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Joan Robinson

  • One of the main effects (I will not say purposes) of orthodox traditional economics was ... a plan for explaining to the privileged class that their position was morally right and was necessary for the welfare of society.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "An Economist's Sermon," Essays in the Theory of Employment ()
  • ... owning capital is not a productive activity.

  • Unequal distribution of income is an excessively uneconomic method of getting the necessary saving done.

  • ... economics limps along with one foot in untested hypotheses and the other in untestable slogans.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "Metaphysics, Morals and Science," Economic Philosophy ()
  • ... science progresses by trial and error, and when it is forbidden to admit error there can be no progress.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "The Classics: Value," Economic Philosophy ()
  • Utility is a metaphysical concept of impregnable circularity; utility is the quality in commodities that makes individuals want to buy them, and the fact that individuals want to buy commodities shows that they have utility.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "The Neo-Classics: Utility," Economic Philosophy ()
  • New ideas are difficult just because they are new. Repetition has somehow plastered over the gaps and inconsistencies in the old ones, and the new cannot penetrate.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "The Keynesian Revolution," Economic Philosophy ()
  • The very nature of economics is rooted in nationalism. ... It [was] developed ... in the hope of throwing light upon questions of policy. But policy means nothing unless there is an authority to carry it out, and authorities are national.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "What Are the Rules of the Game?" Economic Philosophy ()
  • [On economics:] As a pure subject it is too difficult to be a rewarding object of study; the beauty of mathemetics and the satisfaction of discoveries in the natural sciences are denied to the practitioners of this scrappy, uncertain, ill-disciplined subject.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "What Are the Rules of the Game?" Economic Philosophy ()
  • ... we make a great fuss about national conscience, but it consists mainly in insisting upon everyone ascribing our national policy to highly moral motives, rather than in examining what our motives really are.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "What Are the Rules of the Game?" Economic Philosophy ()
  • The first essential for economists ... is to ... combat, not foster, the ideology which pretends that values which can be measured in terms of money are the only ones that ought to count.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "What Are the Rules of the Game?" Economic Philosophy ()
  • A depression is a situation of self-fulfilling pessimism.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "The Short Period," Economic Heresies ()
  • Normality is a fiction of economic textbooks.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • title essay, in Rendigs Fels, ed., The Second Crisis of Economic Theory ()
  • Capitalism with near-full employment was an impressive spectacle. But a growth in wealth is not at all the same thing as reducing poverty. A universal paean was raised in praise of growth. Growth was going to solve all problems. No need to bother about poverty. Growth will lift up the bottom and poverty will disappear without any need to pay attention to it. The economists, who should have known better, fell in with the same cry.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • title essay, in Rendigs Fels, ed., The Second Crisis of Economic Theory ()
  • Not only subjective poverty is never overcome by growth, but absolute poverty is increased by it. ... Absolute misery grows while wealth increases.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • title essay, in Rendigs Fels, ed., The Second Crisis of Economic Theory ()
  • Where is the pricing system that offers the consumer a fair choice between air to breathe and motor cars to drive about in?

    • Joan Robinson,
    • title essay, in Rendigs Fels, ed., The Second Crisis of Economic Theory ()
  • A sure sign of a crisis is the prevalence of cranks. It is characteristic of a crisis in theory that cranks get a hearing from the public which orthodoxy is failing to satisfy.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • title essay, in Rendigs Fels, ed., The Second Crisis of Economic Theory ()
  • The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • in John Kenneth Galbraith, Economics and the Pulblic Purpose ()
  • Unemployment is a reproach to a democratic government.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "What Has Become of the Keynesian Revolution?" in Milo Keynes, ed., Essays on John Maynard Keynes ()
  • An economy may be in equilibrium from a short-period point of view and yet contain within itself incompatibilities that are soon going to knock it out of equilibrium.

    • Joan Robinson

Joan Robinson, English economist

(1903 - 1983)

Full name: Joan Violet Maurice Robinson.