Skip to main content



1. Introduction

The essays in this volume examine the influence of classical economics in the evolution of development thought and policy. They focus on facets of the classical analysis of economic growth, aspects of colonial policy, and the classical roots in development economics. Of prime concern is the relevance of the classical heritage for contemporary research in development problems. To this end, the essays emphasize the macro-dynamics of the classical view of growth, the role of exports in the development process, the structural transformation process between agriculture and industry, and the political economy of development policy making.
Gerald M. Meier

2. The “Progressive State” in Classical Economics

Nobel Laureate W. A. Lewis (1988) has traced the roots of the subject of economic development to Britain in the century and a half running from about 1650 to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776). Lewis indicates that much of the development theory of today is already to be found in the writings of the eighteenth century, especially in those of Hume (1748), Steuart (1767), and Smith.1 The essays in this volume build upon that classical heritage. Focusing on both the history of thought and development policy, they illuminate the evolution from classical economics to development economics. As such, they are prompted by the grand theme of classical economics — the development of the “progressive state”.
Gerald M. Meier

3. In Praise of the Classics

‘As civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an enquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves. Of course there is argument and enquiry and information, but wherever these are profitable they are to be recognized as passages in this conversation, and perhaps they are not the most captivating of the passages. It is the ability to participate in this conversation, and not the ability to reason cogently, to make discoveries about the world, or to contrive a better world, which distinguishes the human being from the animal and the civilized man from the barbarian. Indeed, it seems not improbable that it was the engagement in this conversation (where talk is without a conclusion) that gave us our present appearance, man being descended from a race of apes who sat in talk so long and so late that they wore our their tails.’ — M. Oakeshott, The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind (London: Bowes & Bowes, 1959) p. 11
Deepak Lal

4. British Classical Economists and Underdevelopment in India

At least since W. Arthur Lewis’s pathbreaking contribution — “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour” (1954) — modern students of development economics have required no reminder that economists in the classical tradition were fundamentally concerned with problems of long-term economic growth. The “composite” classical model he then presented drew on their insights to illuminate the dynamics of expansion in the setting of economic dualism.1
William J. Barber

5. Natural Resources, “Vent-for-Surplus”, and the Staples Theory

The “vent-for-surplus” approach to trade and development, which Hla Myint (1958) derived from the writings of Adam Smith, is a celebrated contribution to economics. The objective of our paper is to unify the “vent-for-surplus” approach with what Watkins (1963) has called the “staples” theory of economic growth and with the factor proportions theory of comparative advantage. The basis for the proposed unification will be the concept of an endogenous land frontier.
Ronald Findlay, Mats Lundahl

6. Vent for Surplus, the Subsistence Fund, and the Evolution of Money

Hla Myint’s 1970 paper contains in its conclusion the important point that the “implicit identification of capital with durable capital goods and complex machinery requires to be seriously qualified when applied to the underdeveloped countries. In the economic setting of these countries the older classical notion of capital as a ‘subsistence fund’ to support labor engaged in producing future output still retains great importance”. Many years earlier, Myint had also observed that “… in Smith’s time, fixed or durable capital played only a very small part in economic life and the bulk of investment was in the form of circulating capital or ‘advances to labour’”1.
P. J. Drake

7. Exports and Economic Growth

Economists have long been interested in the role of exports in promoting economic growth. Notwithstanding a large literature on the subject, there is still considerable confusion about both the statistical basis of the relationship and its analytical explanation. More data have recently become available. It is therefore worth reconsidering the subject once again in the light of these data.
R. M. Sundrum

8. Peasant and Plantation in Asia

Peasant and plantation are two contrasting modes of agricultural production in less developed countries (LDCs). The term “plantation” refers here to a large farm estate producing a crop (or crops) for commercial purposes and employing a relatively large number of hired wage laborers organized under a central management hierarchy.1 It is a new institution brought by Western colonialism in order to extract tropical agricultural products for export to home countries. In tropical Asia it became common especially after the 1870s with major innovations in transportation such as opening of the Suez Canal and use of steamships and railways.
Yujiro Hayami

9. Traders and Development

This essay emphasizes the positive contributions of traders to the development process, especially in its early phases.
Peter Bauer, Gerald M. Meier

10. Development as a Societal Problem in a Colonial Setting

This essay focuses on the writings of three pre-1945 analysts of development — Vera Anstey, R. H. Tawney, and Joyce Cary. In so doing, it presents variations on the theme of colonialism and development plus further reflections on two observations made rather tersely in my Theorists of Economic Growth Since David Hume.1
W. W. Rostow

11. From Colonial Economics to Development Economics

More than two centuries after Smith’s Wealth of Nations, economists still inquire why the whole world is not developed. As earlier chapters have indicated, their analyses have evolved through various phases. The early period of development economics from approximately 1945–60 provides an especially significant phase. This chapter concentrates on those early days of transition from “colonial economics” to “development economics” when economists began to analyze more rigorously the problems of the latecomers to development.
Gerald M. Meier

12. Gamagori: In Retrospect

In April 1960, the International Economic Association, urged by its Japanese members, held a conference at Gamagori, Japan. The proceedings, edited by Kenneth Berrill, were published four years later under the title Economic Development: With Special Reference to East Asia [Berrill, (1964)].
H. W. Arndt

13. Structural Adjustment Policy: Asian Experience

In recent years the transition to the market economy system in the former Soviet Union and East European countries has become a world-wide concern. Yet, it is not so widely recognized that waves of transformation in the economic and social system of a similar nature and with a similar worldwide significance have been taking place since the end of the 1970s in many developing countries, as a result of protracted balance of payment crises and the ensuing adherence to the proposed World Bank-IMF structural adjustment policies.
Shigeru Ishikawa

14. Government and Economic Growth

This ambitious title suggests two questions, distinct but readily confused. First, what is the role of government in the decades surrounding the turning point from extensive to intensive growth? What part does government play in initiating intensive growth? Second, once a country has embarked on intensive growth, how does the policy stance of government influence its growth rate in subsequent decades? These are perhaps the most important questions that can be asked about the development process. They have called forth an enormous theoretical and empirical literature. In what follows we shall attempt a brief summary of this literature, at the risk of oversimplifying complex events.
Lloyd G. Reynolds

15. The Future in Perspective

Even though the subject of this book cannot be encapsulated in a set of neat conclusions, this final chapter does summarize some of the ways in which classical economics remains relevant for development economics, examines the present state of the subject, and attempts to place future research in perspective.
Gerald M. Meier


Weitere Informationen