Economic Writings

A five year grant from the ESRC has enabled work to begin on a projected four volumes of Bentham's Economic Writings. The four volumes will consist of works composed by Bentham between 1787 and 1804, some of which he published but most of which he did not; while the current grant will enable the transcription of manuscript sources for all four volumes, and the completion of editorial work on the first and fourth.

Bentham did not publish either of the treatises on political economy on which he began work, and the lack of an authoritative edition of his economic writings has meant that Bentham's political economy, and his interpretation of and reaction to the thought of Adam Smith, has been neglected in comparison with that of David Ricardo or Thomas Malthus.

This edition is intended to supersede that edited by Werner Stark and published in 1952-4 under the auspices of the Royal Economic Society. It is clear that Stark did a remarkable job, but that it is time for a new authoritative edition, which draws upon the insights into Bentham's working methods and practices accumulated by the Bentham Project.

The projected first volume will contain De fence of Usury, 'Manual of Political Economy', A Protest Against Law Taxes, 'Tax with Monopoly', 'Porposal for a New Mode of Taxation', Supply without Burthen, and 'Fragment on Lotteries'.

The projected fourth volume will contain 'Paper Mischief Exposed', 'The Ture Alarm', 'Of the Balance of Trade', 'Defence of a Maximum', Institute of Political Economy', and a series of writings on Preventive Police, dating from the period 1798-1801. 

This work is funded by the ESRC.

Michael Quinn, April 2009