Nassau Senior (1790-1864) — The "Poor Laws"

Nassau William Senior was the oldest of ten children. His father was a country clergyman. In 1825, Senior became the first professor of political economy at Oxford University. After being appointed by the government to several royal commissions that primarily studied important social problems of the time, including the Poor Law Commission, Senior became a very strong opponent for aid to the poor. He had basically three original ideas or contributions to economic thought.

First, Senior felt that political economy should be a science based on neutral, objective, and empirical work (another founding idea for neo-classicalism). This assertion is outlined in detail in Senior's book An Outline of the Science of Political Economy (1938).

Second, Senior fully supported Malthus's claim that the poor were poor because of immoral character, hence, all intervening government aid including Poor Laws that guaranteed an income for subsistence were deplorable. Just like Bentham, Senior was concerned that government aid to the poor would unnecessarily reduce their motivation to work. Senior played a key role in causing the Poor Laws to be overturned and abolished in 1834 (see Senior, 1830 and 1928).

Third, Senior, in similarity to Say advocated the notion that capitalist profit and landlord's rent was morally justified because "abstinence" was just as much a pain as was a laborer's work. Upon adopting this notion, distinction between incomes of classes was essentially eliminated within capitalism resulting in virtually a classless society.