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On Smith's ambiguities on value and wealth

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  • Meacci, Ferdinando

Abstract

Ricardo’s criticisms of Adam Smith on value and wealth have been sometimes rejected and sometimes accepted in the period following the publication of his Principles. By contrast, they have been mostly ignored in the recent revivals of Ricardian economics both in the branch concerned with value and distribution and in the branch devoted to wealth and equilibrium growth. This paper intends to fill the gap between these two branches by revisiting Smith’s link between value and wealth in the light of Ricardo’s criticisms. This is done in two steps. The first step is provided in Part I and deals with Ricardo’s criticisms i) of Say’s and Lauderdale’s criticisms of Smith on this issue, and ii) of Smith’s and Malthus’ arguments on the related issues of rent and of the “annual produce of the land and labour of a country”. The second step is provided in Part II. The aim of this Part is to dissolve Smith’s terminological inaccuracies or contradictions by disentangling them from the analytical foundations of his system of thought. This is done by re-examining Smith’s arguments on value and wealth in the light of two distinctions. One runs between the two points of view –of an individual and of society– which underlie the whole of his system of thought. The other is put forward by Smith himself in a neglected passage of the Wealth and runs between the notions of “work done” and “work to be done”. Both distinctions are then utilized to revisit the principle of exchangeable value as command of labour in the economy as a whole and in the sense of work to be done. The paper is closed by arguing that this principle is needed for supporting the idea of a permanent increase in the natural price of labour (in Smith’s rather than in Ricardo’s sense) in economies exposed to a continuous process of accumulation.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 28866.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:28866

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Keywords: Smith; Ricardo; value; wealth; labour;

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  1. Malthus,T. R., 2008. "T. R. Malthus: Principles of Political Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521075916 edited by Pullen,John.
  2. Malthus,T. R., 2008. "T. R. Malthus: Principles of Political Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521075930 edited by Pullen,John.
  3. Christian Gehrke & Heinz Kurz, 2001. "Say and Ricardo on value and distribution," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(4), pages 449-486.
  4. V. W. Bladen, 1975. "Command over Labour: A Study in Misinterpretation," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 8(4), pages 504-19, November.
  5. Pullen,John (ed.), 2008. "T. R. Malthus: Principles of Political Economy 2 Volume Paperback Set Real Author-Name:Malthus,T. R," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521735735.
  6. Smith, Adam, 2008. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations: A Selected Edition," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780199535927 edited by Sutherland, Kathryn, October.
  7. Meacci, Ferdinando, 2004. "The competition-of-capitals doctrine and the wage-profit relationship," MPRA Paper 20118, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2006.
  8. Smith, Adam, 1776. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1776.
  9. Lauderdale, James Maitland, 1819. "An Inquiry into The Nature and Origin of Public Wealth and into the Means and Causes of its Increase," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 2, number lauderdale1819.
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Cited by:
  1. Meacci, Ferdinando, 1998. "Wealth," MPRA Paper 14713, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Apr 2009.
    • Meacci, Ferdinando, 2013. "Wealth," MPRA Paper 55496, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2014.

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