The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Distribution, Ethics of

  • J. B. Clark
Reference work entry


The primary fact of economics is the production of wealth. The division of the product among those who create it is secondary in logical order and, in a sense, in importance. Yet the most important subject of thought connected with social economy is distribution. If the term be used broadly enough it designates all of the economic process that presents moral problems for solution. On the settlement of the ethical questions concerning the division of the social income depends not only the peace of society but the fruitfulness of industry. It is a striking fact that Ricardo, whose studies carried economic science forward in the direction of the truth concerning distribution, but stopped short of that goal, and so strengthened the hands of social agitators, realized the paramount importance of the subject on which his thought was chiefly concentrated: ‘To determine the laws which regulate this distribution’, he says in his preface, ‘is the principal problem in political economy.’

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. B. Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.