This article proposes a rational reconstruction of the arguments of Malthus and Ricardo in their 1815 essays, Grounds of an Opinion and An Essay on Profits, whereby a policy of free corn trade was repudiated and endorsed, respectively. Malthus envisaged defense and (trade-induced) opulence as two mutually alternative options and, if required to make a choice, he had no hesitation in choosing the former. By contrast, Ricardo excluded any such trade-off, arguing that even in the case of war or poor domestic harvest, foreign agricultural countries would be seriously damaged if they opted for restrictions on their corn exports to Great Britain.

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