The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Withers, Hartley (1867–1950)

  • Murray Milgate
  • Alastair Levy
Reference work entry


British financial journalist and editor of the Economist from 1916 to 1921, Withers was born at Liverpool on 15 July 1867. After Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, he joined the staff of The Times in 1894 rising to become head of its City office in 1905. In 1910 he took over the City editorship of the Morning Post, but in 1911 moved to a position with a company of merchant bankers in the City of London. During World War I he returned to journalism at the Economist. These close links with the financial sector led him to colour most of his writings with a rather rosy hue when it came to assessing the role of the City of London in promoting national and international economic development. For example, in his first book, The Meaning of Money (1909), he concluded that ‘a credit system has thus been evolved of extraordinary elasticity and perfection, so perfect in fact that its perfection is its only weakness’ (pp. 295–6). In International Finance (1916) he professed a ‘weakness for financiers’ (p. 94), defending them, in particular, against charges made by the British socialist politician Philip Snowden that their interests were in war not peace and, more generally, against the traditional socialist challenge to the influence of finance capital in the economy as a whole. This argument was extended in his Case for Capitalism (1920), where he claimed that the system of private property and private enterprise was necessary for civilization.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murray Milgate
    • 1
  • Alastair Levy
  1. 1.