Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 12: Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781)
Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot was born on 10 May 1727 in Paris, where he died on 18 March 1781. He was the youngest son of Michel-Étienne Turgot, Marquis of Sousmont, a magistrate and “Prévost des marchands” (Lord Mayor) of Paris. While first destined by his family to an ecclesiastical estate – he studied theology and was admitted to the Maison de Sorbonne – Turgot devoted his career to serving the State. Already during his lifetime he acquired the status of an emblematic figure as the grand reforming civil servant of the Ancien Régime, particularly through two important positions: first as Intendant of the Généralité of Limoges (1761–74), that is, representative of the King in some of the poorest provinces in France (Limousin, Marche and Angoumois); and then as Contrôleur général des Finances (minister of the economy and finance, August 1774–May 1776). In this last position, during less than two years, he tried to progressively implement free trade; to put an end to traditional structures limiting the establishment in trades – such as “jurandes” (craft-guilds) – or regulating the labour force; and to abolish hurtful and inefficient obligations like the “corvée royale” (royal chore). He was also aiming at reforming the political regime of France and had a project of transferring some powers held by the King into the hands of a pyramid of elected assemblies – municipal, provincial and national. (On all these points, see the many developments by Gustave Schelle in Turgot 1913–23.) Turgot...
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