David Ricardo’s criticisms of Adam Smith on value and wealth have been rather ignored in the recent revival of Ricardian economics. This essay intends to fill the gap by revisiting Smith’s link between value and wealth in the light of Ricardo’s criticisms. This is done in two steps. The first step is provided in section 1. This deals with Ricardo’s criticisms both of Say’s and Lauderdale’s criticisms of Smith and of Smith’s and Malthus’s arguments on the related issues of rent and the “annual produce of the land and labour of a country.” The second step is provided in section 2. The aim of this section is to dissolve Smith’s terminological inaccuracies or contradictions on the issue of value and wealth. This is done by highlighting the distinctions between the two points of view (of an individual and of society) and between the two aspects of labor (as work done and work to be done) that underlie Smith’s own system of thought. The article closes with a reappraisal of the principle of value as command of labor as work to be done in the economy as a whole and of Smith’s vision of a permanent increase in the natural price of labor (in Smith’s rather than in Ricardo’s sense) resulting from a continuous process of accumulation.
Ferdinando Meacci; On Adam Smith’s Ambiguities on Value and Wealth. History of Political Economy 1 November 2012; 44 (4): 663–689. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-1811379
Download citation file: