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Machinery Question


  • Meacci, Ferdinando


The “machinery question” was developed by the economist David Ricardo (1772–1823) in the chapter “On Machinery” added to the third edition of his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1821). This question related, in his words, to the “influence of machinery on the interests of the different classes of society” and particularly to the “opinion entertained by the labouring class, that the employment of machinery is frequently detrimental to their interests”. Ricardo’s argument was presented as a recantation of his “previous opinion” on this question and marks the beginning of a debate that is still going on. The purpose of this entry is to simplify this debate by highlighting some weaknesses and strengths of Ricardo’s argument and in subsequent interpretations.

Suggested Citation

  • Meacci, Ferdinando, 2008. "Machinery Question," MPRA Paper 11696, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:11696

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maital, Shlomo & Haswell, Patricia, 1977. "Why Did Ricardo (Not) Change His Mind? On Money and Machinery," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 44(176), pages 359-368, November.
    2. Hayek, F A, 1969. "Three Elucidations of the Ricardo Effect," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(2), pages 274-285, March/Apr.
    3. Samuelson, Paul A, 1988. "Mathematical Vindication of Ricardo on Machinery," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 274-282, April.
    4. Meacci, Ferdinando, 1998. "Further Reflections on the Machinery Question," Contributions to Political Economy, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(0), pages 21-37.
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    More about this item


    Ricardo; machinery; capital; technological unemployment;

    JEL classification:

    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • B12 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Classical (includes Adam Smith)
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes


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