Physiocrats

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Physiocracy (from the Greek for "Government of Nature") is an economic theory developed by the Physiocrats, a group of economists who believed that the wealth of nations was derived solely from the value of "land agriculture" or "land development." Their theories originated in France and were most popular during the second half of the 18th century. Physiocracy is perhaps the first well-developed theory of economics.

The movement was particularly dominated by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781) and François Quesnay (1694–1774).[1] It immediately preceded the first modern school, classical economics, which began with the publication of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations in 1776.

The most significant contribution of the physiocrats was their emphasis on productive work as the source of national wealth. This is in contrast to earlier schools, in particular mercantilism, which often focused on the ruler's wealth, accumulation of gold, or the balance of trade. A chief weakness from the viewpoint of modern economics is that the theory only considered agricultural labor to be valuable. Physiocrats viewed the production of goods and services as consumption of the agricultural surplus, while modern economists consider these to be productive activities which add to national income.

Historian David B. Danbom explains, "The Physiocrats damned cities for their artificiality and praised more natural styles of living. They celebrated farmers."[2] They called themselves économistes, but are generally referred to as physiocrats in order to distinguish them from the many schools of economic thought that followed them.

Contents

Precursors

Physiocracy is an agrarianist philosophy which may trace its origins to various sources. During the latter period of the Roman Republic, the dominant senatorial class was not allowed to engage in banking or commerce[3] but relied on their latifundia, large plantations, for income. They circumvented this rule through freedmen proxies who sold surplus agricultural goods.

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