The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Paley, William (1743–1805)

  • A. M. C. Waterman
Reference work entry


The whole of Paley’s contribution to economics is contained in a single chapter of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785). The object of ‘rational politics’ is to maximize ‘happiness’, and Paley argued that this is achieved by maximizing population. Population is determined by the total supply of ‘provisions’ produced by the agricultural sector. The demand (and hence supply) for ‘provisions’ and for ‘luxuries’ are reciprocally determined. As in Mandeville, the taste for ‘ luxuries’ stimulates production. But it also acts in the opposite direction because it deters population. Paley explicitly recognised the optimization problem and was the first economist to do so.


Cambridge Fluxions Keynes Mandeville Paley Population 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. C. Waterman
    • 1
  1. 1.