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The First Serious Optimist


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix Introduction History and Economics 1 1 Beginnings 8 2 Ethics, Politics, and Science 34 3 Bearing Fruit as Well as Light: Pigou's Welfare Economics 61 4 War, Peace, and Disillusionment 83 5 Retreat to the Ivory Tower 111 6 Paradigms Lost 130 7 Another War and a Fresh Start 172 8 To "Really Do a Little Good:" A Redemptive Conclusion 194 Epilogue 208 Notes 213 Bibliography 293 Index 321

About the Author

Ian Kumekawa is a PhD candidate in history at Harvard University, where he works on the history of economic thinking.


Co-Winner of the 2018 Joseph J. Spengler Best Book Prize, History of Economics Society
[This book] should be required reading for every economist who has an interest in public economics and public choice economics. . . . It will reaffirm the reader's faith in the value of intellectual history and of the value of archival historical research. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.---Peter J. Boettke, Public Choice
"The First Serious Optimist is a remarkable portrait of one of the most influential economists of modern times. A. C. Pigou was a theorist of the market and the state, criticized by the right and the left. His theories were the reflection, throughout his life, of his changing understanding of war, poverty, pollution, and economic crisis. Ian Kumekawa's book is a brilliant evocation of the economist in public life."--Emma Rothschild, Harvard University
"This is a remarkable book, from which I learned an enormous amount. Kumekawa has uncovered far more details of Pigou's life than I thought were available."--Roger E. Backhouse, Birmingham University and Erasmus University Rotterdam
"Among economists, A. C. Pigou is the hero of the market failure school and the scourge of laissez-faire. It is left to historians to move beyond such simplifications and bring out the full complexity of the man. Kumekawa has done just that, offering an enlightening and beautifully written portrait of Pigou and providing a touchstone for putting economists' attempts to increase economic welfare in historical context."--Steven G. Medema, author of The Hesitant Hand: Taming Self-Interest in the History of Economic Ideas
"The most influential British economist between Alfred Marshall and John Maynard Keynes, A. C. Pigou was the first to describe the field of welfare economics. This deeply researched, wide-ranging, and convincing biography brings Pigou to life as never before, both as a pioneering economist and a public figure, showing the importance of his work during his times and its continuing relevance today."--David Cannadine, Princeton University
[A] graceful and elegantly structured new intellectual biography.---Duncan Kelly, Times Literary Supplement

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