AC Pigou

The Background of Arthur Cecil Pigou
Arthur Cecil Pigou, commonly known as A.C. Pigou, is best known today for his work in welfare economics. He was a professor of political economy at Cambridge University from 1908 to 1943. During his life he wrote and had published over twenty books and essays on not only economics, but other subjects as well. Pigou was sometimes a backward person, but he never lacked in his brilliance of economics.
Pigou was born in the family home of his mother in 1877 at Ryde, in the Isle of Wight, on the eighteenth of November. He was the eldest son of Clarence and Nora Pigou. His father came from the Huguenot line and his mother’s family came from a line that had won fame and fortune in Irish administration. The pride and background of Pigou’s family had helped to push him along his later path in life.
Like his father, Pigou attended Harrow. His abilities in academics however had gotten him an entrance scholarship to the school. Athletics was also one of Pigou’s strongpoints. His talents in sports allowed him to be approved of by many at a time in history where athletics was looked at as being more important than academics. He ended his stay at Harrow as head of the school.
At this point Pigou decided to go on to Cambridge as a history scholar of King’s College. His first two years there he studied history under Oscar Browning. While attending Cambridge Pigou also made a name for himself as being a superb orator. He was a member of the Union Debating Society and spoke often at their meetings. Economics didn’t even show up in Pigou’s schedule until his third year at Cambridge, and this was only because it was a required course. He really never gained any expertise in the subject until he began teaching it in 1901. Pigou was a big follower of Alfred Marshall whom he succeeded as Professor of Political Economics at Cambridge. He remained a professor his whole life and retired in 1943. He spent the rest of his years somewhat secluded and would rarely discuss economics openly or in conversation. It is for this reason that it is believed that some of his best ideas might have been lost when he died in Cambridge, England, on March 7 of 1959.

Pigou’s Contributions to the Study of Economics
One of Pigou’s major contributions to economics was his work in Welfare economics. He was a pioneer in this field. Probably his best work was done in the study of this. In 1912 he published his most important book titled Wealth and Welfare, which was later expanded and renamed The Economics of Welfare in 1920. This book played a major role in the education of many economists through the years. In it, Pigou discusses primarily three things, the full conditions of maximum satisfaction, the conditions under which private and social products might be different, and the measures which might be taken to bring the two into equality. Pigou thought that practical policies based on propositions from welfare economics were not possible because of the fact that comparisons of utility between people cannot be made. His distinction between private and social products was key to government economic policy in the field of public expenditure. He wrote a theory of welfare that was applicable in practice.
Another of Pigou’s major contributions to economics was the real balance effect. Being the first to clearly state this concept, it ended up being called the Pigou effect. The Pigou effect is a stimulation of employment brought about by the rise in real value of liquid balances as a consequence of a decline in prices. As the real value of wealth increases, so will consumption increase, thus increasing income and employment. This was one of the processes which brought about the idea that full employment equilibrium could be obtained as a result of a reduction in real wages. The real balance effect became a well-respected idea in economics over time.
Pigou also made several contributions to other areas of economics. He wrote several books that gave insight into unemployment and he frequently challenged the ideas of John Keynes. Pigou did not change the way that people thought about economics; instead he helped people to begin thinking about