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Thread: Am I right or the famous economist and a Harvard grad?

  1. #1
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    Default Am I right or the famous economist and a Harvard grad?

    So, this book that I am continuing to read, for the second time mind you, has a discussion about David Ricardo and Thomas Robert Malthus, the two famoust economists of 18th Century.

    Robert Heilbroner, the author, describes Malthus' most important accomplishment as that of an observation that food can become scarce if too many people are born and the birth of people is directly related to the wages capitalists provide to their workers and the more business opportunities capitalists provide, the more opportunities people have to earn those wages.

    Malthus was never rich nor was he ever a landlord but he favored landlords.

    Landlords had land where food was grown.

    Now, Ricardo was a landlord but he was also a very wealthy stockbroker. Ricardo praised capitalists but denounced landlords saying landlords earn money by simply renting out land and collecting money for it. Ricardo also did not like that the more landlords charged for rent, the more food would cost and the more capitalists would have to pay their workers, hence the fewer profits they earned.

    Here comes my issue with the author. At the end of the section about these two economists, Heibroner states: they were both the most honest, sincere, and objective men in economics because they both went with their claims regardless of their own interests. Why? Because, Heilbroner claims, Malthus never owned any land, yet he praised landlords while Ricardo was a landlord himself but denounced them and praised capitalists.

    Here is my view that opposes Heilbroner's: I doubt these two guys were so sincere because Malthus was concerned about enough food for people and fewer people on this Earth while landlords provided that food and capitalists allowed more population. This is the theory that Malthus was famous for so why wouldn't he defend it, ESPECIALLY due to the fact that Malthus was a terrible stockbroker and envied Ricardo.

    Now, Ricardo wasn't so honest himself either. Why? Sure, he was a landlord but he was a fabulous stockbroker and stockbrokers make money when capitalists succeed. Ricardo knew his fortune depended on capitalists. So, of course he denounced landlords and praised capitalists.

    Who is right? Heilbroner or I?
    Last edited by Big; 05-03-2007 at 04:36 PM.

  2. #2

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    I think the author may have been saying that Both Ricardo and Malthus saw that capitalism was a series of interconnected workings and neither could profit unless everyone was better off. In capitalism, no one person or group wins out over another, per se. If one side is not happy with the transaction, it does not go through, thus only approved transactions occur.

    I don't think it is a matter of which one of you is right. I think it is a matter of how objective you can be. I don't even think that sincerity enters the equation at all. Capitalism is not a touchy, feely, sincere, warm and fuzzy thing. It is rather cold and concrete. It doesn't have feelings and isn't concerned with "fairness." Everyone is equal in capitalsim and objectivity is the name of the game. Thus, logical and objective reasoning that excludes all biases is honored. Sure, these guys may profit from certain transactions, but it wouldn't make sense to take part in a transaction that didn't profit you. Capitalism is built on the premise that everyone will do what is in his own best interest -- its what people do best.

    I know that doesn't really answer your question, but I just thought I'd give you my 0.02.

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