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phase, but as developed by Rodbertus and Marx, rests upon the assumption that value is embodied labor, and the appropriation by the state, wholly or in part, of economic land rent-either as a social panacea, as urged by Henry George, or as a fiscal device as contemplated by recent tax reforms-is based upon the differential theory of rent.
But, manifestly, it is necessary here to distinguish between a doctrine and the misinterpretation or outright perversion of it. In a certain sense, every consequence that follows-however remotely, or by reason of whatever new elements-the enunciation of a principle is to be considered in connection therewith. But in any estimation of influence, the tendency of the original message must be understood, and the effect of the intervening forces appraised. To pursue any other course would be to hold religion responsible for the excesses of religious intolerance or to ascribe the waste and brutality of modern warfare to modern technical invention.
The place which Ricardo-in correction of the obvious gap in Adam Smith's exposition-accorded "embodied labor" was, as has been pointed out again and again, not as the cause, but as the measure of value. Commodities possessing value are mensurable with respect to the several amounts of labor involved in their respective production, just as according to Adam Smith and Malthus they might be compared with respect to the several amounts of labor which they would command, or according to other theorists, with respect to their exchange equivalents in gold, silver, wheat, or what not. Not only did Ricardo regard embodied labor as merely one of a series of possible units of value measurement, but he was very far from asserting its unique efficacy, and indeed ultimately arrived at a state little short of doctrinal agnosticism. "To me it appears", he wrote to McCulloch in the evening of his life, "that we have a choice only amongst imperfect measures, and that we cannot have a perfect one, for there is no such thing in nature."
So too, in the matter of economic rent. With the progress of society, capital tended to increase and, in consequence of limitation upon the productive capacity of the soil, profits to fall and rents to rise. But these phenomena in themselves betokened no social injustice. They "ought never to be the subject of complaint, if they are the effect of the natural course of things", for "they are the most unequivocal proofs of wealth and prosperity."
Sympathetic and warm-hearted in temperament, Ricardo was a firm believer in the possibility of economic betterment, particularly of the laboring classes. In the main this must take the form of self-help in the direction of a higher standard of life: "The friends of humanity cannot but wish that in all countries the laboring classes should have a taste for comforts and enjoyments, and that they should be stimulated by all legal means in their exertions to procure them." There was ample opportunity for direct activity by "the friends of humanity", such as Lancastrian education, savings banks, and the early Owenism, with all of which movements Ricardo was actively identified. To such amelioration the state might very properly lend itself, and, failing private agencies, Ricardo was one of the active supporters of Crespigny's unsuccessful motion in 1819 for a parliamentary inquiry into the reasonableness of Owen's scheme, and was made a member of the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed in 1821 to consider the employment of the poor.
Yet withal Ricardo was an outright individualist, with profound respect for property rights and vested interests not as things desirable in themselves but as the essential bulwark of social stability. Thus he disavowed sympathy with McCulloch's proposal for the scaling down of interest upon the national debt, and, free trader though he was, insisted upon the gradual rather than outright reduction of the corn duties. He admired Owen and respected Place, yet he subscribed heartily to the verdict of the committee of 1821 as to the Lanark scheme: "Certainly your committee feel every disposition high to estimate the effects of good education and early moral habits; but to conceive that any arrangement of circumstances can altogether divest a man of his passions and frailties, as they comprehend principles in themselves undeniable, is a result which can never be anticipated."
By regarding economic distribution as the central point of the existing social order and the growth of economic rent as an incident of social progress, and by formulating compact dicta-like doctrines with respect to both, Ricardo perhaps stimulated mental inquiry as to the necessity of the prevailing system. In this sense -typified admirably by John Stuart Mill's later attitudeRicardo may be conceived as an influence upon the genesis of social radicalism; but this is very different from the direct responsibility for Marxian socialism or Henry George land appropriation with
which he has been charged, and constitutes a service rather than a reproach.
There remains to be considered that which is after all the largest matter involved: What has been Ricardo's influence upon political economy in the narrower sense, that is, conceived as a body of scientific doctrines?
I may dismiss with brief comment the extreme positions as to the futility or, even worse, the mischief of Ricardo's theoretical work taken by the historical school on the one hand and by the psychological group of economists on the other. In the first, there is such signal failure to consider Ricardo's doctrines in their development or context as to breed suspicion that the subject of examination has either been the bare detached text or perhaps even the modified paraphase of later expositors. Certainly the mode of criticism signally exemplifies that very neglect of historical perspective arraigned therein as Ricardo's prime defect. As to the less definite but if anything more violent strictures of the "subjective" econmists, time has held the bank. Thirty-one years have passed since Jevons in the Preface to the second edition of the "Theory of Political Economy", with the recurrent pessimism that characterizes all scientific progress, spoke of "a shattered science" and made both indictment and forecast. Yet Ricardo has remained the main stream, and Jevons and his successors have become minor tributaries. It may be that we are still discouragingly remote from that day "when at length a true system of Economics comes to be established," but surely there is some warrant for the hope that in preparation therefor we shall not have "to pick up the fragments—and to start anew."
Quite as unreal and insufficient is it to describe Ricardo's influence as a mere addition to or amendment of existing doctrine. In 1824 Malthus summarized the characteristics of "the new school of political economy" as set forth in its new principles of value, of demand and supply, and of profits. But even Malthus, hostile dissenter as he was, was conscious of more fundamental differences, and the trend of subsequent opinion has been fully in accord.
As a matter of fact, the effective contribution of Ricardo to economic science was not content but method. It was he who, by example in the main, rather than by argument, established the title of economic inquiry to the rank of positive science, capable of pursuit by the logical method of deduction. In so far as Adam Smith wrote a scientific treatise, it was like the prose which
Molière's bourgeois spoke. Trained in classical philosophy, the academic successor of Carmichael and Hutcheson, the class-room expositor of "moral philosophy", it was inevitable that the "Wealth of Nations", both in lecture outline and in treatise form, should bear the earmarks of a philosopher of the schools. And yet no student of method can speak of the "Wealth of Nations" as a scientific treatise. The excellence of the work, its widespread popularity, and its practical influence grew out of a unique combination of useful information and common-sense argument, rather than logical plan or scientific method.
This appears, for example, at the very outset. After setting forth that the annual production of the nation is determined in large part by "the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which its labor is generally applied", Adam Smith omitted all analysis of these elements; and, declaring that "the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it [labor] is anywhere directed or applied, seems to have been the effects of the division of labor", he devoted himself exclusively to the division of labor. His account of the working of this principle is a veritable economic classic. But where he passes from description and detail to philosophical induction there is an abrupt collapse. To ascribe this division of labor to "a certain propensity in human nature— to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another", and to regard this propensity as either "one of those original principles in human nature of which no further account can be given"; or as "the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech" -is a logical lapse that has excited the astonishment of all subsequent commentators.
If we turn now to Ricardo, an impressive contrast presents itself. Ricardo conceived his field of study with logical precision, and he cultivated it with scientific spirit. The field so defined may have been an improper demarcation and the logical method employed by no means the best; but definition and method there were, and from Ricardo's time economic study moved on, aspiring at least to be the analysis of a definite subject-matter by consciously logical method.
In part, this formalism as to scope and method came to Ricardo from without, probably from Dugald Stewart and Jeremy Bentham, through James Mill. I can explain in no other manner the familiar use of such phrases as "the science of political economy", "the laws of political economy"-to be found in Ricardo's
pages in marked contrast with the entire absence of such terms. in the "Wealth of Nations." But to a greater degree it represents a native impulse, confirmed and heightened by Ricardo's sympathetic interest in natural science-chemistry and geology-and by his personal association with their devotees. To a mind as rigidly logical as his own it seemed an obvious truism that if political economy was to be studied at all it must concern itself, in the same sense as chemistry and geology were being pursued, with a definite subject-matter and employ as orderly a manner of reasoning.
It would be fantastic to seek for any formal exposition of method in Ricardo's text. Yet from the very beginning of his activity as an economic writer, he avowed that logical procedure which he practiced-assumption of definite forces and derivation of ultimate effects. Moreover, although Ricardo regarded economic principles as uniformities based upon fundamental social impulses, he was far from neglecting actual conditions either in deriving and verifying his theories or in applying them in the form of positive legislation. Thus in the "Principles" in 1817, he undertook to state his opinion not only after "his best consideration", together with the aid derived from preceding writers, but "after valuable experience which a few later years, abounding in facts, have yielded to the present generation." The pamphlets on currency and corn laws are direct analyses of contemporary conditions, and in their controversial aspects abound with verifications and qualifications of general principles in the light of actual facts. Finally, in the application of general principles-be it the incidence of taxation, the influence of agricultural improvements, the desirability of compensatory corn laws, the minimum rate of wages-Ricardo was quick to recognize the modifications which general theory must undergo in application to actual affairs.
In short, Ricardo conceived a positive science of political economy constituted of the tendencies or laws prevailing with respect to a clearly defined group of phenomena. He derived a series of uniformities, first by deduction from fundamental principles of human conduct, illustrated and tested by reference to past and present conditions. He assembled the principles thus obtained into a coherent whole, enunciated in unsystematic elliptical form, but characterized by all the essentials of a body of scientific doctrine. By this service he raised economic study to a new dignity, giving it consciousness and impetus. His data may have been in