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Friends of the Unrighteous MammonNorthern Christians and Market Capitalism, 1815-1860$
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Stewart Davenport

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226137063

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226137087.001.0001

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The Problem of the Poor

The Problem of the Poor

(p.97) Chapter Seven The Problem of the Poor
Friends of the Unrighteous Mammon
University of Chicago Press

Antebellum Christians had many reasons to be skeptical of the modernizing economy and the new so-called science that was meant to explain it. Some feared that political economy might have atheistic origins and that in the business world it sanctioned amoral behavior at best and immoral behavior at worst. Other critics claimed that the modernizing economy was creating more rigid social classes, and that the growing disparity in wealth injured not only the poor, but also the health of the larger society. Instead of raising all boats, market capitalism might end up lowering them all, violently. Many could agree that free trade and the division of labor had led to some good ends—greater individual and national wealth, for example—but was this good fruit only for a privileged few and perhaps even at the expense of the many? Political economists in Great Britain had been writing about these class concerns for decades, but unfortunately ideas such as David Ricardo's iron law of wages and Thomas Malthus's prediction of working-class starvation were never endearing.

Keywords:   political economy, Great Britain, David Ricardo, iron law, wages, Thomas Malthus, starvation, poor, social classes

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