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Page added on November 29, 2009

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An Economist's Invisible Hand

Arthur Cecil Pigou, overlooked for decades, provides a guide to the financial crisis

…Mr. Pigou drew an important distinction between the private and social value of economic activities, such as the opening of a new railway line. The savings in time and effort that users of the railway enjoy are private benefits, which will be reflected in the prices they are willing to pay for tickets. Similarly, the railroad’s expenditures on tracks, rolling stock, employee wages are private costs, which will help to determine the prices it charges. But the opening of the railway may also create costs for “people not directly concerned, through, say, uncompensated damage done to surrounding woods by sparks from railway engines,” Mr. Pigou pointed out.

Such social costs



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