Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Machinery Question

Meacci, Ferdinando (2008): Machinery Question. Published in: International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences , Vol. 4, No. 2 (2008): pp. 536-538.


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The “machinery question” was developed by the economist David Ricardo (1772–1823) in the chapter “On Machinery” added to the third edition of his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1821). This question related, in his words, to the “influence of machinery on the interests of the different classes of society” and particularly to the “opinion entertained by the labouring class, that the employment of machinery is frequently detrimental to their interests”. Ricardo’s argument was presented as a recantation of his “previous opinion” on this question and marks the beginning of a debate that is still going on. The purpose of this entry is to simplify this debate by highlighting some weaknesses and strengths of Ricardo’s argument and in subsequent interpretations.

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