David Ricardo (18 April 1772 – 11 September 1823) was a British political economist and stock trader. He was often credited with systematising economics, and was one of the most influential of the classical economists, along with Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. He was also a member of Parliament, businessman, financier and speculator, who amassed a considerable personal fortune. Perhaps his most important contribution was the law of comparative advantage, a fundamental argument in favour of free trade among countries and of specialisation among individuals. Ricardo argued that there is mutual benefit from trade (or exchange) even if one party (e.g. resource-rich country, highly skilled artisan) is more productive in every possible area than its trading counterpart (e.g. resource-poor country, unskilled labourer), as long as each concentrates on the activities where it has a relative productivity advantage.
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“It had not a New England but an Oriental character, reminding us of trim Persian gardens, of Haroun Al-raschid, and the artificial lakes of the East.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)