440.: malthus to ricardo1[Answered by 442] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 9 Letters 1821-1823 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 9 Letters 1821-1823.
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malthus to ricardo
[Answered by 442]
St Catherine’s July [7th, 1821]
My dear Ricardo
Your letter did not reach me so soon as it ought, from the irregularity of the post or the servants, here, where the family is but just settled.
Mrs. Malthus and I are much obliged to you for your very kind invitation which it would give us great pleasure to accept, if we could; but having come here later than we intended, and being obliged to return the 24th or 25th of this month we shall not be permitted still further to shorten our visit to the Eckersalls, as I hinted to you in Town. We must therefore defer our visit to Gatcomb till a better opportunity.
Pray has Maculloch specifically objected to your new doctrine relating to Machinery? From the manner in which you proposed the question to the Club I conclude he has. I thought he would at all events be much disappointed to see your new chapter, after having written the article on machinery in the last Edinburgh.
I fear I must have expressed myself very clumsily throughout the whole of my long final chapter in my last work, as both in your notes and conversation you appear quite to have misunderstood me. You constantly say that it is not a question about the motives to produce. Now I have certainly intended to make it almost entirely a question about motives. We see in almost every part of the world vast powers of production which are not put into action, and I explain this phenomenon by saying that from the want of a proper distribution of the actual produce adequate motives are not furnished to continued production. By inquiring into the immediate causes of the progress of wealth I clearly mean to inquire mainly into motives. I dont at all wish to deny that some persons or others are entitled to consume all that is produced; but the grand question is whether it is distributed in such a manner between the different parties concerned as to occasion the most effective demand for future produce: and I distinctly maintain that an attempt to accumulate very rapidly which necessarily implies a considerable diminution of unproductive consumption, by greatly impairing the usual motives to production must prematurely check the progress of wealth. This surely is the great practical question, and not whether we ought to call the sort of stagnation which would be thus occasioned a glut. That I hold to be a matter of very subordinate importance.
But if it be true that an attempt to accumulate very rapidly will occasion such a division between labour and profits as almost to destroy both the motive and the power of future accumulation and consequently the power of maintaining and employing an increasing population, must it not be acknowledged that such an attempt to accumulate, or that saving too much, may be really prejudicial to a country. Do look at my chapter again after this explanation.
With regard to the question you put to me at the club, I should distinctly answer that under all common circumstances, if an increased power of production be not accompanied by an increase of unproductive expenditure, it will inevitably lower profits and throw labourers out of employment. But on the other hand if it be accompanied by a proper proportion of unproductive expenditure it will certainly raise both profits and wages and greatly advance the wealth of the country. On the former supposition I should expect that the result would be great indolence among the labouring classes, and a diminished instead of increased gross produce. This indolence would contribute to the low profits.
Mrs. M. joins with me in kind regards to Mrs. Ricardo, and all your pleasant family circle.
We are in a very pretty and Romantic valley, and should enjoy it much if the weather were finer.
Ever truly Yours
T R Malthus