On the Origins of Classical Economics: Distribution and by Tony Aspromourgos

By Tony Aspromourgos

Examines the starting place and early improvement of the classical concept of distribution as much as 1767, stressing the concept that of monetary `surplus' as a key determinant of financial phenomena.

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Extra info for On the Origins of Classical Economics: Distribution and Value from William Petty to Adam Smith (Routledge Studies in the History of Economics, 4)

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II, 149–51; Lansdowne 1928:40–42). The general case for a full utilization of available labour is also reiterated in later and other writings (for example, Petty 1691a:217–18; 1683a:474–5; Lansdowne 1927: vol. I, 34, vol. II, 185–6, 210). Petty even found room in his Will to again advocate public provision for the poor and unemployed (Fitzmaurice 1895:323). The same position finds vigorous expression in the early Advice to Hartlib (1648:13), combined with a repudiation of the employments so extensively analysed in the Treatise.

Effectively, what Petty is advocating in all these 32 THE ECONOMICS OF PETTY cases is a change in the composition of activities to which surplus labour is devoted. 4 below. The activities he recommends in the Treatise for the unemployed constitute some examples of how surplus labour, in this case the unemployed, ought to be allocated. It may be noted, incidentally, that Petty sees little need to justify public provision for the poor or work for the unemployed: ‘it is unjust to let any starve, when we think it just to limit the wages of the poor, so as they can lay up nothing against the time of their impotency and want of work’ (Petty 1662:20, 29).

I, 246–8). Furthermore, to the extent that he conceives money accumulation as acquisition of a precautionary national reserve, this desirable accumulation also has a well-defined limit: ‘When we have certainly more Money than any of our Neighbour States’ (Petty 1691b: 119). There is nothing illogical in Petty’s application of his model of surplus labour to net export production and national money accumulation; though it may appear strange from the standpoint of later classical economics. Indeed, the important point is that, even to the extent he favours a foreign trade surplus, Petty’s understanding of its significance extends to its implications for social production and the division of labour: a foreign trade surplus—or for that matter, export production for importation of non-necessary commodities—implies the existence and employment of surplus labour domestically.

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