Ricardian Politics

Ricardian Politics

Murray Milgate
Shannon C. Stimson
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Ricardian Politics
    Book Description:

    Few deny that the work of economists has often embodied or stimulated significant contributions to political thought. Smith, Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman are good examples. However, the work of the great classical economist David Ricardo is not usually placed in such company. Despite Ricardo's affiliations with philosophical radicals like Bentham and James Mill, the most that previous scholars have been prepared to allow is that if Ricardo spoke to political questions at all, he addressed only economic policy. This book argues forcefully for a revision of that received opinion. Murray Milgate and Shannon Stimson show that Ricardo articulated a distinctive political vision, and that he did so in a novel and sophisticated way by linking arguments for democratic reform with the conclusions of political economy. Ricardian Politics examines compelling but neglected evidence of how Ricardo deployed economic theory to construct a new view of politics. Milgate and Stimson analyze the case he made for a more inclusive political society and for a more representative and democratic government, discuss how his argument was structured by his economics, and explicitly draw out comparisons with Bentham and James Mill. Ricardo wrote at a critical moment, which saw the consolidation of capitalist industry and the emergence of modern democratic political ideology. By attending to the historical context, this book recovers a more accurate picture of his thought, while contributing to the current renewal of research on the relationship between economic and political thought in early nineteenth-century Britain.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6244-3
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    M.M. and S.C.S.
  4. Note on References
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Case of Ricardo
    (pp. 3-18)

    In the history of philosophical radicalism, David Ricardo stands as an enigmatic figure. Look around, and you will find many caricatures of Ricardo. If, for instance, we are to take what seems to be the majority opinion at its word, Ricardo was politically naïve. As the economist’s economist, he is said to have been concerned exclusively with ‘directing government to right measures’,¹ somewhat in the manner of an appeal to the right reason of existing political powers—whoever those powers might be and however they might be constituted. A leading species of this particular rendering is the idea that Ricardo...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Representative Government
    (pp. 19-48)

    In december 1819, in the debate on the second reading of one of the Six Acts passed in reaction to events at Peterloo in the preceding August, Lord Palmerston (then Secretary of War) rose from the Ministerial benches of the House of Commons to defend his earlier action in signing a counter-requisition against an application to convene a public meeting in the county of Hampshire. He had acted, he said, ‘from a well-understood sense of duty’, and in so doing, he went on to claim, he ‘had consulted the best interests of the country’,¹ by which he meant his own...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Reasonable Part of the Country
    (pp. 49-77)

    If government was to be constituted so as to be representative of public opinion in a directly democratic way, as Ricardo had proposed, then the question immediately arose as to the extent of the enfranchisement thereby mandated. This question was, and remained for years to come, the bane of philosophic-radical political thinking. It is what gives that characteristic flavour of elitism (and, according to some, of class bias) to the opinions of some of the most advanced liberals of the first half of the nineteenth century. John Stuart Mill was still grappling with it when he came to formulate his...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Principle of Exclusion
    (pp. 78-99)

    In recommendations concerning the appropriate organization of a democratic polity—philosophic-radical, Ricardian, or otherwise—the demand for universal suffrage is never meant to be taken literally. Except, perhaps, in the most pure of cases, there is always a qualification to be met.¹ The People, in whose name political authority is exercised, and upon whose sanction its continued legitimacy is made to depend, are, in this sense, an artificial entity. Some are always excluded. Leaving aside the question of the enfranchisement of women, a subject on which Ricardo said nothing,² it is clear from what we have already said that Ricardo’s...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Co-optation and Incorporation
    (pp. 100-124)

    When malthus wrote to ricardo in the autumn of 1819 that he could ‘hardly contemplate a more bloody revolution’ than the one he confidently expected to take place if universal suffrage and annual parliaments ‘were effected by the intimidation’ of the mob,¹ he was not simply giving an airing to his old-fashioned Whig credentials; he was voicing the widespread feeling of alarm that seemed to permeate the consciousness of the British governing classes of the day. As far as these segments of the population were concerned, revolution was in the air.² Throughout the country, events between 1815 and 1819 only...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Duration of Parliaments
    (pp. 125-141)

    The subject of the frequency of elections was intensely debated both within the larger camp of moderate reform with which Ricardo associated in parliament between 1819 and 1823, and within that more intimate coterie of radical reformers with whom he was associated outside of it. For very nearly a century, the opponents of more frequent parliaments had argued that ‘more frequent elections would encourage faction, sedition, and insurrection, and would disturb the balance of the constitution by increasing the influence of the electorate over their representatives’.¹ At issue for advocates (as well as opponents) of reform was the question of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Conclusion
    (pp. 142-150)

    Thomas babington macaulay’s famous indictment of James Mill’s thinking about politics may seem to be a somewhat strange item with which to prefigure some final reflections on Ricardian politics. After all, it was in the pages of the March number of theEdinburgh Reviewfor 1829, a good six years after Ricardo’s death, that Macaulay denounced Mill’s attempt to ‘deduce’ a theory of politics from certain ‘propensities of human nature’ on the grounds that this endeavour could hardly be said to have ranked him as a contributor to ‘that noble Science of Politics’.¹ Yet, while in itself Macaulay’s charge is...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-162)
  13. Index
    (pp. 163-169)