The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Stationary State

  • F. W. Taussig
Reference work entry


Adam Smith mentioned the ‘stationary state’, describing it as the state in which a country had ‘that full complement of riches which the nature of its laws and institutions permits it to acquire’ (Wealth of Nations, book i, ch. viii; in bk. i, ch. ix the ‘full complement’ is said to be determined by ‘the nature of its soil and climate’). China is several times referred to as being in the stationary state; Holland is really stationary; Bengal is even ‘decaying’. In the stationary state, as described by Adam Smith, wages are low; it is only in countries which progress rapidly that wages are high. Profits also are low. Adam Smith said nothing as to rent in the stationary state, but it was an easy step for his followers to proceed to say that rent was high. James Mill simply followed the hints in the Wealth of Nations, when in Commerce Defended (1808) he remarked that in a stationary country wages are at ‘the lowest rate which is consistent with common humanity’ (ch. vi, p. 87).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Chalmers, T. 1832. On political economy. Glasgow: William Collins.Google Scholar
  2. Marshall, A. 1890. Principles of political economy. London: Macmillan. 2nd ed, 1891; 3rd ed, 1895; 5th ed, 1907.Google Scholar
  3. Mill, J. 1808. Commerce defended. London: C. and R. Baldwin.Google Scholar
  4. Mill, J.S. 1848. Principles of political economy. London: J.W. Parker.Google Scholar
  5. Ricardo, D. 1846. Works. London: J. Murray.Google Scholar
  6. Smith, A. 1776. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London: W. Strahan & T. Cadell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. W. Taussig
    • 1
  1. 1.