Richard Cantillon: Pioneer of Economic Theory
Richard Cantillon was an eighteenth-century merchant. His only surviving work, the Essai sur la nature du commerce en general was an astonishing achievement: the first analysis of the economy as an interrelated whole. Simply to sketch such a theory would have been a major advance, but Cantillon worked out the implications of his model with a rigour that was not to be matched for a century or more. Although it was not published until twenty years after his death, and was never widely known, it was a formative, if unacknowledged, influence on classical economics.
This book is a study of Cantillon's economics. The first part of the book sets out Cantillon's theory, starting with his account of allocation and distribution in a closed economy, his theory of population, and his (land based) theory of value. It then deals with his monetary theory and his analysis of the balance of trade, and concludes with an examination of his mercantilist views. Mercantilism has been regarded as irrational ever since Smith's attacks on it, but Cantillon's views are shown to be a logical consequence of his pioneering analysis of the workings of the international economic system. The second part of the book sets Cantillon in the context of the development of economic thought in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and shows that he took less from his predecessors than has been thought, and gave more to his successors than they were willing to admit.
This book will appeal to those interested in the history of economics and in economic theory.
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