Edited by Ingo Barens, Volker Caspari and Bertram Schefold
Chapter 8: Structural Change and Social Transformation in Physiocracy
Gianni Vaggi POOR FRANCE To the physiocrats the French Kingdom is not a wealthy or advanced nation, but rather a poor country which has suﬀered a century-long period of decay. In Extrait des économies royales de M. De Sully which accompanies the Tableau économique of 1758–59 we read: ‘PAUVRES PAYSANS, PAUVRE ROYAUME’ (Quesnay’s emphasis) (Kuzcynski and Meek, 1972, p. 10) – a synthesis of the evil and damages of contemporary France. This text is made up of twenty-four short maxims which accompany the third edition of the Tableau économique in the ﬁrst months of 1759; the words quoted refer to a note to maxim fourteen. A similar text, with this emphasis, is in the Maximes générales du gouvernement économique d’un royaume agricole published in 1767 in the Physiocratie by Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, a disciple of François Quesnay (INED, 1958, vol. II, p. 973). These are important contributions in the work of the master of physiocracy; in this brief sentence and in that emphasis there is the synthesis and analysis of the main problem of France in the eighteenth century. Towards the end of the Extrait, there is a very long footnote, the last one, where Quesnay deals with the problem of wars and of the military power of the states; he explains that soldiers and battles are not ‘des événements décisifs des guerres’ (Kuzcynski and Meek, 1972, p. 21); the decisive element of national power is the ability of her citizens...
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