David Hume (1711-1776) and James Steuart

Aldershot, Hants, England ; Brookfield, Vt., Usa : E. Elgar Publishing Company (1991)
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Abstract

David Hume is best known for his work on political philosophy. However, he wrote a series of essays on money, population and international trade which must rank among the major economic writings of the 18th century. Certainly they influenced Adam Smith and have a sparkling quality that still makes them worth reading today. His statement of the so-called 'specie-flow mechanism' constituted his answer to the mercantilist concern with the maintenance of a chronic surplus in the balance of payments. He also put forward what is now known as the 'theory of creeping inflation' and advocated the notion that political freedom flows from economic freedom. James Steuart was a British mercantilist, the last in a long line stretching back to the 16th century. He advocated the entire armoury of mercantilist policies: the regulation of foreign trade to induce an inflow of gold, the promotion of industry by inducing cheap raw material imports, protective duties on imported manufactured goods, encouragement of exports, particularly finished goods because they are labour-intensive, control of the size of population by emigration and immigration to keep wages low, all capped by a denial of Hume's argument that an inflow of gold will only raise prices and thus drive gold abroad.

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