Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 3 No. 3 (Summer 1989)


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Thomas Robert Malthus and David Ricardo

Article Citation

Dorfman, Robert. 1989. "Thomas Robert Malthus and David Ricardo." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 3(3): 153-164.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.3.3.153


This article will describe the enduring relationship between Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo initiated by a letter Malthus sent to Ricardo in June 1811. It was, very likely, the most remarkable and most fruitful collaboration in the history of economics. It appears that their long and intimate collaboration, and their friendship as well, thrived on their continual disputations. They were two men obsessed by a common enthusiasm, tirelessly pursuing a common goal: to understand the economy. But they did not share a common vision of the good society and thus were condemned to wrestle interminably, though remarkably fruitfully, over the roles of the social classes. Their struggles to convey to each other their views of the forces that drove their economy are an inspiring case study in both the difficulty and the possibility of human communication.

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Dorfman, Robert (Harvard U)

JEL Classifications

032: History of Economic Thought--Individuals


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