Poverty, the Poor Laws, and the Family

Joseph Persky

in The Political Economy of Progress

Published in print July 2016 | ISBN: 9780190460631
Published online June 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780190460662 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in History of Economics

Poverty, the Poor Laws, and the Family

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A general policy consensus among classical economists sought Poor Law reform, which would guarantee recipients a state of “less eligibility”—i.e., a state no more attractive than the poorest paid worker. Like most of his fellow economists in the 1830s, Mill supported workhouses because they helped to limit population growth. But over time he took a far more radical position, endorsing the notion of droit au travail (right to work) that had emerged from the French Revolution of 1848. Where Senior and other classical economists saw this idea as “an economic enormity,” Mill saw in it a link to his broadening proposals for cooperative production.

Keywords: Poor Laws; less eligibility; workhouses; droit au travail; Nassau Senior

Chapter.  5440 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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