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  • Steven Kates (a1)

John Stuart Mill’s Fourth Fundamental Proposition Respecting Capital, first stated in 1848, had become an enigma well before the nineteenth century had come to an end. Never challenged in Mill’s own lifetime and described in 1876 as “the best test of a sound economist,” it has become a statement that not only fails to find others in agreement, but fails even to find an internally consistent interpretation that would make clear why Mill found it of such fundamental importance. Yet the fourth proposition should be easily understood as a continuation of the general glut debate. Economists led by Malthus had argued that demand deficiency was the cause of recession and a body of unproductive consumers was needed to raise the level of demand if everyone who wished to work was to find employment. Mill’s answer was that to buy goods and services would not increase employment, or, in Mill’s own words, “demand for commodities is not demand for labour.”

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Gary Becker , and William J. Baumol . 1952. “The Classical Economic Theory: the Outcome of the Discussion.” Economica 19: 355376.

Friedrich A Hayek . [1966] 1995. “Personal Recollections of Keynes and the ‘Keynesian Revolution.’” In Bruce Caldwell , ed., Contra Keynes and Cambridge: Essays, Correspondence. Vol. 9, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

Samuel Hollander . 2000. John Stuart Mill on Economic Theory and Method. Collected Essays III. New York: Routledge. E-book.

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Leslie Stephen . 1876. History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. Two volumes. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Fred Manville Taylor . 1909. “Methods of Teaching Elementary Economics at the University of Michigan.” Journal of Political Economy 17: 688701.

James H Thompson . 1975. “Mill’s Fourth Fundamental Proposition: A Paradox Revisited.” History of Political Economy 7 (2): 174192.

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Journal of the History of Economic Thought
  • ISSN: 1053-8372
  • EISSN: 1469-9656
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-history-of-economic-thought
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