David Ricardo

David Ricardo, 1772–1823, British economist, of Dutch-Jewish parentage. At the age of 20 he entered business as a stockbroker and was so skillful in the management of his affairs that within five years he had amassed a huge fortune. He then turned much of his attention to scientific topics, and in 1799, after reading Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, began to study political economy. However, 10 years elapsed before the appearance of his first writings on the subject, a series of letters to the Morning Chronicle. A number of pamphlets and tracts followed, in turn succeeded by Ricardo's major work, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817). In that book he presented most of his important theories, especially those concerned with the determination of wages and value. For the problem of wages he proposed the "iron law of wages," according to which wages tend to stabilize around the subsistence level. Any rise in wage rates above subsistence will cause the working population to increase to the point that heightened competition among the glut of laborers will merely cause their wages to fall back to the subsistence level. As far as value was concerned, Ricardo stated that the value of almost any good was, essentially, a function of the labor needed to produce it. According to his labor theory of value, a clock costing $100 required 10 times as much labor for its production as did a pair of shoes costing $10. Ricardo was also concerned with the subject of international trade, and for that he developed the theory of comparative advantage, still widely accepted among economists. In a now classic illustration, Ricardo explained how it was advantageous for England to produce cloth and Portugal to produce wine, as long as both countries traded freely with each other, even though Portugal might have produced both wine and cloth at a lower cost than England did. Although his publications were often turgidly written, with little of the insight and breadth of knowledge that characterized Adam Smith's work, Ricardo was an enormously influential economic thinker. His rigidly deductive and scientific method of analysis served as a model for subsequent work in economics.

See studies by J. H. Hollander (1910, repr. 1968), O. St. Clair (1957, repr. 1965), and M. Blang (1958, repr. 1973).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

David Ricardo: Selected full-text books and articles

Notes on Malthus' "Principles of Political Economy" By David Ricardo; Jacob H. Hollander; T. E. Gregory Johns Hopkins Press, 1928
Theories of Surplus Value By Karl Marx; G. A. Bonner; Emile Burns International Publishers, 1952
Librarian's tip: Part C "David Ricardo"
Ricardian Economics: Reasoning about Counterintuitive Tendencies When System Constraints Are Present By Moss, Laurence S The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 69, No. 1, January 2010
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Theorists of Economic Growth from David Hume to the Present: With a Perspective on the Next Century By W. W. Rostow; Michael Kennedy Oxford University Press, 1990
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "T. R. Malthus and David Ricardo"
Economic Theory in Retrospect By M. Blaug Richard D. Irwin, 1962 (3rd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Ricardo's System"
Political Economy in Parliament, 1819-1823 By Barry Gordon Harper & Row, 1977
Librarian's tip: "David Ricardo" begins on p. 2
A Search for Synthesis in Economic Theory By Ching-Yao Hsieh; Stephen L. Mangum M.E. Sharpe, 1986
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "The "Supply-Side" Economics of David Ricardo"
The "Closure" Assumption as a First Step: Neo-Ricardian Economics and Post-Keynesianism By Pratten, Stephen Review of Social Economy, Vol. 54, No. 4, Winter 1996
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Science in Its Youth: Pre-Marxian Political Economy By A. Anikin Progress Publishers, 1979
Librarian's tip: Chap. XII "David Ricardo: The Genius from the City" and Chap. XIII "David Ricardo: The Crowning of the System"
The Psychology of Economics By Walter A. Weisskopf University of Chicago Press, 1955
Librarian's tip: Part III "The Ricardian Theory of Value"
On Revolutions and Progress in Economic Knowledge By T. W. Hutchison Cambridge University Press, 1978
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "James Mill and Ricardian Economics: A Methodological Revolution?" and Chap. 3 "The Decline and Fall of English Classical Political Economy and the Jevonian Revolution"
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