This book is a contribution to the analysis of economic debate in parliament during part of a unique period in the history of Economics and in the history of public policy. In England, from the second to the seventh decade of the nineteenth century, an extraordinary succession of able economists endeavoured to influence the course of policy directly as members of the Commons and of the Lords. As Frank W. Fetter has observed: 'In the halls of Westminster, from Ricardo to Mill, economists as back-benchers had an impact on legislation, by voting, by speeches, by sponsoring of legislation, and by activities on committees, that is unmatched by any other time or in any other country'.SUPSUP SUPSUP
An earlier volume by the present writer detailed the progress of theory and policy during the first phase of the economists' campaign, 1819-23.SUPSUP SUPSUP These were the years in which that seminal figure David Ricardo (17721823) was active in the Commons. This book is concerned with the second phase: the period when the disciples of Ricardo endeavoured to carry on his work under Tory administrations whose thinking was influenced to a degree by that of Adam Smith. Economists and some leading politicians could communicate meaningfully at this time, especially since, 'the ground was fertile for a doctrine that, whether on divine, natural, or scientific grounds, State Action should be narrowly confined and economic life left unregulated so far as may be to the skill and good sense of individual citizens actuated by the admirable motive of trying to get on in the world'.SUPSUP SUPSUP
The second phase ends in 1830, although not because of a sudden shift of perspective on State Action. Rather, that year marks the return to power of the Whigs, and an unprecedented upsurge of economic writings critical of the prescriptions and analyses of the Ricardian economists. In the wake of recurring malfunctions of the British economy, a new era of economic thought emerged.
Throughout the study, there is frequent use of the term 'Ricardian'. This term indicates adherence to a certain theory of economic policy (see Chapter 1) combined with acceptance of a definite set of methodological assumptions concerning Economics, principles of economic doctrine, and policy corollaries. These assumptions, principles and corollaries (in the respects relevant to contemporary debate at the 'popular' or 'nonprofessional' level) are discussed in the book mentioned above.SUPSUP SUPSUP However, some of their leading features may bear repetition here.
In brief, it can be said that Ricardianism involved the belief that 'the . . .