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Economics as a Public Science, Part III

Public Discourse in Nineteenth-century Dutch Economics

The Role of Literary, Economic and Other Periodicals
Le discours public dans l’économie néerlandaise du XIXe siècle. Le rôle des revues littéraires, économiques et autres périodiques
Bert Tieben
p. 761-787


This study addresses the role of literary and economic periodicals in the public debate and the development of economic thought in the Netherlands from 1800 to circa 1900. Literary and economic journals established an effective channel of communication to a broad section of society and were widely used for publications by economists. We argue that what characterized the periodical literature in the Netherlands was its focus on economic practice. Publications in these journals hardly contributed to the development of economic theory. Economists preferred to publish in literary reviews like De Gids (The Guide), which for decades formed the most important economic journal in the Netherlands. Specialized economic journals appeared relatively early on the scene, but competed with literary reviews. In general, all journals, literary and economic, were used to advocate liberal economic doctrines, which formed the main school in nineteenth-century Dutch economic thought. The debate between socialists and liberals in the 1870s gradually changed the main doctrine of Dutch economists, which also affected the rank order of the journals used for economic publications. This study examines the impact of economic publications on public debate and economic thought in the Netherlands and compares the Dutch experience with publication cultures in other countries during the same period.

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Editor's notes

Œconomia is pleased to publish the following two research articles, by Bert Tieben and Christina Laskaridis, as part of the symposium on “Economics and Public Reason.” These articles emerged from a conference hosted by the Centre Walras Pareto for the History of Economic and Political Thought at the University of Lausanne in early May 2018, other papers from which were published in the June and September 2019 issues of this journal.

Author's notes

It is very sad that Evert Schoorl died in June 2018 shortly after we submitted the first version of this paper for the conference on Public Reason in Economics at the University of Lausanne.

Full text

1What was the contribution of Dutch economists to public discourse on economic issues in the nineteenth century? In order to answer this question, this article considers the role of one of the most important channels of communication in this period: periodicals. As Bianchini (1996, 5) argued, it was during the nineteenth century that political, economic and social conditions allowed authors to reach out to a literate public capable of making “reasoned judgement on printed texts.” Such conditions existed in France and Britain, but also in the Netherlands, as this article intends to demonstrate.

  • 1 See, for example: Augello (1994) and Augello and Guidi (1996) on Italy; Tribe (1992) and Coats (199 (...)

2There is a small but relevant body of literature on the role of periodicals in the development of economic theory and policy in the history of economic thought. Coats was one of the first to study the role of scholarly journals in economics. He focused on the major twentieth-century scientific economic journals such as the American Economic Review and the Quarterly Journal of Economics in the United States (Coats 1971a) and the Economic Journal in Britain (Coats, 1971b). But scientific economic journals in the modern sense hardly existed in the nineteenth century. Economists published their work in a diverse range of periodicals, including newspapers, literary reviews and more or less specialized economic journals. The impact of these outlets on the development of economic thought has been studied for several countries, such as Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.1 A number of these studies appeared in a special issue of the History of Economic Ideas in 1996, which focused on the relationship between the rise of a specialist press and the professionalization and institutionalization of political economy (Bianchini, 1996).

3The historical studies on the impact of economic writings in periodicals underline the difficulty of drawing general lessons about how economic periodicals contributed to the development of economic thought. Bianchini (1996) spoke of the “paradox” that in some countries the professionalization of economics occurred before the appearance of the scientific press. Similarly mysterious is the situation in countries with a more rapid growth in the number of economic specialists and the specialized press, but where the public economic debate occurred only belatedly. It is clear that the historical context needs to be taken into account when one seeks to explain the impact of publications in periodicals on either the public debate or the scientific development of economics.

  • 2 According to Coats, this applied to 97 percent of the articles and stories in the leading periodica (...)

4Coats (1996) observed that historical studies of the periodical literature run into the problem of distinguishing between economic and non-economic publications. In countries like Britain, the main economic publications appeared in literary reviews like The Edinburgh Review, The Contemporary Review, The Fortnightly Review and many other comparable outlets. According to Coats (1996, 66), “a goodly proportion of these items cannot by any stretch of the imagination be deemed ‘economic’.” Moreover, until at least 1870 it was customary to publish anonymously or under a pseudonym.2 In other words, tracking economic publications and their authors in this period may require considerable effort.

5This article aims to supplement the literature on the role of economic writings in journals and their contribution to public discourse by adding the Netherlands as a case study. For several reasons, the Dutch experience may add insights to the existing literature.

6Firstly, the professionalization process of economics in the Netherlands started around 1800 and has been studied from different angles, such as the role of textbooks (Schoorl and Plasmeijer, 2012), academic teaching and university chairs (Hasenberg-Butter, 1969; Boschloo, 1989), professional organizations (Mooij, 1994) and economic societies (Schoorl, 2001). But the impact of economic periodicals on the process of professionalization has never been explored in detail. The present article aims to fill this void.

  • 3 Not to be confused with the English-language weekly The Economist. De Economist still exists as par (...)

7Secondly, as in Germany the specialist economic press appeared relatively early in the Netherlands. Examples are the Tijdschrift voor Staatshuishoudkunde en Statistiek (Journal of Political Economy and Statistics), first published in 1841, and the Staatkundig en Staathuishoudkundig Jaarboekje (Annual Review of Statecraft and Political Economy), first published in 1849. De Economist followed suit in 1852.3 At first sight it appears as if the specialist economic press antedated the formation of the first professional organizations of economists in the Netherlands and may thus have been a factor in the spread of economic knowledge and the process of professionalization.

  • 4 One example is Jan Tinbergen (1952), writing in the centennial issue of De Economist.

8However, we shall argue that closer scrutiny leads to a different conclusion. The outlook and content of these early specialist journals did not differ significantly from generic economic publications and literary reviews. The majority centred on practical issues and were closely related to the political debates of the day, as was the case in several other European countries. They were more focused on public opinion than on the development of economic theory. Significant contributions to economic theory did not appear until the early decades of the twentieth century, sometimes to the surprise of contemporary economists reviewing the early years of their profession.4

9Thirdly, it is fruitful to compare the Dutch experience with other countries. There is, for example, a clear resemblance between Great Britain and the Netherlands in the importance of economic publications in literary reviews throughout the nineteenth century. The Edinburgh Review and The Westminster Review are two well-known British examples. In the Netherlands, a similar role was played by the literary review De Gids, founded by the poet Everhardus J. Potgieter in 1837.

10The “French school” was an important source of inspiration for Dutch political economists in the nineteenth century; indeed, the spread of liberalism in the Netherlands seems to have followed a pattern closely resembling the experience of France. In both countries, political economists were quick to set up professional organizations and launch dedicated economic journals. Until at least 1880, these journals mostly published articles with a strong liberal outlook on economic policy.

11We shall argue in this paper that the Dutch case also has similarities with the situation in Italy, where nineteenth-century economists published in a mix of journals, both specialist and non-specialist, as explained by Augello and Guidi (1996). What characterized this mix is that the first economic journals were almost always isolated cases, linked to particular local circumstances or attributable to the initiative of individual scholars. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, knowledge of political economy was conveyed through a whole range of such non-specialist channels: cultural and general periodicals acting as the mouthpiece of some particular school of thought. In the Netherlands, the situation was not very different.

12We substantiate this claim by first addressing the role of periodicals in the development of economic thought in general. We then look specifically at their role in the Netherlands between 1800 and 1900. After that, we discuss the impact of Dutch general and economic periodicals on a number of contemporary policy debates as a way to assess their contribution to public opinion. The final section draws conclusions.

1. The Role of Periodicals in the Development of Economic Thought

13What determined the emergence of scholarly and professional journals in economics? Coats (1971b) isolated supply and demand factors to answer this question. The growth of knowledge in a field like economics in the nineteenth century meant that there was an increase in the number of authors willing to share their expertise with the public in written form. The growing status of political economy as a science also implied that there was a group of people who wished to be informed about the insights of economics. In many European countries, sufficient political and economic freedom of a middle class fostered the emergence of a literate public capable of making “reasoned judgements on printed texts” (Bianchini, 1996, 5). Backed by sufficient intellectual curiosity and the willingness and ability to pay, they formed a more or less stable market of readers. Capitalist enterprise organized the supply for this market and so facilitated the spread of print as a communicative medium.

  • 5 By royal decree, in 1727 Sim Peter Gasser was appointed to a chair in ‘Oeconomie, Policy und Cammer (...)

14It is evident that the emergence of the printing press helped to disseminate economic knowledge and so influenced the development of economic thought. But there were significant differences between countries in the speed of the professionalization process. Germany is the prime example of a country where the academic framework for economics was established relatively quickly. As Hagemann (1996) explained, towards the end of the 1770s nearly every university in Germany had a chair of economics or ‘Cameralwissenschaft’.5 It is therefore not surprising that some of the earliest economic journals were also founded in Germany, such as the Archiv der politischen Oekonomie und Polizeiwissenschaft (Archive of Political Economy and Public Policy) founded by Karl Heinrich Rau in 1835. The existence of a scientific community made the publication of such specialist journals a viable venture. In other countries, like France and Britain, a similarly thriving community of economists did not go hand in hand with the emergence of specialist economic journals. In the case of Britain, intellectually one of the leading nations in nineteenth-century economic thought, the profession had to wait until 1891, when the Economic Journal was first published (Coats, 1971b).

15Before this date, British economists published their writings in non-specialist journals that made no clear distinction between economic and non-economic affairs, as Bianchini (1996) argued. Coats (1971b) said that in Britain the preconditions for economic periodicals were present from at least 1820, the heyday of Ricardian economics. Political economy was apparently not yet sufficiently differentiated from other subjects to suggest the need for a specialist periodical. The authors of economic articles published mainly in the literary organ The Edinburgh Review and comparable outlets like The Quarterly Review and The Westminster Review, depending on their political orientation. This lack of differentiation between economics and other subjects probably played role in other countries as well.

16The choice by economists to publish in literary and general journals indicates a confluence of the development of economic thought and what Bianchini (1996, 5) called the “birth of public opinion”. In a country like Britain, political economy was the domain of a practically oriented group of scholars, who contributed actively to the public debate. Controversial topics abounded: banking policy, the Corn Laws, free trade, population, the Poor Laws, the economic condition of Ireland, the monopoly of the East India Company and so on (Coats, 1996). These topics called for active involvement by political economists in public discourse and allowed for economics to develop as a practice of thought together with public opinion. What matters is that this occurred well ahead of the formalization of theories by more specialized scholars, which may have required a more specialized press. But in other European countries, like Germany, professionalization seems to have preceded public discussion (Bianchini, 1996, 5).

17For the public role of political economy, general and literary periodicals may have been more suitable platforms than scholarly publications focusing exclusively on economics. The early period of the economic press shows how difficult it was to publish a more or less dedicated scholarly journal as a profitable venture. The early economic journals were often isolated cases initiated by individual scholars or linked to particular local circumstances, as the experience of Italy shows (Augello and Guidi, 1996). Many failed to attract a wider readership and were hence short-lived. In Germany, likewise, in the early period there existed numerous journals discussing economic questions from a practical point of view, which very often had a short life (Hagemann, 1996, 78).

  • 6 See, for example, O’Brien’s (1975, 6) characterization of the classical economists.

18During the nineteenth century, the specialist economic press gradually emerged as part of growing stream of economic publications in other journals like literary reviews. Coats (1996) mentioned an impressive number of journals in Britain which regularly or irregularly published articles on economic subjects, and concludes, “The list of potentially relevant outlets is virtually endless.” (Coats, 1996, 67). It is clear that political economy was on the rise as a topic of both public debate and scientific research. But economic authors apparently did not feel the need to publish in journals exclusively devoted to economic matters, perhaps because they saw their role not as mere academic writers.6 John Stuart Mill is a case in point. In other countries, such as Italy, the situation was no different. Knowledge of political economy continued to be conveyed through a whole range of non-specialist channels right up until the end of the nineteenth century (Augello and Guidi, 1996, 39).

19The link between political economy and economic and public opinion explains why the subject was seen as highly polemical. Even more specialist economic journals were often the “mouthpiece” of a particular school of thought. In France the Journal des économistes (Economists’ Journal), founded in 1841, is a well-known example. It supported an economic doctrine rather than disseminating theory, that doctrine being that liberty was the best thing for the individual and for society. Later, L’Économiste français (The French Economist, 1873) was founded with a comparable objective: to “sway public opinion against protectionism” (Le Van-Lemesle, 1996, 107). In Italy, almost all of the economic journals exhibited close links with one or other of the conflicting schools of economic thought (Augello and Guidi, 1996, 40).

20For methodological reasons, most of the economic publications in Germany in the nineteenth century focused on practical issues, approached from a historical or statistical point of view. Theoretical contributions, roughly defined as the practice where conclusions are deduced logically from a set of first principles, were a rarity (Hagemann, 1996, 89). But the periodical literature in other countries featured a similar lack of writing on economic theory, too. The opinionated nature of such publications may explain this practical outlook. Their occasional treatment of theoretical questions was generally undertaken from the perspective of popularizing the main developments in the classical school. Around 1880, after the introduction of marginal analysis, theoretical contributions became more predominant. But even then the nature of economic publications changed only slowly. Coats (1971b, 180) stated that, during its early years, the Economic Journal printed comparatively few purely theoretical articles, a disproportionate number of which were written by its principal editor, Francis Y. Edgeworth. On the other hand, according to Coats, the Economic Journal published numerous articles on topics that might have seemed more suitable for the literary reviews, which it eventually replaced. In a similar vein, Augello and Guidi (1996) concluded that in Italy it was not until the period 1910-1920 that professional economic journals would become predominant. These developments in Great Britain and Italy are testimony to the long and difficult gestation period of specialist economic periodicals.

2. Economic Publications in Dutch Literary and Economic Periodicals

21The key question for this paper is the contribution made by general and economic periodicals to the public debate on economic issues and the development of economic thought. The development of the periodical literature in the countries discussed above makes it clear that historical conditions are a key factor in the explaining the impact of publications on economic thought in such periodicals. In the Netherlands, the situation was no different. During the period under scrutiny, 1800-1900, the economics profession in the Netherlands underwent profound changes, which impacted the scope and nature of the periodical literature. The most important of these were as follows.

  • Institutional. From 1815 onwards, political economy was taught at universities as a course for law students. This boosted the process of its professionalization. The first chair in Political Economy was occupied by Hendrik Willem Tydeman (1778-1863) at Leyden University in 1815. Other universities followed suit, given the legal obligation to teach economics. At the outset, statistics was an integral part of these lectures; it was not until 1870 that statistics and political economy became separate subjects in the curriculum for law students;

    • 7 The first doctoral dissertation on marginal utility was published by Johan d’Aulnis de Bourouill (1 (...)
    • 8 Coenraad A. Verrijn Stuart (1865-1948) led the advance of the Austrian school in the Netherlands.

    Economic thought. Under the guidance of Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp (1762-1834), the “godfather” of Dutch economics according to Zuidema (1992), the first generation of university professors developed a preference for the liberal outlook of the classical school. For example, the Utrecht professor of Political Economy Jan Ackersdijck (1790-1861) focused strongly in his lectures on the economics of J. B. Say (Schoorl and Plasmeijer, 2012). His preference for the French school was carried over to the members of the second generation, such as Simon Vissering (1822-1888) in Leyden, who promoted the work of Frédéric Bastiat. It took yet another generation before the focus in Dutch economic thought shifted towards the British classical school, most notably in the publications of Willem Cornelis Mees (1813-1884) and Nicolaas Gerard Pierson (1839-1909) in the 1860s on Ricardo. Pierson is generally seen as the most important Dutch economist of the second half of the nineteenth century. His extensive knowledge of the economic literature quickly introduced Dutch economists to novel developments such as marginalistic calculation.7 The Austrian version of the neoclassical school took hold in the Netherlands from the 1890s onwards,8 but the era of laissez-faire in matters of economic policy had already ended in the 1870s due to the influence of the German historical school on the thinking of economists like Willem Treub (1858-1931) (Tieben and Schoorl, 2016).

    • 9 Schoorl and Plasmeijer (2012) describe the book as a “Sunday school tract”. It discusses the princi (...)

    Methodology. The focus of political economy was on knowledge dissemination (‘popularizing’) and contributions concerning practical issues. The first professors, such as Tydeman and Ackersdijck, did not write their own introductions to political economy, but published translations. The first textbook in Dutch appeared in 1850, Beginselen van Staathuishoudkunde (Principles of Political Economy) by the lawyer Jacob De Bruyn Kops (1822-1887). Typically for this phase in the development of political economy in the Netherlands, Beginselen was written for a general audience.9 Most of the authors mentioned here also founded their own journals as a means of communication. In general, though, these were short-lived and devoted to practical issues at the centre of the public debate. Theoretical work did not appear in books or journals before the 1860s, and even then developed only slowly. As mentioned above, statistics developed alongside political economy and in the German fashion delivered practical insight into matters of state (Stamhuis, 1989). It was not used as a critical test of economic theories, but as numerical input for practical policy advice.

22The development of the economic press contributed to and was impacted by these changes in the economics profession. This mutual influence is reflected in the types of periodical which published articles on economic topics during the period 1800-1900. At least five of these can be distinguished.

  1. Economic news: journals devoted to the reports on the state of trade, which also acted as a platform for discussion on economic subjects.

  2. Social reviews: specialist journals, which aimed to promote issues such as the fight against poverty.

  3. Cultural and literary reviews: general journals, which also published economic articles.

  4. Statistical journals: specialist journals devoted to statistics.

  5. Economic journals: specialist journals devoted to economics.

  • 10 The appendix provides eighteenth and nineteenth-century journals that were used to publish on econo (...)

23This list underlines the great diversity of the periodical literature in the period up to 1900, with a blend of specialist economic and more general and cultural publication outlets.10 Some of these still exist today, such as the literary journal De Gids (since 1837) and the economic journal De Economist (founded in 1852). Others had only a short life, which seems typical of a science in its early stages of development.

Table 1. Economic Publications in Periodicals and Their Contribution to Economic Thought

Function/type of periodical


Social reviews

Literary reviews

Statistical journals

Economic journals

Dissemination of knowledge/popularization

Contribution to policy

Outlet for political views

Development of economic theory

Contribution to the professionalization of economics

24The periodicals contributed in different ways to public opinion and economic thought. Table 1 connects the types of publication in the Netherlands with their contribution to economic thought. Disseminating knowledge was a prime function of the early journals to publish articles on economic subjects. Publications, even in the specialized economic journals, were primarily seen as contributions to the public debate, or as attempts to influence public opinion about topical issues such as the need for free trade and tax reform. As such, they were often an outlet for political views. Most publications served a political purpose. They were not “neutral” in the modern sense, but strove to promote one or other of the prevailing political doctrines. Throughout the nineteenth century, most Dutch economists accepted economic liberalism as their main compass. The development of economic theory was often of secondary importance, but must be included as a function of the periodical literature. Lastly, the journals contributed to the professionalization of economics by promoting best practices, techniques or the formation of professional organizations.

  • 11 “Economic journal for the advancement of the national economy, manufacturing, trade, … and all othe (...)

25The practical objective of economic publications is evident in the first type of periodical to be discussed: the economic news press. Journals in this category wished to inform the public about the state of trade in general, but simultaneously formed a platform for the exchange of views and opinions about trade. De Koopman (The Merchant, 1767) and Oeconomische Courant (Economic Courant, 1799) are typical examples of such periodicals. As a weekly journal, De Koopman was concerned with the decline of Dutch trade and it published contributions about the cause of that phenomenon and what to do about it—with a strong focus on practical lessons. The Oeconomische Courant, also a weekly journal, is clearly from a later period and set its sights on a broader section of the national economy: manufacturing, trade, machinery, logistics, agriculture and “all other means of subsistence”.11 It had a section on economic crafts, with practical “how to” lessons, and economic reports. It also published letters and opinions, market prices for all kind of foodstuffs and some stocks and even the results of the national lottery. Neither journal survived for very long, but they are early efforts to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and opinions about economic topics.

26The second type of periodical with economic relevance was certainly more activist in terms of economic policy. This type is the specialist journal devoted to social topics. The issue of poverty was a common concern among Dutch economists of the nineteenth century (Boschloo, 1989). Tydeman was the editor of the first periodical in the Netherlands of this type, Magazijn voor het armen-wezen in het koninkrijk der Nederlanden (Magazine of Pauperism in the Kingdom of the Netherlands). This first appeared in 1817 and was published until 1822. As the title suggest, this journal was concerned with the problems of poverty and reviewed the literature on that subject.

  • 12 Blaupot ten Cate also founded the General Association against Pauperism (aimed at the moral elevati (...)

27In the 1850s, the Reverend Steven Blaupot ten Cate started a periodical with a similar objective: the Tijdschrift voor het armwezen (Journal of Pauperism), which appeared from 1852 to 1861. It advocated remedies for the problem of poverty in the style of Tydeman, who was also a contributor.12 This was the period in which the public debate about ‘pauperism’ in the Netherlands reached its zenith. As we shall explain later on, most economists embraced the liberal stance that government support would only worsen the situation of the poor. The Tijdschrift was an outlet for a group of authors advocating a different political view, which involved moral elevation but also proactive support from the government to remedy the problems of poverty.

  • 13 Van Rees also delivered public lectures on these topics, with modest admission fees.

28At the same time, journals like the Tijdschrift spread knowledge about the economics of social issues such as poverty. A good example of this role is the journal Pantheon, founded by Otto van Rees (1825-1869), professor of Political Economy at Groningen and Utrecht. This publication, which appeared between 1853 and 1858, aimed primarily to educate the lower classes on issues such as trade and industry, the history of political economy, the labour market and emigration.13

  • 14 With its subtitle, ‘Nieuwe Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen’ (New Patriotic Literary Exercises), it c (...)
  • 15 See Aerts (1992, 30).

29The third type were the more general literary and cultural reviews. In countries like Britain and Italy, these played an important role in the spread of economic knowledge. In the Netherlands, the situation was not very different. De Gids (The Guide), founded in 1837 by the poet Everhardus J. Potgieter, was the most important of the Dutch reviews.14 According to its promotional leaflet, it targeted an audience in “civilized circles”, and more especially the boards and members of reading societies. It wished to report on “respectable national works, belonging to whatever science or art”.15 So the label “literary” in the typology should not be confused with its narrow modern interpretation: De Gids covered political, religious, scientific and artistic as well as literary subjects.

30For decades to come, De Gids would be the voice of the liberal revolution that would eventually overtake the Netherlands (Aerts, 1992). Economist Simon Vissering was a key force behind that editorial course. As a young man of 27, this “persuasive liberal” joined the editorial board of De Gids in 1846. And his enthusiasm for the cause caught on. According to Aerts (1992), the journal started to promote a “dogmatic liberal” approach to social affairs. Vissering acted as a magnet for like-minded men like Johannes. T. Buys (1828-1893), who quickly became one of the key contributors to De Gids and its main political voice; his commentaries made him the ‘conscience’ of the Liberal party (Aerts, 1992, 318). Like Vissering, Buys promoted the optimistic economic liberalism of the French school. But he was no visionary. His objective was practical: to educate young citizens and the future political elite, and to install within them a certain moral duty to do what is just for society.

31When professor of Economics and central bank director Hendrik P. G. Quack (1834-1914) joined in 1863, the editorial board of De Gids counted no less than three economists among its members. Their presence underscores the importance of this journal as an outlet for publications by economists in this period.

  • 16 Especially in university cities, it was likely that most of the academic, liberal and progressive p (...)
  • 17 See Pierson (1862), in a review of Roscher’s book Ansichten der Volkswirtschaft aus dem geschichtli (...)

32It is clear that De Gids communicated political dogma, but the contributions from economists also allowed it to further economic theory.16 In the mid-nineteenth century, it was in the pages of De Gids that Dutch economists published their most important work. For example, it reproduced the inaugural lectures of university economists like Vissering in full (Vissering, 1850). And when Vissering wrote the history of the Dutch central bank, it appeared in the De Gids (Vissering, 1863). This was where Pierson, too, published his early work on the problem of value in Smith and Ricardo (Pierson, 1864a; 1864b), as well as historical reviews of economic doctrines like Physiocracy and the insights he had gained from new publications; for example, in his reviews of works from the German historical school.17 It was through Pierson that theory development gained traction amongst Dutch economists (van Maarseveen, 1981; Heertje, 1992).

  • 18 Pierson was one of the first to discuss the pros and cons of the German historical school, which ca (...)

33Ultimately, political doctrine collided with theory. Developments in Germany, where the Verein für Socialpolitik (German Economic Association) was established in 1872, were guiding a younger generation of progressive liberal economists towards a different type of economics, one based on the teachings of the German historical school. The result was a clash of paradigms. The so-called ‘socialists of the chair’ promoted state involvement to tackle social issues like poverty. For the Dutch defenders of laissez-faire, even the mere suggestion of government activity in the social domain was a bridge too far. State involvement was considered unnecessary and even seen as unwanted (Boschloo, 1989).18

34This issue led to a clash between the older and younger generations at the spring conference of the Dutch Statistical Society in 1875 (Boschloo, 1989, 239). Most Dutch economists were members of this organization. The outcome was that the adherents of the new direction, like Samuel van Houten, Baltus Pekelharing and Arnold Kerdijk, founded their own journal, Vragen des Tijds (Questions of Our Time), because they felt that their submissions were being rejected unjustly by the editorial board of De Gids, still under the spell of Vissering and his liberal colleagues (Aerts, 1992, 336). The new journal remained in existence until 1930.

  • 19 Like political economy, statistics underwent a professionalization process during which the definit (...)

35The fourth type is journals in statistics. There was a close connection between statistics and political economy at the start of the professionalization process of economics in the Netherlands (Stamhuis, 1989). For Adriaan Kluit (1735-1807), one of the earliest Dutch promoters of political economy, this discipline was in a fact a branch of statistics (Stapelbroek et al., 2010). The two subjects became more separated later in the century, but for many decades the lectures in statistics at the law faculties were given by political economists like Tydeman and Vissering.19 The hope was that statistics could help to support economic laws. In 1877 the obligation for law students to follow a course in statistics was dropped, widening the gap with political economy still further. For Anthony Beaujon (1853-1890) at the end of the century, statistics and political economy were different fields of inquiry and the former was considered of little use in the study of the latter (Stamhuis, 1989, 176).

  • 20 De Bosch Kemper graduated from Leyden with a thesis on Roman penal law, was twice an MP and became (...)

36Mid-century, the situation was different. During this period the growth of political economy went hand in hand with calls for better statistics. In 1849 Jeronimo de Bosch Kemper (1808-1876) began publishing a periodical on statistics in response to this demand, the Staatkundig en Staathuishoudkundig Jaarboekje (Annual Review of Statecraft and Political Economy).20

  • 21 This objective went hand in hand with the foundation of a library for statistical reviews and other (...)

37De Bosch Kemper founded the Jaarboekje with two objectives in mind. First, he aimed to collect relevant social and economic statistics about the Netherlands, which were still spread between numerous sources (there was no national statistical organization as yet).21 In the turbulent times of 1848, “all kinds of socialist ideas had been proposed, while losing sight of the real situation of the people.” The Jaarboekje hence aimed “to arouse public interest in the knowledge of the facts of society”. The second objective was to promote statistics as a scientific undertaking, since standard procedures for gathering data were still unavailable. Articles in the review therefore reflected on the quality of statistical information and the way it was collected.

  • 22 The statisticians later founded their own professional organization.

38In the light of this dual objective, it is not surprising that De Bosch Kemper and his associates simultaneously founded the Dutch Statistical Association in 1863. He prepared the first annual review alone, but quickly acquired associates like Vissering and Ackersdijck. Henceforth, publication was overseen by an editorial board. Most political economists would become members of the statistical association. The review appeared annually until 1884, when the foundation of the Statistical Institute at the Municipal University of Amsterdam made its publication superfluous. In 1892 the statistical association was rebranded as the Dutch Association of Political Economy—now the Royal Dutch Economic Association (Mooij, 1994).22

39The Jaarboekje is an impressive source of information about the Netherlands on a broad range of topics. In it one finds data about the performance of many economic sectors, such as agriculture and fisheries, along with statistics on trade, public finance, imports and exports. But also listed in great detail are the number of schools and students, the size and composition of the population and figures on healthcare, the military, fire defences, the state of public lighting, the number of accidents and assistance for the poor. This was statistics in the German tradition, where the goal was to describe the factual situation of the state (Stamhuis, 1989, 140). Legal information about new statutes such as the constitution of 1848 and the organization of public bodies like local authorities and provinces completed the picture.

40The broad scope of the data and information provided demonstrates that De Bosch Kemper’s Jaarboekje was not a statistical review in the modern sense. Statistics was not used as a test of economic theories. The authors included articles as a way to introduce or interpret specific topics, but economic theory played only a limited role. Occasionally these articles reflected on topical theoretical debates like the need for poor relief, but the collection of the data about the cost and scope of such assistance came first. More characteristic was the annual review of public finance, which simply reported the state’s income and costs for the year, without any word on the economic impact of public expenditure or tax revenues. In other words, the review contributed primarily to economic practice by providing data and information. Over the years, the number of statistics on non-economic topics like metrology and medical subjects increased, diluting the economic primacy of the Jaarboekje still further.

41The fifth type of periodical relevant to this study is the specialist economic journal. From 1841 until 1874, the country squire Bartholomeus W. A. E. Sloet tot Oldhuis (1807-1884) published the Tijdschrift voor staathuishoudkunde en statistiek (Journal of Political Economy and Statistics) as a single-author venture. For him, political economy was largely a practical exercise based on the laissez-faire principles of the French school. He started his journal with the aim of spreading knowledge about political economy and presented historical and contemporary examples of good economic practice. He also published reviews and translations. He was well-read and for decades reviewed the doctoral theses on economic topics published at Dutch universities.

42The journal mirrors Sloet’s wide-ranging economic interests. He used it to communicate his plans and political messages related to the problems of the day, and switched seamlessly from economic observations to literary and folkloristic musings. A special place was reserved for reports of his walks in the countryside, where he saw the potential of agricultural development. His biographer, Coster (2008), believes that his combination of reviews, translations and articles must often have confused his readers.

43There exists no information on the number of sales of or subscriptions to Sloet’s Tijdschrift. But the bare fact that the publication survived for 34 years indicates that his writings served a section of the market for economic literature. Another indicator of Sloet’s influence in politics and economics is the success of his agronomic conferences. The first of these was held in his home town, Zwolle, in 1846. According to Coster (2008), this annual event was successful in bringing together farmers, politicians and academics. Even King William III attended on a few occasions. In 1870, more than 1700 participants attended the conference in Arnhem. These numbers underpin the role of Sloet tot Oldhuis as an early and effective popularizer of economics.

44Jacob L. De Bruyn Kops (1822-1887) was one of the young liberals and protégées of Vissering who contributed regularly to De Gids. In 1852 he founded a competing journal, De Economist, wholly devoted to political economy. It professed to promote welfare by making economic knowledge available to all classes, rich or poor, educated or non-educated. The first few issues consisted of many short articles on a wide range of subjects, in general presenting data and numbers about particular parts of the economy. De Bruyn Kops believed that knowledge had to be based on facts. As a simile, he used the work of a physician: in order to cure the sick, one first needs to study a healthy body. In similar vein, data from British markets, for example, helped him examine the underlying causes of a booming trade economy—namely, the abolition of tariffs and other restrictions. In other words, the establishment of free trade.

45What motivated De Bruyn Kops to publish a new journal devoted to political economy? Hennipman (1952) argued that De Economist was established as an extension of De Bruyn Kops’ popular textbook, Beginselen van staatshuishoudkunde (1850). He wished to profit from the success of this work to launch a periodical which could bring the insights of political economy to all classes of society. As Hasenberg Butter (1969, 145) stated, “all his [De Bruyn Kops] writings made a deliberate attempt to communicate to a wide and partly uneducated audience”. There was a clear market division between De Economist and Sloet’s Tijdschrift, which was said to be written for a higher class, more scholarly readership (Duyverman, 1978, 7).

  • 23 In 1888 the editorial board consisted of Johan d’Aulnis de Bourouill, Anthony Beaujon, Hendrik B. G (...)

46This purpose may explain the practical nature of the content of De Economist in the first three decades of its existence. In the early years, De Bruyn Kops wrote most the contributions himself. Later—until 1887, the year of his death—he served as its sole editor. De Economist was clearly his journal, and as such bears the marks of his approach to political economy (Hennipman, 1952). This was the approach of a teacher wanting to explain basic principles rather than complicating them with theoretical digressions. All this changed after 1887, when a multi-member editorial board took over, but even then it took some years before the “pragmatic” nature of the journal gave way to a more scientific approach. All the major representatives of economic science in the Netherlands subsequently joined the editorial board and remained committed to De Economist for decades thereafter.23 It is from this time onwards that the journal became the main Dutch outlet for scientific publications in the field of political economy.

3. Contributions to Public Discourse

47The journals listed above played an active role in the public discourse on economic and non-economics issues alike. Such debates took place from about 1840 onwards, when De Gids and Sloet’s Tijdschrift were first published, and intensified significantly after the revolutionary year 1848. As Vissering put it in 1851, the public had recently “come of age” and was now therefore responsible for the affairs of the state. Such a responsibility required education, especially in the field of political economy (Vissering, 1851, 20). In that sense, it is no accident that new journals like the Staatkundig en Staathuishoudkundig Jaarboekje (1849) and De Economist (1852) began appearing at this time. The market for knowledge of political economy was growing.

  • 24 De Gids was founded by the poet Potgieter. Under Vissering’s influence, he contributed to the liber (...)

48As explained in the previous section, the role the different journals would play in the public controversies of the day gradually changed as the century progressed. For decades De Gids would be the most important mouthpiece for the liberals. It was here that the influence of their economic thought was really felt, not only through publications by economists like Vissering and Buys, but also due to their influence on the thinking of the other members of the editorial board.24 In this period, De Gids—as well as the more specialist economic journals like Sloet’s Tijdschrift and De Economist—helped to popularize political economy and acted as a primary channel of communication for the liberal doctrine, given the importance of the French school to their authors.

49The previous section underlined the role of the different journals as the mouthpiece of political doctrine. We shall now examine the impact of economic publications in journals on public discourse in more detail. Some of the most intensive controversies in the nineteenth century concerned the role of the state: laissez-faire or government control? To highlight the role of the periodical literature in these controversies, we will discuss three examples: poverty, central banking and ‘socialism of the chair’.

  • 25 This reasoning closely followed John Stuart Mill’s interpretation of Malthus and argued that the re (...)

50What occupied the public more than anything else in the mid-nineteenth century was the ‘social question’, or pauperism. Minister of the Interior Thorbecke’s 1851 proposal for a poor law constituted the main object of the debate, since this would involve a role—albeit a limited one—for the state in combating poverty (Aerts, 1992). And that ran counter to the laissez-faire attitude espoused by Vissering and his followers. Articles appeared in De Gids on the causes of poverty and why state involvement was not an effective remedy. From 1848 onwards, Vissering applied Malthusian arguments to the debate and complained that proponents of public intervention grossly overstated the extent of the problem due to their flawed statistics (Vissering, 1848; 1852b).25 The liberals argued that the cause of poverty was a lack of employment related to a lacklustre investment climate. The capital-owning class had to be aware of its social role and needed to boost its level of investment. Literary works underlined this message by describing the harsh conditions of the lower classes, with the intention of teaching the upper classes a moral tale: it was their duty to cure such evils, not the state’s.

  • 26 Conferences and associations must also be mentioned as driving forces behind the public debate. Sci (...)
  • 27 Vissering (1852) had argued that the funds of charitable institutions were in fact in excess supply (...)

51De Gids formed the focal point of the resistance against a growing role for the state in social policy, and with success.26 In 1854 Thorbecke’s successor, Van Reenen, published a new proposal for a poor law entirely devoid of any trace of state intervention. Instead, the statute would ban government subsidies for church organisations providing poor relief.27 Tackling poverty was to be made the duty of civic and religious organisations alone, with the government playing no guiding or supporting role whatsoever. After 1854, when the new law was passed by Parliament, the public debate about support for the poor gradually subsided (Boschloo, 1989).

52The role of statistics in these debates is an intriguing one. The data collected by De Bosch Kemper in his Jaarboekje made it possible to determine the extent of the problem of poverty. For example, the statistics showed the high number of people in Amsterdam living in basements, which were considered an unhealthy environment. In 1858 they were home to 8.1 per cent of the city’s population, and in 1874 the figure was still 7.5 per cent. Such numbers underscored the importance of social housing policy. But this term should not be misunderstood. The majority of the economics profession viewed the slightest form of government interference in the housing market with extreme suspicion. Some, like Pierson, argued that the city council should simply close basements when living conditions in them were shown to be unhealthy. The construction of better homes should be left to private investment. Pierson did not consider high rents a problem: they would just stimulate people to marry at a later age, resulting in fewer births and smaller families (Pierson, 1912, 195). Around 1900, Malthus was still very much alive in the Netherlands.

  • 28 Since the Poor Law of 1854, access to relief had became conditional upon requirements like sending (...)

53Ultimately, moral elevation was seen as the key to proper poor relief, not extra money—public or private. Support for this view could also be found in the data. In the Jaarboekje, Hubrecht (1859) discussed the costs of poor relief in Rotterdam and noted that applications had declined by 40 per cent since 1855-1856. This resulted in lower costs and so demonstrated the success of a shift in emphasis from the provision of material goods like bread, clothing and shelter to moral elevation.28

54The public discourse about the laissez-faire approach to economic policy also extended to other fields, like the need for free trade, both nationally and internationally. Following the example of Great Britain, in 1847 the Netherlands abolished its Corn Laws after a polemic in which Vissering was heavily involved. Public finance in the Netherlands depended almost entirely on import duties. Lower duties implied a need to reform the tax system. But alternatives like a land or income tax lacked political support. In line with liberal principles, the general opinion was that taxation should not obstruct economic activities (Vissering, 1854).

  • 29 This is a literal quote from Baert, who summarized the controversy in the Jaarboekje (Baert, 1864).

55In 1863, the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Dutch central bank sparked a heated controversy amongst economists, known as the “bankkwestie” (the banking issue). The immediate problem was the renewal of the central bank legal monopoly on issuing currency. Why not follow the example of the United States and let other banks circulate their own bills of exchange as cash? The result was a debate on the pros and cons of a competitive money supply, which began with a “slashing article” by Buys in De Gids (Buys, 1863).29 Vissering followed suit with the publication of his history of the Dutch central bank since 1813, which likewise appeared in De Gids (Vissering, 1863). The fear amongst opponents was that, without a central bank, the more remote regions of the Netherlands would suffer shortages of cash. They called for continuation of the monopoly and expansion of the bank through regional branches or “agencies”. For Pierson (1912, 551), reviewing the controversy in his textbook, it all revolved around the familiar question of trust in a private solution facilitated by the market versus the need for government control.

56It was the impact of the German historical school which changed the course of Dutch liberalism (Tieben and Schoorl, 2016). Progressive liberals like Kerdijk and van Houten found inspiration in the writings of this school and the related movement known as ‘socialism of the chair’. The purpose of their new journal, Vragen des Tijds (1874), was to look with open eyes to new political doctrines like socialism. That caused a rift within the Dutch community of economists. The progressive liberals argued that the focus of classical political economy on ‘natural laws’ was unfounded. Such laws did not exist in social science, given that social change was determined by the forces of history. Historicism dictated a different approach, which saw society as an organism rather than a mechanical entity. And organic development might benefit from the guiding hand of a central force like the state.

57The reaction from the liberal camp followed quickly. D’Aulnis de Bourouill devoted his inaugural professorial lecture of 1878 to a rejection of socialism of the chair, with a follow-up publication in De Economist (d’Aulnis de Bourouill, 1880). In his view, the economics of the historical school entailed a tragic confusion of politics with economics; by his standards, it involved an ‘anything goes’ method, which could not be classified as scientific.

58The two parties subsequently continued their sometimes unfriendly exchanges through their own channels. An “open letter” to d’Aulnis de Bourouill from Goeman Borgesius (1878) in Vragen des Tijds, for example, drew a fiery response from Pierson (1878) in De Gids. Ultimately, though, the controversy concerning socialism of the chair marked the end of the heyday of economic liberalism (Boschloo, 1989). In his obituary of Vissering, Buys (1889) noted the shift in Dutch economic thought. Over the past twenty years, he observed, the lessons of historicism had become “indisputable” and the government was now playing a more active role in economic life than the liberal Vissering would have desired. Pierson would go on to become prime minister, ironically presiding over the “government of social justice” (1897-1901) which laid the foundations of the modern Dutch welfare state with the introduction of mandatory state schooling, social housing and workers’ disability insurance. The twentieth century began with a radical change of outlook on the role of the state in matters of economic and social policy.

4. Conclusion

  • 30 For a review of the slow transition towards a more scientific economic press, see De Vries (1952) a (...)

59The shift in economic policy also changed the nature of economic publications. From 1887 onwards, academic economists controlled the editorial board of De Economist and the journal gradually became the preferred channel of publication for the newly founded Association of Political Economy (1892). Its focus on economic practice gave way to more abstract and theoretical contributions, in a manner reminiscent of the experience in Italy and other countries. But the process was a slow one and did not gain momentum until the first decade of the twentieth century.30

60There are other parallels to draw. The periodical literature in the Netherlands depended on the initiative of individuals. Some of them were academics like Tydeman and Ackersdijck, but others worked outside the university system. With the journals established by Sloet tot Oldhuis, De Bosch Kemper and De Bruyn Kops, the latter group was the most important. As a one-man undertaking, Sloet’s Tijdschrift was the first specialist economic journal and for 34 years a force to reckon with. Private initiatives could fail due to a lack of readers, though, which resulted in periodicals with a short lifespan. This created a fragmented publishing landscape similar to that in countries like Italy and Great Britain, with their numerous outlets for economic writings in the nineteenth century.

61The nature of economic publications is also comparable across these countries. Their main focus was the development of economic practice. Dutch economists eschewed economic theory. It would take almost fifty years before they incorporated the theoretical advance made by the British classicals like Ricardo into their work. Thanks to Pierson, they were quickly aware of subsequent theoretical developments like marginal utility, but did not actively pursue this line of inquiry until the first decades of the new century. Their priority was clearly a different one, namely the spread of economic knowledge and the establishment of sound economic policies.

62The Dutch specialist economic press was established relatively early, just like its counterpart in Germany. But for a large part of the century, economists would use literary reviews such as De Gids for their publications. This is testimony to the impact of general and literary publication channels on the public debate. De Gids was the mouthpiece of political and economic liberalism in the tradition of French writers like Jean-Baptiste Say and Frédéric Bastiat. The liberal conviction was widespread in the Netherlands, as in many other European countries during the same period. But its fusion with the Protestant ethic of self-control and civic duty gave economic liberalism in our country a specifically Dutch twist. It was the moral duty of the upper classes to contribute to the common good. Increasing investment was seen as part of that duty, since it would generate desirable side-effects like the reduction of unemployment and pauperism. Economic publications promoted this ideal just as strongly as politically and religiously inspired writings did. It is this characteristic which explains why, during this period, publications in the specialist economic press and in literary reviews like De Gids are often indistinguishable. For many economists, the moral argument was just as important as the economic analysis of why government intervention would not benefit welfare.

  • 31 See, for example, Verrijn Stuart (1906)—a contribution aptly entitled “Science or politics?”.

63The German historical school and the advent of ‘socialism of the chair’ would change the liberal outlook in the Netherlands. There were calls for stronger social involvement by the government, which the generation of Vissering and De Bosch Kemper could no longer resist. The progressive liberals who found merit in historicism set up their own journals and gained in political influence. This shift also sparked debate about the separation of science and politics, and about the distinction between normative and positive science, since the new doctrine explicitly approached economics through the lens of a social policy deemed to be desirable. This was the gist of Coenraad Verrijn Stuart’s contributions to the debate; he would become the leading voice of the Austrian marginalist school in the Netherlands.31 The unintended consequence of the public debate about ‘socialism of the chair’ was thus that it widened the gap between economic practice and economic theory, which in the end benefited the professionalization of economics.

This paper was originally prepared for the special issue of Œconomia: Public Reason in Economics. We would like to thank the editors of the special issue, Harro Maas, Marco Guidi and Steven Medema, for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Years of Publication

Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen


De Koopman


De Staatsman


Algemene Konst- en Letterbode


Oeconomische Courant


Magazijn voor het armenwezen


De Star


De Gids

(1837- )

Bijdragen tot Kennis der Nederlandsche en Vreemde Koloniën


Tijdschrift voor Staathuishoudkunde en Statistiek


Staatkundig en Staathuishoudkundig Jaarboekje


De Economist

(1852- )

Tijdschrift voor het armwezen




Vragen des Tijds


Pre-adviezen van de Vereniging voor de Staatshuishoudkunde (en de Statistiek)

(1893- )

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1 See, for example: Augello (1994) and Augello and Guidi (1996) on Italy; Tribe (1992) and Coats (1996) on Britain; Hagemann (1991, 1996) on Germany; Marco (1990, 1995) and Le Van-Lemesle (1996) on France; Almenar (1996) and San-Jualin-Arrupe (2015) on Spain; and Stigler, Stigler and Friedland (1995) on economic journals in the modern era (since 1892).

2 According to Coats, this applied to 97 percent of the articles and stories in the leading periodicals prior to 1870.

3 Not to be confused with the English-language weekly The Economist. De Economist still exists as part of Springer’s portfolio of scientific journals.

4 One example is Jan Tinbergen (1952), writing in the centennial issue of De Economist.

5 By royal decree, in 1727 Sim Peter Gasser was appointed to a chair in ‘Oeconomie, Policy und Cammersachen’ at Halle, the first professorship of political economy in Germany; see Tribe (1988, 42).

6 See, for example, O’Brien’s (1975, 6) characterization of the classical economists.

7 The first doctoral dissertation on marginal utility was published by Johan d’Aulnis de Bourouill (1850-1930) in 1874 in Leyden. It was Pierson who introduced d’Aulnis de Bourouill to the work of Jevons.

8 Coenraad A. Verrijn Stuart (1865-1948) led the advance of the Austrian school in the Netherlands.

9 Schoorl and Plasmeijer (2012) describe the book as a “Sunday school tract”. It discusses the principles of economics in a very general sense without mentioning the name of a single economist.

10 The appendix provides eighteenth and nineteenth-century journals that were used to publish on economic subjects in the Netherlands.

11 “Economic journal for the advancement of the national economy, manufacturing, trade, … and all other means of subsistence.” This was the subtitle of this journal. See Oeconomische Courant (1 September 1802, 1).

12 Blaupot ten Cate also founded the General Association against Pauperism (aimed at the moral elevation of the poor) and organized national conferences on the theme. See Schoorl (2001).

13 Van Rees also delivered public lectures on these topics, with modest admission fees.

14 With its subtitle, ‘Nieuwe Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen’ (New Patriotic Literary Exercises), it clearly wished to distinguish itself from the ‘old’ Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen, founded in 1760. For the history of De Gids, see Aerts (1992).

15 See Aerts (1992, 30).

16 Especially in university cities, it was likely that most of the academic, liberal and progressive part of the upper class would have had access to De Gids. In the 1840s and 1850s, the journal had about 400 individual and institutional subscribers all over the country. Public libraries did not yet exist. For a small fee, though, readers could borrow journals from commercial circulating libraries. Aerts (1992, 179-180) typifies the readership of De Gids in the mid-nineteenth century as local dignitaries and the well-educated bourgeoisie: lawyers, doctors, clergymen, teachers, pharmacists, civil servants, merchants and manufacturers.

17 See Pierson (1862), in a review of Roscher’s book Ansichten der Volkswirtschaft aus dem geschichtlichen Standpunkte. Further publications in De Gids on the historical school include Pierson (1864a), Pierson (1866b, an extensive review of the work of F. List), and Pierson (1868, on Roscher’s Grundlagen).

18 Pierson was one of the first to discuss the pros and cons of the German historical school, which caused him to be branded a ‘socialist’ in the conservative circles of the Amsterdam bourgeoisie.

19 Like political economy, statistics underwent a professionalization process during which the definition of the field changed considerably. See Stamhuis (1989, 154-165).

20 De Bosch Kemper graduated from Leyden with a thesis on Roman penal law, was twice an MP and became a professor of Law at Amsterdam. Like most of his colleagues in this period, he was a member of the liberal school.

21 This objective went hand in hand with the foundation of a library for statistical reviews and other sources of data.

22 The statisticians later founded their own professional organization.

23 In 1888 the editorial board consisted of Johan d’Aulnis de Bourouill, Anthony Beaujon, Hendrik B. Greven, Gideon M. Boissevain, Hendrik Goeman Borgesius, Nicolaas G. Pierson and others. Coenraad A. Verrijn Stuart became editor in 1896 and remained in that position for 51 years. See the overview of the editorial board, 1888-1952, in Hennipman (1952, 814).

24 De Gids was founded by the poet Potgieter. Under Vissering’s influence, he contributed to the liberal cause with what he called ‘political poetry’ (Aerts, 1992).

25 This reasoning closely followed John Stuart Mill’s interpretation of Malthus and argued that the real problem was raising the socially acceptable standard of living. In other words, wages needed to increase in order to eliminate the problem of poverty. Ireland formed the example of a population where standards had dropped to extremely low levels. Consequently, poverty formed a major problem for the country. Given that wages are settled by supply and demand, government regulation could never achieve the goal of higher wages; instead, this required increased production and capital accumulation in accordance with Ricardo’s analysis of economic growth, combined with higher moral standards. See Vissering (1854).

26 Conferences and associations must also be mentioned as driving forces behind the public debate. Scientific societies like the Hollandse Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (Holland Scientific Society) presented prizes for research on the causes of and solutions for poverty (this award was won in 1851 by de Bosch Kemper). Poverty really was one of the key issues of the day.

27 Vissering (1852) had argued that the funds of charitable institutions were in fact in excess supply, leading to more people applying for relief than otherwise would have been the case.

28 Since the Poor Law of 1854, access to relief had became conditional upon requirements like sending one’s children to school.

29 This is a literal quote from Baert, who summarized the controversy in the Jaarboekje (Baert, 1864).

30 For a review of the slow transition towards a more scientific economic press, see De Vries (1952) and Tinbergen (1952) in the centenary edition of De Economist.

31 See, for example, Verrijn Stuart (1906)—a contribution aptly entitled “Science or politics?”.

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Bibliographical reference

Bert Tieben, Public Discourse in Nineteenth-century Dutch EconomicsŒconomia, 10-4 | 2020, 761-787.

Electronic reference

Bert Tieben, Public Discourse in Nineteenth-century Dutch EconomicsŒconomia [Online], 10-4 | 2020, Online since 01 December 2020, connection on 21 April 2021. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Bert Tieben

SEO Economics Amsterdam.

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