By Tony Aspromourgos
Lines the formative background as much as 1767 of the concept that of monetary or social surplus as a basic determinant of more than a few fiscal phenomena, specially source of revenue distribution and commodity alternate values, for which it remained the dominant framework till the latter 1/2 the nineteenth century. specializes in the paintings of William Petty (1623-87) and the way it contributed to Adam Smith's 1776 Wealth of countries.
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Additional info for On the Origins of Classical Economics: Distribution and Value from William Petty to Adam Smith
But the analysis also makes clear that necessary consumption by producers of exports and luxury goods is provided for in exactly the same way. The character of the exchange process required to bring about any actual or desired distribution of surplus necessary consumption goods is not explained; but Petty’s quite clear view is that this distribution in part is effected by the fiscal system: the precise point of the exercise is to show that taxation and public expenditure are devices for distributing surplus consumption goods, for various public purposes.
This is so much the case that he can speak of money as ‘but the Fat of the Body-politick, whereof too much doth as often hinder its Agility, as too little makes it sick’ (Petty 1691b:113). Neither does Petty favour regulation of foreign trade and payments, though his views on this question are more ambivalent and pragmatic (Petty 1662:47–8, 54–61, 87, 92–3; 1691a:185, 192–3, 221–2; 1690:304; 1695:441, 445–8; Lansdowne 1927: vol. I, 246–8). Furthermore, to the extent that he conceives money accumulation as acquisition of a precautionary national reserve, this desirable accumulation also has a well-defined limit: ‘When we have certainly more Money than any of our Neighbour States’ (Petty 1691b: 119).
A further example of his tactlessness is his response on first being offered a peerage (at a price): ‘I had rather be a copper farthing of intrinsic value than a brass half-crown, how gaudily soever it be stamped and guilded’ (Fitzmaurice 1895:155). Five months before Petty’s death, Robert Southwell wrote to him inquiring rather innocently, ‘are you satisfyed, in Mr. ’ This was on the publication of Newton’s Principia Mathematica. Petty’s cryptic response (again finding expression in economic language) reveals that he had lost none of his characteristic humour nor, for that matter, his intellectual perspicacity: ‘As for Mr.