|Died||8 November 1917 (aged 82)|
|Known for||Wagner's law|
|Institutions||Friedrich-Wilhelm University of Berlin |
Imperial University of Dorpat
Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg
|Doctoral advisor||Georg Hanssen|
|Doctoral students||Werner Sombart|
Lujo Brentano (Habilitation)
Adolph Wagner (25 March 1835 - 8 November 1917) was a German economist and politician, a leading Kathedersozialist (academic socialist) and public finance scholar and advocate of agrarianism. Wagner's law of increasing state activity is named after him.
Born in Erlangen as the son of a university professor, the physiologist Rudolf Wagner, Adolph studied economics at the University of Göttingen, receiving a doctorate in 1857 under supervision of Georg Hanssen. Wagner's academic career took him first to the Merchants' Superior School, Vienna (1858-1863), then - after failing to secure a chair at the University of Vienna because of disagreements over fiscal policy with Lorenz von Stein - to the Hamburg Higher Merchants' School (1863-1865), both institutions comparable to business schools today. In 1865, he took the chair of Ethnography, Geography, and Statistics (in reality an economics professorship) at the University of Dorpat in Livonia which is located in the present day Estonia, but was then part of the Russian Empire.
In Dorpat (Tartu), Wagner "became a follower of Bismarck's policy for unifying Germany under Prussian guidance. Thus when German unification became realistic, Wagner wanted to go back to Germany proper.
Beginning Fall Term 1868/69, Wagner therefore took over the Chair of the Cameralistic subjects (roughly, state management) at the Badensian University of Freiburg im Breisgau, and very soon afterwards, in 1870, the Chair of Staatswissenschaften at the University of Berlin, by that time not only the premier university in Germany but probably in the world. It was in Berlin, that Wagner began his tenure as one of the most intellectually and politically influential economists of his time.
A former student of his, Werner Sombart, was his successor at the economics chair of the University of Berlin.
Wagner died in Berlin in 1917.
Wagner is the main protagonist of a specific school of economics and social policy, called "State Socialism" ("Staatssozialismus"), which is a specific form of Kathedersozialismus. (Albert Schäffle (1831-1903), Lujo Brentano (1844-1931), Gustav von Schmoller (1838-1917) and Karl Rodbertus(-Jagetzow) (1805-1875) were important protagonists of that thought as well.) He was a member of the Historical school of economics, as his general review essay on Marshall's Principles of Economics so clearly demonstrates. However, he did fundamentally differentiate himself from what he called the 'younger' and more 'extreme' members of the German historical school such as Gustav von Schmoller who, according to Wagner, tended to dismiss too hastily what the latter terms the more deductive work of English writers (in short, those in the tradition of classical economics, including the famous contemporary Cambridge University Professor Alfred Marshall whose book he was reviewing).
Wagner had a very combative and harsh personality. He did not take insults lightly and never phrased things diplomatically. He had difficulties with Schmoller and was an enemy of Lujo Brentano - and these two were about his closest colleagues.
By all contemporary accounts, it is probably fair to say that Wagner was vain, easily hurt and extremely choleric.
In the 1890s, Wagner would so enrage an industrial-conservative member of the Reichstag, likewise with a defense of the Kathedersozialist influence within the University, that the deputy challenged him to a duel. (Wagner did not categorically refuse, but it was never fought.)
An even more famous case was Wagner's altercation with Eugen Dühring (against whom Friedrich Engels' Anti-Dühring is directed), and which in the very end resulted in Dühring's remotion and dismissal from the University of Berlin.
Wagner formulated the Law of Increasing State Spending, also known as "Wagner's Law."
His works set the stage for the development of the monetary and credit systems in Germany and substantially influenced the central bank policy and financial practice before World War I.