Ricardo and the international economy
Attention now turns to Ricardo’s treatment of international trade, and our task is to inquire after the object that the political economist who had mastered Ricardo’s arguments was led to cognize. We have seen in Chapter 6 that the political œconomist who mobilized Smith’s arguments regarding the allocation of capital and trade between nations could analyse the dynamics that governed the accumulation of the world’s wealth and describe the inhibiting effects of state actions. Ricardo’s arguments diverged significantly from Smith’s in relation to national wealth, in particular by focusing on distribution and largely sidelining issues relating to wealth accumulation. This analytical demotion of wealth accumulation in the national context was repeated in relation to international trade, for Ricardo’s arguments concentrated on the implications of trade for the rate of profits. In tandem, Smith’s relative silence on questions of strength and security was intensified in Ricardo’s work, resulting in a benign portrait of international relations that was most famously expressed in the notion of comparative advantage. Our account will begin by returning to the arguments of the Essay.