“THE MISERY AND SQUALOR THAT SURROUND US, THE INJURIOUS LUXURY OF SOME WEALTHY FAMILIES, THE TERRIBLE UNCERTAINTY OVERSHADOWING MANY FAMILIES OF THE POOR—THESE ARE EVILS TOO PLAIN TO BE IGNORED”: PIGOU’S LANDMARK ECONOMIC WORK, WEALTH AND WELFARE, 1912
PIGOU, A.C. Wealth and Welfare. London: Macmillan, 1912. Octavo, original navy cloth, uncut and partially unopened. $4800.
First edition of Pigou’s powerful work establishing the theory of welfare—"one of the founders of modern public finance… the way that economists analyze and justify government intervention in economic affairs stems from Pigou"—a handsome copy in original cloth.
"It was in 1912 that Pigou published the first edition of the book by which his ultimate standing as an economist will almost certainly be judged—Wealth and Welfare as it was originally called, The Economics of Welfare as it became in the later editions… This book created the branch of economics which has subsequently come to be known as the theory of welfare. Pigou started from two existing ideas, both to be found in the Cambridge tradition of Marshall and Sidgwick. Marshall had discussed (as had Bastiat before him) the concept of maximum satisfaction and the conditions in which it might be achieved. Sidgwick, in a much less rigorous discussion of the same problem, had made use of the idea of divergence between utility to the individual and utility to society as a whole. Pigou's treatment was both more ambitious and more rigorous. He set out to examine the full conditions for maximum satisfaction, the conditions in which private and social net product (as he called them) might diverge, and the measures which could be taken to bring them into equality and maximize satisfaction. It was not to be expected that Pigou's work in the years before 1912 would survive unchallenged by subsequent generations. Challenge was, perhaps, the more likely because he argued that more equal distribution of income was likely to increase economic welfare… In the views which stimulated this controversy some of Pigou's own personal characteristics were evident. He was a passionate believer in justice. He insisted through life in protecting the under-dog. To him it was just and proper to treat all men as equals and to treat the poor as if they were equal in value and capacity to the rich. If one sought to invent exceptions, to one of his Victorian uprightness they seemed to savour of special pleading" (DNB).
A devoted student of Marshall, Pigou became the main source for passing on the "Marshallian" tradition of economics at Cambridge and its most vigorous defender against Keynesian economics. "Known as the father of modern welfare economics, which studies how to make economies operate more efficiently as well as the trade-offs between efficiency and equity, Pigou is also one of the founders of modern public finance… The way that economists analyze and justify government intervention in economic affairs stems from Pigou. It is for this reason that the relatively new field of environmental economics rests squarely upon his shoulders" (Pressman, 97-99). Leaf of publisher's advertisements at rear. Small owner bookplate. With library inkstamp, small date inkstamp to copyright page.
Interior generally fresh with light scattered foxing, occasional leaves roughly opened not affecting text, light edge-wear mainly to spine ends of bright gilt-stamped cloth. A near-fine copy of a classic work in economics.