Economists’ Founding Concerns in the History of Economic Thought
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The history of economic thought has been one of an evolving methodological foundation for the discipline. In the late eighteenth century, Adam Smith saw “political economy” in broad terms, but mainly concerned with institutions and policies that encouraged maximum national economic growth. In the late nineteenth century, Alfred Marshall added analytical tools, such as supply and demand, but restricted the central concern of the discipline to the “ordinary business of life” and applied narrowly to the “business-like classes.” Lionel Robbins sought in the early-1930s to bring unity to the disparate analyses of economists (following in the methodological footsteps of Phillip Wicksteed who wrote in the early 1900s) by declaring “scarcity” to be the unifying core concern. Gary Becker, George Stigler, and many other economists have since the 1960s argued that economics is a “method of analysis” that can be applied without regard to past disciplinary boundaries.
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