Political Events and Economic Ideas
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Political Events and Economic Ideas

Edited by Ingo Barens, Volker Caspari and Bertram Schefold

The influence of political developments on the evolution of economic thought is the main theme behind this book. As the authors reveal throughout the book, history has shown many times that political events can trigger the formulation of new economic conceptions that in turn influence the future economic development of a country.
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Chapter 18: Planning for Abundance: Nicholas Kaldor and Joan Robinson on the Socialist Reconstruction of Britain, 1942-45

J.E. King


18. Planning for abundance: Nicholas Kaldor and Joan Robinson on the socialist reconstruction of Britain, 1942–45 J.E. King* INTRODUCTION In the Second World War some British economists enlisted in the armed forces, like Henry (subsequently, Lieutenant-Colonel) Phelps Brown. Others moved to Whitehall; from Cambridge the Civil Service claimed (in addition to Keynes) Richard Kahn, Richard Stone and others. Some, however, remained in academia. Nicholas Kaldor was one. Although he had become a naturalised British citizen in 1934, as a former subject of an Axis power he found himself excluded from all but the most menial administrative jobs. Once his friend Piero Sraffa had dissuaded him from volunteering to fight, Kaldor had no option but to remain at the London School of Economics, which in 1940 transferred its operations to Cambridge (Thirlwall, 1987, p. 76). There he became a neighbour, and soon a close friend, of Joan Robinson, who herself stayed in Cambridge for the duration of the war. Before 1939 both Kaldor and Robinson had distinguished themselves primarily as abstract theorists. Although he had published papers in formal welfare analysis Kaldor had shown little inclination to dirty his hands with practical questions of economic policy, even his discussion of wage subsidies as a remedy for unemployment being pitched at a high level of abstraction (Kaldor, 1936; Thirlwall, 1987, pp. 61–4). Initially under the (ultra-)liberal influence of Friedrich von Hayek, Kaldor also moved freely in socialist circles and soon espoused Keynes’s macroeconomics. Although probably already a...

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