|WELFARE AND THE NEW ECONOMICS|
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
ECONOMIC thought is undergoing a profound and rapid transformation. Linked, as it must ever be, with the problems of government, economics has been drawn into the maelstrom of progressivism which has gripped the western world. Vainly do the classicists protest. Futility grips the throats of the doctrinaires. Economic science is being wrenched from its eighteenth-century setting and thrown bodily into the arena of twentieth-century discussion. How sound is this tendency? With what disquietude or satisfaction should men view the efforts of economists to take their places "on the firing line of progress"?
Society was ruled during the middle ages by arbitrary laws, enacted by the church, or by the state, acting (theoretically) for the church. The light of the semi-democratic civilization of Greece and Rome had faded from the political horizon. Despotism, the patron saint of the time, reigned supreme with fate, her next of kin.
Here and there a bold spirit arose, contending with authority, questioning theological dogma, and calling men to thought and freedom. Cells and gibbets harbored many such. Above them, the bulwarks of social tradition loomed stolidly, proclaiming abroad the noisome doctrine that, while a true believer might slay twenty Mohammedans in the name of Jesus, he might not think one original thought in the name of truth.
Yet the light broke. From questioning the infallibility of a corrupt and dissolute church, men turned to question the infallibility of the Scripture. They would at least read for themselves. So theological dogma was thrust aside here and there, by the braver hearts who began to ask of all things:
1. What is it?
2. Why is it?
3. How can we employ it for our advantage?
Similar questions had arisen in classical days, but the age of Scripture had overshadowed them. Now they were asked again, with redoubled vigor.
Gradually the answers were formulated. The first question resulted in classification, which is the foundation of constructive thought. The question "Why?" gave rise to evolutionary science. The world,