William Thompson, 1775 – 1833
Ii is not the mere possession of wealth, but the right distribution of it, that is important to a community.
Force, fraud, chance, prescription, are almost everywhere the main arbiters of distribution, and have almost frightened reason from daring to contemplate the mischief they have caused.
William Thompson is largely an unknown or forgotten political economist from Ireland. Introduced to many through James Connolly’s ‘Labour in Irish History’, Connolly describing him as Irelands first socialist and as a forunner to Marx. Thompson championed the cause of women and the cooperative movement in Ireland publishing his political economy most notably in two books entitled An Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth Most Conducive to Human Happiness and Appeal of One Half the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain Them in Political, and thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery.
A wealthy man, Thompson tried to implement some of his ideas on his own estate but unfortunately died before he could attempt this ultimately leaving his estates to the burgeoning cooperative movement in his will. Thompson continued the use of Smith’s labour theory of value but identified, in advance of Karl Marx, the exploitative nature of the creation and expropriation of surplus value by capitalists. He also appreciated and understood the political expression of class interest and rejected the concept that any increase in wages would automatically increases costs and so negative the increase. Thompson, like both Marx and Connolly after him, saw this as merely serving the interest of capitalists.
For more information on Thompson check out this article http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/s-thompson.html