Talk:Classical economics

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why such work is called 'classical'[edit]

Your article on classical economics says that this refers to the work of Adam Smith et al. But it does not say why such work is called 'classical'. Does anyone know why?

DR C Houghton Budd (

Well it's called classical because it is the first major innovation in economics that the dominate traditions of economics have traditionally thought was important. Also it is given this name (note this is conjecture unlike the first part which I've read to a greater or lesser extent) because, unlike other schools like the physiocrats, weren't named by their contemporaries.Walras101 (talk)

There is this statement in the article:"Physiocrat Francois Quesnay and Adam Smith, for example, identified the wealth of a nation with the yearly national income, instead of the king's treasury." This formulation can be easily understood in way that Adam Smith was a physiocrat (try changing the beginning of the statement to physiocratS if you don't see what I mean...) I think the sentence should be reformulated, does someone agree with me on that matter?

--Jarda-wien 18:28, 17 May 2007 (UTC)

I totally agree if no one else does it I'll do it eventually. Walras101 (talk) 23:10, 12 February 2012 (UTC)

Theobald, Rostow, and Galbraith[edit]

I cannot figure out what Theobald, Rostow, and Galbraith are talking about from reading Marshall McLuhan. I think they are talking about early neoclassicals, as in Keynes' definition of "Classical economics". Keynes' definition is mentioned in the article. But the primary focus of the article is a more widespread definition in which both Smith and Ricardo would be seen as "Classical". Thus, I am deleting the claim. -- ~~

With reference to the first question this page, the title of this article should be probably be 'Classical Political Economy'. The term 'Economics' was not in use until around the 1870s, and refers to the school that arose out of the marginalist revolution.

With respect to the point about Keynes, he used the term 'Classical economics' to cover _both_ Classical Political Economy and the more recent Neoclassical Economics. He thus set this up a sort of 'straw man' which he attacked. This was something he was later criticised for, not least by some of those he termed 'Classical Economists' such as Professor Pigou. Jomichell (talk) 12:41, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

History and Centeral Concepts missing[edit]

Where is History and Centeral Concepts? (talk) 13:35, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

current state of the article[edit]

Twice the material in this article has been reverted, first with the unexplained complaint that it is "confused", then with the claim that it is "unsourced". It certainly cites more sources than the material you revert to, but if there is anything in the current article you would like to see sourced, please ask, and sources will be gladly provided. I'll also try to provide more sources as we go along. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:52, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

The intro is supposed to summarize the article, and I agree that more sources could be added. It is undue weight to claim in the introduction that Adam Smith favored progressive income taxes. Furthermore, the referenced quote is not clearly about income taxes and is only one of Smith's four maxims. (I don't think of Classical economics as a set of policy conclusions.) J. S. Mill was not American. Smith was not the first serious writer on economics. Nobody emphasized Smith's metaphor of the invisible hand for about a century after he wrote. We've already established that Ricardo did not propose the iron law of wages, and the statement about the law stating something was immoral is silly. You won't find that in Ricardo. Neoclassical economics was not a slight change. Milton Friedman is not a follower of anything today and never was an advocate of classical economics. These confused claims in the article are not sourced. No justification has been given for deleting the bit about the national income being divided up among three large classes. I could on, but I'm reverting. -- RLV (talk) 22:09, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

That's your third revert, but I do appreciate the changes you suggest above. I'm restoring the other version, because the version you keep reverting to is unreferenced, but after I restore it, I will change it along the lines you suggest. Rick Norwood (talk) 22:05, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

I've checked a number of sources, and all credit Ricardo with the Iron Law of Wages. That seems to be the view expressed by a preponderance of sources. Rick Norwood (talk) 22:32, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Classical economics was not some free-floating uniform set of ideas "that grew out of the ideas of Adam Smith". "The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, edited by Piero Sraffa, Cambridge University Press, 1951" is not a single reference - for one thing, it is 11 volumes, as I told you before. Plenty of recent scholars state that Ricardo had a more flexible view of wages. The claim about Adam Smith and free trade is confused - Smith had plenty of room for government intervention. Malthus allowed for preventive checks, as I pointed out to you before. Classical economics was not universally accepted in the 19th century - see, for example, the German historical school. When scholars refer to the "magnificent dynamics" of the classical economists, they are talking about classical theories, and thus, only indirectly about societies of the day. Etc., etc., etc. -- RLV (talk) 08:14, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

You've violated the rule against more than three reverts, but I would rather work with you than against you, now that you've decided to actually edit the article, instead of just reverting to an unreferenced version. Rick Norwood (talk) 15:03, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Have you read Adam Smith's Wealth, Malthus' Essay, Ricardo's Principles, or J. S. Mill's Principles? Have you read the article? -- RLV (talk) 06:42, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

I have not read the primary sources. Maybe someday. I did read the article, found it very bad (it was flagged as unreferenced) and am trying to improve it. I assume you have read the primary sources, where I have only read secondary sources, and so your improvements of the article are more valuable than mine, and I am glad to see them. Rick Norwood (talk) 21:44, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

This is bad english[edit]

"Those who reconstruct the theory of value in this manner see the determinants of natural prices as being explained by the Classical economists from within the theory of economics, albeit at a lower level of abstraction. For example, the theory of wages was closely connected to the theory of population."

I can kinda of see what this person is saying, but it is badly worded, would be unclear to those unaware of classical connection to Malthusian theory, and is, anyway, totally unsourced. The sentence should be removed but has to be replaced because the paragraph makes no sense without it. Maybe knock out the whole section?

2/3 factor difference[edit]

One of the major differences between classical economics and neoclassical economics is surely the change from the 3 factor land+labour+capital model of Smith and Ricardo to the 2 factor labour+capital model which took its place in the late 19th century after J B Clark's work. We should at least mention that in the article. -- Derek Ross | Talk 06:58, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

Inthedryer's edit[edit]

I'm somewhat at a loss to know what to do about the recent edits by Inthedryer. His intention is obviously serious. But the writing is bad, e.g. "free markets...when free" There are typos, e.g. "regualte". And there are inappropriate references, e.g. YouTube. The easiest thing to do would be to revert it. Instead of doing that, I am asking here what others think. Rick Norwood (talk) 13:10, 1 May 2015 (UTC)

Hearing no response, I'm going to do what I can to fix Inthedryer's edit. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:54, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

The first point is that the rewritten lead has the structure of an essay, not the structure of an encyclopedia article. It begins "Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations in 1776 is usually considered to mark the beginning of classical economics." and ends "Only time will tell ... ." The lead of an encyclopedia article begins with a definition. The phrase "only time will tell" is inherently un-encyclopedic. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:01, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

I agree with the points you have made. Incorporate the good points of @Inthedryer:'s edits, but in more encyclopaedic style.Jonpatterns (talk) 13:48, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

There was a great deal in the lead that was referenced by citing a film "Four Horsemen". A film is not generally the best reference for economic ideas. Many different economists appear in this film; references should be to the written work of those economists. At this point, I'll pause for comments before going on. Rick Norwood (talk) 16:02, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

In the lede "... and was widely accepted as superior to older economic theories based on protectionism." Does it need to state who it was widely accepted by?Jonpatterns (talk) 16:27, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

Good point. Will fix. Rick Norwood (talk) 17:41, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

I've done all I plan to do at this time with the lead. Rick Norwood (talk) 17:31, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

Clarification on Inthedryer's Edits: Reflection and Thanks, Thoughts and Perspectives[edit]

I very much appreciate all the feedback. Very good points all around. I'm most of all glad to see the introduction being honed further.

To clarify the picture, I did my best to smooth over the obscure and very haphazard Marx centred approach found in the previous version while still retaining its cited parts, albeit with a less "jargony" tone. I thought its use of Keynes as the sole reference strange, but in the name of neutrality I retained all the material and some phrasing. I do see how my focus creating cohesion can easily blend into a sort of essay, and am very happy to see it being hammered into a stable, more encyclopedia-like whole. Even if in the long run, little of my original remains, I'm OK with that, as long as cohesion, an increasing variety of references, accessibility, relevance, and a NPOV (or attempt thereof) still lies at its heart.

And yes, I see now that "time will tell," despite its effectiveness as an interest drawing tool and superficial neutrality, stepped a bit too far into opinion territory via contextual implication. But hey, that's we're all here for - to work together for the common good of spreading knowledge, whether by writing major edits when they're needed, or by polishing the rough edges that inevitably show up in them.

Thank-you all for your hard work!

Hopefully this page will settle down to an informative yet accessible, neutral yet cohesive, whole. I've seen articles come together beautifully in the Sciences and History, and don't doubt that the same will occur in Economic realm as well.

Best Regards, Inthedryer

(Inthedryer (talk) 06:43, 10 May 2015 (UTC))


I would love to look at the individual Horsemen writings when I get the chance, and I hope my fellow Wikipedians will (continue to) help with this and research for this article in general. Still, I would argue that since its central focus is on Classical Economics, and it does include what a good variety of economists who adhere to the classical school have to say, Four Horsemen serves rather well as solid secondary source to frame an introduction around. Of course, in due time, specific opinions ought to be found, but even then I argue that these would better be used to frame out the body, due to their specificity and probable technicality (and thus reduced accessability).

A compilitaion has the advantage of having a great variety, and the structure of a reasonably accessable overview all in one place - in other words, the pillars of a good introduction. Certainly we should dress those pillars in such a way as to display balance and good taste, but I don't see any good reason to knock down the structure. Just my perspective.

(Inthedryer (talk) 07:05, 10 May 2015 (UTC))


Here's an interesting source I found:

As much as I'd prefer not to, for the time being, I best focus on my other duties. Please do take the torch and run with it!

In general that is. That'd be a rather hyperbolic statement for a single source, even a Mises one. (Inthedryer (talk) 07:22, 10 May 2015 (UTC))

A print version of Four Horsemen is available on amazon. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:30, 10 May 2015 (UTC)

POV: Conflation of the ideology of anarchist-leaning libertarianism with classical economics, and of government role with mercantilism[edit]

Already in the introduction, such as "Most classical economists reject these ideas. They assert that state intervention makes recessions worse.[4]'", where the "reference" is merely a link to a libertarian think-tank website. Libertarians aren't strictly "classical economists"; libertarianism is not an economic school but an ideology dealing with the intertwining between economics and politics, delving into morals and mixing with its close cousin, objectivism/ayn-randism. But it's still wide enough that there are liberal/progressive libertarians and conservative libertarians. They are more often advocates of the heterodox Austrian school of economics, but not rarely also accepting the mainstream school of Chicago. It's perhaps more appropriate to say that classical economics opposed specifically mercantilism, rather than government role in general (which can be in other directions than mercantilism), as the article introduction itself implies while contrasting it with "libertarian economics" (which kind of conflates libertarianism with a single economic school). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:34, 23 August 2016 (UTC)