348.: mcculloch to ricardo1[Answered by 349] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 8 Letters 1819-June 1821 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 8 Letters 1819-1821.
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mcculloch to ricardo
[Answered by 349]
Edinburgh 5 Decr 1819.
My Dear Sir
By permission of my friend Mr Napier I have had the pleasure of reading your Article on the Sinking Fund—I think it excellent—It is not only sound in its principles but it gives the clearest and most satisfactory account of the effects of the various schemes for discharging the national debt which has hitherto been published—In writing this article you have done an essential service to the public; and have added another to the many obligations you have already conferred on your country—I trust you will not suppose that I am now merely indulging in the language of compliment; and to convince you that this is not the fact, I will take the liberty to state that I think that with a very little additional you might still add considerably to its value—You have in fact written an article on the Funding System in general, and not on the Sinking fund; and all that is necessary to give it this shape is to transpose a few of the pages—to begin with the general discussion respecting the best methods of raising the supplies; and then to proceed to state the progress of our National Debt, and the history of the various devices which have been adopted for extinguishing it. This I think would increase the value of the article (not merely by the additional quantum of labour) by rending it more perfect and complete;—there is abundance of time to make the alterations provided you should think it advisable to adopt this suggestion.
Colonel Torrens lately sent me a paper of which he mentioned he had also sent a copy to you —It occurs to me that our gallant friend has misunderstood your theory—His statement of the grounds of difference between his theory and yours is altogether inaccurate—He considers that when a capital of 50 days accumulated labour is applied in paying the wages of 50 workmen that 200 days labour are expended in the production of the commodity resulting from this labour—This I conceive to be a radical mistake—for it is supposing that the capital is applied twice to produce a given effect whereas it is only applied once by the agency of human hands—The other cases all proceed on the mistaken hypothesis that it is required in your theory that labour should be applied by the instrumentality of workmen; while it is altogether immaterial, provided the quantities be the same, whether it is by human hands, by machines for making beef, or by the action of natural juices in the process of fermentation—
I see Mr. Malthus has his book in the press—I presume (judging from its title) that it will be a defence of his tenets respecting the Corn laws, and if so I think that justice will not be shown either to the science or the country, if it be not handled pretty roughly—You will forgive me for saying that I consider Mr. Malthus reputation as an Economist to be very much overrated; and were it not that he is a particular friend of Jeffreys, who would most likely oppose his veto, I should attempt to reduce him to his just magnitude—
Though very far from being an alarmist I think it must be admitted by all that the situation of the country is now critical in the extreme—With ignorant and despotic ministers, a million of paupers, a taxation three times as oppressive as in any other country in the world, and corn laws forcing the cultivation of the poorest soils and proportionably reducing the rate of profit, it is quite impossible to suppose, provided the science of political economy be any thing better than a mere ignis fatuus that this country can bear up under the difficulties with which she is surrounded without a total change of system—It is worse than ridiculous to talk of the present distresses being temporary—They will at least continue as long as the causes by which they are produced—
I enclose you a Copy of the Article on Exchange—If it has any merit it is chiefly if not entirely owing to my having studied your invaluable works with considerable attention—
I shall be particularly happy to be honoured with a letter from you when your other more important avocations will permit; and with the greatest respect and esteem
I am My Dear Sir Yours ever faithfully
J. R. McCulloch
I wish you would allow me to send you a copy of the Scotsman. Perhaps it might occasionally afford you some amusement.