366.: mcculloch to ricardo3[Reply to 361 & 362.—Answered by 368] - 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
[Reply to 361 & 362.—Answered by 368]
Edinburgh, 15 May 1820
My Dear Sir
I was exceedingly gratified by your letter of the 2nd—Although I think I understand your theory pretty well, still if you could spare as much time from your other and more important engagements, as would enable you to send me a brief abstract of your opinions respecting the effect that the relative times which must elapse before commodities can be brought to market must have on their comparative value, it will be of particular service to me; and will enable me the better to support the sound principles of the science against the attacks of those who will avail themselves of the authority of Mr. Malthus to revive all those errors which Dr. Smith would have been the first to have abandoned—I do not exactly know whether Mr. Jeffrey will allow me to review Malthus—I rather think he will not —However no commendations will be bestowed on his work and I will occasionally shew the hollowness of particular parts of it—Perhaps I am wrong, but it appears to me that there is much more of art than of ingenuousness in Mr. Malthus work—There is no clearness in his statements and no force in his reasoning. The former is loaded with modifications and limitations, and the latter is weakened by an affectation of candour, a quality of which the book is in reality but too destitute—Should I write a Review of it I shall certainly send you the proof sheets for your revisal—I have desired Mr. Napier to allow me to write the article Value in the Supplement; so that I will then have an opportunity of discussing the new doctrines at length, and of doing all in my power to assist in their dissemination—
I cannot help differing with you on the subject of taxation. Exclusive of the destruction of capital I think there is a very great difference in the effects produced by taxes on luxuries and taxes on necessaries—Suppose Ireland is obliged to remit a subsidy of 10 millions to Russia and that there are two methods of raising it—a duty on potatoes and a duty on claret and coaches—If the first method be adopted it is plain wages will not rise in proportion to the duty; for as the subsidy is to be remitted to a foreign country it cannot enable the Government to employ more labour, and as the number of labourers will remain the same, and the demand for their labour is not increased, they must continue to suffer the extreme of misery untill the pressure of famine or the slackened operation of the principle of population shall have equalised the supply and demand—But an increased duty on claret and coaches would be productive of these effects only in a very slight degree—The love of accumulation must on the average be always stronger than the passion of expence—The increased duty on luxuries would be met by a proportionable saving on those and other articles of expence; and few or no labourers would be thrown out of employment, inasmuch as this would in fact lessen the means of paying the duties—
But although I am of opinion that it is better to impose taxes on luxuries than on necessaries, I should object to any scheme for repealing the taxes on commodities and substituting a property or income tax in their stead—Such a measure would most certainly add to the public distresses—It might no doubt give a momentary relief; but it would widen the basis of taxation, and enable ministers to divert a much greater portion of the wealth of the country into the coffers of the Treasury—
I have sent Colonel Torrens a copy of an article I have written for the Review on the subject of our restrictions on foreign commerce —Though it is entirely practical and hardly worth your attention, I desired him to put it into your hands—I hope the present session will not be permitted to elapse without some specific motion on the subject of the trade with France being brought forward—Nothing I am sure would give greater pleasure to the country at large than to see this subject in your hands.
I was exceedingly sorry to learn from Col. Torrens the misfortune which has occurred in your family —I will expect to have the pleasure of hearing from you at your convenience—And I am with every sentiment of respect and esteem
Yours most faithfully
J. R. McCulloch