John Ramsay McCulloch, 1789-1864

Portrait of J.R. McCulloch

A prolific Scottish journalist, John Ramsay McCulloch was one of the most ardent and doctrinaire expositors of  the Classical Ricardian School.   McCulloch began his career as the editor of The Scotsman, eventually moving on to the whiggish Edinburgh Review, where he served as economics editor until the late 1830s. McCulloch used his position at the Review to popularize the Classical theories and promote his favorite economic policies, such as the repeal of the Corn Laws, the retention of the Poor Laws and the legalization of trade unions.  McCulloch also lectured on political economy at University College London from 1828 to 1832.  In 1838, he was appointed the Comptroller of HM Stationary Office.

McCulloch's main work, Principles (1825), was perhaps the first successful "serious" textbook in economics (and a rather loyal reading of Ricardo's theory).  However, McCulloch is often considered a "lightweight" in terms of the development of economic theory.  His main contribution was the ill-fated "wages fund" doctrine (1824, 1825, 1826).   

McCulloch was also the editor of the 1828 edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and the 1846 edition of David Ricardo's Works. He also composed some of the earliest accounts of the history of economic thought (naturally, flattering to the Ricardians).  His monumental 1837 treatise provides a statistical account of the failure of the Malthusian population doctrine. 

Major Works of John Ramsay McCulloch

Resources on John Ramsay McCulloch


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