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The Life of David Ricardo

             Ricardo was born into a prosperous family in London in 1772. He went to work at age 14 at his father's investment business, but by the time he turned 22 he opened his own business with 800 pounds. Twenty years later he retired with one million pounds. He was a very smart investor and recognized that most investors tend to overreact and exaggerate the importance of events. He was able to use his knowledge in the panic following Napoleon's return to power in France. The market for British government securities fell sharply, but however Ricardo still invested heavily in government securities. He was rewarded with significant profits after the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
             After Ricardo's retirement, he devoted his attention to the new science of political economy. His most famous book, "The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation" exposed class conflicts at the heart of any society structured around free-enterprise. It challenged the aristocratic land lord class by questioning the contribution of this class to society. This book became an influential document of political reform. He was later elected to the House of Commons in 1819, Ricardo argued on behalf of free trade and carefully outlined the complex laws of land rent that allowed the idle landlord class to exploit land, labour, and capital. In 1823, he died suddenly at the age of 51, before he could witness first-hand the full impact of his economic ideas. .
             Ricardo lived during a period of great social conflict and political unrest in Britain. The British population was growing rapidly and was putting a strain on food supplies. The wars and successive years of poor crops further drained food reserves. Where Adam Smith saw society as a family making great progress together, Ricardo saw clear divisions into conflicting groups. He identified the three main groups in British society as the working class, the industrialist class and the aristocratic landlord class.

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