Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal

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The True Story of How Economics Got Its Nickname "The Dismal Science"

Comments to my post “Dismal Science Humor: 8/3/12” corrected me in my claim that the nickname “the dismal science” was a response to Malthus. It turns out that only the word “dismal” was a response to Malthus.  

David Levy and Sandra Peart tell a more interesting story about Thomas Carlyle’s motives in coining the phrase “the dismal science” in "The True Story of the Dismal Science. Part I: Economics, Religion and Race in the 19th Century." Carlyle called economics “the dismal science” in response to John Stuart Mill’s arguments against slavery. So the true history of the phrase “the dismal science” means that all economists can answer to the nickname “dismal scientist” with pride.  

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  1. supplysideliberal posted this