Elements of Political Economy by James Mill (1844)


Written: 3rd Edition, 1844
Source: Rod Hay's Archive for the History of Economic Thought, McMaster University, Canada
html Markup: Andy Blunden

There are few things of which I have occasion to advertize the reader, before he enters upon the perusal of the following work.

My object has been to compose a school-book of Political Economy, to detach the essential principles of the science from all extraneous topics, to state the propositions clearly and in their logical order, and to subjoin its demonstration to each. I am, myself, persuaded, that nothing more is necessary for understanding every part of the book, than to read it with attention; such attention as persons of either sex, of ordinary understanding, are capable of bestowing.

They who are commencing the study ought to proceed slowly, and to familiarize themselves with the new combinations of ideas, as they are successively presented to them. If they proceed to a subsequent proposition before they are sufficiently imbued with the first, they will of course experience a difficulty, only because they have not present to their memory the truth which is calculated to remove it. If they who begin the study of mathematics were to content themselves with merely reading and assenting to the demonstrations, they would soon arrive at doctrines, which they would be unable to comprehend, solely because they had not, by frequent repetition, established in their minds those previous propositions, on which the evidence of the subsequent ones depends.

In a work of this description I have thought it adviseable not to quote any authorities, because I am anxious that the learner should fix his mind upon the doctrine and its evidence, without any extraneous consideration. I cannot fear an imputation of plagiarism, because I profess to have made no discovery; and those men who have contributed to the progress of the science need no testimony of mine to establish their fame.

In this third edition, the only alterations, not merely verbal, will be found, in the section on Profits, where the different modes of expressing the relation of profits to wages is more fully expounded; in the section which treats of "what determines the quantity in which commodities exchange for one another," where I have added something in illustration of the analysis of what regulates value; in the section, which explains the "occasions on which it is the interest of nations to exchange commodities with one another," where I have corrected an error of the former editions; and in the section, which treats of a tax per acre on the land, where I have thought it necessary to explain a case to which I had not before adverted.

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