On Classical Economics

On Classical Economics

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    On Classical Economics
    Book Description:

    Thomas Sowell's many writings on the history of economic thought have appeared in a number of scholarly journals and books, and these writings have been praised, reprinted, and translated in various countries around the world.

    The classical era in the history of economics is an important part of the history of ideas in general, and its implications reach beyond the bounds of the economics profession.On Classical Economicsis a book from which students can learn both history and economics. It is not simply a Cook's tour of colorful personalities of the past but a study of how certain economic concepts and tools of analysis arose, and how their implications were revealed during the controversies that followed. In addition to a general understanding of classical macroeconomics and microeconomics, this book offers special insight into the neglected pioneering work of Sismondi-and why it was neglected-and a detailed look at John Stuart Mill's enigmatic role in the development of economics and the mysteries of Marxian economics.

    Clear, engaging, and very readable, without being either cute or condescending,On Classical Economicscan enable a course on the history of economic thought to make a contribution to students' understanding of economics in general--whether in price theory, monetary theory, or international trade. In short, it is a book about analysis as well as history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18566-9
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Thomas Sowell
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Social Philosophy of Classical Economists
    (pp. 1-21)

    The classical period in the development of economics is an important chapter in intellectual history, with general implications for the evolution of concepts, the dynamics of controversy, and basic problems of methodology. Yet too often the insights of that era are lost behind a veil of myths and stereotypes about classical economics that have arisen in later eras. Many people outside — and even inside — the economics profession think of the classical economists in terms of social conservatism, blind faith in the market, denials of depression, and dismal prognoses of subsistence wages. This image has become as common as...

  6. Classical Macroeconomics
    (pp. 22-47)

    Classical economics was much more than a miscellaneous collection of theories and doctrines. Its particular theories and policy prescriptions revolved around a single central concern: economic growth. Unlike modern growth theory, classical economists were not primarily concerned with the adjustments of the economy to the growth process, but with how such a process could be generated and sustained. The full title of Adam Smith’s classic included the nature andcausesof the wealth of nations.¹

    Even the static Ricardian model was concerned, as a practical matter, with the progress of the economy toward the stationary state, and with what this...

  7. Classical Microeconomics
    (pp. 48-78)

    Classical allocation and distribution theory, like classical macroeconomics, reflected a preoccupation with secular growth. Despite the classical economists’ many static concepts and theories, the dominating concerns to which these theories were applied were not wholly or primarily short-run problems. Theanalytical lawof diminishing returns, as a static concept, was only a point of departure for discussinghistoricaldiminishing returns and its implications. The Ricardian scheme of functional distribution under static equilibrium was used as a basis for discussing Ricardo’s real concern, the changes in distributional patterns over time¹ with economic growth and development. The short run was largely the...

  8. Classical Methodology
    (pp. 79-103)

    Classical economics in itself contained relatively little in the way of separate, explicit, methodological discussion, and most of that appeared late, in the writings of John Stuart Mill. However, methodological pronouncements were scattered through earlier classical writings, especially Ricardo’s controversies with Malthus and hisReply to Bosanqueton monetary policy. Moreover, the implicit methodology of classical economics — and especially of the Ricardian school — gave rise to a voluminous critical literature. Even Adam Smith, whoseWealth of Nationssaid nothing about methodology, became in retrospect an important methodological figure repeatedly invoked by later critics of the Ricardians.

    The methodological...

  9. Sismondi: A Neglected Pioneer
    (pp. 104-128)

    J.C.L. Simonde de Sismondi (1773–1842) originated more fundamental economic concepts and theories than many economists of wider and more enduring fame. Yet when he is remembered at all, it is usually as one among many opponents of Say’s Law, or for his questionable theories of technological unemployment, or as the reputed “father of interventionism.”¹ But it was Sismondi who first developed a theory of equilibrium aggregate income, who first produced an algebraic growth model, and who anticipated more celebrated economists on a number of other points. Although Keynes lauded Malthus’Principles of Political Economyas a forerunner of his...

  10. The Enigma of John Stuart Mill
    (pp. 129-154)

    Few thinkers have ever so dominated the whole intellectual landscape of their age as John Stuart Mill did. He not only wrote the leading economic treatise of the mid-nineteenth century, he also wrote the leading treatise of his day on logic, as well as other writings in philosophy, and his writings on political science at both popular and scholarly levels were the leading contemporary works in that field. Mill’sA System of Logicin 1843 first established him as a landmark figure, after many years as simply one of the leading lights of the time. HisPrinciples of Political Economy...

  11. The Mysteries of Marxian Economics
    (pp. 155-186)

    Like other systems of thought which have influenced or controlled the lives of millions of people, Marxism is an elaborate construction, whose interpretation has generated a whole priesthood of those familiar with its intricacies and ambiguities, and with the special vocabulary in which these are expressed. Many of the difficulties of unraveling the mysteries of Marxian economics derive more from the language in which Marx’s ideas are expressed, and from the particular philosophic and economic frameworks from which its concepts are derived, rather than from the intrinsic difficulties of the analysis itself. Joseph Schumpeter’s description of what is necessary for...

  12. Thoughts on the History of Economics
    (pp. 187-202)

    The history of economics is part of the history of ideas in general, and though there are some ways in which economics has evolved differently from other disciplines, many of the issues involved in the general history of ideas arise in the history of economic thought as well. Intellectual issues involved in the history of economics include the dynamics of controversy, the role of ideological bias, the reciprocal effect of ideas and events, and questions of individual originality and contributions to the discipline.

    The focus of this book has been on the era of classical economics, broadly conceived, so as...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 203-284)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 285-304)