History of the principle of comparative advantage revisited: what makes a satisfactory definition?
The authorship of the principle of comparative advantage has been attributed to different economists, most often to David Ricardo, Robert Torrens or James Mill. The motivation for this paper stems from the assumption that diverging views on authorship of the principle are caused by diverse definitions of its satisfactory formulation. We argue a complete definition of the principle of comparative advantage rests on seven elements and suggest four of them are sufficient to deem a definition satisfactory. Taking into account specifics of the early nineteenth-century economics, only two elements – namely comparison of ratios and statement of gains from trade – were necessary. We analyze ten early nineteenth-century works and determine whether they include these elements. Our research confirms the view that Ricardo was the first to successfully state the principle.
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