Topics: Economic Systems - 5. Classical Economics

5. Classical economics

Classical economics is widely regarded as the first modern school of economic thought. It is associated with the idea that free markets can regulate themselves. Its major developers include Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus and John Stuart Mill. Sometimes the definition of classical economics is expanded to include William Petty and Johann Heinrich von Thünen.

Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations in 1776 is usually considered to mark the beginning of classical economics. The school was active into the mid 19th century and was followed by neoclassical economics in Britain beginning around 1870.

They produced their "magnificent dynamics" during a period in which capitalism was emerging from a past feudal society and in which the industrial revolution was leading to vast changes in society. These changes also raised the question of how a society could be organized around a system in which every individual sought his or her own (monetary) gain.

Classical economists and their immediat... (read more)
5. Classical economics