The Transmission of Economic Ideas
THE Classical economists were in no sense academic recluses — though Smith, McCulloch, Senior and Cairnes were all at some point in their lives holders of university chairs Through the Political Economy Club and similar institutions they mixed freely with men of affairs — politicians, civil servants and others — and took part in vigorous discussion of the major issues of the day. Ricardo and John Stuart Mill were Members of Parliament, and Senior, as a member of the Royal Commission, was one of the two principal architects of the new Poor Law. All the major members of the Classical School were active in publication, and all wrote systematic general treatises on the new science of political economy. In their authors’ lifetimes Smith’s The Wealth of Nations went through five and Mill’s Principles of Political Economy through seven editions, and a People’ s Edition of the Principles had no fewer than nine printings between 1865 and 1873. Ricardo and James Mill were less widely read — in Ricardo’ s case no doubt because his style was as daunting as was his argument — but McCulloch was a clear, lively and much read expositor of Classical ideas.
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