Economic Thought and Policy
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The Discourse, first published in 1581, is believed to have been written about 1549 by Sir Thomas Smith. It is a discussion, in dialogue form, of some of the most pressing economic problems of the day. The 1540s, as a result, primarily, of debasement of the coinage, witnessed the most acute phase of the sixteenth-century inflation, while, for reasons connected possibly with the religious changes, the outcry against enclosures reached its maximum in this decade. Smith drew attention to many of the symptoms of an inflationary situation — the shrinkage of real incomes, with the resulting shift in the balance of economic advantage; the decline, as he believed, in the real value of charitable bequests; and the rise in import prices, bringing in its train balance of payments difficulties. He was conscious, too, of the accompanying social and agrarian revolutions, but confused as to what was cause and what effect in this kaleidoscope of economic transformation. In the following extract, ‘dearth’ means ‘dearness’, or ‘high prices’: the mark was worth 13s. 4d.
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