|Birth||19 April 1772|
|Death||11 September 1823 (aged 51)|
|Influences||Smith ¬∑ Bentham|
|Influenced||Ricardian Socialists ¬∑ John Stuart Mill ¬∑ Marx ¬∑ Sraffa ¬∑ Barro|
|Contributions||Ricardian equivalence, labor theory of value, comparative advantage, law of diminishing returns|
David Ricardo (19 April 1772 ‚Äď 11 September 1823) was an English political economist, often credited with systematizing economics, and was one of the most influential of the classical economists, along with Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith. He was also a member of Parliament, businessman, financier and speculator, who amassed a considerable personal fortune. Perhaps his most important contribution was the theory of comparative advantage, a fundamental argument in favor of free trade among countries and of specialization among individuals. Ricardo argued that there is mutual benefit from trade (or exchange) even if one party (e.g. resource-rich country, highly-skilled artisan) is more productive in every possible area than its trading counterpart (e.g. resource-poor country, unskilled laborer), as long as each concentrates on the activities where it has a relative productivity advantage.
At age 21, Ricardo eloped with a Quaker, Priscilla Anne Wilkinson, leading to estrangement from his family. His father disowned him and his mother apparently never spoke to him again.
Without family support, he started his own business as a stockbroker, in which he became quite successful thanks to the connections he made when working with his father.
During the Battle of Waterloo, just like Nathan Mayer Rothschild he bet against the French victory and invested in British securities. By the time he retired from the Exchange at the age of 43, his fortune was estimated at about ¬£600,000 of his time.
At the time of his marriage, Ricardo disconnected from Judaism and became a Unitarian. He had eight children including three sons, of whom Osman Ricardo (1795-1881; MP for Worcester 1847‚Äď1865) and another David Ricardo (1803‚Äď1864, MP for Stroud 1832‚Äď1833) became members of parliament, while the third, Mortimer Ricardo, served as an officer in the Life Guards and was a deputy lieutenant for Oxfordshire. He was one of the original members of The Geological Society.
Ricardo became interested in economics after reading Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations in 1799 on a vacation to the English resort of Bath. This was Ricardo's first contact with economics. He wrote his first economics article at age 37 and within another ten years he reached the height of his fame.
Ricardo's work with the stock exchange made him quite wealthy, which allowed him to retire from business in 1814 at the age of 42. He then purchased and moved to Gatcombe Park, an estate in Gloucestershire.
In 1819, Ricardo took a seat in the House of Commons as the MP for Portarlington, an Irish rotten borough. He held the seat, which had initially been made available to him by his friend, Conversation Sharp, until his death in 1823. In 1846 his nephew, John Lewis Ricardo, MP for Stoke-on-Trent, advocated free trade and the repeal of the Corn Laws.
Ricardo was a close friend of James Mill, who encouraged him in his political ambitions and writings about economics. Other notable friends included Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Malthus, with whom Ricardo had a considerable debate (in correspondence) over such things as the role of land owners in a society. He also was a member of London's intellectuals, later becoming a member of Malthus' Political Economy Club, and a member of the King of Clubs.
Ricardo's most famous work is his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817). Ricardo opens the first chapter with a statement of the labor theory of value. Later in this chapter, he demonstrates that prices do not correspond to this value. He retained the theory, however, as an approximation. The labor theory of value states that the relative price of two goods is determined by the ratio of the quantities of labor required in their production. His labor theory of value, however, required several assumptions: 1- both sectors have the same wage rate and the same profit rate; 2- the capital employed in production is made up of wages only; 3- the period of production has the same length for both goods. Ricardo himself realized that the second and third assumptions were quite unrealistic and hence admitted two exceptions to his labor theory of value: 1- production periods may differ; 2- the two production processes may employ instruments and equipment as capital and not just wages, and in very different proportions. Ricardo continued to work on his value theory to the end of his life.
But the first chapter is but the introduction to a long book that discusses back and forth an extended series of comparisons and contrasts of the various points of views and of Ricardo's own reasoning. In the Chapter "On Value and Riches," Ricardo makes effort to illustrate that exchangeable value is not the same as "value in use." In this way one can factor two often contradictory results. Point 2, above, that the capital employed in production must be made up of wages only for his value theory to hold, is answered by this: that production may be made up of capital and machinery, but it doesn't change the principle (which he attributes to Adam Smith) that he tries to lay out in this chapter. Machinery may add to one measure of value beyond almost all measure without adding one penny to the other measure of value. In this way, one is able, Ricardo seems to show, to factor out somewhat contradictory assumptions which if confounded lead to equally contradictory results. By making all things perfectly clear, or in attempting to, Mr. Ricardo, seeks to resolve some of those ills of the democratic society in which he lived in so far as reason, and action, could resolve them. In this pursuit, he took action, sitting in parliament, moving with his stirring, and amusing, speeches the inner policies of the British Empire.
Ricardo is responsible for developing theories of rent, wages, and profits. He defined rent as "the difference between the produce obtained by the employment of two equal quantities of capital and labor." The model for this theory basically said that while only one grade of land is being used for cultivation, rent will not exist, but when multiple grades of land are being utilized, rent will be charged on the higher grades and will increase with the ascension of the grade. As such, Ricardo believed that the process of economic development, which increased land utilization and eventually led to the cultivation of poorer land, benefited first and foremost the landowners because they would receive the rent payments either in money or in product.
In a careful analysis of the effects of different forms of taxation, Ricardo concludes in chapters 10 and 12 that a tax on land value, equivalent to a tax on the land rent, was the only form of taxation that would not lead to price increases; it is paid by the landlord, who is not able to pass it on to a tenant. He stated that the poorest grade land in use has no (land) rent and so pays no land value tax; as prices are determined at this marginal site for the whole economy, prices will not be increased by a land value tax. His analysis distinguishes between rent of (unimproved) land and rent associated with capital improvements such as buildings.
In his book, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Ricardo's concept of rent is laid out. Due to variation in scarcity of land (or some other accumulatable scarce necessities of varied utility), some land pays a higher monopoly value due to its scarcity than other land. This return on investment is higher than what one would otherwise expect based simply on the value and scarcity of the produce; this return on investment comes from the incident of ownership that allows a monopoly price to be paid. Such premium over real social value that an individual is able to reap due to incident of ownership constitutes real value to an individual but is at best a paper monetary return to society. The portion of such purely individual benefit, and exclusively that portion, that accrues to scarce, accumulatable resources such as land or gold or houses, that is over and above any socially beneficial exchange, Ricardo labels Rent. If all land were equally situated, however scarce, one could determine that all market exchange of the produce thereof was free and equal and that the exact value of the trade was conveyed simultaneously to both parties and to society. In the case of increasing scarcity of the land of higher absolute utility, the free market principle fails to either properly measure or convey value. This gap between personal value accrual and social value accrual, in the case of land, is Ricardian Rent. Rent therefore constitutes value for nothing and as such constitutes a loss to society above maximum production, and one that increases at a faster rate than the decline in production that comes from the scarcity of the land, as land becomes more scarce. Proposals to solve this by various types of land tax are explored further. The key problem then, Ricardo discusses, would be to find a tax that is able to maximally differentiate between tax on profit and tax on such purely Ricardian rent. A no easy task, as he points out, as in the case of how one differentiates between the basic land return, that portion that constitutes such excess above social productivity that he labels rent, and that portion that comes from non-rent producing capital investment in fertilizer, irrigation, deep plowing and land improvements of all types, barns, etc.
In demonstrating that Ricardian Rent constitutes value for everything, Ricardo was momentarily neglecting Say's Law that all savings by-definition-equals investment, overlooks that such value-for-nothing doesn't necessarily disappear upon mis-payment to a landlord. This is what Malthus, Ricardo's personal friend and intellectual opponent, states in his own book on Rent, one of his works that expounds from a point of view of Malthus's Surplus Value theories, rather than Malthus's earlier and more quoted Scarcity Value Theory. Thus, says Malthus, Rent, however mis-placed, constitutes a prime source of savings and investment for the future. We need then, if contented by Malthus, only look for such portion of Ricardian Rent that due to its over-investment (due to its misallocation) represents lost economic value to the society as a whole. Malthus' Criticism of Ricardian Rent does not in Malthus' book on Rent touch on this problem of Ricardian over-investment as expounded by Malthus (the General Glut controversy); rather, in his later works, Malthus does so. So, to Ricardo Economic Rent is a surplus of individual investors' paper profit (which has its value in control over resources rather than directly in the resources themselves) over societal gain. As such, it does not represent any gain but rather an unearned transfer of wealth. To Malthus, there is material gain created in the re-investment which is rent, but at some point such gain may, as says Ricardo in regards to the paper profit he believes Economic Rent to be, be in excess of social utility.
Earlier writers touched on Economic Rent too. Ricardo advises caution in responses to the problem of Economic Rent To be clear, the topic of Economic Rent, as expounded by Ricardo, was by earlier writers such as Smith. Ricardo's book forms a sort of textbook of such earlier expounded theories, in which he adds his own analysis while comparing and contrasting different views and pointing out the flaws in them. Ricardo, after spending many chapters contented with this view of Rent, ascribes it to Smith and then says it is true but probably not so important in an expanding economy and measures to address it should be marked with caution as they would likely produce different effects in different situations.
Ricardo extrapolates the problem of monopolistic rent to other situations/resources that are fundamentally scarce: land or gold. He then questions whether all trade has a fundamental problem of inequality that is inevitably hard to bridge. This is the problem of absolute competitive advantage‚ÄĒwhere one party has an unbridgeable competitive advantage due wealth or productive advantages in every field. If so, can trade profitably continue? Ricardo solves this with Comparative Advantage.
Like Adam Smith, Ricardo was also an opponent of protectionism for national economies, especially for agriculture. He believed that the British "Corn Laws"‚ÄĒtariffs on agriculture products‚ÄĒensured that less-productive domestic land would be harvested and rents would be driven up. (Case & Fair 1999, pp. 812, 813). Thus, the surplus would be directed more toward feudal landlords and away from the emerging industrial capitalists. Since landlords tended to squander their wealth on luxuries, rather than investments, Ricardo believed that the Corn Laws were leading to the stagnation of the British economy. Parliament repealed the Corn Laws in 1846.
This book, Principles of Political Economy, introduces the theory of comparative advantage. According to Ricardo's theory, even if a country could produce everything more efficiently than another country, it would reap gains from specializing in what it was best at producing and trading with other nations. (Case & Fair, 1999: 812‚Äď818). Ricardo believed that wages should be left to free competition, so there should be no restrictions on the importation of agricultural products from abroad.
The benefits of comparative advantage are both distributional and related to improved real income. Within Ricardo's theory, distributional effects implied that foreign trade could not directly affect profits, because profits change only in response to the level of wages. The effects on income are always beneficial because foreign trade does not affect value.
Comparative advantage forms the basis of modern trade theory, reformulated as the Heckscher-Ohlin theorem, which states that a country has a comparative advantage in the production of a product if the country is relatively well-endowed with inputs that are used intensively in producing the product. (Case & Fair 1999, p. 822). See section 3.2 The Ricardian theory of international trade of this page for another side of the theoretical development.
The theory of comparative advantage as he described it seems to be that both those rich in ability and the poor alike concentrate each their own analytical powers on meeting the needs and abilities of the richer, more skillful party to an otherwise unequal exchange and thereby both benefit. Ideas often extrapolated are: that both benefit equally; and that somehow in such exchange each nation, or person, is enabled to focus on its own area of real specialization in a bi-directional equal trade -- but we only start with an idea of purely comparative specialization in one direction.
Another idea associated with Ricardo is Ricardian equivalence, an argument suggesting that in some circumstances a government's choice of how to pay for its spending (i.e., whether to use tax revenue or issue debt and run a deficit) might have no effect on the economy. Ironically, while the proposition bears his name, he does not seem to have believed it. Economist Robert Barro is responsible for its modern prominence.
Ricardo believed that in the long run, prices reflect the cost of production, and referred to this long run price as a Natural price. The natural price of labor was the cost of its production, that cost of maintaining the labourer. If wages correspond to the natural price of labor, then wages would be at subsistence level. However, due to an improving economy, wages may remain indefinitely above subsistence level:
Notwithstanding the tendency of wages to conform to their natural rate, their market rate may, in an improving society, for an indefinite period, be constantly above it; for no sooner may the impulse, which an increased capital gives to a new demand for labor, be obeyed, than another increase of capital may produce the same effect; and thus, if the increase of capital be gradual and constant, the demand for labor may give a continued stimulus to an increase of people.‚Ä¶
It has been calculated, that under favorable circumstances population may be doubled in twenty-five years; but under the same favorable circumstances, the whole capital of a country might possibly be doubled in a shorter period. In that case, wages during the whole period would have a tendency to rise, because the demand for labor would increase still faster than the supply. (On the Principles of Political Economy, Chapter 5, "On Wages").
In his Theory of Profit, Ricardo stated that as real wages increase, real profits decrease because the revenue from the sale of manufactured goods is split between profits and wages. He said in his Essay on Profits, "Profits depend on high or low wages, wages on the price of necessaries, and the price of necessaries chiefly on the price of food."
David Ricardo's ideas had a tremendous influence on later developments in economics. With his highly logical arguments, he has become the theoretical father of the classical political economy. Schumpeter coined an expression Ricardian vice, which indicates that rigorous logic does not provide a good economic theory. This criticism applies also to most neoclassical theories, which make heavy use of mathematics, but are, according to him, theoretically unsound, because the conclusion being drawn does not logically follow from the theories used to defend it.
After a rise of neoclassical school, Ricardo's influence became once retreated to the background. It was Piero Sraffa, the editor of the Collected Works of David Ricardo  and the author of seminal Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities , who made Ricardo resurrect as the originator of another strand of economics thought, which was effaced with the arrival of the neoclassical school. The new interpretation of Ricardo and Sraffa's criticism against the marginal theory of value gave rise to a new school, now named neo-Ricardian or Sraffian school. Major contributors to this school includes Luigi Pasinetti (1930-), Pierangelo Garegnani (1930-), Ian Steedman (1941-)„ÄĀGeorffrey Harcourt (1931-), Heinz Kurz (1946-), Neri Salvadori (1951-), Pier Paolo Saviotti (-) among others. See also Neo-Ricardianism. Neo-Ricardian school is sometimes seen to be a composing element of Post-Keynesian economics.
Several distinctive groups have sprung out of the neo-Ricardian school. One is the evolutionary growth theory, developed notably by J.S. Metcalfe, Pier Paolo Saviotti and Koen Frenken and others .
Another group inspired by Sraffa and the neo-Ricardian school is neo-Ricardian international trade theory. The main contributors include Ian Steedman (1941-) and Stanley Metcalfe (1946-). They have criticized neoclassical international trade theory, namely the Heckscher-Ohlin model on the basis that the notion of capital as primary factor has no method of measuring it before the determination of profit rate (thus trapped in a logical vicious circle). This was a second round of the Cambridge capital controversy, this time in the field of international trade.
The merit of neo-Ricardian trade theory is that input goods are explicitly included to the analytical framework. This is in accordance with Sraffa's idea that any commodity is a product made by means of commodities. The limit of their theory is that the analysis is limited to small country cases. The wage of the Rest of the World is determined by assumption and there is no internal mechanism which generates international wage differences. In this sense the neo-Ricardian trade theory lacks international value theory .
Chris Edward includes Emmanuel's Unequal Exchange theory among variations of neo-Ricardian trade theory . Arghiri Emmanuel argued that the Third World is poor because of the international exploitation of labor .
The Ricardian theory of comparative advantage also became a basic constructive part of the neoclassical trade theory. In any undergraduate course in trade theory includes expansions of Ricardo's example of four numbers. Ricardo's original model was the two-country, two-good case. This model was expanded to many-country and many-commodity cases. Major general results were obtained by the beginning of 1960's by McKenzie and Jones, including his famous formula.
Ricardian trade theory ordinarily assumes that the labor is the unique input. This is a great deficiency as trade theory, for the intermediate goods occupy the major part of the world international trade. McKenzie and Jones emphasized the necessity to expand the theory to the cases of traded inputs. Paul Samuelson coined a term Sraffa bonus to name the gains from trade of inputs.
John Chipman observed in his survey that McKenzie stumbled upon the questions of intermediate products and discovered that "introduction of trade in intermediate product necessitates a fundamental alteration in classical analysis." This deficiency was recently removed by Y. Shiozawa.
It is emphasized that the Ricardian trade theory now provides a general theory which includes trade of intermediates such as materials, fuel and machine tools. The traded intermediate goods are then used as inputs of productions. Capital goods are nothing other than inputs to the productions. Thus, in the Ricardian trade theory, capital goods moves freely from country to country. Labor is the unique factor of production that remains immobile in the country of its origin.
In a blog post of April 28, 2007, Gregory Mankiw compared Ricardian theory and Heckscher-Ohlin theory and stood by the Ricardian side. Mankiw argued that Ricardian theory is more realistic than the Heckscher-Ohlin theory as the latter assumes that capital does not move from country to country. Mankiw's argument contains a logical slip, for the traditional Ricardian trade theory does not admit any inputs. Shiozawa's result saves Mankiw from his slip.
Ricardo's plea for free trade received attacks from those people who think trade restriction is necessary. Uta Patnaike claims that Ricardian theory of international trade contains a logical fallacy. Ricardo assumed that in both countries two goods are producible and actually are produced, but developed and underdeveloped countries often trade those goods which are not producible in their own country. For example, many Northern countries do not produce tropical fruits. In these cases, one cannot define which country has comparative advantage.
Ricardo's publications included:
His works and writings were collected in:
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Portarlington
David Ricardo (19 April 1772 ‚Äď 11 September 1823) was an English political economist, often credited with systematizing economics, and was one of the most influential of the classical economists. He was also a member of Parliament, businessman, financier and speculator.