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Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham in the Australian Colonies

15 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017  

Chris Berg

RMIT University - School of Economics, Finance and Marketing

Date Written: May 28, 2017

Abstract

How did early colonial Australians think about liberalism, economics and political economy more generally? Colonial Australia has been described variously as having a neoclassical, enlightenment, or Benthamite political culture. This paper provides an empirical approach to the question of early Australian ideas. Exploiting the records of 1,891 book sales and auctions in colonial Australia between 1800 and 1849, the paper examines the relative prevalence of key economic, political, and liberal texts available to colonial Australians. The works of neoclassical authors such as Adam Smith and John Locke were far more prevalent, and more likely in colonial demand, than those of Jeremy Bentham. To the extent utilitarian ideas were prevalent they were in the form of William Paley’s conservatism than Bentham’s radicalism.

Keywords: Australia, history of economic thought, economic history, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, William Paley, utilitarianism

JEL Classification: B12, N17

Suggested Citation

Berg, Chris, Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham in the Australian Colonies (May 28, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2976135 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2976135

Chris Berg (Contact Author)

RMIT University - School of Economics, Finance and Marketing ( email )

Level 12, 239 Bourke Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
Australia

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