Table of Contents

Political Events and Economic Ideas

Political Events and Economic Ideas

Edited by Ingo Barens, Volker Caspari and Bertram Schefold

The influence of political developments on the evolution of economic thought is the main theme behind this book. As the authors reveal throughout the book, history has shown many times that political events can trigger the formulation of new economic conceptions that in turn influence the future economic development of a country.

Chapter 7: Power and Wealth: Quesnay Betrayed by the Tableau Économique?

Jean Cartelier

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy


Jean Cartelier 1. INTRODUCTION Loïc Charles and Philippe Steiner ([5]) rightly draw our attention to Quesnay’s neglected political views, namely the project of making France strong enough to confront England in economic and in military affairs.1 Schematically, Quesnay insists more upon wealth than upon population, which makes a difference from most of the economists of his time, and more upon the navy than upon the army. Walter Eltis ([7]) carefully relates the ‘explanations’ of the Tableau économique contained in l’Ami des Hommes and the Philosophie rurale to the policy recommendations of Quesnay. He emphasises the practical character of these different Tableaux by contrast with the abstract character of the first versions and of the Formule. He gives also a detailed account of the effects of different policies, namely the extension of grande culture, free trade of corn (which amounts to a higher price of corn) and tax reform. Gianni Vaggi ([12]) insists on the modernisation of agriculture as a decisive element of the power of a nation. Such preoccupations seem well in accordance with Quesnay’s more general concern, that is refounding the French monarchy on a natural order in which politics and economics can hardly be distinguished. As a matter of fact, Quesnay pursued more or less the same apparent objectives as Colbert, i.e. wealth and power for the French monarchy, but the means and the social philosophy he advocated make it impossible to confuse them: the physiocratic idea of a royaume agricole is...

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