Richard Ebeling emails:
I have a new article on the Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF) website on, “Economic Ideas: The French Physiocrats and the Case for Laissez-faire.”
In the second half of the eighteenth century, there emerged the French Physiocrats, who challenged the assumptions of Mercantilism, the system of government economic planning and control in the 1600s and the 1700s.
Francois Quesnay, royal physician to the king of France, developed that idea of the spontaneous incentives and coordination of the economic system that did not need government oversight and direction, but could do so through the markets and the price system.
Robert Turgot, another leading Physiocrat, put their ideas in practice in a French province of which he was the governor. Open competitive markets, low taxes, and limited provincial government interference soon brought about prosperity and economic improvement.
The king of brought Turgot to Paris to be the Comptroller-General of all of France. Turgot promised the same reforms for the entire country, and a willingness to fight special interests and even challenge the king’s “generosity” at taxpayers’ expense.
But very soon that determination on Turgot’s part brought down on him coalitions of every vested interest group that lived at the trough of State privilege and favoritism. Finally, the king dismissed him, and the last chance for fiscal responsibility and freer markets was ended before the catastrophe and terror of the French Revolution.