Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 29: John Stuart Mill (1806–1873)
The Fortunes of Mill John Stuart Mill’s fortunes as an economist varied substantially though time, and the assessment of his lasting contributions to economics is to some extent controversial. From the publication of his Principles (Mill 1848 ) to about the end of his life in 1873, Mill was the unrivalled authority of economic theory both for the general public and the scientific community, similar to what Adam Smith had been until the advent of Malthus and Ricardo. During his lifetime, his treatise was published in seven “library editions” (and one successful “People’s edition”), promptly translated into the main European languages, and printed for the US public. Worldwide, “it rapidly eclipsed in popular favor the preceding treatises” (Mitchell 1967: 573), becoming “the most successful treatise of the period [between 1790 and 1870]” (Schumpeter, 1954: 527) and “probably the longest-lived textbook our discipline has ever had or ever will have” (Viner 1949: 380). It also marked an epoch for the scientific community: for a quarter of a century it was the basis of the apprenticeship of “most . . . English economists” (Marshall 1876 : 119) and was responsible for “the greatest triumphs of the classical political economy in the applied fields” (Hayek, 1934: vi). The “marginal revolution” challenged and eventually overcame Mill’s intellectual domain. Jevons (1871: vi) openly claimed that “authority was on the wrong side” and, in 1875–76, he warned his students at Owens College, Manchester, that “Mill’s Political Economy is disfigured by a series of fallacies” (Jevons, 1977: 3). Jevons,...
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