How the Dismal Science Got Its Name

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 21 Mar 1997 14:37:05 -0800 (PST)

David Levy, an economic historian at George Mason University, has a
paper and an upcoming book called "How the Dismal Science Got Its Name".

The paper's abstract is:

Thomas Carlyle in his "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question"
was apppalled that the classical British economists considered blacks
to be fully human. Carlyle said that economists did not understand
that blacks could not be persuaded to work by money, they had to be
whipped. Thus the economists' anti-racisms is the basis of the
allegation of our name, the "dismal science.

Carlyle is a famous racist, and was one of Hitler's favorite authors.
Charles Dickens dedicated his 1854 "Hard Times" to Carlyle.

These classical British were also pro-birth-control. I think Mills
got thrown into jail for distributing a phamplet on the topic.

Robin D. Hanson