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On Adam Smith's Ambiguities on Value and Wealth


  • Ferdinando Meacci


David Ricardo’s criticisms of Adam Smith on value and wealth have been rather ignored in the recent revival of Ricardian economics. This essay intends to fill the gap 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 section 1. This deals with Ricardo’s criticisms both of Say’s and Lauderdale’s criticisms of Smith and of Smith’s and Malthus’s arguments on the related issues of rent and the “annual produce of the land and labour of a country.” The second step is provided in section 2. The aim of this section is to dissolve Smith’s terminological inaccuracies or contradictions on the issue of value and wealth. This is done by highlighting the distinctions between the two points of view (of an individual and of society) and between the two aspects of labor (as work done and work to be done) that underlie Smith’s own system of thought. The article closes with a reappraisal of the principle of value as command of labor as work to be done in the economy as a whole and of Smith’s vision of a permanent increase in the natural price of labor (in Smith’s rather than in Ricardo’s sense) resulting from a continuous process of accumulation.

Suggested Citation

  • Ferdinando Meacci, 2012. "On Adam Smith's Ambiguities on Value and Wealth," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 44(4), pages 663-689, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:44:y:2012:i:4:p:663-689

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    Cited by:

    1. Farkas, Beáta, 2016. "A várakozások szerepe a közgazdasági gondolkodásban
      [Expectations in thinking on economics]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(11), pages 1177-1191.
    2. Meacci, Ferdinando, 2014. "Ricardo's and Malthus's common error in their conflicting theories of the value of labour," MPRA Paper 55948, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    Adam Smith; David Ricardo; value; wealth;


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