Answers to questions in Economic Thought - Malthus, Bentham, Mill, Ricardo, Smith, Marx (1950 words)

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Question

Please answer the three following questions. Try to keep your answers to 5-7 double-spaced pages.

1. Present Malthus’ theory of population and explain how it influences Ricardo’s theory of rent.

2. Compare and contrast the positions of Jeremy Bentham and J.S. Mill on the role of government in the economy.

3. “David Ricardo develops Adam Smith’s theory of value. However, it is Marx who alters the labor theory of value drastically to explain the origin of profits in an original way”. Explain the statement above.

Your answers should rely and make explicit references to the course readings. You can use all three books. Make sure to cite properly: whenever you use an idea taken directly from the book, you should note it in your answer by including the reference (e.g. Roll, p. xx) either in a parenthesis or in a footnote. When citing a passage from an original source, please make sure to cite the section where the relevant passage appears:

Wrong way: "Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good" (Aristotle, Politics)

Correct ways: "Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good" (Aristotle, Politics, Book I, Part I) . You can also use (Medema and Samuels, p. 6).

This allows me to find what passage you are referring to, which is especially helpful if you are using the actual books rather than the Medema and Samuels reader. Wikipedia is not an acceptable source.

While you are encouraged to use quotes, don't turn your paper into a collage of quotes. I want you to find the relevant passages that reveal each author's positions, but I am more interested in your understanding and interpreting the passage.

Please also include a bibliography at the end of your answers (not one bibliography per answer).

Solution Preview

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1. Present Malthus’ theory of population and explain how it influences Ricardo’s theory of rent.
Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population begins with a relatively lengthy preamble regarding the perfectibility of man, but, when he comes to his central point regarding the “unconquerable difficulties” (Medema & Samuels, p. 197) in the way of such a potentiality, he is swift and clear. He starts by presenting his two assumptions; first, the availability and consumption of food is a necessary condition for man’s existence; second, that our reproductive urges and inclinations will remain approximately unvarying. (In laying out these two premises, Malthus implicitly and automatically establishes a—the—common and inexorable x-axis factor, time.)
Then, given these two assumptions, Malthus postulates an idea now so foundational that it is hard to imagine it ever being a ‘mere’ proposal: “Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” (p. 198) Essentially, our reproductive powers far and away outstrip our home’s ability to sustain us and our children. But, it is (seemingly) a ‘law’ that limited subsistence must and will force the limiting of population. The natural response to such a diagnosis is usually, how long? Malthus’ answer: given that population grows geometrically while food supplies grow arithmetically, not long, and the suffering will be immense – population will be limited by the “difficulty of subsistence....

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