Everyone now knows what the Methodists have done to their hymnal. Inclusive language once again triumphs over not only tradition and elegance, but even reason. Economists arc not exempt from such folly. In an otherwise excellent and informative book, Breaking the Academic Mould: Economists and American Higher Learning in the Nineteenth Century, there is an essay by Byrd L. Jones on the development of economics at Harvard. Professor Jones quotes Francis Bowen (1811-90) to the effect that the political economy that derives from the classical economists Ricardo to Mill is a “general science of Human Nature, of which the special sciences of Ethics, Psychology, Politics, and Political Economy are so many distinct and co-ordinate departments . . . deriving its principles from their knowledge of human nature, and tracing these down to the outward conduct of men and to the social phenomenon which these general motives produce or influence.”

Professor Jones feels compelled in a footnote to add: “Male references prevailed among Harvard’s economists, reflecting then common conventions and a biased definition of human beings. Such gender limitations jar modern sensibilities, and I have minimized their appearance in quoted matter while leaving some as a reminder of social prejudices among social scientists—including those who lectured at Radcliffe.”

But the tide has begun to turn. There is something symbolic in the socialist prime minister of Greece, Andreas Papandreou, formerly professor of economics at Berkeley, ditching his feminist wife devoted to feminist causes for a Dimitri Liani, a hostess for Olympic Airlines, who is not only described as a tall, buxom, bleached blonde of 34 but a good cook. (Is this home economics?)

There are consolations for this gender exploitation in language. Over the centuries I am sure that most women have been relieved at the wording of the Confession of Sin in the Book of Common Prayer: “Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all men; we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness . . .”