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John E. King. Nicholas Kaldor (Book Review)

History of Economics Review 2010, Winter, 51

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John E. King. Nicholas Kaldor. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. 2009.1 Pp. viii + 250. ISBN 0-230-21725-7. US$90. As John King has rightly remarked in this journal (King 2007, p. 54), the work of Nicholas Kaldor (1908-1986), which ranged over almost the whole field of economics, was 'original, provocative and invariably interesting'. His life was interesting too. Born in Budapest, Hungary, he arrived in England in 1927, after eighteen months at the University of Berlin, to study at the London School of Economics (LSE) and thus became a student both of Allyn Young, the newly appointed professor of political economy, and of Lionel Robbins, who was appointed to a chair in economics after Young's death. Graduating with a first-class BSc(Econ) degree in 1930, he became a research student with Robbins as his supervisor and, in 1932, an assistant lecturer in economics. A lively and argumentative contributor to the graduate student and faculty seminar presided over by Robbins, Kaldor was soon publishing in the journals on topics such as the nature of equilibrium and imperfect competition. He had also, at Robbins's instigation, translated some of Hayek's work into English (Hayek 1931, 1933). He was awarded a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship to the USA in 1935-6, when his four-year appointment as assistant lecturer was extended for an extra year, and he was promoted to lecturer in 1938 (on Robbins's recommendation). Having read Keynes's General Theory (1936) while he was in the States, he came back a Keynesian. He had earlier been introduced to the writings of the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal by his colleague and friend, John Hicks. He began to publish on more macroeco--ic topics--wages and unemployment as well as capital and interest. He moved from LSE to Cambridge at the outbreak of war and taught there for the duration, but with leaves of absence to work (part-time) for the National Institute of Economic and Social Research 1943-5, to serve as chief of the economic planning staff of the US Strategic Bombing Survey April-August 1945 and as adviser to the Hungarian government in 1946. He continued to live in Cambridge after the war, though still on the LSE staff until 1947, when Myrdal invited him to join the staff of the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva. At that point the LSE governors declined to allow him another leave. Two years later he was offered a position in Cambridge as a lecturer in economics and a fellow of King's College. There he participated in the development of the theory of economic growth and distribution and the related debates that led to the creation of a 'post-Keynesian' school of economists. But, like Myrdal, he continued to be heavily involved in economic policy as a consultant, adviser or research director, becoming famous (or notorious) for his tax advice to the British and eight other governments. In Britain he was a special adviser to three Labour Chancellors of the Exchequer, James Callaghan in 1964-7, Roy Jenkins 1967-8 and Denis Healey 1974-6. While many of his innovations, such as the Selective Employment Tax introduced in 1966, were short-lived, his classic An Expenditure Tax (1955) remains influential. A British subject since 1934, he was made a life peer in 1974.

John E. King. Nicholas Kaldor (Book Review)
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  • Category: Economics
  • Published: 22 December 2010
  • Publisher: History of Economic Thought Society of Australia
  • Print Length: 11 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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