25.00. Volume xxxvm, Number 1, October, 1968 MILL ON ECONOMICS AND SOCmTY 97 I have argued elsewhere that Mill was an extraordinarily creative theoretician ("The Nature and Role of Originality in Scientific Progress ," Eccmomica, 1955; reprinted in Essays in the History of Eccmomics, Chicago 1955). The volumes under review reinforce the case. Indeed the case could be rested upon an essay (new to me) on "Com Laws" published in Mill's eighteenth year (1825) ! First hear Mill on the objection to a tariff: Having proved the Corn Laws to be injurious to all the rest of the community , and beneficial to the landlord alone, we might here close our remarks. ... . . . if whatever is lost by the consumer and by the capitalist were gained by the landlord; there might be robbery, but there would not be waste.. . The evil of the Corn Laws admits not even of this alleviation: they occasion in all cases an absolute loss, greatly exceeding the gain which can be derived from them by the receivers of rent... . The consumer is taxed, not only to give a higher rent to the landlord, but to indemnify the farmer for producing, at a great expense, that corn which might be obtained from abroad at a comparatively small one. We seriously propose, therefore, as a great improvement on the present system, that this indirect tax should be commuted for a direct one; which, if it still gave an undue advantage to the landlords, would, at least, give them this advantage at a smaller cost to the public: or that the landlords should make an estimate of their probable losses from the repeal of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 96-101
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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