Richard Lipsey and electricity etc.

The Canadian Richard Lipsey is the author of a well-known multi-edition economics textbook and he also worked on general purpose technologies (GPT). These are innovations that have transformative effects like the wheel, the internal combustion engine and electricity.

There are many of them. However, if ever there was a GPT, it is electricity because it enables the great bulk of all modern technologies that would not be possible without it. If you doubt this, observe what stops functioning when electricity is cut off by some power failure.

He contributed a paper to a collection in honour of our old friend Joe Agassi for his 90th birthday a year or two ago. I visited Joe and his wife Judith in Tel Aviv three months ago, only just in time, Judith died a couple of weeks later. She was a girl during the siege of Jerusalem by the Arabs in 1947, her mother did time in both Hitler and Stalin’s camps and her grandfather was the significant philosopher-theologian Martin Buber. But we digress.

This is the paper that Lipsey contributed to the Agassi collection. It tells the story of his engagement with the philosophy and methodology of Karl Popper that he picked up from Agassi in a famous informal seminar on methodology that Lipsey and others conducted in the London School of Economics to undermine the hegemony of Lionel Robbins.

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6 Responses to Richard Lipsey and electricity etc.

  1. That famous Lipsey text book was prescribed reading for me at Monash, many years ago.

  2. Leo G

    The real wealth of a civilization lies in the energy available to it and its capacity to use that energy. It’s kind of converse bitcoin.

  3. JK Brown

    What I’ve been marveling at recently is that it is only in the next couple of years that we hit the bicentennial of the great discoveries in electricity that brought into a useful technology. The linking of electricity and magnetism, followed by the first electric motor.

  4. Tel

    The real wealth of a civilization lies in the energy available to it and its capacity to use that energy.

    And Carbon certificates represent a codification and accounting of that real wealth.

  5. RobK

    And Carbon certificates represent a codification and accounting of that real wealth.
    In the two hundred years we have developed the power to track every transaction and movement of almost all production other than illicit trade. Carbon runners will be a profitable trade.

  6. JohnA

    However, if ever there was a GPT, it is electricity because it enables the great bulk of all modern technologies that would not be possible without it. If you doubt this, observe what stops functioning when electricity is cut off by some power failure.

    Electricity centrally generated with the electric motor gave us Distributed Power in quantities we could use, transmitted into those places where we wanted it.

    And that was preceded by steam, backed by the General Purpose Idea of Freedom from dependence upon the limited usable power of muscles, wind, water and sun.

    After External Combustion Engines came the next General Purpose Idea of containing fire in a small cylinder and Internal Combustion Engines.

    The Industrial Revolution – so profound in its impact and here we are with politicians letting greenies undo it all.

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