Friday, August 1, 2014

Addendum to SCIOD 3: Petty Foggery and Political Arithmetick

"The meaning of fooker might be 'capitalist.'" -- Anatoly Liberman
In Chariots of the Luddites, I cited Dorning Rasbotham's allegation, "There is, say they, a certain quantity of labour to be performed..." as a precursor of Say's law of markets and the locus classicus of what eventually came to be known as the lump-of-labor fallacy claim. But who are "they"?

"They" turn out to be either John Graunt, William Petty or both. The following passage appears in Graunt's Natural and Political Observations made upon the Bills of Mortality:
We have said, 'Twere better the Publick should keep the Beggars, though they earned nothing, &c. But most men will laugh to hear us suppose, That any able to work (as indeed most Beggars are, in one kind of measure, or another) should be kept without earning any thing. But we Answer, That if there be but a certain proportion of work to be done; and that the same be already done by the not-Beggars; then to employ the Beggars about it, will but transfer the want from one hand to another…
There was some dispute about the authorship of the work which appeared under Graunt's name with probably the most credible explanation being that Graunt was indeed the author of the pathbreaking statistical analysis (and thus the "Columbus" of vital statistics) but that his intimate friend Petty may have contributed literary embellishments. Since the cited passage is more in the nature of an embellishment, it is quite possible, then, that Petty wrote it.

No comments: