I’m a twentieth century guy, a post-World War Two US guy even. This means that whatever happened in economics there after 1945 I can grasp. I might need some time, but in the end I always have the feeling to understand what the issues are about. The first half of the twentieth century already gets trickier. I read, but it always remains, I don’t know, a movie your parents absolutely love but you simply fail to have an opinion about. The 19th century is worse. I mean, they didn’t even have movies back then.
So, when I have to teach 19th century economic methodoloy (which must be an oxymoron), as I had to this afternoon, I’m soooo grateful for Wade Hands’ Reflection without Rules (2001). It gives you everything you need to know about J.S. Mill, Nassau Senior, Cairnes and all the rest of them. Well, enough to teach about them anyway. The only thing I did not understand was, why were all those nineteenth centurists so concerned with defining method and content of political economy (as Hands presents them)? Why did for instance Mill go to such great lengths to construct the a priori method? Why did Nassau Senior felt compelled to define political economy on the basis of four general principles? What was all the fuzz about?