The London Corn Exchange in the 19th Century

( Click Picture to Enter Site)

"Theocritus and Homer bored him;
If true delight you would afford him
You'd give him Adam Smith to read.
A deep economist, indeed,
He talked about the wealth of nations;
The state relied, his friends were told,
Upon its staples, not on gold --
This subject filled his conversations.
His father listened, frowned and groaned,
And mortgaged all the land he owned."

(Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, 1833: 1.VII)

"[A]lthough Adam Smith's great work professed to deal with the causes of the wealth of nations,...from the point of view of the history of theoretical economics, the central achievement of his book was his demonstration of the mode in which the division of labour tended to be kept in equilibrium by the mechanism of relative prices -- a demonstration which...is in harmony with the most refined apparatus of the modern School of Lausanne. The theory of value and distribution was really the central core of the analysis of the Classics, try as they might to conceal their objects under other names."

(Lionel C. Robbins, Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, 1932: p.68-9).

"Political Economy, you think, is an enquiry into the nature and causes of wealth -- I think it should rather be called an enquiry into the laws which determine the division of produce of industry amongst the classes that concur in its formation. No law can be laid down respecting quantity, but a tolerably correct one can be laid down respecting proportions. Every day I am more satisfied that the former enquiry is vain and delusive, and the latter the only true object of the science."

(David Ricardo, "Letter to T.R. Malthus, October 9, 1820", in Collected Works, Vol. VIII: p.278-9).

"I saw that [economists] were generally the very dregs and rinsings of the human intellect; and that any man of sound head, and practised in wielding logic with a scholastic adroitness, might take up the whole academy of modern economists, and throttle them between heaven and earth with his finger and thumb, or bray their fungus heads to powder with a lady's fan. At length, in 1819, a friend in Edinburgh sent me down Mr. Ricardo's book: and recurring to my own prophetic anticipation of the advent of some legislator for this science, I said, before I had finished the first chapter, "Thou art the man!"....

Had this profound work been really written in England during the nineteenth century?....Could it be that an Englishman, and he not in academic bowers, but oppressed by mercantile and senatorial cares, had accomplished what all the universities of Europe, and a century of thought, had failed even to advance by one hair's breadth? All other writers had been crushed and overlaid by the enormous weight of facts and documents; Mr. Ricardo had deduced, a priori, from the understanding itself, laws which first gave a ray of light into the unwieldy chaos of materials, and had constructed what had been but a collection of tentative discussions into a science of regular proportions, now first standing on an eternal basis."

(Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, 1821: p.99-100)

"The theories of production and distribution arrived at in the first half of the nineteenth century must be visited with almost unqualified condemnation."

(Edwin C. Cannan, History of the Theories of Production and Distribution, 1893: p.302).

"Happily, there is nothing in the laws of Value which remains for the present or any future writer to clear up; the theory of the subject is complete: the only difficulty to be overcome is that of so stating it as to solve by anticipation the chief perplexities which occur in applying it."

(John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848: Book III, Ch. 1).

"Every page of [Mill's] work is full of the most glaring ignorance and blunders; and there is scarcely a single point in which he does not contradict himself. Now, in sober seriousness, we must ask how is this more consistent with scientific morality than cheating at cards, or forgery, or issuing base coin."

(Henry Dunning Macleod, History of Economics, 1896: p.123)

 


All rights reserved, Gonšalo L. Fonseca