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Charlatans or Saviours?
Economists and the British Economy from Marshall to Meade
Charlatans or Saviours? is the first detailed analysis of professional British economists from Marshall, through Keynes and Meade to the present day. It examines the relationship between professional economists and economic policy in an attempt to answer the question: 'Can economics and professional economists be blamed for the relative decline of the British economy?' This book provides an unrivalled account of how economic policy is made in practice. It uses examples of major policy decisions to show how policy debates develop and then assesses the subsequent balance between political, bureaucratic and economic influence. In this path-breaking investigation Roger Middleton sheds new light on Britain's relative economic decline by examining the advice economists have given to government. He analyses whether economists are partly responsible for this decline or whether they are largely innocent and unnecessarily blamed by politicians. In discussing the rise of professional economics he demonstrates that from the time of Marshall onwards the market for economic policy advice in Britain has been unusually competitive.
In addition, Roger Middleton explores the broader concern in contemporary economics, that is, the pursuit of rigour at the expense of relevance. This in-depth study will be welcomed by economists interested in policy making, the history of economic thought, economic historians and political scientists.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'... this book offers a wealth of information and of stimulating questions about highly complex problems, which economists need - perhaps much more than they are inclined - to think through and form considered views about.' -- Terence Hutchison, Economic Record 'The work is worthy of a place on the library shelf as it does contribute to an overall picture of economics.' -- Pete Clarke, Capital and Class 'Overall, this book is a substantial achievement. It marries a range of literatures few other have brought together. The history of economic thought, economics as a discipline, and the development of economic policy are each scrutinised and assessed, and their interconnections explored. The bibliographic basis of the book is huge, with almost 50 pages of references. It provides a distinctive perspective on the twentieth century British economy from an author who always has something interesting to say. Every library should have a copy.' -- Jim Tomlinson, Contemporary British History 'Chapter Three describes the changing supply of and demand for economists over time. This chapter provides very interesting reading for any academic or government economist curious about the history of their chosen career ... Roger Middleton provides a "warts and all" examination of British economics, including discussion of the falling number of economics Ph.D. students, and the "Mr Spock" method for modelling economic agents' rationality.' -- Caroline Elliott, Business History 'In surveying the century, Middleton has hit on the brilliant idea of analyzing quantitatively the contents of the issues of the Economic Journal, which began in 1891, using a machine-readable database, DISMAL, of EJ paper and their authors. This provides information on some authors' characteristics (gender, occupation, professional affiliation, etc.) and the subject and style of the authors' writings. The information is fascinating and very well presented in the first and several of the later chapters. The 'Very strongly recommended for upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, and their teachers.' -- D.E. Moggridge, Choice 'This book brings together a wealth of material on a fascinating theme: the evolution of the British economics profession since the nineteenth century. It will be invaluable both for historians concerned with economic policy making in Britain and for economists who want to understand how the profession got to its current position.' -- Roger Backhouse, University of Birmingham, UK '"Charlatans in need of salvation, an economy in need of saviours" is the verdict of Roger Middleton in his masterly survey of the rise and decline of British economics. Good works might or might not help, pure thought certainly won't, but reading this book should do the trick. The stock of economics has risen and fallen in the twentieth century, peaking at its mid-point, just as the economy itself was perceived to enter a steady decline. Middleton here deftly traces the interaction between economics as science and as policy in the context of Alfred Marshall's noble ambition to do good. This book is intelligent, readable, insightful, and committed - at once a critique of modern economics and a means for its renewal.' -- Keith Tribe, Keele University, UK 'The book is balanced and well-informed. Those who have written or advised on the management of the British economy will be fascinated by a wealth of material and anecdotes with which they are unfamiliar.' - Walter Eltis, Exeter College, Oxford University and University of Reading, UK