England : Economist
David Ricardo 18 April 1772 – 11 September 1823 was a British political economist. He was one of the most influential of the classical economists, along with Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith, and James Mill. Perhaps his most important legacy is his theory of comparative advantage, which suggests that a nation should concentrate its resources solely in industries where it is most internationally competitive and trade with other countries to obtain products no longer produced nationally. In essence, Ricardo promoted the idea of extreme industry specialization by nations, to the point of dismantling internationally competitive and otherwise profitable industries. Ricardo took as a given the existence of a national industry policy aimed at promoting some industries to the detriment of others. For Ricardo some form of central economic planning was a necessity. Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage has been challenged by, among others, Joan Robinson and Piero Sraffa, but remains the cornerstone of the argument in favour of international free trade. Comparative advantage was the theoretical forerunner of the push towards globalization via increased international trade which is the guiding theme in the economic policy programme currently promoted by the OECD and the World Trade Organization, where it is assumed that increased international trade will lead to economic prosperity. The results of the implementation of this type of policy agenda are increasingly controversial. Although his influence on economics has been considerable, Ricardo actually began his professional life as a broker and financial market speculator. He amassed a considerable personal fortune, largely from financial market manipulation. Once retired, he bought a seat in the U.K. Parliament. He held his parliamentary seat for the last four years of his life. Ricardo died at the age of 51.