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Bentham and Ricardo's rendez-vous manqués

Abstract : This paper discusses the possibility, often alleged and widely accepted, that Bentham had an influence on the development of Ricardo's economics. Three possible points of contact have been mooted, the first mediated by the key figure of James Mill, the other two being unmediated reactions to their respective works, Bentham's Sur les prix and Ricardo's Essay on Profits. Yet, we argue, none of these claims for influence have firm foundations. Regarding the first proposed rendez vous, we show that (i) if Mill had an influence on Ricardo at the beginning of their friendship (say, around 1808), he was at this time Stewartian and not yet Benthamian; and (ii) if this influence is supposed to have been exerted later, it is clear from Ricardo's own comments that he was not convinced by a basic component of utilitarianism to which Mill made a major contribution-associationism. The second rendezvous manqué turns on Ricardo's reading of Bentham's manuscript Sur les prix: we show that (i) this reading could not have exerted an influence on Ricardo's monetary thought at an early stage-that is, before his first monetary writings-and (ii) that Ricardo expressed such disagreement with it that any influence from it on his views about money is inconceivable. The third rendez-vous was also manqué: commenting on Ricardo’s Essay, Bentham accused him of confusing “cost” and “value”: we examine this criticism by putting to the fore the different aims of both authors, related to their explanations of, respectively, inflation and the evolution of distribution, and their different conceptions of price.
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Christophe Depoortère, André Lapidus, Nathalie Sigot. Bentham and Ricardo's rendez-vous manqués. M. C. Marcuzzo, G. Deleplace, P. Paesani. New Perspectives on Political Economy and Its History, Palgrave, 2020. ⟨hal-02660437⟩

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