chapter  7
13 Pages

Ricardo and the national economy

Smith’s Wealth of Nations represented a dislocation of the forms of argument that had previously typified counsel on trade. The most dramatic effect of the new arguments was the appearance of a new theoretical object, the international economy, which Smith’s arguments made it possible to cognize. As we saw, however, Smith’s arguments did not lead the counsellor to think of the national economy as an object distinct from the state, primarily for two reasons. The first was the unifying analytical figure of the statesman, who was invoked as the ordering agency that made laws regarding trade for the good of the polity. The second reason was the status of the moral agent described by Smith as the site of ‘economic’ decisionmaking, such as capital allocation. Smith’s agent carried a form of subjectivity that held for all parts of life, and hence no economic subjectivity was theorized that could provide a basis for isolating economic activities from other types of activity. While Smith’s arguments remained within ‘the eighteenth-century science of politics’ (Winch 1978: 187), they also separated the analysis of strength and wealth. Smith’s crucial move was to equate wealth with labour, a category that was only relevant to state strength through the indirect channel of taxation.