Edmund Burke allowed his fear of the French Revolution to cloud his judgment of a fitting response to the needs of agricultural workers. He was blind to the dangers of monopoly and concentration of economic power, to the possible ways of intervening that conform to the character of a market economy.

“The mistakes which have been made in putting economic policies into effect have their roots, as always, in theoretical errors.” – Wilhelm Roepke

Edmund Burke is well known for his critical writings on the French Revolution and his advocacy of historical precedent, custom, and prescription. He is also famous for his reluctance to base public policy on his or anyone else’s private stock of reason. Abstract theory and the metaphysical dissection of society were for him anathema. Numerous writers from the political right and left have attempted to interpret him and the applicability of his thought to current political and cultural issues. Views range from seeing Burke as a conservative, as a liberal, and as ambivalent. On the conservative side, Russell Kirk, among other things, emphasizes Burke’s view of the corporate nature of society and the collective wisdom of the nation, the “wisdom of the species,” the “wisdom above reflection.” Peter Stanlis stresses the Christian understanding of natural law as the dominant theme in his interpretation of Burke. On the leftist side, MacPherson sees Burke as justifying the exploitation of workers to preserve the ruling class.

Views also vary as to his consistency and, on that score, according to Frank Pagano, “The predominant view of Burke runs in cycles.”[1] His reliance on history and precedent and his preference for historical example and his aversion to rationalistic social theory appear to be inconsistent with some of his statements of economic policy. This is especially true in his “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity” (November 1795), a memorandum to William Pitt, with an eye to eventual publication which the executors of his estate did publish after his death. In the paper Burke rejects in vigorous terms based on classical economic theory any role for the government to assist agricultural workers. In the following this problem will be examined, and some additional, related issues about Burke’s thinking will also be looked at.

Stating the Problem

On May 6, 1795 at the Pelican Inn, magistrates in Speenhamland, Berkshire met in response to the distress of labourers resulting from poor harvests and recommended that local governments be allowed to supplement their wages when they fell below the subsistence level. Edmund Burke was sharply critical of this proposal and expressed himself on the matter in his “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity” (or TDS). The reasons he gave for rejecting their proposal may be divided into the empirical and the theoretical. Among the former arguments he claims the labourers’ diet has improved in recent decades, that a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor would make little difference, and that existence of full-time able-bodied workers and various groups of part-time day-laborers would make wage adjustments difficult, as would the conditions of various types of farming. He also goes into detail on the recent harvests and claims they have not been that bad but does admit that the quantity, especially in wheat and barley, has been somewhat reduced. Overall, we see that Burke is mainly concerned with the plight of the farmer, not so much that of the labourer which, when he does come to consider him, is doing pretty well. He believes that “even under all the hardships of the last year, the laboring people did, either out of their direct gains, or from charity,… in fact, fare better than they did in seasons of common plenty, fifty or sixty years ago.”[2] Among the theoretical arguments are his well-known statements that labor is a commodity like any other and its wage rate, or price of labor, is wholly determined by the workings of supply and demand and that the interests of the farmer and the labourer are the same.

More broadly, and more importantly, the problem is one of consistency which scholars have long wrestled with. The view taken here is that Burke’s most familiar position, the one found in the Reflections, is consistent with his other policy statements; and his lesser known position about economic policy is also consistent with respect to other economic policy statements. But they are not consistent with each other. And the last paper on economic policy “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity” is especially shrill in its arguments, unlike the moderate and balanced tone in so many of his other speeches and writings. Nor is it consistent with his contemporaries, Adam Smith and Arthur Young.

The Burkean Argument

The issue at the time was one of a supply shortage arising primarily from bad harvests and perhaps to some extent from the war against France which particularly adversely affected agricultural workers. The question was how provisions were to be increased. Redistribution from the rich to the poor is one possibility, but Burke dismissed this with the argument that such a redistribution would hardly improve the lot of the poor. There simply wasn’t enough to go around. But he also addressed three additional, though overlapping, concerns that imply a redistribution: (1) the price of labour which was set in the market; (2) government intervention in the labour market which was as futile as it was unnecessary; and (3) the necessary harmony of interests between contracting parties.

The Price of Labour

Burke’s views on the nature of labor are very definite. He writes: “Labor is a commodity like every other, and rises or falls according to the demand.” This, he says, is “in the nature of things.” He adds that “the labor… shall be sufficient to pay to the employer a profit on his capital and a compensation for his risk: in a word, that the labor shall produce an advantage equal to the payment.” Anything less than this, that is, any redistribution from the employer to the worker, amounts to a “direct tax” and “if the amount of that tax be left to the will and pleasure of another, it is an arbitrary tax.”[3, original emphasis] There shall be no diminution of employer profits.

There are also hierarchical relations in the agricultural endeavor which he describes in Aristotelian terms. First are the mute instruments such as carts, ploughs, spades, etc.; then there are the semivocal instruments such as the working stock of cattle; and lastly comes the vocal instrument, the labour of man. These are, of course, directed by the entrepreneurial farmer who is like a “thinking and presiding principle to the laborer.” Furthermore, “[a]n attempt to break this chain of subordination in any part is equally absurd.”[4] This he says is the natural and just order. He restates this later saying:

And, first, I premise that labor is, as I have already intimated, a commodity, and as such, an article of trade. If I am right in this notion, then labor must be subject to all the laws and principles of trade, and not to regulations foreign to them, and that may be totally inconsistent with those principles and those laws. When any commodity is carried to market, it is not the necessity of the vendor, but the necessity of the purchaser, that raises the price. The extreme want of the seller has rather (by the nature of things with which we shall in vain contend) the direct contrary operation… The impossibility of the subsistence of a man who carries his labor to a market is totally beside the question, in this way of viewing it. The only question is, What is it worth to the buyer?[5]

But, as a factual point, Burke claims the price of labor has actually kept up with the price of provisions anyway. While there is no direct relation of the wage rate with the prices of provisions, there is an indirect relation, in “the nature of things” as he puts it, that has provided workers with their necessities. “Wages have been twice raised in my time; and they bear a full proportion, or even a greater than formerly, to the medium of provision during the last bad cycle of twenty years. They bear a full proportion to the result of their labor.”[6]

Government Intervention

But still, what if that market price did not keep up with the price of provisions so that agricultural workers couldn’t provide for their subsistence? Shouldn’t the government intervene to help them then? Burke’s answer is a clear “no” based on the simple principle that “to provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them, and not they the people.”[7] More specifically, he says, that forcing the wage beyond the market price would result either in a diminished demand, or an increase in the price of provisions, thus hurting the workers still more.[8] Even worse, such blind interventions would actually lead to a series of additional blunders, each subsequent intervention trying to make good the unintended but bad consequences of the original intervention. All efforts to help in this situation are for one reason or another, then, fruitless. Speaking in the context of establishing granaries in England, he went so far as to claim: “The moment that government appears at market, all the principles of market will be subverted.”[9]

Clumsy interventions by government are also likely to make the already delicate existence of the farmer still worse. The farmer’s life is precarious and his profits are much smaller than is commonly thought. “The trade,” he says, “is a very poor trade; it is subject to great risks and losses.” The farmer after unremitting parsimony and taking on extra employment upon his death barely breaks even.[10] It is also the larger farmer, 1200 acres, who “cannot proceed with any degree of safety and effect with smaller capital than ten thousand pounds, and that he cannot, in the ordinary course of culture, make more upon that great capital of ten thousand pounds than twelve hundred a year.” The “weaker capitals” are sensitive to small errors which weaken them still further.[11] The upshot for this is, then, clear: Any intervention by government that would raise the costs of farming would be deleterious.

Burke believes these cycles of dearth and plenty are too complex for any policy intervention to be reasonable; so he admonishes policy makers “manfully to resist the very first idea, speculative or practical, that it is within the competence of government, taken as government, or even of the rich, as rich, to supply the poor those necessaries which it has pleased the Divine Providence for a while to with-hold from them. We, the people, ought to be made sensible that it is not in breaking the laws of commerce, which are the laws of Nature, and consequently the laws of God, that we are able to place our hope of softening the Divine displeasure to remove any calamity under which we suffer or which hangs over us.”[12] He does, however, allow for a slim theoretical possibility of intervention, but only if lawmakers have the “exactest detail of circumstances, guided by the surest general principles that are necessary to direct experiment and enquiry, in order again from those details to elicit principles, firm and luminous general principles, to direct a practical legislative proceeding.”[13]

Ultimately, Burke fears that the British government is about to fall into the error of the French government. Someday, what we presently see in France, will happen here in England. The French are guilty of a “restless desire of governing too much.” His opinion is against “an overdoing of any sort of administration,” especially as it relates to the “subsistence of the people.”[14] But if wages fall below the subsistence level, what then?

Whenever it happens that a man can claim nothing according to the rules of commerce and the principles of justice, he passes out of that department, and comes within the jurisdiction of mercy. In that province the magistrate has nothing at all to do: his interference is a violation of the property which it is his office to protect. Without all doubt, charity to the poor is a direct and obligatory duty upon all Christians, next in order after the payment of debts, full as strong, and by Nature made infinitely more delightful to us… But the manner, mode, time, choice of objects, and proportion are left to private discretion; and perhaps for that very reason it is performed with greater satisfaction, because the discharge of it has more the appearance of freedom,—recommending us besides very specially to the Divine favor, as the exercise of a virtue most suitable to a being sensible of his own infirmity.[15]

Burke speaks of those who work “from dawn to dark in the innumerable servile, degrading, unseemly, unmanly, and often most unwholesome and pestiferous occupations, to which by the social oeconomy so many wretches are inevitably doomed.” He would be willing to intervene to rescue those poor workers, “[i]f it were not generally pernicious to disturb the natural course of things, and to impede, in any degree, the great wheel of circulation which is turned by the strangely directed labour of these unhappy people.”[16]

For property to be acquired, concentrated, and made productive, there must be an intractable arrangement whereby the lower classes serve the upper classes, however difficult that may be for the former:

The means of acquisition are prior in time and in arrangement. Good order is the foundation of all good things. To be enabled to acquire, the people, without being servile, must be tractable and obedient. The magistrate must have his reverence, the laws their authority. The body of the people must not find the principles of natural subordination by art rooted out of their minds. They must respect that property of which they cannot partake. They must labour to obtain what by labour can be obtained; and when they find, as they commonly do, the success disproportioned to the endeavour, they must be taught their consolation in the final proportions of eternal justice. Of this consolation, whoever deprives them, deadens their industry, and strikes at the root of all acquisition as of all conservation.[17]

In addition to spiritual consolation, Burke admonishes them to turn to strong drink. “Ardent spirit is a great medicine…. [I]t is a medicine for the mind. Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times and in all countries called in some physical aid to their moral consolations,—wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.”[18] The circulation and acquisition of capital require abstention for the government. The poor and miserable cannot be rescued. With the triad of private charity, the consolations of religion, and strong drink government can add nothing beneficial.

Harmony of Interests

Burke advances the view that contracts are a reflection of actual harmony between the farmer and his labourers. He makes the theoretical argument that there exists a general, unspoken understanding between the two groups prior to any specific contract. It is “an implied contract,” he writes, that is “much stronger than any instrument or article of agreement between the laborer in any occupation and his employer.” He asks rhetorically whether or not “it is better to leave all dealing, in which there is no force or fraud collusion or combination” to the parties of the contract rather than to those who have little knowledge or interest in the matter. Judges exist to enforce contracts, not to protect one party against another, provided, among other things, that no force or fraud has actually been involved.[19]

He then makes it clear that that those who advocate for the intervention at hand suppose, or pretend, that the farmer and the workers have opposing interests. This he emphatically denies. The specific contracts in question involve no significant conflicts between the parties:

I deny that it is in this case, as in any other, of necessary implication that contracting parties should originally have had different interests. By accident it may be so, undoubtedly, at the outset: but then the contract is of the nature of a compromise; and compromise is founded on circumstances that suppose it the interest of the parties to be reconciled in some medium. The principle of compromise adopted, of consequence the interests cease to be different.[20]

He then emphasizes the point: “But in the case of the farmer and the laborer, their interests are always the same, and it is absolutely impossible that their free contracts can be onerous to either party.”[21]

More still, when it comes to the farmer, even avarice is all right because the market will transmute it into a public virtue. “But if the farmer is excessively avaricious?—Why, so much the better: the more he desires to increase his gains, the more interested is he in the good condition of those upon whose labor his gains must principally depend.”[22] Yes, and that contract is to do justice:

It is therefore the first and fundamental interest of the laborer, that the farmer should have a full incoming profit on the product of his labor. The proposition is self-evident; and nothing but the malignity, perverseness, and ill-governed passions of mankind, and particularly the envy they bear to each other’s prosperity, could prevent their seeing and acknowledging it, with thankfulness to the benign and wise Disposer of all things, who obliges men, whether they will or not, in pursuing their own selfish interests, to connect the general good with their own individual success.[23]

There is actually no need for government corrections of market actions because through the implied and explicit contracts a necessary harmony of interests always results.

Evaluation and Critique

We will look at each of these arguments in their turn to evaluate them against the background of his own statements made elsewhere and against some contemporary views.

The Price of Labour

While Burke is primarily concerned with the difficulties and risks that affect the property of the farmer, he might have taken a page from the work of his contemporary about the difficulties and risks facing the worker and his property. As Smith says:

The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper without injury to his neighbour, is a plain violation of this most sacred property.[24]

When Burke regards labour as a commodity like any other, he argues that the setting of the wage rate through supply and demand considerations is not only the proper way for the rate to be set but that this commercial law is a law of God. Putting it in this epideictic manner forecloses discussion since one cannot disagree with deity. But it is possible to point out that the connection between deity and the wage rate may not be that tight. There is enough room in the course of individual and collective action to allow for other concerns or for modification of the results of the market price of labour.

Indeed, the market in Smith’s view does not determine wages in such a very precise, inflexible manner but was heavily influenced with the personal judgment of the employers who had the power to implement those judgments. In Smith’s words: “The price of labour, it must be observed, cannot be ascertained very accurately any where, different prices being often paid at the same place and for the same sort of labour, not only according to the different abilities of the workmen, but according to the easiness or hardness of the masters.”[25, emphasis added]

Good wages also increase productivity, as Smith says:

The liberal reward of labour, as it encourages the propagation, so it increases the industry of the common people. The wages of labour are the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives. A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the labourer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition, and of ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious, than where they are low.[26, emphasis added]

But Smith also has a more congenial view of the worker and what he ought to have from his efforts when he writes:

Servants, labourers and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.[27, emphasis added].

That equity or justice enters in here reflects Smith’s concern that the market economy’s beneficial results are achieved only where justice is satisfied. And that opens the door to judgments by the courts and policies of parliament.

Yet perhaps more basic than any other point is his assumption that labour is a commodity like any other and subject to the rules of commerce as much as trade and manufacturing are.

This is arguably a false view of agriculture and its labor. Roepke explains that “agriculture is that part of the national economic system to which the principles of a free market economy could always be applied only with broad reservations, the peculiar conditions obtaining here having always confronted economy policy with special problems which could not be left to solve themselves.” Of those special problems agricultural labor is most significant because for various reasons it is “a particular labor problem which makes it difficult for it to compete with industry in the labor market under the same conditions.” It has always been questionable how well it fits into the capitalist system and has therefore occupied a special position requiring special economic policies.[28] But while Burke is willing to differentiate between labourers based on gender and age and claiming there can be no adequate policy to cover such differences, he was unable to see the yet larger difference between agricultural labor and that of trades and manufacturing. Indeed, for him, it was a commodity like any other.

On Government Intervention

With Burke’s dominant view emphasizing respect for history, custom, prejudice, and precedent, one might have thought there would have been a reluctance to abandon laws whose principle demonstrated those otherwise admired ancient or Mediaeval ideals of just price, fair wage, honest manufacture, and reasonable profit.[29] These principles were the basis for market interventions. Although the laws that embodied them were hardly perfect, there were periodic efforts to adjust them to new conditions. Certainly, with the commercial and technical changes that effected economy and society in the 16th century, some new institutional arrangements were needed. The same altered conditions which made the form of the older regulations obsolete also made the older form of giving, private charity, unsuitable. It had long proved to be inadequate for modern unemployment situations. As Joseph Schumpeter points out: “Everywhere the swelling numbers of destitute beggars and vagrants outgrew the possibilities of private charity and everywhere public organization of relief had to take its place. In England, earlier measures were systematized by the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601, which definitely established the compulsory poor rate on a permanent basis.”[30] The compulsory poor rate was a bounty or subsidy to supplement market established wage rates from parish taxes. There was ample precedent and historical track record to suggest that perhaps the “wisdom of the species” over the past 200 years had something to it, even if it needed to be improved to meet new conditions.

Many of the older laws regulating the wage rate, number of apprentices and other aspects of economic life including laws on engrossing, forestalling, and regrating were not enforced in Smith’s day. 31 However, abuses continued to occur under the new type of economic organization of nascent capitalism and under the influence of the doctrine of laissez faire. “That influence,” says Holdsworth, “prevented Parliament from appreciating the fact that, in addition to the merely negative policy of repealing the old regulations, a positive policy was needed which would have adapted the spirit of the old regulations to the new industrial conditions.”[32]

These problems were not confined to England. Burke, as an avid and perceptive follower of events on the Continent, could have taken a cue from what was going on in Germany, a country he was watching for other reasons relating to the French Revolution. Again, Schumpeter points this out: “In Germany, das Armenwesen [the laboring poor] naturally became a standard subject within the ‘cameralist’ [economic] literature. German governments accepted the state’s responsibility for employment and maintenance as a matter of course. The same principle was repeatedly asserted in England, for example, by the Berkshire magistrates in 1795.”[33]

In particular the work of a German administrator, Johann Georg Heinrich von Justi, may have proven instructive in so far as he was able to combine the new insights of classical economic theory with common sense arrangements for supporting a market economy. He was an active public administrator who still saw the logic in the argument that the market coordinated economic activity and that it could therefore run on its own, so to speak. But this was within limits. Justi recognized the potential for market failures and provided for such cases in his planning. He was concerned with,

particular difficulties in which private initiative fails or would have failed under the conditions of the German industry of his time. His laissez-faire was a laissez-faire plus watchfulness, his private-enterprise economy a machine that was logically automatic but exposed to breakdowns and hitches which his government was to stand ready to mend. For instance, he accepted as a matter of course that the introduction of labor-saving machinery would cause unemployment: but this was no argument against the mechanization of production because, also as a matter of course, his government would find equally good employment for the unemployed.[34]

Schumpeter concludes that Justi’s vision of economic policy was “laissez-faire with the nonsense left out.”[35]

However, in England the nonsense was left in, blinding lawmakers not only to workers’ problems but to the consequences of capitalism and industrialization. The “greater freedom allowed to masters, and to some extent to men, led inevitably to combinations of masters and men, whose aims and activities tended to prevent the regular functioning of the industrial machine, to cause breaches of the laws which regulated industry, and even to threaten the peace of the state.”[36] But the laws against combinations favored the masters over the workers. “None of the statutes passed during the eighteenth century to suppress combinations of men penalized directly a combination of masters.”[37] This bias was continued with the passage of the Acts of 1799 and 1800. Workers’ protection and legitimate pathways to redress their grievances continued to be reduced as both the courts and parliament gradually ceased to perform their traditional regulating function in these matters. They failed to respond to the workers’ appeals so that the combinations of workers not only gained strength but demanded radical and even revolutionary reforms. “The result was that disputes between masters and men were withdrawn from the arbitrament of the law, and left to be decided by the effective forces at the disposal of the contending parties.”[38] Ultimately, workers were “obliged to combine in self-defence, so that Parliament had done exactly what Adam Smith had said that it ought not to do; it had rendered these combinations necessary.”[39]

In this context, Burke himself exhibits a blindness when he argues that any one government intervention perverts all principles of the market and requires continuous subsequent corrections. He is committing what might be called the “fallacy of indivisibility.” What is wrong with this argument is the failure to recognize as Roepke points out that there can be compatible interventions. These latter are based on the same principles as the liberal economist recognizes and uses to make his assessments. The market digests price changes well, and endless interventions are not required.[40] A subsidy to farm workers’ wages, which the bounty was, does not freeze the price mechanism. And this is what modern economists often recommend instead of, say, a minimum wage. Burke does admit that when it comes to these matters there are often exceptions: “Nothing, certainly, can be laid down on the subject that will not admit of exceptions,—many permanent, some occasional.”[41] But when it comes to the actual possibility of such exceptional intervention, he does not really believe in it. After pointing out the different kinds of labor obtaining in agriculture, he says, “laws prescribing or magistrates exercising a very stiff and often inapplicable rule, or a blind and rash discretion, never can provide the just proportions between earning and salary, on the one hand, and nutriment on the other.”[42] Clearly, his operational arguments are without exception in the case at hand.

Instead, Burke’s inflexible adherence to the abstract propositions of classical economics is uncharacteristic of his usual emphasis on circumstances and particulars and variability. His famous example comes to mind that abstract principles are like a light beam which, when it passes through a medium, is bent and refracted; the various complex circumstances adjust and redirect policy applications of various principles but do not vitiate them. The circumstantial forms may vary while the principles remain the same. Burke would have done better to apply this view in his thoughts and details on scarcity as he did in other economic policy recommendations.

Regarding Harmony of Interests

Of course, the question of government intervention itself depends on whether there is a substantial harmony of interests among the various economic participants. Smith expressed his doubts as he thought about the three different social orders of his day: the first order, landlords, the second, workers, and the third, employers. There was no perfect harmony of interests: “The interest of the second order, that of those who live by wages, is as strictly connected with the interest of the society as that of the first [landlords].” But he says of employers that their interest “has not the same connection with the general interest of the society as that of the other two.”[43] And also, speaking of merchants and manufacturers in regard to international trade,

Smith writes: “Their interest is, in this respect, directly opposite to that of the great body of the people.”[44] In fact he had earlier stated his famous dictum:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.[45]

Smith likewise does not see that contracts are quite so equitable as Burke does. He writes:

What are the common wages of labour depends every where upon the contract usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower the wages of labour. It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen. We have no acts of parliament against combining to lower the price of work; but many against combining to raise it.[46, emphasis added]

The workmen, says Smith, are under the compulsion of “submitting for the sake of present subsistence” while, all things considered, “masters must generally have the advantage.”[47] To call an agreement under these circumstances, a “reconciliation” surely leaves something to be desired. To parallel Burke’s wording, the more it is theoretically correct, the more it is existentially false.

Virtue, Vice, and Market Price

One would think that in a Burkean view the harmony in the market is not automatic but is cultivated in proportion to the amount of virtue inculcated in the respective economic actors which, even then, would not be perfect. So, the interests of scheming politicians effect the quality of nominally good-sounding policy proposals so that the public interest is not necessarily well served. As he says in his letter (November, 1789) to Charles-Jean-Francois Depont, a member of the French National Assembly, before the publication of his Reflections:

Never wholly separate in your Mind the merits of any Political Question from the Men who are concerned in it. You will be told, that if a measure is good, what have you [to] do with the Character and views of those who bring it forward. But designing Men never separate their Plans from their Interests; and if You assist them in their Schemes, You will find the pretended good in the end thrown aside or perverted, and the interested object alone compassed.[48]

Though the “interests” Burke has in mind here are those of evil men, it is easily applied to other interests, though noble and good in themselves, which may also cloud or distort the goodness of any policy proposal, including Burke’s own passionate hatred of the French Revolution.

He goes on to admonish Depont:

That you ought not to be so fond of any Political Object, as not to think the means of compassing it a serious consideration… All I recommend is, that whenever the sacrifice of any subordinate point of Morality, or of honour, or even of common liberal sentiment and feeling is called for, one ought to be tolerably sure, that the object is worth it. Nothing is good, but in proportion, and with Reference.[49, emphasis added]

We can read Burke’s further admonition with a view to economic theory:

There is, by the essential fundamental Constitution of things a radical infirmity in all human contrivances, and the weakness is often so attached to the very perfection of our political Mechanism, that some defect in it, something that stops short of its principle, something that controls, that mitigates, that moderates it, becomes a necessary corrective to the Evils that the Theoretick Perfection would produce.… Prudence… will lead us rather to acquiesce in some qualified plan that does not come up to the full perfection of the abstract Idea, than to push for the more perfect, which cannot be attain’d without tearing to pieces the whole contexture of the Commonwealth, and creating an heart-ache in a thousand worthy bosoms. In that case combining the means and the end, the less perfect is the more desirable.… But allow it in any degree probable, that theoretick and practical Perfection may differ, that an object pure and absolute may not be so good as one lower’d, mixed, and qualified, then, what we abate in our demand in favour of moderation and Justice and tenderness to Individuals, would be neither more nor less than a real improvement which a wise Legislator would make if he had no collateral Motive whatsoever, and only look’d in the formation of his Scheme, to its own independent Ends and purposes. Would it then be right to make way, thro’ Temerity and Crime, to a form of things, which when obtained, evident Reason, perhaps imperious Necessity would compel us to alter, with the disgrace of inconsistency in our Conduct, and of want of foresight in our designs.[50]

Burke here illustrates his famous perspective of prudence in practical politics, arguing that a narrowly understood improvement might produce more problems than it solves. Those infirmities which prevent it from achieving actual perfection are to be preferred because such a mixed and qualified approach of the whole is better overall. Or, in the familiar aphorism, he does not want the perfect to be the enemy of the good and in this life the good is the best that can be achieved. Of course, this, too, amounts to a theory of practical politics, but by “theory” here he means an inflexible policy ideal limited to one issue or institution abstracted from the rest of society. In modern economic talk we are maximizing or minimizing targeted effects; we are striving for objectives under various constraints. Policy goals always have trade-offs. This is his “proportionate” good.

But this applies to Burke’s own use of classical economic theory in his TDS: The theoretical perfection of the market may not be desirable in the context of an actually existing society’s circumstances where prudence and compromise should qualify the application of theory. Calculating various advantages under the rule of the virtue of prudence, however, is not enough. In such prudential calculations we can take a page from Ruskin. In fact, human actions, he says, are not intended to be balanced by expediency at all, but by justice.[51] He includes affection under the concept of “justice” which basically is the Christian doctrine of “love thy neighbor.”

With that in the scales of human action, the fact that employer and employees may have opposing interests does not necessarily mean they are antagonistic to one another. The worker must not demand a wage so high as to drive the employer out of business entirely by reducing his profits. But the employer must not lower wages so low as to cause misery amongst his workers.

A willingness to practice justice, which includes the “affection” owed to one another, is one of the moral prerequisites for coming to the market and which is necessary for making the free market work.[52] In such a context prudence and compromise conduce to justice. As noted above, Burke says that avarice will lead to a harmonious outcome because of a harmony of interests, that is, it is in the interests of the farmer to see to it that his workers are well taken care of. Avarice, then, can do what Smith’s equity, or Ruskin’s justice, can do. It mimics this virtue, just as Burke said that vanity can, upon occasion, mimic the vices, and some pedestrian virtues can be imitated by the worst of the vices.[53] The market, in other words, substitutes for virtue; the base metal of private vice can be transmuted into the gold of public benefits in the manner of Bernard de Mandeville’s famous Fable of the Bees. For Adam Smith this is “wholly pernicious” because it “seems to take away altogether the distinction between vice and virtue.”[54]

For Ruskin, such virtue imitation would not be successful once workers saw it as such. As soon as this was perceived as serving the interests of avarice, it would not have the same motive power as sincerity and justice (affection). Mimicked virtue loses its strength. He explains that: “[T]he affections only become a true motive power when they ignore every other motive and condition of political economy. Treat the servant kindly, with the idea of turning his gratitude to account, and you will get, as you deserve, no gratitude, nor any value for your kindness; but treat him kindly without any other economical purpose, and all economical purposes will be answered; in this, as in all other matters, whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whoso loses it shall find it.”[55]

Nor was this view the one Edmund Burke himself usually took. For example, in the trial of Warren Hastings he said: “I shall first show that Mr. Hastings’s crimes had root in that which is the root of all evil, I mean avarice; that avarice and rapacity were the groundwork and foundation of all his other vicious system.”[56] Likewise, in his plan for economical reform he placed a “fair” profit in opposition to avarice: “An honorable and fair profit is the best security against avarice and rapacity.”[57] More generally, Burke links virtue to liberty saying that liberty cannot exist without order; that it “not only exists along with order and virtue, but which cannot exist at all without them.” And he points out that in addition to the British constitution, the source of British power is its commerce which “cannot exist, no more than your liberty, without a connection with many virtues.”[58] And elsewhere he states: “All who have ever written on government are unanimous, that among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist.”[59]

And finally, he says, “But whenever a separation is made between Liberty and Justice, neither is, in my opinion, safe.”[60] Although we must then take his statements in TDS entirely literally, they do not represent him in his highest and best view.

That view often draws on the past, on the wisdom of our ancestors. In that past, especially in Mediaeval thought, much attention was given to how prices were formed and whether they were just or not. The price of labour, however, as it reflected a common (market) estimate (Burke’s emphasis on supply and demand), was thought to serve as a “proximate practical criterion” and as a first approximation of the just price. Though this common estimate (current market price) was seen as a contract, it was not a contract from which there could be no appeal: it “ceases to be the final test of the just price when the contracting parties know or believe that the common estimation has erred… it was in no sense a final and irrefutable criterion.” Instead, O’Brien writes: “[I]t supposes some objective basis—in other words, it rather declares than constitutes the just price.”[61]

This is consistent with the view of the relation between positive law and the natural law. It is also consistent with Smith’s view of positive law and his secularized version of natural law. “In Smith’s eyes, a fundamental pre-condition of social order was a system of positive law, embodying our conception of those rules of conduct which relate to justice.” In his Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith writes: “Justice… is the main pillar that upholds the whole edifice [of social order]. If it is removed, the great, the immense fabric of human society… must in a moment crumble into atoms.”[62] Roger Backhouse summarizes Smith’s views on this: “Ideas of justice derived in this way [from Smith’s philosophy of “sympathy”] formed the basis for both law and individual behaviour. It was only within such a framework of justice that Smith claimed beneficent effects for the pursuit of self-interest. For him self-interest was a self-interest permeated with ideas of justice.”[63]

In his correspondence to Harford, Cowles and Co. (May 2, 1778), Burke expresses views very much like these as he addresses the firm’s concern about policies relating to Irish trade:

I know, that is but too natural for use to see our own certain ruin, in the possible prosperity of other people. It is hard to persuade us, that every thing which it got by another is not taken from ourselves. But it is fit, that we should get the better of these Suggestions, which come from what is not the best and soundest part of our Nature; and that we should form to ourselves a way of thinking, more rational, more just, and more religious. Trade is not a limited thing; as if the objects of mutual demand and consumption, could not stretch beyond the bounds of our Jealousies. God has given the Earth to the children of Man; and he has undoubtedly, in giving it to them, given what is abundantly sufficient for all their Exigencies; not a scanty, but a most liberal provision for them all. The Author of our Nature has written it strongly in that Nature, and has promulgated the same Law in his written Word, that Man shall eat his Bread by his Labour; and I am persuaded, that no man, and no combination of Men, for their own Ideas of their particular profit, can, without great impiety, undertake to say, that he shall not do so; that they have no sort of right, either to prevent the Labour, or to withhold the Bread.[64, original emphasis]

So, it is easy to see that according to this standard, a combination of employers formed to withhold a suitable subsistence wage for their own idea of profit would be unjust and impious, for by withholding it, they would be withholding the bread. Such a wage does not necessarily constitute a taking away from the employer, for profit is what remains after costs have been paid.

The issue quickly involves more than commutative justice, the market price of labour, and instead expands to the issue of distributive justice, that is, the entire system of allocating rewards and costs.

Earlier, in his letter to Sir Charles Bingham, Burke, in the context of another policy concerning Ireland, writes that, “It little becomes the feeble to be unjust. Justice is the shield of the weak.”[65] Here, the weak do not fall out of the department of justice and into that of mercy, but must rely on justice, that is, a system of laws that embodies justice so that their grievances can be redressed. How can this be reconciled with his earlier statement that labourers must depend on mercy to make up for deficiency of wages? If such a wage rate is just, how is justice the shield of the weak and feeble?

Enclosures and Proletarianization

One possible shield would have been a better way of handling enclosures so that workers retained a measure of economic independence. But as Russell Kirk points out Burke had little to say on the matter, referring to “his silence on the decay of British rural society.” This was politically as well as economically important, since conservatism’s most loyal adherents came from the country. “Even while Burke was defending the stolidity of cattle under the English oaks,” writes Dr. Kirk, “wholesale enclosures, the source of much of the Whig magnates’ power, were decimating the body of yeoman, cotters, rural dwellers of every humble description; as the free peasantry shrank in numbers, the political influence of landowners was certain to dwindle. ‘To what ultimate extent it may be wise, or practicable, to push inclosures of common and waste lands,’ wrote Burke, ‘may be a question of doubt, in some points of view; but no person thinks them already carried to excess.’ His misgivings went no farther.”[66]

Though the enclosure movement brought improvements in the management of land which helped increase productivity, it was implemented in such a way as to favor large land holdings at the expense of smaller proprietors. The latter’s social and economic importance was neglected. Had Burke listened to his contemporary, Adam Smith, he might have had material to provoke further misgivings. In Smith’s view, “A small proprietor, however, who knows every part of his little territory, who views it with all the affection which property, especially small property, naturally inspires, and who upon that account takes pleasure not only in cultivating but in adorning it, is generally of all improvers the most industrious, the most intelligent, and the most successful.”[67] Likewise, Burke’s friend, Arthur Young, recognized problems in the manner in which Enclosure Acts were implemented. The poor, he came to realize, were grossly injured in this process with only a nominal compensation. He had “‘stumbled on the discovery that in those parishes where the cottagers had been able to keep together a tiny patch of property, they had shown a Spartan determination to refuse the refuge of the Poor Law.’” Holdsworth adds: “It is significant that the statute of Elizabeth, which provided that a cottage must have four acres of land attached to it, fell into disuse and was repealed in 1775.”[68] Yet in 1800, to relieve the poverty caused by the Enclosure Acts, and sounding very much like Aristotle, Young recommended that 20 million pounds be spent to set up half a million families “with cottages and allotments.”[69] Unfortunately, his effort to expose the injustices of the process and suggestions for improvement were rejected.[70]

But at the time enclosures were a part of the historical trend that contributed to the establishment of capitalism. “The breaking up of the medieval world,” economic historian Joseph Schumpeter writes, “attended as it was by social upheavals, is in itself sufficient to account for the widespread suffering and destruction we observe. The agrarian revolution not only destroyed environments that might have sheltered fugitives from distressed areas but also caused the landless proletariat to increase more rapidly than did the effective demand for labor.”[71] However, some countries had better foresight in this regard: “In some continental countries, especially in Germany, protection of the peasant holding was an important safeguard against pauperization of the industrial workers.”[72]

More than the English proprietor’s “Spartan determination” was undermined. By the time the Corn Laws were repealed in 1846 and free trade restored, England was not able to perform economically as well as was expected. This was due to the erosion of the healthy socio-economic structure of the peasant class.[73] Whereas in France, Napoleon, heir of the French Revolution, illustrated the same sentiment according to Emil Ludwig: “‘What do I care for the opinion of the drawing-rooms and the babblers! I recognize only one opinion, that of the peasants!’ Certain it is that the peasants are his most faithful supporters, mainly because he rescued their lands from the dangers threatened by the revolution.”[74]

And this recognition of the important role of small landed proprietors continued throughout the 19th century, especially on the continent, as Lecky observes: “The best security of the industrial fabric is to be found in the wide division and diffusion of property, which softens the lines of class demarcation, and gives the great masses of the people a close and evident interest in the security of property, the maintenance of contracts, the credit and wellbeing of the State. In all the more civilised countries this process is steadily going on. Among the great countries of the Continent, France holds the first place in wealth, skill, industry, and thrift, and the peasant-proprietor system attracts to the land a far larger proportion of working men’s savings than in England.” He adds: “Such facts clearly prove the fallacy of the sharp distinction that is commonly drawn between the capitalist and the working population, and each generation brings them more closely together by increasing vastly the realized and fructifying property of the wage-earning classes. This is the best of all guarantees against revolutionary projects.”[75] If Burke were worried that, in the words of Polybius’ Scipio, “The day will come” when England, too, would suffer the fate of the French, he could not have done better than to undertake appropriate intervention to see that small, landed proprietorships flourished.

The Ruling Group and the Concentration of Property

However, Burke did just the opposite because he failed to distinguish between a healthy, functioning hierarchy and an exploitative elite. The healthy part of French social structure had become corrupted by its feudal elements into a degenerate ruling class. But this is not what Burke saw. In his mind the ruling class and large landed estates naturally go together and provide a wholesome social safeguard. And this has been true since ancient times. He refers to Aristotle as one “who observes that the agricultural class of all others is the least inclined to sedition.” So also in England, the “landed interest” has been that class which “has at all times been in close connection and union with the other great interests of the country, [and which] has been spontaneously allowed to lead and direct and moderate all the rest.” Whereas, the French have made war for the “destruction of the landed proprietors (i.e., the nobility) as well as the priests and kings.” In fact, the French Revolution was dangerous precisely because it was “a war against landed property.”[76]

Clearly, for Burke, “landed property” is not the small peasant proprietorships which Aristotle refers to that have a significant share in government, and a wide distribution of productive property, essential to the “best kind of democracy.”[77] Instead, his view of distributive justice entails an elite endowed with large concentrations of land and largely inherited duties and privileges. He does allow this class to assimilate those of merit and talent from other classes, but he is at pains to avoid giving too much influence to the shallow and untutored who had not the leisure, education and experience to hold those larger views of society which made a real legislator possible. Predominantly, it is those who are distinguished by property and birth who rightly rule. This combination is also necessary to pit the sycophants and admirers of power against the speculations of short-sighted philosophy. This is the “balanced” result which corresponds to the agglomeration of capital (land) as essential to liberty and sound government.

“Nothing is a due and adequate representation of a state,” says Burke, “that does not represent its ability, as well as its property. But as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish, inert, and timid, it never can be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be, out of all proportion, predominant in the representation. It must be represented too in great masses of accumulation, or it is not rightly protected. The [characteristic] essence of property, formed out of the combined principles of its acquisition and conservation, is to be unequal” (emphasis added). In fact, concentration of property acts as a “rampart” for the lesser properties which cannot serve as a defense of property per se because they are diffused. It is almost as if in Burke’s mind large agglomerations of land ownership have a hortatory effect because, being easily seen, they impress the people with respect for property. Masses of accumulation by the few, preferably those of distinguished hereditary property and hereditary birth, are also vital for sound government. Such a group is the house of peers which is, in the last event, “the sole judge of all property in all its subdivisions.” Such a “preference… is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolitic.” Of course, in France such a situation no longer obtains. Unlike England, “[t]the property of [revolutionary] France does not govern it.” Property is destroyed and “rational liberty has no existence.”[78] In the National Assembly there “was scarcely to be perceived the slightest traces of what we call the natural landed interest of the country.”[79]

Here, Burke again implicitly uses the argument from indivisibility regarding property in the same way he used it for market interventions. As C.B. MacPherson summarized, Burke believed “an attack on any established system of property was a threat to every kind of property.”[80]

Once the French Assembly attacked the property of the clergy, they could not stop. “If prescription [the long possession and usage of property] be once shaken,” says Burke, “no species of property is secure…. [T]hey have at length ventured completely to subvert all property of all descriptions throughout the extent of a great kingdom.”[81]

What Burke saw in France was that the “princes of the blood” who by “the oldest usages… held large landed estates” had now been “deprived of their possessions, and in lieu of their stable independent property, reduced to the hope of some precarious, charitable pension, at the pleasure of an assembly.”[82] Compare this with the fate of agricultural workers who, if their subsistence wages became insufficient were, according to Burke, to have no public support but were to rely solely on private charity—along with the consolations of religion and ardent spirits. Taking away the property of labor or of cottagers is not an objectionable confiscation… but taking away from a large landed estate is.

Favoring such estates is also consistent with Burke’s support of primogeniture which, he says, “without question has a tendency, and I think a most happy tendency, to preserve a character of consequence, weight, and prevalent influence over others in the whole body of the landed interest.”[83] Influence and weight over others indeed is the key not only in the landed interest but in the nation. For Adam Smith, an opponent of primogeniture and its corresponding institution of entails, it originated “when land was considered as the means, not of subsistence merely, but of power and protection,” and therefore, “it was thought better that it should descend undivided to one.” The security of the landed estate “depended upon its greatness,” he writes and in the view of its adherents, “[t]o divide it was to ruin it…” He goes on to relate this to the institution of the inherited monarchy, the power and protection of which must also descend undivided to one, the two institutions often going together.[84] And finally, primogeniture, in his view, hindered “the multiplication of small proprietors”[85] who were, as mentioned above, the best improvers of the land. Burke and Smith, then, agree that the concentration of land secures power for the few, but disagree about its goodness.

Not only is Burke at pains to preserve precisely those feudal qualities in the ruling elite which are antithetical to the socially responsible market system (concentration of land), but he relies on the same principles in trade, the most fundamental of which is promotion of monopolies. “I hear the middle men,” he writes, “are accused of monopoly. Without question, the monopoly of authority is, in every instance and in every degree, an evil; but the monopoly of capital is the contrary. It is a great benefit, and a benefit particularly to the poor.” He then offers what may be called a theory of “subsistence profits,” to wit, that a tradesman could not live off of 100 pounds of capital at 10% profit a year, but he could do very nicely at 10,000 pounds at 5%.

He says earlier that, “[t]he more largely they [middlemen] deal, the better for both the farmer and the consumer.”[86] Perhaps in his mind the middleman who acquires such a monopoly demonstrates those talents which eventually fit him for promotion into the ruling class.

But Adam Smith held a different view of the matter. While allowing for exceptions, Smith believed that in ordinary cases monopolies were inefficient, badly managed, and wasteful of their investments, especially in distant countries where colonial monopolies were a drain on the economy.[87] (Burke’s friend, Arthur Young, had a similar view.[88] ) To maintain them monopolists tried to get the legislature to impose Draconian laws for “their own absurd and oppressive monopolies.”[89] Obviously, for Smith, if monopolies were to be done away with, the fresh ruling class members of merit and accomplishment would have to be drawn from elsewhere.

Perhaps we can do no better in summarizing the problem than by referring to German economist Wilhelm Roepke: “This feudal-absolutist heritage,” he writes, “finds its most striking expression in the immense accretions of capital and economic positions of power which endow capitalism with that plutocratic trait which clings to it in our imagination and has given it a false start from the very beginning.” Feudal land holdings and monopolies are two major examples.

This heritage was also responsible for turning capitalism into wrong directions resulting in the “corresponding agglomeration of enterprises and factories” and thus, among other things, paving the way to further monopolism. The abnormal concentration of capital was one side of the coin; the other was the spread of proletarianism.[90] In Roepke’s view, Burke, among many others, suffered from an acute form of historical/social blindness.[91] And the final result of this blindness was that, in a sad irony, Burke contributed to the proletarianization in England which, if anything, helped produce the very “revolutionary” results he so feared: the egalitarianism, the secularism, the entire leveling tendency which is evidenced in the 19th and 20th centuries of Great Britain.


Edmund Burke’s place in history may in part be due to what appear to be his ambiguities and inconsistencies. While it would be wrong to overstate this, his memorandum “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity” is his most complete view of economic theory and policy. It is not ambiguous but clear and firm, and, as argued here, is inconsistent with his better insights elsewhere. He allowed his fear of the French Revolution to cloud his judgment of a fitting response to the needs of agricultural workers. The subtlety which is evidenced in his other writings is missing. In the course of his memorandum, though, he reveals views which, taken in the context of his other statements, give a fuller picture of his political/social framework. An elite possessed of large landed estates, paternalistically ruling over the lower classes, was to be preserved against the onslaught of French revolutionary ideas. In the course of this argument, classical economic theory was enlisted and interpreted with a rigidity suitable to this purpose.

Alternative contemporary possibilities that were available to him he either neglected or rejected. He was blind to the dangers of monopoly and concentration of economic power, to the possible ways of intervening that conform to the character of a market economy, to the need to preserve economic independence through the widespread possession of economically productive assets which, at the time, meant land, to the fruitful history of the English tradition whose relevant policies were amenable to reform and improvement to suit new conditions but were, instead, dismissed wholesale in the name, ostensibly, of an abstract economic theory. Bredvold and Ross comment of Burke, “In his mortal combat, he was sometimes ungenerous and he sometimes exaggerated. He saw some things badly. He thought the French Revolution an enemy of property, for it confiscated the property of aristocrats, yet in fact it gave property into the hands of those whose grip was most relentless.”[92] How much better it would have been had he worked for economic policies that assured property, as well as fair wages, for the English worker.

Perhaps in the end Fanny Burney, English authoress and bluestocking, should have the last word. “How can man,” she says of Edmund Burke, “with all his inequalities, be so little resembling to himself at different periods as this man? He is in all ways a prodigy,— in fascinating talents and incomprehensible inconsistencies.”[93]

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[1] Edmund Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society, Frank N. Pagano, ed. (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1982), p. xii (n3).

[2] Edmund Burke, MDCCCI. The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, Volume V (George N. Morang and Co.), p. 136.

[3] Ibid., pp. 136, 137.

[4] Ibid., pp. 139-140.

[5] Ibid., p. 142.

[6] Ibid., pp. 136-137.

[7] Ibid., pp. 133-134.

[8] Ibid., p. 137.

[9] Ibid., pp. 143, 154.

[10] Ibid., p. 148.

[11] Ibid., p. 149.

[12] Ibid., pp. 156-157.

[13] Ibid., p. 139.

[14] Ibid., pp. 168, 169.

[15] Ibid., pp. 145-146.

[16] Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 [1791]), p. 161.

[17] Ibid., pp. 245-6.

[18] Scarcity, op. cit., p. 164.

[19] Ibid., pp. 137, 138.

[20] Ibid., pp. 138, 139.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., p. 141.

[23] Ibid., pp. 140-141.

[24] Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), p.138.

[25] Ibid., p. 95.

[26] Ibid., p. 99.

[27] Ibid., p. 96.

[28] Wilhelm Roepke, The Social Crisis of Our Time (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1942), pp. 205, 245.

[29] William Holdsworth, A History of English Law (London: Methuen & Co. LTD, 1938), p. 478.

[30] Joseph Schumpeter, The History of Economic Analysis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954.), p. 271.

[31] Holdsworth, op. cit. pp. 466-7; Smith, op. cit. p. 157.

[32] Holdsworth, op. cit. p. 498.

[33] Schumpeter, op. cit., p. 272.

[34] Ibid., p. 172.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Holdsworth, op. cit. p. 474.

[37] Ibid., p. 488.

[38] Ibid., pp. 499-500.

[39] Ibid., p. 491.

[40] Roepke, op. cit., pp. 159-163.

[41] Burke, Scarcity, p. 166.

[42] Ibid., p. 145.

[43] Smith, op. cit., p. 266.

[44] Ibid., p. 494.

[45] Ibid., p. 145.

[46] Ibid., pp. 83-84.

[47] Ibid., p.85.

[48] Edmund Burke, The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, Volume VI, Alfred Cobban and Robert A. Smith, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 47.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., pp. 48-49.

[51] John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (Boston: Dana Estes), p. 152.

[52] Roepke, op. cit., pp. 51-53.

[53] Edmund Burke, MDCCCI. The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, Volume IV (George N. Morang and Co.), p. 26; and Volume II, p. 268.

[54] Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, Publishers, 1966 [1759]), p. 451, and pp. 452-460. (See also Dobb, Maurice. 1973. Theories of Value and Distribution Since Adam Smith. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. p. 38, and Schumpeter, op. cit., p. 184.)

[55] Ruskin, op. cit., p. 154.

[56] Edmund Burke, MDCCCI. The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, Volume IX (George N. Morang and Co.), p. 491.

[57] Edmund Burke, MDCCCI. The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, Volume II (George N. Morang and Co.), p. 335.

[58] Ibid., p. 87.

[59] Ibid., p. 242.

[60] Edmund Burke, The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, Volume VI, Alfred Cobban and Robert A. Smith, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 42.

[61] George O’Brien, An Essay on Mediaeval Economic Teaching (Kichener: Batoche Books, 2001), pp. 133, 134,136. (First published London, 1920.)

[62] Smith, Moral Sentiments, op. cit., p. 125.

[63] Roger Backhouse, A History of Modern Economic Analysis (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985) p.14.

[64] Edmund Burke, The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, Volume III, George H.

Guttridge, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 442.

[65] Edmund Burke, The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, Volume II, Lucy S.

Sutherland, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), p. 480.

[66] Russel Kirk, The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot, 7th ed. (Chicago: Regnery Books, 1978), pp. 21-22.

[67] Smith, op. cit., p. 423.

[68] Holdsworth, op. cit. pp. 456, 457.

[69] Arthur Young, Travels in France and Italy During the Years 1787, 1788 and 1789, 3rd. ed. (London: J.M. Debt & Sons, Ltd., 1790), pp. xvii-xviii.

[70] Holdsworth, op. cit., p. 457.

[71] Schumpeter, op. cit., p. 270.

[72] Ibid., p. 272.

[73] Wilhelm Roepke, Against the Tide. (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1969), p. 107; Social Crisis, op. cit., pp. 201-213.

[74] Emil Ludwig, Napoleon (New York: Pocket Books, 1953 [1926]), p. 353. See also Vincent Cronin, Napoleon, An Intimate Biography (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1972), p. 360.

[75] William Edward Hartpole Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, Vol II (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1896), pp. 398, 399.

[76] Edmund Burke, MDCCCI. The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, Volume V (George N. Morang and Co.), pp. 491-492.

[77] Aristotle, Politics, 1318 b 6 – 1319 a 19.

[78] Burke, Reflections, op. cit. pp. 51-52.

[79] Ibid., p. 44.

[80] C.B. MacPherson, Burke. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980), p. 66.

[81] Burke, Reflections, op. cit., pp.152-153.

[82] Ibid., p. 152.

[83] Edmund Burke, The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, rev. ed., Vol

  1. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1866), p. 153.

[84] Smith, op. cit., p. 383.

[85] Ibid., p. 423.

[86] Burke, Scarcity, op. cit., p. 151.

[87] Smith, op. cit., pp. 163-164, 628-634, 755.

[88] Young, op. cit., p. 212.

[89] Smith, op. cit., p. 648.

[90] Roepke, Social Crisis, op. cit., pp. 115, 116; cf. 144-145.

[91] Ibid., pp. 43, 51-53.

[92] Louis I. Bredvold and Ralph G. Ross, eds. The Philosophy of Edmond Burke (Michigan, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan,1960), p. 2.

[93] Isaac Kramnick, ed., Edmund Burke (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974), p. 110.

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