Classical School of Political Economy

About this Collection

The Classical School of political economy had its heyday in the period from 1800 to 1850 in England. It can be said to have begun with the writings of Adam Smith and David Hume in the latter part of the 18th century and it continued until well into the late 19th century before the neo-classical school and the marginalists began to replace it. D. P. O'Brien divides the classical school into three groups. Group I was made up of the founders, Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Group II was the most numerous and consisted of Thomas Malthus, Jean-Baptiste Say, James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill, John Ramsay McCulloch, Nassau Senior, Robert Torrens, Robert Tooke, John Elliot Cairnes, and Henry Fawcett. Group III was made up of numerous lesser figures who were active later in the 19th century. The classical school developed free market economics into a consistent, scientific body of knowledge which quickly became the economic orthodoxy in the first half of the 19th century. Its members were very influential in reforming British government policy especially in the areas of free trade and economic deregulation.

Key People

Titles & Essays

A – Z List

Economic Theory. Demography

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General Works

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Philosophy, Psychology, And Religion

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Social Sciences

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Quotes

Economics

Adam Smith and the Uniform Quest for Betterment

Adam Smith

Free Trade

Adam Smith on how “furious monopolists” will fight to the bitter end to keep their privileges (1776)

Adam Smith

Taxation

Adam Smith on how governments learn from each other the best way of draining money from the pockets of the people (1776)

Adam Smith

Economics

Adam Smith on Inequality Between the Rich and the Poor

Adam Smith

Economics

Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the division of labor and technological innovation (1760s)

Adam Smith

Economics

Adam Smith on the natural ordering Tendency of Free Markets, or what he called the “Invisible Hand” (1776)

Adam Smith

Taxation

Adam Smith on the need for “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice” (1755)

Adam Smith

Free Trade

Adam Smith on the “liberal system” of free trade (1776)

Adam Smith

Economics

Adam Smith, Employment, and the Advantages to Society

Adam Smith

Free Trade

John Ramsay McCulloch argues that smuggling is “wholly the result of vicious commercial and financial legislation” and that it could be ended immediately by abolishing this legislation (1899)

John Ramsay McCulloch

Class

John Stuart Mill discusses the origins of the state whereby the “productive class” seeks protection from one “member of the predatory class” in order to gain some security of property (1848)

John Stuart Mill

Property Rights

McCulloch argues that the right to property extends to “the faculties of (one’s) mind and the powers of (one’s) body” (1864)

John Ramsay McCulloch

Notes About This Collection

Suggested reading on the classical school: