1st Edition

Classical Liberalism and the Industrial Working Class The Economic Thought of Thomas Hodgskin

By Alberto Mingardi Copyright 2021
    160 Pages
    by Routledge

    160 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Thomas Hodgskin (1787–1869) is today a largely unknown figure, sometimes considered to be a forerunner of Karl Marx. Yet a closer look at Hodgskin’s works reveals that he was actually a committed advocate of laissez-faire economics and enthusiastic about labor-saving machinery and the Industrial Revolution, with a genuine interest in the well-being of the working classes. This book places him in the tradition of classical liberalism, where he belongs—as a disciple of Adam Smith, but even less tolerant of government power than Smith was.

    Classical Liberalism and the Industrial Working Class: The Economic Thought of Thomas Hodgskin will be of interest to advanced students and scholars in the history of economic thought, economic history and the history of political thought.

    Chapter 1: A Life in the Storm

    1.1 The Early Life of Thomas Hodgskin

    1.2 Utilitarian (and Useful) Friendships

    1.3 A Journalistic Career

    1.4 An Essay on Naval Discipline

    Chapter 2: Thomas Hodgskin’s Peculiar Blend of "Socialism"

    2.1 Hodgskin: A Ricardian Socialist?

    2.2 Capital and Privilege

    2.3 The Issue of Machinery

    2.4 A Theorist of Human Capital?


    Chapter 3: Political Economy and Free Trade

    3.1 A Defender of Political Economy

    3.2 Labor, Knowledge and a Principle of Population

    3.3 A Long-time Opposition to the Corn Laws

    3.4 Hodgskin, Cobden, and the League

    3.5 Hodgskin’s Free Trade Manifesto


    Chapter 4: Free Trade in Banking

    4.1 Some Thoughts on the Business Cycle

    4.2 Free Banking


    Chapter 5: Between Liberalism and Anarchism

    5.1 Private Property, Good and Bad: Hodgskin as a Lockean

    5.2 Against "Scientific" Government

    5.3 Public Opinion and the Middle Classes



    6.1. Herbert Spencer and Thomas Hodgskin

    6.2. The Anti-Utilitarianism of Spencer and Hodgskin

    6.3. A Distinct Tradition of Classical Liberalism?


    Alberto Mingardi is associate professor of the history of political thought at IULM University in Milan. He is also a presidential scholar in political theory at Chapman University, director general of the Istituto Bruno Leoni, a think tank in Milan, and an adjunct fellow at the Cato Institute.

    This competent and fascinating documentary of Thomas Hodgskin by a prominent European scholar of free peoples and institutions is a substantive contribution to the history and understanding of the development of classical liberal thought.

    - Vernon L. Smith, Professor, George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics, Chapman University, 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Author of Rationality in Economics


    Mingardi’s book is a brilliant portrait of a man and a time in the history of economics, deepening, our understanding of the era of classical economics and showing us cross-currents neglected in the standard accounts. Elegantly and engagingly written, it is a classic.

    -  Deirdre N. McCloskey, UIC Distinguished Professor of Economics and of History Emerita, University of Illinois at Chicago, Author of The Bourgeois Era trilogy


    In this fascinating and beautifully-written book, Mingardi has shed new light on Thomas Hodgskin, a fascinating and highly original nineteenth century economist and social thinker, whose writings managed to influence both Marxists and Libertarians. A proponent of both free trade and workers’ rights, Hodgskin wrote intelligently about economic progress, human capital, and population. Mingardi does justice to this unduly neglected writer. A must read for anyone interested in the evolution of modern economic thought.

    - Joel Mokyr, Professor of Economics and History, Northwestern University, Author of The Enlightened Economy


    Thomas Hodgskin was a workingman’s libertarian, but a libertarian nonetheless. In this engaging and scholarly book, Alberto Mingardi rescues him from those socialists who claim him as one of their own, and restores him to his rightful place in the pantheon of great classical liberal thinkers.

    -  George Selgin, Director, Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, The Cato Institute, Author of Good Money


    In this splendid book Alberto Mingardi explains the economic and political views of Thomas Hodgskin, one of the most important classical liberals of the nineteenth century. Mingardi disposes the old myth that Hodgskin was a Ricardian socialist, when in fact his major intellectual debts were to John Locke and Adam Smith. Mingardi also explores, in considerable detail, Hodgskin’s theories of free trade, money, banking, capital, and spontaneous order. Especially interesting are Mingardi’s discussions of the relationship between Hodgskin and Herbert Spencer, and the similarities between Hodgskin’s theories and the later theories of F.A. Hayek. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the radical wing of classical liberalism.

    -  David Boaz, Executive Vice President, The Cato Institute. Author of The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom


    Today classical liberalism couldn't be more relevant, whether to a U.S. election or to ruction in international markets. Mingardi reveals that black swans are not black: market events such as a virus in China are not entirely unpredictable, and are therefore largely avoidable. Useful and incisive, this book not only traces the origins of classical liberalism, but also connects the past with thinkers relevant today, such as Friedrich Hayek. The result is to give the reader not only the "what" of classical liberalism but the "why"--why classical liberal thought is the most relevant for parsing reality today.  The pleasure here is not only Hodgskin, but also Mingardi. Alberto Mingardi is one of those rare men, an international mind who sees through nations to truths that hold across borders and over the course of history. Read anything Mingardi writes.

    - Amity Shlaes, author of Great Society: A New History


    [This] book is chockfull of ideas, like the author himself — and like his subject, Hodgskin. Would that they could talk together, in the continuation of the affair!

    - Jay Nordlinger, senior editor of National Review and a book fellow at the National Review Institute


    "Mingardi’s book at once finds a place among the most vital and interesting works on Hodgskin, demonstrating an impressive knowledge of the existing Hodgskin literature, the relevant primary materials, and the fascinating connections between the various political and economic ideas swirling around Hodgskin during his lifetime."

    -David S. D'Amato, Libertarianism.org