Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

James Anderson and the origin of the theory of ground rent in English classical political economy

Takenaga Susumu, Daito Bunka University

Soon after the deliberation in the Parliament on the bill of new corn laws began in early 1815, political pamphlets for and against this bill were published one after another in February of this year (written by Malthus, Torrens, West and Ricardo). The two pamphlets of Malthus were the theoretical and temporal forerunners, and the other authors were more or less under the influence of his theory in spite of their disparate positions on the corn laws. Ricardo and Malthus integrated afterward their theories of rent developed in their pamphlets of 1815 into their respective Principles of political economy (1817, 1820). In this sense February 1815 can be regarded as marking a breakthrough in the history of the theory of ground rent in English classical political economy. As was pointed out later by Marx, the theory of rent Malthus developed at that time much resembles what James Anderson, a Scottish writer, had already said in his several works published in the late 18th century, so the theory of Anderson may be considered as the origin of the theory of rent developed by some economists of a later generation at the beginning of the 19th century, and also by Marx in the mid-19th century. But there exists no direct literary evidence for this conjecture except in the case of Marx. The present paper attempts to elucidate this one “riddle” in the history of economic thought. 

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Anderson, Malthus, Ricardo, Marx, ground rent, Scotland

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