The Concept Of An Agricultural Surplus, From Petty To Smith
Everyone has to eat, so agriculturalists must produce enough to feed themselves and the rest of the population. This statement is trivially obvious but making it explicit mattered to the early development of economic thinking. Many important economic writers of the period (Petty, Cantillon, Hutcheson, Hume, Steuart, Mirabeau, Smith, and others) used a specific notion of agricultural surplus of the form: x men can feed y, where y > x. A series of questions about the relation between agriculture and the rest of the economy naturally follows. Will the surplus be produced? How does it reach those who consume it? What are the “superfluous hands” (in Hume’s terms) to do? This paper points out this neglected theme in early economics.
Volume (Year): 33 (2011)
Issue (Month): 04 (December)
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