David Ricardo and his followers forged rational argumentation and empirical verification into the discipline of classical political economy. Thomas Malthus distinguished his own view of the discipline from Ricardian social science by prudentially applying his rationally derived and empirically verified models to complex historical circumstances. He theorized this addition in the second edition of his Essay on the Principle of Population, refined it in his Principles of Political Economy, and he practiced prudential argumentation in his arguments about the corn laws (1814–15). This Malthusian political economy is rhetorical in two senses of the word. First, Malthus inserted prudence (a virtue associated with rhetoric since antiquity) into political economy. Second, by appealing to people’s lived experiences, Malthus made political economy popularly persuasive.

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