In the past couple of weeks, the Sandwichman has uncovered not one but TWO previously unheralded milestones in the history of "best-known fallacy in economics". The first is a erudite defense by an accomplished first-generation political economist, Rev. Thomas Chalmers (1820), of the proposition that "there is a certain quantity of work to be done; and this quantity, generally speaking, does not admit of being much extended, merely on the temptation of labour being offered at a cheaper rate..." The second is a spirited plea by Dorning Rasbotham, Esq.(1780) for the use and encouragement of machines that attributes to "some persons staggered by this argument" the false view that there is only "a certain quantity of labour to be performed."
Ecological Headstand has commenced a series on "The Moral Philosophers' Stone: A Compleat History of 'A Certain Quantity of Labour to be Performed.'" The antiquity of Rasbotham's fallacy claim and the cogency of the Chalmers proposition suggest the persistence of the former as a pre-analytical, essentially pre-industrial fossil, petrified by ad hoc explanations.