Wednesday, April 23, 2008

David Ricardo 1772-1823


By Richard E. Noble

David Ricardo was born wealthy. His father was in the stock market, and David ended up making a fortune as a stock broker himself. By his early forties he was financially well off and decided on a political career. He got himself elected to Parliament and remained working there until his health quit him. He then retired and ended up dying at the age of fifty one.
Ricardo and Malthus were buddies throughout their lives. They were buddies but yet they conducted this long and intense public, intellectual debate.
Malthus associated with the people of the day who were being blamed for all the poverty and squalor surrounding them. He said that it wasn't the rich and the wealthy that were causing all of the problems of society by their greed and selfishness. It was Mother Nature, along with the basic passion and stupidity of mankind in general, who kept making babies in a disproportionate number to their capacity to feed them.
Ricardo, like Malthus, championed the class of his association and dumped on everybody else. He claimed that it was the poor, hard working enterprising class that was getting beat up by everybody else. The super-wealthy land owners were ripping everybody off. They were overcharging on their rents. The farmers were then overcharging for their grain, which raised the price of bread to the poor, which caused the poor to seek higher wages, and they, (the rich land owner, the inherited wealth Class) made money no matter what happened while the hard working entrepreneur got squeezed from both the top and the bottom. The poor didn't really matter. When they didn't have money they starved, and when they got some money they just drank it away and put themselves back into a state of starvation by making more babies.
Malthus dumped on the poor. Ricardo agreed with Malthus with regards the poor, but saw the rich land owners as a serious problem. Ricardo, though he didn't realize it, was really sowing the seed for Marxism and the future class struggle. Malthus blamed, in effect, God and Mother Nature, the basic human condition and innate ignorance of the poor. Ricardo accepted the basic ignorance of the poor and blamed "other people".
Ricardo challenged the "Corn Laws", which were tariffs protecting the wealthy land owners by basically enforcing higher domestic prices for their produce. Ricardo, it seems to me, was really somewhat uncompassionate and not all that understanding. He expressed pity for the poor, but basically considered them to be fairly incorrigible. They were more or less an inevitable consequence of the Human dilemma. And of the super wealthy, land owner class, who for the most part had inherited their wealth, he had little good to say. As far as I can see, he saw them all as non-productive, unimaginative, greedy politically active, manipulators who sabotaged the system by squeezing all the hard earned money out of the enterprising class while they just sat around on their fat butts.
The world would have been better off embracing Malthus’ bigotry. His thesis at least implied in a left-handed manner production increases, coupled with population control. Ricardo started throwing stones, blaming others (rich and wealthy) and making accusations. The truth is good to know, but it doesn't always solve the problem. Malthus defended the wealthy. Ricardo defended the middle class. The poor were still waiting for their champion.