Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

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Review of On Classical Economics by Thomas Sowell

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07/30/2014David Gordon

Volume 9, No. 4 (Winter 2006)


Thomas Sowell is probably best known for his studies of ethnic relations and economics and for his policy oriented works, aimed at a wide popular audience, e.g., Conquests and Cultures: An International History (1998) and Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy (2004). His  Knowledge and Decisions (1980), which earned the praise of F.A. Hayek, showed him to be a gifted theorist as well; and, in On Classical Economics , this versatile author makes a valuable contribution to the history of economics.

Sowell begins with a definition of classical economics:

Since the authoritative tradition that built upon The Wealth of Nations underwent a major change with the marginalist revolution of the 1870s, the end points of classical economics can be reasonably well established, about a hundred years apart. Within that span, there were three men who were clearly classical in every sense: Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill.

            Others, such as James Mill and J.R. McCulloch, were “fully part of the same tradition, though not of equal stature”; yet others, such as Say and Malthus, “contributed key concepts to classical economics without sharing all its methods and conclusions.” A further group, which includes Marx and Torrens, made less important contributions but still falls within the “larger penumbra” of classical economics.


Contact David Gordon

David Gordon is Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute, and editor of The Mises Review.

Cite This Article

Gordon, David. Review of On Classical Economics, by Thomas Sowell. The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 9, No. 4 (Winter 2006): 69–73.


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