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The Background to Hawtrey's Ethics


  • David Andrews


The positive/normative distinction, in its modern form, was introduced into economics by Lionel Robbins. Robbins's discussion of the distinction was provoked in part by Ralph Hawtrey's prior claim that economics cannot be dissociated from ethics. Robbins's argument has been quite influential, but Hawtrey himself was not persuaded and later explicitly reaffirmed his view but did not sketch out its basis in any published writing. This article offers an interpretation of the philosophical underpinnings of Hawtrey's position. It argues that Hawtrey had a sophisticated, well-developed, and coherent position, with deep historical roots and based on the ethics of G. E. Moore and that rejected moral Robbins's moral skepticism. Hawtrey took the view that goodness is an objective property of the world and, as a result, he construed the relationship between ethics and economics in a manner quite different from that which prevails today.

Suggested Citation

  • David Andrews, 2010. "The Background to Hawtrey's Ethics," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 297-322, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:42:y:2010:i:2:p:297-322

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tavlas, George S, 1997. "Chicago, Harvard, and the Doctrinal Foundations of Monetary Economics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 153-177, February.
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    3. Robert W. DIMAND, 2003. "Competing Visions For The U.S. Monetary System, 1907-1913: The Quest For An Elastic Currency And The Rejection Of Fisher'S Compensated Dollar Rule For Price Stability," Cahiers d’économie politique / Papers in Political Economy, L'Harmattan, issue 45, pages 101-121.
    4. Laidler, David, 1993. "Hawtrey, Harvard, and the Origins of the Chicago Tradition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 1068-1103, December.
    5. Milton Friedman & Anna Jacobson Schwartz, 1970. "Introduction to "Monetary Statistics of the United States: Estimates, Sources, Methods"," NBER Chapters,in: Monetary Statistics of the United States: Estimates, Sources, Methods, pages 1-85 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Ahiakpor, James C. W., 2009. "The Phillips Curve Analysis: An Illustration Of The Classical Forced-Saving Doctrine," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(02), pages 143-160, June.
    7. Patinkin, Don, 1969. "The Chicago Tradition, the Quantity Theory, and Friedman," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 46-70, February.
    8. Johnson, Harry G, 1971. "The Keynesian Revolution and the Monetarist Counter-Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 1-14, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Antoinette Baujard, 2013. "Value judgments and economics expertise," Working Papers 1314, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.

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    Lionel Robbins; Ralph Hawtrey; G. E. Moore;


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