Reply To: James Mill the Lenin to Bentham's Marx?


Hi Jon,

Sorry for the delay…have been traveling a lot.

Rothbard in his history of economic thought (Part II) refers to James Mill as a Lenin in search of his Marx; he picks both Bentham and Ricardo for this role. Starts at page 71 here:

3.1 James Mill, the radicals’ Lenin
James Mill (1771-1836) was surely one of the most fascinating figures in the
history of economic thought. And yet he is among the most neglected. Mill was
perhaps one of the first persons in modern times who might be considered a
true ‘cadre man’, someone who in the Leninist movement of the next century
would have been hailed as a ‘real Bolshevik’. Indeed, he was the Lenin of the
radicals, creating and forging philosophical radical theory and the entire philosophical radical movement. A brilliant and creative but an insistently Number 2
man, Mill began as a Lenin seeking his Marx. In fact, he simultaneously found
two ‘Marxes’, Jeremy Bentham and David Ricardo. He met both at about the
same time, at the age of 35, Bentham in 1808 and Ricardo around the same
date. Bentham became Mill’s philosophic Marx, from whom Mill acquired his
utilitarian philosophy and passed it on to Ricardo and to economics generally.
But it has been largely overlooked that Mill functioned creatively in his relationship
with Bentham, persuading the older man, formerly a Tory, that
Benthamite utilitarianism implied a political system of radical democracy.
David Ricardo (1772-1823) was an unsophisticated, young, but retired wealthy
stockbroker (actually bond dealer) with a keen interest in monetary matters; but
Mill perceived and developed Ricardo as his ‘Marx’ in economics.