Nicholas Kaldor by John E. King (auth.)

By John E. King (auth.)

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Pareto himself was the first to apply the principle to the analysis of competitive general equilibrium, and his follower Enrico Barone elaborated upon it in an important paper (again in Italian) on the economics of socialism in 1908. The compensation principle was at the very least implicit in their work. The concepts of Pareto optimality and of compensation were rediscovered, apparently independently, by Kaldor’s friend (and at the time LSE colleague) Abba Lerner in a 1934 paper on the measurement of monopoly power.

Today every student of economics understands that per capita GNP is not a satisfactory index of economic welfare for many (in hindsight very obvious) reasons. GNP fails to take account of environmental degradation, the value of leisure, the nonmarket work performed very largely by women ... the list is a long one, and it has led critics of national income accounting to advocate other and supposedly superior indices of welfare, from the United Nations’ Genuine Progress Indicator to the King of Bhutan’s concept of Gross National Happiness (Stilwell 2002, pp.

5)26 By the end of the twentieth century the compensation principle was widely used by moral philosophers like Robert Nozick (Lacey 2001), apparently without any recognition of Kaldor’s contribution. At all events, his short note must be counted as one of the most influential three-page articles in the history of economic theory. 4 Speculation (1939) Kaldor’s article ‘Speculation and Economic Stability’, published in the Review of Economic Studies in the month that the Second World War began, is easily the longest, most densely written and most complex of his four seminal papers from the 1930s, and also arguably the best.

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