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READ, Samuel.

Political Economy. An Inquiry into the Natural Grounds of Right to Vendible Property or Wealth.

Edinburgh: printed for the author, 1829 Stock Code: 126586
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The author's major work

First edition of the anti-Ricardian economist's major work. Uncommon: the title is recorded as having appeared just four times at auction in the past 50 years - one in cloth similarly rebacked, another in contemporary half calf rebacked and recornered, and two in original boards.

Read (fl. 1816-29), of whom very little is known, was a great admirer of Adam Smith, and a vehement critic of David Ricardo. In Political Economy he disagrees with Ricardo's statement that labour is the sole cause of wealth, arguing instead that wealth is necessarily the result of both labour and capital. Challenging the Ricardian theories of natural wages and rent, Read also "tried to put certain moral laws against the importance that economists attributed to material wealth. He used the utilitarian calculus as the basis for human action and the determination of economic justice, which included the natural right of the poor to public support... Read was also somewhat ahead of the economists of his time in urging nationalisation of local poor rates", though Samuel Whitbread had already proposed the regularisation of poor relief rates previously (New Palgrave, p. 97).

Seligman believed that Read "merits further study. Although in the main a conservative and almost an orthodox economist, notwithstanding his objections to the Malthusian theory, Read deserves recognition in four particulars: he is an acute critic of some of the weak points in the classical theory of distribution; he is the first economist to show the connection between Ricardian economics and Ricardian socialism; he is in part the originator of the risk theory of profits, and he is above all the first English economist who, while unreservedly recognising the function of capital, emphasises the fact that the capitalist has duties as well as rights, and that economics is a science not only of what is, but also of what ought to be" (Seligman, p. 106).

Despite believing Read's work to be full of "doubtful speculations", Schumpeter concurs and names Read, alongside Torrens and Senior, as "the most important of the economists" to establish capital as a distinct factor in English economics (p. 560).

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Large octavo (225 x 140 mm). Original dark reddish-purple ribbed cloth, rebacked preserving the original spine and paper label, partly unopened. Housed in a light grey cloth flat-back box.


Some wear and scuffs to boards and extremities, a single knock to right edge of front board (evidently from some previous tie or string), contents browned and foxed (predominately to first and last few gatherings but occasionally elsewhere), a small number of leaves creased at corners, overall a very good, well-preserved copy.


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