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Matt McCaffrey Explains the Economics Legacy of Edwin Chadwick

October 23, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates


In a book review from today’s Mises Daily, Matt McCaffrey writes:

Another central theme in this book is that Chadwick’s peculiar approach to reform led him to view undesirable economic conditions — and the policies necessary to improve them — as matters of effective remuneration; in other words, as incentive problems. Chadwick did not use the term “incentives” to describe his ideas, but he nevertheless viewed the problems of industrial-era economic reform as fundamentally intertwined with remuneration and punishment.

Chadwick’s thorough-going appreciation for the complex and ubiquitous nature of incentives might seem unremarkable by today’s standards, but in the mid-19th century economists had not yet begun to think in the now-conventional language of incentives, and certainly had not begun to advance the mantra “incentives matter” (which is also the subtitle of this book). This fact makes Chadwick’s attention to incentives that much more interesting for historians of economic thought.

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