Review of Ian Kumekawa's "The First Serious Optimist: A.C. Pigou and the Birth of Welfare Economics."
Overall, it is clear that in Kumekawa Pigou has found a very sympathetic biographer, who writes in the best Cambridge tradition of Quentin Skinner: the book is rich in intellectual history and context.
The flipside is that virtually no attempt is made to rationally reconstruct ideas, or even to explain the technicalities of Pigou’s theoretical contributions in modern (economic) language. This Cambridge style also means that the book is written in elegant, “gentlemanly” prose, that tends to smooth out the rough edges, if not indeed, as in the case of these supposed myths, to brush over them completely.
And the modern reader cannot help but be frustrated when Pigou is again off on one of his many hikes or other outdoor activities, while important academic and political work awaits him. Kumekawa instead is endlessly patient with his subject, and is sympathetic to Pigou almost to a fault.