University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Core Seminar in Economic and Social History > The first serious optimist: A.C. Pigou and the politics of welfare economics

The first serious optimist: A.C. Pigou and the politics of welfare economics

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The Cambridge economist A.C. Pigou was a founding figure in the economics of welfare. In the years since his death in 1959, Pigou has been figured as a pre-war liberal, a centrist, and even an anti-Keynesian conservative. This paper re-evaluates the politics of Pigou’s economic thought during Pigou’s lifetime. His enduring ideas about welfare were generated largely before World War I, in a period of Liberal optimism about the ability of economic science and the state to improve societal wellbeing. In the wake of World War I, Pigou’s own optimism abated. However, with the rise of the Labour party’s fortunes during and after World War II, Pigou returned to the hopefulness of his early work, reinvigorated by changes he saw around him.

This talk is part of the Core Seminar in Economic and Social History series.

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