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What recantation? The wages fund doctrines of J.S. Mill in light of Smith, and Ricardo

Russell McKenzie (Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana, USA)
John Levendis (Loyola University New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA)


ISSN: 0828-8666

Article publication date: 31 October 2008



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the various forms of the classical wages fund, and especially the claim that J.S. Mill reversed his position on the nature of the wages fund.


Textual research from original publications of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and J.S. Mill, as well as references to current interpretations of their work are used in this paper.


Although J.S. Mill was a supporter of the classical wages fund model, he did not consistently embrace its assumption of a fixed fund. His comment in his Principles that the “discretion of the capitalist” influences the size of the fund contradicts this assumption. Without consistent support for this component of the doctrine, the “recantation” loses its historical significance, in that it is simply a reaffirmation of the views which Mill held throughout.

Research limitations/implications

It is hoped this paper can close the book on the debate on Mill's supposed recantation. There was no recantation because Mill held no firm position to recant.


It is understood that no one has made the connection between Mill's recantation and his other inconsistencies regarding aspects of the wages fund.



McKenzie, R. and Levendis, J. (2008), "What recantation? The wages fund doctrines of J.S. Mill in light of Smith, and Ricardo", Humanomics, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 293-305.



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