Arrigo Opocher
Does economic growth ultimately lead to a “nobler life”? A comparative analysis of the predictions of Mill, Marshall and Keynes

Abstract: In recent literature there has been a renewed interest in economic growth, not as a goal in itself but as a means of fulfilling goals of a higher order. The so-called paradox of happiness in advanced countries, and the related literature, are a notable example, like the notion of human development in less developed countries. Also the exponential growth in the studies on the economics of education and health care and equality adjusted growth accounting can be ascribed to a rising interest in the conditions of life in relation to growth. This point of view, occasioned as it was recently by empirical and practical concerns, has nevertheless deep and noble conceptual roots. For the classical economists, the main property of economic growth was its ability (or inability) to improve the conditions of life of the working classes. J.S. Mill was perhaps the first who theorised the possibility of a permanent amelioration in the conditions of life of mankind. This paper compares Mill's predictions (and their theoretical background) with those of Marshall and of Keynes. We argue that, in spite of their theoretical differences, these authors, representative of three successive generations of British economists, shared a common fundamental view of the ethical and intellectual goals of economic activity.

JEL: O 10; B 1.
Keywords: nobler life Mill Marshall Keynes.



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