Malthus on Colonization and Economic Development: A Comparison with Adam Smith*: J. M. Pullen

Utilitas 6 (2):243-266 (1994)
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Malthus did not leave us with a systematic treatment of colonization, but from remarks scattered throughout his publications and correspondence it is possible to assemble a fairly coherent account of his views on the advantages and disadvantages of colonies, and on the reasons why some have failed and others succeeded. Included in these scattered remarks are some comparisons between his own views on colonies and those of Adam Smith. The question of the relationship between Malthus and Adam Smith is a rather complex and subtle one, and cannot be given the full consideration it deserves in one short paper. But, as a general summary, it can be said that Malthus had a high regard for Smith and considered himself a follower and disciple of Smith, by contrast with Ricardo, James Mill, and McCulloch etc., whom he considered as exponents of a ‘New System of Political Economy”. His own Principles of Political Economy was conceived as a collection of ‘tracts or essays”, not as a new systematic treatise replacing the Wealth of Nations, Joseph Gamier in his article ‘Malthus” in the Dictionnaire de l'Economie Politique, 1852, saw that the title of the Principles was in fact a misnomer: ‘Malgré son titre, le livre sur les Principes n'est point un traité complet, mais seulement une collection de dissertations.” In what was probably intended as a criticism of Ricardo's Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1817, Malthus stated that the ‘present period … seems to be unpropitious to the publication of a new systematic treatise on political economy”, and, referring to Smith's work, stated that ‘the treatise which we already possess is still of the very highest value”. Nevertheless, despite professing his affiliation, Malthus did not hesitate to criticize Smith when he disagreed with him. He recognized that the Wealth of Nations contained ‘controverted points” and that it would require some ‘additions … which the more advanced stage of the science has rendered necessary”.



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