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dialogues on the grain trade

dialogues on the grain trade

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Published by Lance Kirby

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Published by: Lance Kirby on Dec 12, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/01/2013

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Dialogues on the Grain Trade
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F\ue004\ue005 \ue006 \ue007\ue008\ue009\ue009\ue006\ue005\ue00a of Galiani\u2019s life, see the excerpt from On Money (chapter\ue00b\ue000). The publication in\ue000\ue001\ue001\ue00c of Dialogues sur le commerce des bleds (Dialogues on the Grain Trade) caused a\ufb01restorm; free-market friends cried betrayal, and one of them,abb\u00e9 Morellet, attacked him in a lengthy

\ue000\ue001\ue001\ue00cpamphlet (censored until a change of government made possible its
publication in\ue000\ue001\ue001\ue00d). Galiani pursued this polemic in a brief parody,La
bagarre,which has been rediscovered only in the twentieth century.

In\ue000\ue001\ue002\ue00d, the French government passed an edict designed to assure the free export of grain. In the midst of an economic crisis in\ue000\ue001\ue002\ue00e, and a gen- eral controversy over the wisdom of the\ue000\ue001\ue002\ue00d edict, Galiani\u2019sDialogues was the most in\ufb02uential critique. The dialogue involves three characters. The Marquis is a socially well-connected conformist proud of having read all the latest and most fashionable writings\u2014mostly by the Phys- iocrats\u2014on economic policy. The Knight (Chevalier) was a well- traveled gentleman who had been away from Paris since\ue000\ue001\ue002\ue00d and who prided himself on having read none of the Physiocrats\u2019 writings, and on resting his economic judgments upon his travels and observations alone. He certainly represents the views of the author. The President, who en- ters the conversation midway through the work, serves as a foil who facilitates the conversation.

The present excerpt from the seventh of the eight dialogues was cho- sen because it provides both a convenient summary of the core discus- sion up to that point and a sample of the distinctive narrative and rhetor-

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ical style of the author. The translation is based on the\ue000\ue001\ue001\ue00c London edi- tion of Dialogues sur le commerce des bleds, pp.\ue00b\ue00c\ue00c\u2013\ue00b\ue000\ue00b. All notes are by the present editor.

Dialogues on the Grain Trade
The Marquis
And what were we supposed to do to encourage agriculture and make it
\ufb02ourish?
The Knight
Oh, you want to know too many things at the same time. Let us con-
tinue . . .
The Marquis
You want to continue, and I am stopping you. I still feel sore about this
bet you unfairly won, and I am asking for revenge. I want to bet.
The Knight
On what?
The Marquis

Listen carefully. This time I am de\ufb01nitely betting that you are against the [free] export [of grain]; that you agree with me on the fact that we must withdraw the Edict [of\ue000\ue001\ue002\ue00d],1and go back to our former situation\u2014as I told you when you trapped me with a comparison that was pleasing but had nothing to do with what we were saying.

Dialogues on the Grain Trade
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\ue000. [The Royal Edict of July \ue000\ue003, \ue000\ue001\ue002\ue00d, went far toward explicitly guaranteeing the free

export of grain, though the Physiocrats sometimes claimed that it did not go far enough; see \u201cLettre de M. Le Trosne, Avocat du Roi \u00e0 Orl\u00e9ans, sur la n\u00e9cessit\u00e9 de l\u2019enti\u00e8re li- bert\u00e9 du commerce des grains,\u201d in Eph\u00e9m\u00e9rides du citoyen, vol.\ue00d (Nov.\ue000\ue001\ue002\ue001).]

The Knight
Will you bet a lot?
The Marquis
Everything you\u2019d like! One scruple stops me, though, and it is that I am
betting for real; I can read it in your eyes.
The Knight
And will the President bet as well?
The President
I would be tempted.
The Knight
On what grounds?
The President

Here they are: You have proven to us that we must not let France export grain other than the real surplus of an ordinary year. You have then proven to us that it was very doubtful that this surplus existed, and that nobody knew about it or could have known about it until now. And you ended up concluding that it would be better that way, because the pur- pose of any good government must be the increase in a population that would consume all the harvest, and not the increase in the latter\u2019s depar- ture to foreign countries. After setting up that purpose, you left us un- certain about the choice of means. But you had us consider [several facts].

First, the weight and volume of grain, in increasing transportation costs, decreases the pro\ufb01t in trade. Second, the di\ufb03culty of preservation in transit increases the losses and risks even more. Third, the same prob- lem remains if it is kept in storage, which obliges the trader either to su\ufb00er waste, or to sell hastily, and thus miss opportunities to sell at a high price. Fourth, one always encounters the most adverse season when the grain must necessarily be sold without being able to wait for the good season. Fifth, it [the grain trade] is neither the treasure nor the wealth of

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