Monday, 20 January 2014

Alfred Marshall & Octavia Hill

Alfred Marshall said- Women can't be Economists- they have nothing useful to say.
Yet, his wife- his own ex-student- was an Economist. She and he wrote books together.

The young Marshall learnt much from Marx, more from Lasalle, but was entirely enraptured by the all gainful kalokogathia of Spirit, if not the catastrophically ungainly form, of the young Octavia Hill who, with money from Ruskin, turned into a Landlord to the Fex Urbis scum of the city- i.e. those on low & intermittent incomes. She remitted a healthy 5 per cent return on Capital (Consols yielded less than half that) and used the surplus to expand her operations.
What was her secret? She used women as rent-collectors- not bully boys, no, but those whose life was but being bullied, those truly wretched of the Victorian earth, Jane Austen's spinsters who had been too bluntly told they were de trop.

Compared to Octavia Hill, young Marshall's experiments in practical Economics were a lamentable failure. He tramped the countryside evangelizing for rural Trade Unions- a cause doomed by Free Trade- and even, irony of ironies, unctuously lectured women.
 Like Hill- who  eventually came to reject Female Suffrage, National Insurance, Council Housing and so on- Marshall lived on to be a reactionary, but, unlike Hill, did so as a reverse martyr, passing into History as but the meretricious, marginalizing, Vampire of his own Passion & Truth.

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