John Ramsay McCulloch

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John Ramsey McCulloch by Daniel Macnee

John Ramsey McCulloch (1 March 1789 – 11 November 1864) was a Scottish economist, author and editor, widely regarded as the leader of the Ricardian school of economists after the death of David Ricardo in 1823. He was appointed the first professor of political economy at University College London in 1828. He wrote extensively on economic policy, and was a pioneer in the collection, statistical analysis and publication of economic data.


  • The principle of laissez-faire may be safely trusted to in some things but in many more it is wholly inapplicable; and to appeal to it on all occasions savors more of the policy of a parrot than of a statesman or a philosopher.
    • John Ramsay McCulloch (1848; 156), cited in: Roderick Floud, et al. (2014), The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, Volume 1. p. 363
  • Smuggling is a crime, which occupies so prominent a place in the criminal legislation of all modem states, is wholly the result of vicious commercial and financial legislation
    • John Ramsay McCulloch. A Dictionary Practical, Theoretical, and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation by the Late J. R. M'Culloch, Longmans, Gren & Company, 1871 p. 1298; About the origin of smuggling

The principles of political economy, 1825


John Ramsay McCulloch (1825), The principles of political economy: with a sketch of the rise and progress of the science; Parts were published earlier in the lemma "Political Economy," in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol II, 1824, p. 216-278

  • It is to labour... and to labour only, that man owes every thing possessed of exchangeable value. Labour is the talisman that has raised him from the condition of the savage — that has changed the desert and the forest into cultivated fields... Labour tho that has covered the earth with cities and the ocean with ships — of wealth that has given us plenty, comfort, and elegance, instead of want, misery, and barbarism.
    • p. 55-56 ;
  • The division of labour is a consequence of the previous accumulation of capital... As the accumulation of capital must have preceded the division of labour, so its subsequent division can only be extended as capital is more and more accumulated. Accumulation and division act and react on each other. The quantity of raw materials which the same number of people can work up increases in a great proportion, as labour comes to be more and more subdivided; and acccording as the operations of each workman are reduced to a greater degree of identity and simplicity, he has, as already explained, a greater chance of discovering machines and processes for facilitating and abridging his labour. The quantity of industry, therefore, not only increases in every country with the increase of the stock or capital which sets it in motion; but, in consequence of this increase, the division of labour becomes extended, new and more powerful implements and machines are invented, and the same quantity of labour is thus made to produce an infinitely greater quantity of commodities
    • p. 95-96
  • Suppose that a cask of new wine, which cost £50, is put into a cellar, and that, at the end of twelve months, it is worth £55, the question is: Should the £5 of additional value, given to the wine, be considered as a compensation for the time the £50 worth of capital has been locked up, or should it be considered as the value of additional labour actually laid out in the wine?

Quotes about John Ramsay McCulloch

  • Probably no member of the English school has been so unhappy in his treatment of the subject or done the theory of interest such a disservice as McCulloch.
Wikipedia has an article about:
Classical economists
Francis Hutcheson · Bernard Mandeville · David Hume · Adam Smith · Jean-Baptiste Say · Thomas Malthus · James Mill · Francis Place · David Ricardo · Henry Thornton · John Ramsay McCulloch · James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale · Jeremy Bentham · Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi · Johann Heinrich von Thünen · John Stuart Mill · Henry Charles Carey · Nassau William Senior · Edward Gibbon Wakefield · John Rae · Frédéric Bastiat · Thomas Tooke · Robert Torrens