Classical Economists Contd

Classical Economists Contd

Classical Economists (cont'd )The attitude of the classical economist to social conditions was often different from that suggested by theft traditional critics. Smith and Malthus wanted subsidized schools. Senior (in the Report on the Handloom Weavers) said '. . both the ground landlord and the speculating builder ought to be compelled by law to take measures which shall prevent the towns they create being centres of disease'. With the exception of Ricardo, all the classical economists opposed truck (payment of wages in goods); Ricardo thought that Robert Owen's experiment at New Lanark might benefit from a truck shop. They supported the Factory Act restrictions on the employment of children. Senior favoured restrictions on the employment of women in mines. Some of the classical economists thought that most women should be treated as men; the reason put by J. S. Mill was that they would then be allowed access to industrial employment as a means of emancipation. Torrens wanted compensation for handloom weavers displaced by machinery.

The classical economists were generally opposed to minimum wage-fixing because they considered it would reduce the demand for labour. Most of them supported trade unionism, but with misgivings about the effects on the workers; J. S. Mill wrote: 'There must be some better mode of sharing the fruits of human productive power than by diminishing their amount. Yet this is not only the effect but the intention of many of the conditions imposed by some unions on workmen and on employers. All restrictions on the employment of machinery, or on arrangements for economizing labour, deserve this censure. Some of the union regulations go even further than to prohibit improvements; they are contrived for the express purpose of making work inefficient; they positively prevent the workmen from working hard and well....'

The classical economists foresaw the development of the social services. They saw them as a helping hand that would teach people in time to help themselves. John Stuart Mill, for example, said: "government aid ... should be so given as to be as far as possible a course of education for the people in the art of accomplishing great objects by individual energy and voluntary co-operation'. Nassau Senior, who inspired the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, said in a memorandum on popular education submitted in 2017to the Royal Commission on Education under Lord Newcastle: 'We may look forward to the time when the labouring population may be safely entrusted with the education of their children; . . . the assistance and superintendence. . . of the Government for that purpose. . . only a means of preparing the labouring classes for a better, but remote state of things. . in the latter part of the twentieth century when that assistance and superintendence shall no longer be necessary.'

The classical economists made assumptions about man and his environments: first, that man sought his own interest (which meant not self-interest but the interest of any whom he chose to benefit by his efforts); secondly, that while the world was getting richer, it was still poor and that all had to be given incentives to contribute to the common good. Hence the need for machinery that would gear self-interest to the social advantage. The classical economists thought that only a market economy could reconcile these objectives with personal freedom.

Clayton Act. See Trust Busting.

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