The Classical Dynamics of Hume, Smith, Ricardo and Malthus
Chapter 4: Stability and Openness: the Malthus–Ricardo Debate
Stability and Openness: the Malthus-Ricardo Debate I Advanced Economies Malthus was first and foremost a theorist of ‘civilized’, ‘comparatively rich’, ‘happy’, ‘advanced’, ‘well peopled’, or simply ‘old’ countries. Despite his frequent comparisons to the human body, an old state need not suffer illness and infirmity.73That ‘old’ and ‘well peopled’ nations could be ‘happy’ and ‘rich’ may surprise readers who associate Malthus with inevitable subsistence crises-or the view that ‘the secular tendency of real wages was likely to be flat, if not tending downwards’ (Wrigley, 1987, 31).7‘ A generally optimistic Malthus appears in this chapter as I shall argue that he was engaged in a rigorous and public debate with Ricardo in which each laid claim to the most effective policy for secularly improving material conditions among the mass of Britons. Keynes’s Essay in Biography persuasively portrays this debate as the defining moment within nineteenth-century macroeconomic thought.” Rightly so, yet their conflicting analyses of the proximate causes of slow economic growth reflected wider-ranging disagreements over the present and future consequences of Britain’s increasing reliance upon foreign markets for both its sales and its subsistence. 73 Reference to volumes I1 and I11 of The Works o Thornus Robert hfaltbus (Ad) is f accompanied by the pagination of the 1826 sixth (and final) edition of the Essay, reference to volumes V and VI by the pagination of the second (and posthumous 1836) edition of the Principles. 74 England, France, Italy, and Germany are ‘tolerably well peopled’, ‘old’, and ‘more improved’ (M3, 486;...
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