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Ricardo the ‘Logician’ versus Tooke the ‘Empiricist’: on their different vital contributions to classical economics


  • Smith, Matthew


David Ricardo (1772-1823) and Thomas Tooke (1774-1858) were contemporaries in the ‘golden era’ of English classical economics, along with Malthus, Torrens and McCulloch. The central figure in that era was undoubtedly Ricardo with his vital contributions to the ‘core’ analysis of value and distribution. By contrast, Tooke’s vital contributions were mainly to the empirical analysis of prices as well as to the theory of money and prices, the latter made well after Ricardo’s premature death in 1823. Whereas Ricardo can be characterized as the ‘Logician’, the supreme deductive thinker among classical economists; Tooke can be characterized as the ‘Empiricist’, the supreme inductive thinker among classical contemporaries. The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between these two economists with their very different approaches to economics and to compare their different but vital contributions to the development of classical economics. We first consider and show the path-making nature of Ricardo’s contribution to the development of the ‘core’ theory of value and distribution. The paper then considers Tooke’s banking school monetary theory, showing it to represent an outright rejection of Ricardo’s well established monetary theory. It is argued that Tooke’s monetary theory provides a more valuable and lasting contribution than Ricardo’s quantity theory of money to the modern development of classical economics. In the brief conclusion we reconcile the different contributions of these two economists to modern classical economics.

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  • Smith, Matthew, 2014. "Ricardo the ‘Logician’ versus Tooke the ‘Empiricist’: on their different vital contributions to classical economics," Working Papers 2014-12, University of Sydney, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:syd:wpaper:2014-12

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    1. 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, number smith1776.
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