William Petty

Come friends, today we will know about William Petty. Sir William Petty FRS (26 May 1623 – 16 December 1687) was an English economist, physician, scientist and philosopher. He became the first to serve Oliver Cromwell in Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations. He developed efficient methods for surveying the land that was to be confiscated and given to Cromwell’s troops. He also remained an important figure under King Charles II and King James II , as did many others who had served Cromwell.

Petty was briefly a member of the Parliament of England and was also a scientist, inventor and businessman, and a charter member of the Royal Society . It is for his theories on economics and his methods of political arithmetic that he is best remembered, and attributed to his philosophy of ” laissez-faire ” in relation to government activity. He was knighted in 1661. He was the great-grandfather of the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (known in history as the 2nd Earl of Shelburne), who served as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1782–1783 .

William Petty
William Petty

life and influence

Patty was born and buried in Romsey , and was a friend of Samuel Pepys . He became a founding member of The Royal Society . Prior to Adam Smith , Petty was best known for his economic history and statistical writings. He had a special interest in statistical analysis . Petty’s work in political arithmetic, along with the work of John Grant , laid the foundation for modern census techniques. Furthermore, this work in statistical analysis, when carried forward by authors such as Josiah Child , documented some of the first demonstrations of modern insurance. Vernon Louis Parrington noted him as an early exponent of the labor theory of value as discussed in his 1692 treatise on taxes.(William Petty)

In 1858 Henri Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, one of Petty’s descendants, erected a monument and Petty’s likeness at Romsey Abbey. It reads: “A true patriot and a sound philosopher, who by his mighty intellect, his scientific work and tireless industry, became a philanthropist to his family and an ornament to his country”. A monumental slab on the abbey’s south choir floor reads “Here lies Sir William Petty”. He also built the Lansdowne Memorial at Cheryl Downs in Wiltshire.(William Petty)

In fairness, a less invested portrait of Patty could easily call her a very lucky character. Petty was a music professor before apprentice to the talented Thomas Hobbes of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Petty arrived at a time of great opportunity and development in a budding expanding British Empire, on the competitive approach to economics of laissez-faire. The “laissez-faire” policies were in direct contrast to the social contract of his supervisor Hobbes, which had developed based on Hobbes’ experiences during the greatest depression in British history, The General Crisis. To give some context, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s experiences during the Great Depression of the 1930s inspired him to create a similar Bill of Rights.

early life

Patti’s father and grandfather were cloth merchants. He was a precocious and intelligent young man and became a cabin boy in 1637, but was cast aside in Normandy after breaking his leg on board. After this setback, he applied for Latin to study with the Jesuits in Caen, supporting himself by teaching English. After a year, he returned to England, and by now had a thorough knowledge of Latin, Greek, French, mathematics and astronomy.

After an uneventful period in the Navy, Petty left in 1643 to study in Holland, where he developed an interest in anatomy. Through an English professorship in Amsterdam, he became Hobbes’ personal secretary, allowing him to have contact with Descartes, Gassendi and Mersenne. In 1646, he returned to England and after developing a double-writing instrument with little success in sales, he studied medicine at the University of Oxford. He befriended Hartlieb and Boyle and became a member of the Oxford Philosophical Club.

Academics and Surveyors

By 1651, Petty was an anatomy instructor at Brasenose College, Oxford, as deputy to Thomas Clayton the Young. [2] [3] He was one of the physicians involved in the treatment of Anne Greene, a woman who herself survived the gallows and was pardoned because her survival was widely believed to be divine intervention. The incident was widely written about at the time, and helped build Petty’s career and reputation. [4] He was also the Gresham Professor of Music in London.

In 1652, he went on a leave of absence and traveled with Oliver Cromwell’s army in Ireland as physician-general. His opposition to traditional universities, inspired by Francis Bacon and committed to the ‘new science’ provided by his aforementioned acquaintances, probably drove him away from Oxford. They were probably drawn to Ireland because of ambition and a desire for wealth and power. Such was the breadth of his interests that he successfully secured a contract to charter Ireland in 1654, so that those who had lent money to Cromwell’s army could be repaid in land – a means of ensuring that the army was self-sufficient. – was financed. This enormous work he completed in 1656 and became known as the Down Survey, was later published (1685) of Hibernia Delinatio.in the form of . As his reward, he acquired approximately 30,000 acres (120 km ) and £9,000 in Kenmare in south-west Ireland This personal advantage of Paytm led to frequent court cases on charges of bribery and breach of trust until his death.(William Petty)

Back in England, as a Cromwellian supporter, he successfully ran for Parliament for West Loo in 1659. [6]

natural philosopher

Despite his political allegiance, Petty was treated well in the Restoration in 1660, although he lost some of his Irish lands. Charles II at their first meeting rejected Petty’s apologies for his previous support for Cromwell, “considering him to be unnecessary”, and instead discussed his experiments in the mechanics of shipping. [7]

In 1661 he was elected MP for Inistiog in the Parliament of Ireland. In 1662, he was admitted as a charter member of the Royal Society in the same year. This year he also wrote his first work on economics, Taxes and Contributions . Petty counts many of his scientific interests in naval architecture: he became convinced of the superiority of two-hulled boats, although they were not always successful; Porto in use reached in 1664, but sank on the way back.

Ireland and the afterlife

Petty was knighted by Charles II in 1661 and returned to Ireland in 1666, where he lived for most of the next twenty years.

The events that took him from Oxford to Ireland marked a change from medicine and physical science to the social sciences, and Petty lost all of his Oxford offices. The social sciences became the field he studied throughout his life. His primary interest became the prosperity of Ireland and his works describe that country and propose a number of remedies for the backward condition of the time. He helped establish the Dublin Society in 1682. He died in 1687, eventually returning to London in 1685. He was buried in Romsey Abbey.

He considered his life in bitter terms. He was raised from humble origins to mingle with the intellectual elite and by 35 was a fairly wealthy man and a prominent member of “Progressive Science”. Nevertheless, he was insecure about his land holdings and his ambitions of acquiring important political positions remained futile. Perhaps he hoped that the astronomical growth he experienced in his early years would continue throughout his life. Contemporaries described him, nevertheless, as witty, good-natured and rational.

small as a projector

Petty received possession of three baronies of Iveragh, Glanarought and Dunkerron in County Kerry. [8] He soon became a projector, developing extensive plans for an ironworks and a fishery on his substantial wealth in Kerry. Although he had high hopes for the use of his scientific methods for improvement, it yielded little practical results. [9] He began by applying his political arithmetic to his own estates: he surveyed the population and livestock to develop an understanding of the potential of the land. [8] The ironworks were established in 1660. [10]


William Petty married Elizabeth Waller in 1667 as she was the daughter of the royal-killed Sir Hardres Waller (whose life abandoned it after the Restoration) and Elizabeth Doddle. She was previously married to Sir Maurice Fenton, who died in 1664. She was given the title of Baroness Shelburne for life. [11] They had three surviving children:

  • Charles Petty, 1st Baron Shelburne
  • Henry Petty, 1st Earl of Shelburne
  • Anne, who married Thomas Fitzmaurice, 1st Earl of Kerry.

Neither Charles nor Henry had male issue and the Shelburne title passed to Anne’s son John Petty, 1st Earl of Shelburne, who took his mother’s surname, and whose descendants hold the title Marquis of Lansdowne. Her grandson William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, praised her as a woman of strong character and intelligence, the only person who could manage her bad temper and tyrannical husband.

Economic Functions and Theory: Overview

Two individuals significantly influenced Paytm’s economic principles. The first was Thomas Hobbes, for whom Petty worked as private secretary. According to Hobbes, the theory should set out rational requirements for “civil peace and material abundance”. As Hobbes focused on peace, Petty chose prosperity.(William Petty)

Francis Bacon’s influence was also profound. Bacon and indeed Hobbes held the firm belief that mathematics and the senses should be the basis of all rational science. This passion for accuracy led Petty to famously declare that his form of science would use only measurable phenomena and seek quantitative accuracy rather than relying on comparison or superlative, generating a new subject he called “political arithmetic.” “The name was given. Petty thus carved a niche for himself as the first dedicated economic scientist, among merchant-journalists such as Thomas Munn or Josiah Child, and among philosopher-scientists who occasionally discussed economics such as John Locke.

He was actually writing before the actual development of political economy. As such, many of their claims to accuracy are of imperfect quality. Nonetheless, Petty wrote three main works on economics, Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (written in 1662), Verbum Sapienti (1665) and Quantulumcunque in relation to Money (1682). Much attention was paid to these works in the 1690s, showing their theories on the key areas that would later become economics. What follows is an analysis of his most important theories on fiscal contribution, national wealth, money supply and movement velocity, price, interest rate, international trade and government investment.

Many of his economic writings were collected by Charles Henry Hull into Sir William Petty’s Economic Writings in 1899 .

Hull, in his scholarly article ‘Petty’s Place in the History of Economic Theory’ (1900), proposed dividing Petty’s economic writings into three (or four) groups:

  • The first group, written when Petty returned to London after completing his “Down Survey” in Ireland, consisted mainly of A Treatise of Taxes and Contribution (written and first published in 1662) and Verbum sepienti (in 1665 ). written, printed 1691). These texts deal with discussions about fiscal issues, after the restoration and spending of the First Dutch War.
  • The second group maintains the political anatomy and political arithmetic of Ireland . These texts were written in Ireland about ten years later. As Hull writes, “the direct impetus for his writing came from Dr. Edward Chamberlain’s Present State of England , published in 1669″.
  • Ten years later, a third set of pamphlets were written again, contributing to the controversy over whether London was a bigger city than Paris, entitled Essays in Political Arithmetic by Hull. This set of pamphlets was closely related to John Grant’s commentaries on London’s Bills of Mortality .
  • Quantulumcunque concerning money (written in 1682, and printed in 1695, and probably 1682), may perhaps be regarded as belonging to a group in its own right.(William Petty)

The division given here was still used by scholars at the end of the twentieth century. [12]

financial contribution

Fiscal contributions were a major concern for policymakers in the 17th century, as they have remained ever since, as the intelligent country would not spend more than its revenues. By Petty’s time, England was at war with Holland, and in the first three chapters of the Treatise on Taxes and Contributions , Petty sought to establish the principles of taxation and public expenditure when deciding which funds to raise. The emperor could obey. war. Paytm lists six types of public charges, namely defence, governance, pasture of men’s souls , education, maintenance of all kinds of eunuchs and infrastructure, or things of universal good., He then discusses the general and specific reasons for the change in these charges. He thinks there is great scope for reduction in the first four public charges, and recommends an increase in expenditure on government employment of the supernumerary , along with the care of the elderly, sick, orphans, etc.

On the issue of raising taxes, Belt was a definite proponent of consumption taxes. He recommended that the general taxes should be sufficient to meet the various types of public duties listed by him. They should also be horizontal, regular and proportional. He condemned the election taxes as too unequal and the excise duty on beer as excessive taxes on the poor. He recommended a higher quality of statistical information in order to raise taxes more fairly. Imports should be taxed, but only in a way that can bring them on an equal playing field with the domestic product. An important aspect of economies at this time was their transition from barter economies to money economies. attached to it, and aware of the lack of money, Petty recommended that taxes should be payable in forms other than gold or silver, estimated to account for less than 1% of the national wealth. For them, much importance was placed on money, “that is, for the whole effect of the state … not one to 100”. (William Petty)

national income accounting

In making the above guess, Paytm has used verbum sepienti.introduced the first rigorous estimation of national income and wealth in the first two chapters of To him, it was quite clear that the wealth of a country is not more than just gold and silver. He estimated that the average personal income with a population of six million was £6 13s 4d per year, meaning the national income would be £40m. Petty’s theory produced estimates for various components of national income, including land, ships, personal estates, and housing, some more reliable than others. He then differentiated between stocks (£250m) and flows out of them (£15m). Due to the discrepancy between these flows and their estimate for national income (£40m), Paytm estimates that £417m of the other £25m of labor stock is the yield from “the value of the people”. This gave a net worth of £667m for England in the 1660s.


Paytm’s only statistical technique is the use of simple averaging. He would not be a statistician by today’s standards, but a statistician during his time was the only one who employed the use of quantitative data. Because obtaining census data was difficult, if not impossible, especially for Ireland, He applied the methods of estimation. The way he would estimate the population would start with an estimate of the population of London. He would do this by estimating it from either exports or deaths. His method of using exports is assuming that a 30 percent increase in exports is matched by an equal proportionate increase in population. The way he would use deaths would be by multiplying the number of deaths by 30 – estimating that one in thirty people die each year. He would multiply the population of London by 8 to get the population of the whole of England. Such a simple use of conjecture could easily have been misused and Petty was accused more than once of tampering with Crown figures. (Henry Spiegel) was accused more than once. (Henry Spiegel) was accused more than once. (Henry Spiegel)

Money supply and velocity of its movement

This figure for the reserves of money was in contrast to the money supply in gold and silver of only £6m. Petty believed that a nation needed a certain amount of money to run its business. So it was possible that there was very little money moving in the economy, which would mean that people would have to depend on barter. It would also be possible to have a lot of money in an economy. But the topical question was, as they ask in Chapter 3 of Verbum Sepienti , would £6m be enough to run a nation’s trade, especially if the king wanted to raise additional funds for a war with Holland?

Petty’s answer lies in the velocity of movement of money. The anticipation of the quantity theory of money is often introduced by John Locke, whereby economic output ( Y ) times price level ( P ) = money supply ( MS ) times the speed of circulation ( V ), Petty stated that if economic output were to be For a given money supply and price level to increase, the ‘revolution’ must occur in smaller circles (i.e. the velocity of circulation must be greater). This can be done through setting up a bank. He stated clearly in the Verbum Sapienti “Nor money seeks to answer all the ends of a well-polished state, notwithstanding the great decline that occurred within these twenty years” [13]And high velocity is the answer. He also mentions that there is nothing unique about gold and silver in fulfilling the functions of money and that money is a means to an end, not an end:(William Petty)

Nor was money [gold and silver] difficult to substitute (it had the ability to be wanted) for what it should be equal to. Because money is the fat of the body-politics, the excess of which often hinders his agility, because too little makes him sick … So money in the state intensifies its action, feeds from abroad in times of shortage at home .’ [14]

What is worth noting about these pieces is their intellectual tenacity, which put them far ahead of the commercial writers of the century before. The use of biological analogies to illustrate his point, a trend continued by physiocrats in early 18th century France, was also unusual.

theory of value

On value, Petty continued the debate started by Aristotle, and chose to develop an input-based theory of value: “All things must be valued by the two natural denominations, which are land and labor” (p. 44). Both these will be major sources of taxable income. Like Richard Cantillon after him, he sought to formulate some equation or equivalence between the “mother and father” of production, land and labor, and express value accordingly. They still included general productivity, one’s “art and industry”. He applied his theory of value to rent. The natural rent of a land is more production on it in a year than a worker can trade for his own food and necessities. So it was a profit above the various costs related to the factors involved in production.(William Petty)

Rate of interest

The natural rate of rent is related to his theories on usury. At the time, many religious writers still condemned the allegation of interest as sinful. Paytm involved itself in debates over usury and interest rates, as a reward for tolerance on the part of the lender regarding this phenomenon. Incorporating his theories of value, he insisted that, with perfect security, the rate of interest should be equal to the rent of the land that the principal could purchase—again, in what would later become the general equilibrium conclusion. an uncertain insight. Where the security was more “contingent”, the return should be higher – the return for the risk. Having established the justification for usury, he is of tolerance, then he shows his Hobbesian qualities, arguing against any government regulation of the interest rate, “(William Petty)

laissez faire governance

This is one of the major themes of Petty’s writings, expressed by the use of the phrase vadere sikt vault, from which we get laissez- faire . As noted earlier, the drug motif was also useful to Petty, and he warned against over-intervention by the government in the economy, seeing it as excessive manipulation of his patient, similar to that of a physician. They applied it to monopolies, control over the export of currency and trade in commodities. They were useless to him and harmful to the nation. He recognized the price effects of the monopoly, citing the French king’s salt monopoly as an example. In another work, Political Arithmetic, Petty also recognized the importance of economies of scale. He described the phenomenon of division of labor saying that a good is both better quality and cheaper, if many work on it. Petty said the profit is greater “because the construction itself is greater”.(William Petty)

Forex and control of trading

At the end of the cash, patty it is pointless because it leaves merchants to decide what goods a nation buys with the small amount of money the thought of trying to control it, and dangerous. He mentions about money in Quantulamkunk that countries rich in gold have no laws that restrict the currency. On exports in general, they considered prescriptions, such as recent Acts of Parliament forbidding the export of wool and yarn, as did “Borthensum”. Further sanctions would “make us twice the loss of his said trade” (p. 59), with the concession that he is no expert in the study of the wool trade.

When banning imports, for example from Holland, such restrictions did nothing but raise prices, and were useful only if imports greatly exceeded exports. Petty saw more use in learning whatever skills they had than in going to Holland and trying to resist nature. As a symbol of his vision, he thought it was better to sell cloth to “debouching” foreign wines, than to leave cloth sellers unemployed.

Work division

In his Political Arithmetic, Petty made a practical study of the division of labor at Dutch shipyards showing its existence and utility. Classically, workers in a shipyard would build ships as units, finishing each other before starting. But the Dutch organized it with several teams, each performing similar tasks for successive ships. People with a particular task may have discovered new approaches that were observed and justified by later writers on political economy.(William Petty)

Petty also applied this principle in his survey of Ireland. His breakthrough was to divide the work so that the bulk of it could be done by people without extensive training.

urban society

Petty projected the growth of the City of London and believed it could swallow up the rest of England – not far from what actually happened:(William Petty)

Now, if the city doubles its people in 40 years, and the current number becomes 670,000, and if the whole area becomes 7,400,000, and doubles in 360 years, as above Reportedly, from the underwriting table it appears that in 1840 the city would be 10,718,880, and the whole country, but 10,917,389, which is much higher. It is therefore certain and necessary that the growth of the city should stop before the said year 1840, and that the next preceding period, AD 1800, would be at its maximum, when the city would number eight times its present number, 5,359,000. and when (other than the said number) 4,466,000 to carry out plowing, pasture and other necessary rural works without the said city. [16]

He envisioned a future in which “the city of London is seven times as large as it is now, and its inhabitants are 4,690,000 people, and in all other cities, ports, towns and villages, but 2,710,000 more.” He expected this sometime around 1800, extrapolating from current trends. Long before Malthus, he noted the potential for an increase in human population. But he also saw no reason why such a society should not prosper.

Summary and Legacy

The above reflects Petty’s contributions to the theoretical issues that have dominated the post-economics topic since then. He covered such a wide range of topics according to his political arithmetic method, that is, like modern economists, he set out to substantiate his claims by finding data and statistics rather than relying on anecdotal evidence. He wrote sternly, but also with brevity and humour. The issues that Petty thought about and wrote about are major themes that have plagued the minds of economic theorists ever since.

He influenced not only immediate successors such as Richard Cantillon, but also some of economics’s greatest minds, including Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. With Adam Smith, he shared a world view that believed in a harmonious natural world. The similarities in their principles of taxation are a symbol of their combined belief in natural liberty and equality. Both saw the benefits of specialization and division of labour. In addition, Smith and Petty developed labor theories of value, as did David Ricardo, Henry George and Karl Marx in the 19th century.

Smith said nothing about Petty in The Wealth of Nations . His published writings contain nothing but a reference to a letter written to Lord Shelburne, one of Petty’s aristocratic descendants. [17] Petty continued his influence. Karl Marx, as Petty thought, the total effort made by the aggregate of ordinary workers represented a far greater contribution to the economy than contemporary thought. This belief led Petty to conclude in his estimations that labor was considered the largest source of wealth in the state. In contrast, Marx’s conclusions were that surplus labor was the source of all profit, and that the worker was separated from his surplus and thus from society. Marx’s high regard for Adam Smith is reflected in his views on the analysis of petrification, as in his major work.Das is seen from the countless quotes in Capital . John Maynard Keynes also wrote at a time of widespread discord, as unemployment was rampant and economies stagnated during the 1930s. He showed how governments could manage aggregate demand to stimulate production and employment, as Petty did in the 17th century with simple examples. Petty’s simple £100-through-100-hands multiplier was refined by Keynes and incorporated into his model.


  • 1647: Heartlib’s advice
  • 1648: A Declaration Regarding the Newly Invented Art of Double Writing
  • 1659: Proceedings between Sankey and Paytm
  • 1660: Thoughts on Ireland
  • 1662: A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (later editions: 1667, 1679, 1685, etc.)
  • Political arithmetic posthumous. (circa 1676, pub. 1690)
  • Verb Sapienti posthumously. (1664, pub 1691)
  • The Posthumous Political Anatomy of Ireland . (1672, pub 1691)
  • About money quantulmkunk (“Something, be it ever so small, about money”) [18] posthumously. (1682, pub. 1695) [19]
  • An essay on the multiplication of mankind . (1682)