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Friday, August 23, 2013

James Mill

A perceptive study of James Mill and his pervasive influence on Ricardo and Ricardian economics is T.W. Hutchison, ‘James Mill and Ricardian Economics: A Methodological Revolution?’, in On Revolutions and Progress in Economic Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978). Also see the earlier version of that article, Hutchison, ‘James Mill and the Political Education of Ricardo’, Cambridge Journal, 7 (Nov. 1953), pp. 81–100. The superb article by William O. Thweatt, ‘James Mill and the Early Development of Comparative Advantage’, History of Political Economy, 8 (Summer 1976), pp. 207–34, shows that Mill originated the important law of comparative advantage and that Ricardo lacked interest in the law for reasons implicit in his own Ricardian system. Also see William O. Thweatt, ‘James and John Stuart Mill on Comparative Advantage: Sraffa's Account Corrected', in H. Visser and E. Schoorl (eds), Trade in Transit (Doordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987); Denis P. O'Brien, ‘Classical Reassessments’, in Thweatt (ed.), Classical Political Economy; A Survey of Recent Literature (Boston: Kluwer, 1988), pp. 188–93; and Thweatt, ‘Introduction’, ibid., pp. 8–9.
For James Mill as the first ‘Georgist’, see William J. Barber, ‘James Mill and the Theory of Economic Policy in India’, History of Political Economy, 1 (Spring 1969), pp. 85–100. Mill's cadre activity and outlook is brilliantly and lucidly portrayed in two works by Joseph Hamburger, James Mill and the Art of Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), and Intellectuals in Politics: John Stuart Mill and the Philosophic Radicals (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965). The first book shows how Mill manipulated public and government opinion behind the scenes, using systemic duplicity, to drive through the Reform Bill of 1832. The second, despite its title, deals more with James and his Millians than with John Stuart, and portrays and explains the rise and decline of the Millian radicals as a political force in Parliament in the 1830s. Intellectuals in Politics is also unique in setting forth and discussing James Mill's libertarian two-class theory of class conflict based on where a group stands in relation to the state. William Thomas's Philosophic Radicals should also be consulted on the Mills and the radicals. The standard, but very old, life is Alexander Bain, James Mill: A Biography (1882, New York: A.M. Kelley, 1967). As in so many areas of early nineteenth century social thought, Élie Halévy's Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, provides keen insights; indeed, it was this work that inaugurated the modern upward reevaluation of the contributions of James Mill.
On James Mill's central role in founding the highly influential Political Economy Club of London, see James P. Henderson, ‘The Oral Tradition in British Economics: Influential Economists in the Political Club of London’, History of Political Economy, 15 (Summer 1983), pp. 149–79.
For a recent discovery of the central role of James Mill in fostering the unfortunate real bills-banking school doctrine, see Morris Perlman, ‘Adam Smith and the Paternity of the Real Bills Doctrine’, History of Political Economy, 21 (Spring 1989), pp. 88–9.

Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought (2 volume set)

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