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13io,qraphicat Memoirs VOLUME 69
KENNETH EWART BOULDING January 18, 1910-March 18, 1993 BY NATHAN KEYFITZ KENNETH EWART BOUEDIN~ECONOMIST, man of letters, ar- clent peace activist macle his contribution to the hotly of economic knowlecige with a combination of humanistic values en c! technical proficiency. Reacting his papers, writ- ten from the early 1940s to the 1990s, one sees a mastery en c! creativity not only of economics but of all the social sciences en c! ethics as well. Boulding was born in Liverpool, England, on January IS, ~ 9 ~ O. en c! cliec! in BouIcler, Coloraclo, on March ~ 8, ~ 993. Five years after taking a degree at Oxforc! with first-cIass honors he left for the Uniter! States, where he spent the rest of his life, first as a U.S. resident en c! then as a citizen. Marriec! in 1941, he en c! his wife, Elise Bjorn-Hansen, were together for the subsequent fifty-two years, in which they saw five chilciren, John Russell, Mark David, Christine Ann, Philip Daniel, en c! William Frederic, into the worIc! en c! into professional life. I first met the young couple in 1946, when Kenneth en c! I were teaching at McGill University in Montreal and Elise was a student in my sociology class. We have kept in touch ever since. BouIcling was awarclec! honorary doctorates by over thirty universities, he hac! prizes not only for economics but also 3
4 B I O G RA P H I C A L EMOIRS for political science, peace research, en c! scholarship in the humanities. He was, in turn, president of the Society for General Systems Research (1957-59), president of the Ameri- can Economic Association (1968), president of the Interna- tional Peace Research Society (1969-70), president of the International Studies Association (1974-75), president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1979), en c! president of the section on economics of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1982-83~. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (electec! in 1 975 ), the Institute of Medicine, en c! the American AcacI- emy of Arts en c! Sciences. He settler! first at the University of Michigan in 1949. In 1967 he mover! to the University of Coloraclo at BouIcler, where he became clistinguishec! professor emeritus in 1980. But there were many intervals of work en c! teaching else- where in the course of those years. The list of places where he visitec! for weeks or months is as long as the list of uni- versities that gave him doctorates. It is impossible to write a biography of Kenneth Boulding without speaking of Elise. They colIaboratec! on many things, but their strongest common interest aside from bringing up their five chilciren was the peace movement. Few names are mentioner! more often than the BouIclings among the founders of the international peace research movement that gainer! prominence in the 1960s. But Ken- neth was also a founder of another movement that came to prominence about that time systems analysis as a way of unifying the sciences, natural en c! social. The search for isomorphisms propositions of the same structure valic! in two or more clisciplines was part of what animates! it, but many other propositions have turned up as well. And what may well be caller! a thirc! movement, evolutionary econom- ics, that he wrote about nearly twenty years ago, became
KENNETH EWART BOULDING 5 prominent in the late 1980s en c! 1990s. While none of the three movements has quite fulfills! the brilliant prospects of its first youth, all have become a clurable part of the academic en c! extra-acaclemic research scene. Kenneth BouIcling was a judicious statesman of science. He speaks of "economics imperialism," the attempt on the part of economics to take over the other social sciences, and, although his loyalty to his main profession was lifelong en c! unchallengecI, still he clicin't like imperialism even here. He was very conscious of the power of economics for cleal- ing with economic problems, but he never tires! of pointing out the large areas of life in which its techniques clo not apply. He conic! be critical of features of the moclern woric! that economics has brought into existence through the power of its icleas, just as he conic! praise the political en c! other dimensions of freedom that come with a free economy. Kenneth BouIcling wouIc! have nothing to clo with the iclea of a nonnormative social science. In the tradition of the great economists of the nineteenth century, one that has largely clisappearec! in the twentieth, he was not embar- rassec! to say of American power, Unless we "stand for" something in the world . . . that power will lose legitimacy and will eventually disappear.2 But that floes not mean that he ceases! to be an economist in dealing with values. Opposing a common ethical view that freedom en c! justice are absolute, so that we cannot permit any injustice whatever en c! certainly no infringement on freedom, he spoke of an "ethical market": [W]e have to ask ourselves how much justice are we willing to give up for so much liberty.3 Crowds in revolution clo not think that way but in absolute terms, they are not aware that without compromise the great
6 B I O G RA P H I C A L EMOIRS cianger is social clisorcler. What follows clisorcler is tyranny- a dictatorship with neither liberty nor justice. A compro- mise is not perfect, yet only compromise is workable. Though a leacler in several major innovations, Bouicling was no enthusiast for new fashions in social science just because they are new: One of the elements which easily may lead to a worsening of the decision- making process at present is the increasing fashionableness of gaming . . . [including] business gaming in the corporation. It can provide illusions of certainty about the future which may turn out to be quite disastrous.... A similar criticism can be levelled at techniques like the Delphi method.4 BouIcling hac! many loyal students, who owes! much to the inspiration his lectures proviclecI. But the essential Boulding is inimitable. Those sparkling insights that brighten everything he wrote are not a methoclolo~v that can be taught by a master en c! then learner! en c! practicer! by oth- ers. One goes through some 3,000 densely packed pages in the collected edition of his papers and finds little repeti- tion en c! in nearly every page striking icleas. Yet BouIcling hac! no ambition to construct a system, a scheme, or schecI- ule that would have a slot for each iclea. Neither the profu- sion of brilliant icleas nor the seeming clisorcler in which they came forth was to the liking of those fellow profession- als who want to standardize the field, to provide a package of knowlecige en c! technique that all the qualifier! would share en c! apply, to certify economists as competent to ap- ply that package, so that they will be the physicians to the OJ economy. That is not the only feature of Boulding that worried some schools of economics. Another was his recognition, especially from the 1970s onward, that growth meaning increase of consumption without limit conic! not possibly be the prime objective of society and the individuals in it.
KENNETH EWART BOULDING 7 [E]conomics has been incurably growth-oriented and addicted to every- body growing richer, even at the cost of exhaustion of resources and pollu- tion of the environment.5 In reacting through Bouicling's work one is astonishes! at how far he anticipates! icleas that were reinvented years later en c! that many social scientists have not yet tumbler! to. Back in 1958 he took up ecological questions: Are we to regard the world of nature simply as a storehouse to be robbed for the immediate benefit of man? . . . Does man have any responsibility for the preservation of a decent balance in nature, for the preservation of rare species, or even for the indefinite continuance of his race? An c! even in his early conventional years one detects a note of irony in his couplet: The wise economist is loath To give up anything for growth.6 I cannot believe that BouIcling's sole objection to unlim- itec! growth was the ability of the environment to stanc! it. His creeper objection comes from other sources. Perhaps the same source that macle Keynes say that once the eco- nomic problem has been solver! for all classes the motives (self-seeking, preoccupation with work en c! production that achiever! this wouIc! be seen at their true value, as some- thing to be ashamec! of. The love of money as a possession as distinct from the love of money as a means to the enjoyment and realities of life will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.7 Keynes was optimist enough to believe that this would oc- cur by itself en c! in this century. Bouicling, because he was younger en c! liver! longer, saw further history unfoIc! in- cluding numerous wars, persistent inequalities, injustice of
8 B I O G RA P H I C A L EMOIRS every kinc! that shower! too little tendency to diminish with rising GDP, that macle such optimism more clifficult for him. The best he conic! clo was to express a hope far short of a forecast that we can learn to fly the great engine of change BEAN A. ~] add ] but to that great goal for which the world was made.8 that it Nor horror 1lc not to destruction Yet with a different image his thought here is the same as that of Keynes: The spurt [of growth] from the 1930s to the 1960s bears some resemblance to human adolescence, even to the production of a slightly pimply youth culture.9 When Boulding discussed progress he distinguished its measurable economic aspect, efficiency in the workplace: a rise in the amount of any commodity that can be produced with one man-hour of labor time.~° With that definition there is no danger of confusing eco- nomic progress with progress overall. We are toic! again anct again throughout his work that as we learn to make things faster we clo not necessarily move towarc! a more satisfying life in a tolerable environment. It is to be expecter! that one as rich in icleas as BouIcling will be interpreted clifferently by reaclers of different gen- erations en c! clifferently by professional economists en c! others. What precedes is an attempt to portray his style of thinking as seen by a nonsectarian social scientist of his own genera tion. NOTES 1. K. E. Boulding. Conpict and Defense: A General Theory. New York: Harper, 1962. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988, p. . . . Vlll. 2. K. E. Boulding. From Abundance to Scarcity: Implications for the
KENNETH EWART BOULDING 9 American Tradition. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1978. Collected Papers, vol. VI, p. 525. Boulder, Colo.: Associated Univer- sity Press, 1971. 3. K. E. Boulding. Prices and values: infinite value in a finite world. In Value and Values in Evolution. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1979. Collected Works, vol. VI, p. 600. 4. K. E. Boulding. Social risk, political uncertainty, and the le- gitimacy of private profit. In Risk and Regulated Firms, ed. R. H. Howard, pp. 82-93. East Lansing: Michigan State University Gradu- ate School of Business Administration, 1973. 5. K. E. Boulding. Toward a modest society: the end of growth and grandeur. In Economic Perspectives of Boulding and Samuelson. Durham, N.H.: Whittemore School of Business and Economics, Uni- versity of New Hampshire, 1971. Collected Works, vol. VI, p. 85. 6. K. E. Boulding. Principles of Economic Policy, p. 21. Englewood Cliffs, N.T.: Prentice-Hall, 1958. 7. T. M. Keynes. Essays in Persuasion, part V, 1931. Reprinted in The Collected Writings, vol. IX. London: Macmillan, 1972. 8. K. E. Boulding. Conpict and Defense, p. 343. New York: Univer- sity Press of America, 1988. 9. K. E. Boulding. Collected Papers, vol. VI, p. 87. Boulder, Colo.: Associated University Press, 1971. 10. K. E. Boulding. Principles of Economic Policy, p. 21. Englewood Cliffs, N.T.: Prentice-Hall, 1958.
0 B I O G RA P H I C A L S E L E C T E D EMOIRS B I B L I O G RAP H Y 1941 Economic Analysis. New York: Harper & Row. 1945 The Economics of Peace. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. 1950 A Reconstruction of Economics. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1953 The Organizational Revolution: A Study in the Ethics of Economic Organi- zation. New York: Harper. 1958 The Skills of the Economist. New York: Clarke Irwin. Principles of Economic Policy. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. 1960 With W. A. Spivey et al. Linear Programming and the Theory of the Firm. New York: Macmillan. 196 The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1962 Social Justice. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. Conpict and Defense: A General Theory. New York: Harper & Row. 1963 With E. Benoit, eds. Disarmament and the Economy. New York: Harper & Row. 1964 The Meaning of the Twentieth Century: The Great Transition. New York: Harper & Row.
KENNETH EWART BOULDING 1968 11 Environmental Quality in a GrowingEconomy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. 1970 Beyond Economics: Essays on Society, Religion, and Ethics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Economics as a Science. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1971 Economics of Pollution. New York: New York University Press. Collected Papers. Boulder, Colo.: Associated University Press. 1973 The Economy of Love and Fear: A Preface to Grants Economics. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth. Peace and the War Industry. New Brunswick, N.J.: Dutton. 1976 Adam Smith as an Institutional Economist. Memphis: P. K. Seidman. 1977 With M. Kammen and M. Lipset. From Abundance to Scarcity: Implica- tions for the American Tradition. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. 1978 With T. F. Wilson, eds. Redistribution Through the Financial System: The Grants Economics of Money and Credit. New York: Praeger. 1980 Beasts, Ballads and Bouldingisms. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transactions Publishers. 198 Evolutionary Economics. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications. Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Societal Evolution. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications.
12 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS 1984 Economics of Human Betterment. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press. 1985 With others. Morality of the Market: Religious and Economic Perspectives. Vancouver, Canada: Fraser Institute. 1986 Mending the World: Quaker Insights on the Social Order. Wallingford, Pa.: Pendle Hill. 1992 Towards a New Economics: Critical Essays on Ecology, Distribution, and Other Themes. Brookfield, Vt.: Edward Elgar. 1993 Structure of a Modern Economy: The United States, 1929-89. New York: Macmillan Press Ltd. (Economists of the Twentieth Century Series.J 1994 Sonnets from Later Life. Wallingford, Pa.: 1995 Pendle Hill. With E. Boulding. Future: Images and Processes Beverly Hills, Calif. Sage Publications. .