What Was “It” that Robbins Was Defining?
This paper argues that Robbins’ famous definition of economics was of “economic science” which he saw as only a narrow branch of the field of economics. Moreover, it was descriptive, not prescriptive, and was simply a statement that that was what economists were then doing in the science of economics. His prescriptive message was that policy belonged in the “political economy” branch of economics, and that the science of economics should avoid value judgments, but that political economy should include value judgments. That prescriptive message has been lost.
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- Keynes, John Neville, 1890. "The Scope and Method of Political Economy," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 4, number keynes1890.
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- O'Brien, Denis P, 1988. "Lionel Charles Robbins, 1898-1984," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(389), pages 104-125, March.
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