Malthus’s main economic argument against free corn trade in his Essay on Population concerned the issue of structural change triggered by international trade. Malthus claimed that, in the long run, agricultural countries will develop their domestic industrial sectors and cut both their corn exports and their imports of foreign industrial goods. We critically assess Malthus’s views and compare them with Torrens 1815 and Ricardo 1822. We argue that the weak point of Malthus’s reasoning lies in his inability to perceive that an international trade-induced structural change process is at work both in agricultural and manufacturing countries. Moreover, we show that, notwithstanding the broad similarity of their conclusions, Torrens and Ricardo followed two analytically different paths.

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