A review of economic theory by Edwin Cannan

By Edwin Cannan

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3 millions, earned but £8 6s. Bd. per annum, which is done at 7d. " (Econ. Wf'itings, ed. Hull, p. 108). , how much money is necessary to drive the trade of the nation," he supposes that as wages are paid weekly and rents quarterly, the whole stock of money may be taken to circulate about once in seven weeks, and that 5! millions will be enough for an annual expense of 40 millions. " 1 In face of so clear a conception of the national capital and income and of the smallness of the aggregate stock of money compared with the whole of the capital, the modern reader may feel surprised that general economic theory did not spring into existence in Petty's lifetime or soon afterwards.

Mirabeau said of it in his Philosophie Rurale, 1766 (Vol. I. pp. 52-3) : "Three great primary inventions have given stability to society beside the large number of others which have enriched and adorned it. These three are: (r) The invention of writing, which alone gives man the power of handing down without alteration his laws, his contracts, his annals and his discoveries. (z) That of money, which binds together all relations in civilised societies. " Wildly extravagant as this praise appears, the Table really did form an important stepping-stone in the progress towards the modem conception of an income of goods and services as the principal subject-matter of general economic theory.

24 ORIGINS OF ECONOMIC THEORY (CH. I of trade, the theory of interest, the foreign exchanges, the causes why wealth increases so slowly, and the influence of commerce on manners. Under "Revenue" Smith's lectures included a discussion of taxes and also, in consequence of their connection with national debts, an· explanation of stocks and stockjobbing. \Ve may perhaps hazard a guess that the "causes of the slow progress of opulence " and the " influence of commerce on manners " were the whole or part of the Edinburgh economic lectures, served up again with little alteration.

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