From International Socialism (1st series), No.17, Summer 1964, p.32.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The Origin of Scientific Economics
Economic theory is commonly believed to have sprung, like Minerva, fully armed from the head of Adam Smith; but not unnaturally the early bourgeois had a shrewd idea of what they were about. The groundwork of economics was provided on the one hand by merchants like Josiah Child, who required for practical reasons an understanding of the workings of capitalism, and also wished to influence government commercial polity with their arguments; on the other by philosophers like John Locke, for whom economics constituted merely a part of their academic studies. However, none of these early writers, with the possible exception of William Petty, made any conscious attempt to create a theory; they merely produced tracts to deal with immediate issues. Mr Letwin traces the development of bourgeois economics from a set of ad hoc business principles to the appearance of The Wealth of Nations in 1766. He discusses with scholarly detail the arguments over such issues as the coinage crisis of the 1690’s and the legal reduction of the rate of interest. Finally, he considers the value of Adam Smith’s systematisation of the earlier economic writings.
Though basically designed for the economic historian, this book provides a useful and interesting insight into the beginnings of bourgeois consciousness of the workings of the capitalist system.
Last updated on 9 April 2010