David Hume


David Hume, the esteemed friend of Adam Smith, was of such high mental caliber that his contributions are not only in the realm of philosophy, but also in the domain of economics.Liberal of mind, courageous of heart, David Hume changed the world with his three major works: A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), the Enquiries concerning Human Understanding (1748) and the Principles of Morals (1751). But when his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) were published posthumously — which questioned the afterlife and the most puzzling inquiries of biblical teachings — he ensured his immortality amongst the discerning and the curious. Ensconced in Cicero, David Hume, son of Edinburgh, Scotland, grew up to detest his Calvinist background. In loyalty to his mother’s strength and pioneering spirit, David Hume embraced what many label views, and thought that man ought to look to man for solutions to his everlasting problems. After a series of positions that served to restrict his mental prowess and keep him dependent on his circumstances, David Hume accepted a new position as Librarian to the Edinburgh Faculty of Advocates. A position that allowed him finite access to necessary research for a very successful new project, History of England, which Hume published in six volumes, starting in 1754. How David Hume chose to use this new-found fortune aroused anger and controversy. Hume was such a progressive thinker that what he planned to publish in The Natural History of Religion and A Dissertation on the Passions produced threats against his publisher and cost him his job as Librarian to the Edinburgh Faculty of Advocates. What David Hume did for economics is launch an assault on the mercantilists that laid the foundation for classical economic theory. His celebrated book, Political Discourses, launched new concepts about money and international trade. Political Discourses shred the theories of the mercantilits, which contended that importing less and exporting more cushioned Britain’s gold hoards. Think of how England in the 1700s was taking raw materials from the American Colonies, then exporting them back here in the form of finished goods. How well did that arrangement fair out? What Hume specifically proved was how the increase in gold leads to internal inflation, and how this increase in the cost of living encourages, rather than discourages, imports. It is because David Hume that today we understand that economic and political freedoms are forever entwined. What our forefathers did when they created the United States of America, was a Hume Utopia where economic and political freedoms can have a Catholic marriage — a lifetime of intimacy. (Was it a jab at the Calvinist movement of Hume’s day, do you think?)

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