I’ve just read through a facsimile edition of William Petty’s Political Arithmetick. Previously I’d dipped into bits and somehow never read through. What’s interesting is how clearly Petty foreshadows some key ideas about economic growth. One is agglomeration economies, which I always assume Marshall was the first to articulate. But no, before 1690 Petty was insisting on the benefits of dense populations, for reasons of economies of scale and specialisation. He writes about the importance of clear title to property, duly enforced by the courts. He is an ardent advocate too for the importance of trade (and hence the need to invest in shipping and naval skills). All this in the context of comparing Britain favourably with France and unfavourably with Holland. Fascinating.
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