By Lord Robbins
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Additional info for The Theory of Economic Development in the History of Economic Thought: Being the Chichele Lectures for 1966, Revised and Extended
But, although not implausible in certain conjectural settings, it lacks much in general applicability. As might be expected, there is more depth in Petty's obiter dicta on the subject. 'z Here is a genuine assertion of an increasing average return to increasing numbers, though it is true that the reason given, •that the same Governours which are the great charge, may serve near as well, for the greater, as for the lesser number' does not carry great conviction. But elsewhere, in the Political Arithmetic, there is reference to the benefits of the division of labour.
There is a very odd argument by Sir William Temple: •The true and natural ground of trade and riches is the number of people in proportion to the compass of the ground they inhabit. This makes all things necessary to life dear, and that forces men to industry and parsimony. These customs ... become with time to be habitual. And wherever they are so that place must grow great in traffic and riches. 'I This certainly assigns a positive role to population increase. But, although not implausible in certain conjectural settings, it lacks much in general applicability.
Ii, p. 66 f. Population and Returns 39 Needless to say, they all expatiated on the advantages of the division of labour, usually with explanations more comprehensive and analytically persuasive than Smith's. But it was not linked up with the theory of exchange as in The Wealth of Nations - still less was there any conspicuous emphasis on the connection between the degree of the division and the extent of the market and the numbers of the people. The proposition of Senior's which I have already quoted, relating to diminishing returns in agriculture and increasing returns in manufacture, is developed independently of the discussion of division of labour; and in any case, it depends on a false dichotomy - there can be division of labour in agricultural operations as in manufacture; and it is not the nature of the operations but rather the fixity of the supply of natural resources which gives rise to diminishing returns in the sense relevant to this part of the theory.
The Theory of Economic Development in the History of Economic Thought: Being the Chichele Lectures for 1966, Revised and Extended by Lord Robbins