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Thomas Hodgskin and economic progress; a radical reconstruction of his endogenous growth theory

Day, Frederick George (2009) Thomas Hodgskin and economic progress; a radical reconstruction of his endogenous growth theory. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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By means of a close reading of early 19th century economic works, and by reconstructing aspects of Thomas Hodgskin‘s political economy, this thesis presents an exposition of those parts of his work that contributed to his position on growth. Rather than concentrating on his ideas on capital, we have centred on his concept of political economy as a science concerned with labour as the sole creator of wealth. We present his political economy as having labour as its focal point within a hypothetical pure market economy. From here he sought a foundation to economic growth derived from human action rather than capital or other material circumstances. Hodgskin saw human knowledge and the use of technology as the starting point that would, from his perspective, lead inevitably to those economic conditions that produce improvements in economic welfare and by doing so allow for an increase in population. In order to demonstrate his ideas on growth, we reconstruct his concepts of what was natural and artificial to equate to the modern notions of endogenous and exogenous. Improvements to knowledge and technology that stemmed from the very temper of humanity and its tendency to multiply, were the endogenous fount of growth. In this way as Hodgskin stressed ―necessity was the mother of invention‖. We also illustrate how, from Hodgskin‘s perspective, exogenous issues were the non-economic influences such as governments, legal (rather than natural) laws and tithes that tended to act counter-productively to human progress. Our reconstruction also resolves some of the dissonance that has long been associated with Hodgskin‘s economics, by addressing some of the apparent contradictions that otherwise persist.

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