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Illustration of the original visualisation of the Tableau by
The Tableau économique or Economic Table is an economic
model first described in François Quesnay in 1759, which lay
the foundation of the Physiocrats`economic theories.
Quesnay believed that trade and industry were not sources of
wealth, and instead in his book, Tableau économique (1758,
Economic Table) argued that agricultural surpluses, by
flowing through the economy in the form of rent, wages and
purchases, were the real economic movers. Firstly, said
Quesnay, regulation impedes the flow of income throughout
all social classes and therefore economic development.
Secondly, taxes on the productive classes, such as farmers,
should be reduced in favour of rises for unproductive classes,
such as landowners, since their luxurious way of life distorts
the income flow.
The model Quesnay created consisted of three economic
movers. The "Proprietary" class consisted of only landowners.
The "Productive" class consisted of all agricultural laborers.
The "Sterile" class is made up of artisans and merchants. The
flow of production and/or cash between the three classes
started with the Proprietary class because they own the land
and they buy from both of the other classes. The process has
these steps (consult Figure 1).
1. The farmer produces 1,500 food on land leased from the landlord. Of that 1,500, he retains 600 food to feed
himself, his livestock, and any laborers he hires. He sells the remaining 900 in the market for $1 per unit of food.
He keeps $300 ($150 for himself, $150 for his laborer) to buy non-farm goods (clothes, household goods, etc.)
from the merchants and artisans. This produces $600 of net profit, to which Quesnay refers as produit net.
2. The artisan produces 750 units of crafts. To produce at that level, he needs 300 units of food and 150 units of
foreign goods. He also has subsistence need of 150 units of food and 150 units of crafts to keep himself alive
during the year. The total is 450 units of food, 150 units of crafts, and 150 units of foreign goods. He buys $450
of food from the farmer and $150 of goods from the merchant, and he sells 600 units of crafts at the market for
$600. Because the artisan must use the cash he made selling his crafts to buy raw materials for the next year`s
production, he has no net profit.
3. The landlord is only a consumer of food and crafts and produces no product at all. His supposed "contribution" to
the production process is the redistribution of $600 in land rent the farmer pays for the use of naturally occurring
land. The landlord uses $300 of the rent to buy food from the farmer in the market and $300 to buy crafts from the
artisan. Because he is purely a consumer, Quesnay considers the landlord the prime mover of economic activity. It
is his desire to consume which causes him to expend his entire lease income on food and crafts and which
provides income to the other classes.
4. 4. The merchant is the mechanism for exporting food in exchange for foreign imports. The merchant uses the $150
he received from the artisan to buy food from the market, and it is assumed that he takes the food out of the
country to exchange it for more foreign goods.
Figure 1 Production Flow Diagram for Quesnay's Tableau (4)
The Tableau shows the reason why the Physiocrats disagreed with Cantillon about exporting food. The economy
produces a surplus of food, and neither the farmer nor the artisan can afford to consume more than a subsistence
level of food. The landlord is assumed to be consuming at a level of satiation; therefore, he cannot consume any
more. Since food cannot be stored easily, it is necessary to sell it to someone who can use it. This is where the
merchant provides value.
The merchant is not a source of wealth, however. The Physiocrats believed that aneither industry nor commerce
A aplausible explanation is that the Physiocrats developed their theory in light of the actual
situation of the French economycb
France was an absolute monarchy with the land owners constituting 6-8% of
the population and owning 50% of the land. (5, p. 859) Agriculture contributes 80% of the country`s wealth,
the non-land owning segment of the population apractises a subsistence agriculture that produces the essential
minimum, with virtually all income being absorbed by food requirements.b
Additionally, exports consisted mostly
of agricultural-based products, e.g. wine.
Given the massive effect of agriculture on France`s economy, it was
more likely they would develop an economic model that used it to the king`s advantage.
The Physiocrats are at the beginning of the anti-mercantilist movement. Quesnay`s argument against industry and
international trade as alternatives to his doctrine is twofold. First, industry produces no gain in wealth; therefore,
redirecting labor from agriculture to industry will in effect decrease the nation`s overall wealth. Additionally,
population expands to fill available land and food supply; therefore, population must go down if the use of land does
not produce food. Second, the basic premise of the Mercantilists is that a country must export more than it imports to
gain wealth, but that assumes it has more of a tradeable resource than it needs for internal consumption. France did
not have a colony with the ability to produce finished or semi-finished goods like England (i.e. India) or Holland (i.e.
North America, Africa, South America). Its main colonial presence was in the Caribbean, southern North America,
and southeast Asia, and like France, the colonies had agricultural-based economies. The only good which France had
in enough excess to export was food; therefore, international trade based on industrial production would not yield as
Quesnay was not anti-industry, however. He was just realistic in his assessment that France was not in good position
to incubate a strong industrial market. His argument was that artisans and manufacturers would come to France only
in proportion to the size of the internal market for their goods.
Quesnay believed aa country should concentrate on
manufacturing only to the extent that the local availability of raw materials and suitable labor enabled it to have a
cost advantage over its overseas competitors.b
Anything above that amount should be purchased through trade.
The tableau économique is credited as the "first precise formulation" of interdependent systems in economics and the
origin of the theory of the multiplier in economics.
An analogous table is used in the theory of money creation
under fractional-reserve banking by relending of deposits, leading to the money multiplier.
The wage-fund doctrine was derived from the tableau, then later rejected.
 Henry William Spiegel (1983) The Growth of Economic Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition, Duke University Press. p.189
  Charbit and Virmani (2002) p.858
  Charbit and Virmani (2002) p.859
  Mueller (1978) p.153
 The multiplier theory (http://books.google. com/ books?id=YAIeAAAAIAAJ), by Hugo Hegeland, 1954, p. 1 (http:/ /books.google. com/
books?id=YAIeAAAAIAAJ& q=+ "tableau+economique"& pgis=1#search_anchor)
· Henry William Spiegel (1983) The Growth of Economic Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition, Duke
· Yves Charbit; Arundhati Virmani (2002) The Political Failure of an Economic Theory. Physiocracy (http:/ /
links.jstor.org/sici?sici=1634-2941(200211/ 12)57:6<855:TPFOAE>2.0. CO;2-Q), Population, Vol. 57, No. 6.
(Nov. - Dec., 2002), pp. 855-883.
· A. L. Muller (1978) Quesnay´s Theory of Growth. A Comment (http://links. jstor.org/
sici?sici=0030-7653(197803)2:30:1<150:QTOGAC>2. 0. CO;2-L), Oxford Economic Papers, New Series, Vol.
30, No. 1., pp. 150-156.
· Steiner, Phillippe (2003) Physiocracy and French Pre-Classical Political Economy in eds. Biddle, Jeff E, Davis,
Jon B, & Samuels, Warren J. A Companion to the History of Economic Thought. Blackwell Publishing, 2003.
· Ronald Meek (1962) The Economics of Physiocracy, Harvard University Press. Contains translations of the
Tableau Économique, Quesnay's 'explications' of the Tableau and other physiocratic writings.
· Marguerite Kuczynski & Ronald Meek (1972) Quesnay´s Tableau Économique, Royal Economic Society,
London. A translation of the 'missing' 'Third Edition' of the Tableau.
· The History of Economic Thought Website (http:/ /homepage. newschool.edu/het/essays/youth), The New
School of Social Research. 6 Feb. 2006
· Tableau Économique - Modern view (http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/essays/youth/ tableausum.htm)
François Quesnay, after a portrait by Jean-Martial Frédou
Born June 4, 1694
Méré near Versailles
Died December 16, 1774
Field Political economics
François Quesnay (French:[fdef swa kgng]; June 4, 1694 h December 16, 1774) was a French economist of the
He is known for publishing the "Tableau économique" (Economic Table) in 1758, which
provided the foundations of the ideas of the Physiocrats.
This was perhaps the first work to attempt to describe the
workings of the economy in an analytical way, and as such can be viewed as one of the first important contributions
to economic thought. His Le Despotisme de la Chine, written in 1767, describes Chinese politics and society, and his
own political support for constitutional Oriental despotism.
Quesnay was born at Méré near Versailles, the son of an advocate and small landed proprietor. Apprenticed at the
age of sixteen to a surgeon, he soon went to Paris, studied medicine and surgery there, and, having qualified as a
master-surgeon, settled down to practice at Mantes. In 1737 he was appointed perpetual secretary of the academy of
surgery founded by François Gigot de la Peyronie, and became surgeon in ordinary to the king. In 1744 he graduated
as a doctor of medicine; he became physician in ordinary to the king, and afterwards his first consulting physician,
and was installed in the Palace of Versailles. His apartments were on the entresol, whence the Réunions de
l'entresolWikipedia:Please clarify received their name. Louis XV esteemed Quesnay highly, and used to call him his
thinker; when he ennobled him he gave him for arms three flowers of the pansy (derived from pensée, in French
meaning thought), with the Latin motto Propter cogitationem mentis.
He now devoted himself principally to economic studies, taking no part in the court intrigues which were perpetually
going on around him. Around 1750 he became acquainted with Jean C. M. V. de Gournay (1712h1759), who was
also an earnest inquirer in the economic field; and round these two distinguished men was gradually formed the
philosophic sect of the Économistes, or, as for distinction's sake they were afterwards called, the Physiocrates. The
most remarkable men in this group of disciples were the elder Mirabeau (author of L´Ami des hommes, 1756h60, and
Philosophie rurale, 1763), Nicolas Baudeau (Introduction a la philosophie économique, 1771), G. F. Le Trosne (De
l´ordre social, 1777), André Morellet (best known by his controversy with Galiani on the freedom of the grain trade
during the Flour War), Mercier Larivière, and du Pont de Nemours. Adam Smith, during his stay on the continent
with the young Duke of Buccleuch in 1764-1766, spent some time in Paris, where he made the acquaintance of
Quesnay and some of his followers; he paid a high tribute to their scientific services in his Wealth of Nations.
Quesnay died on December 16, 1774, having lived long enough to see his great pupil, Anne Robert Jacques Turgot,
Baron de Laune, in office as minister of finance. He had married in 1718, and had a son and a daughter; his grandson
by the former was a member of the first Legislative Assembly.
His economic writings are collected in the 2nd vol. of the Principaux
économistes, published by Guillaumin, Paris, with preface and notes by
Eugène Daire; also his OEuvres économiques et philosophiques were
collected with an introduction and note by August Oncken (Frankfort,
1888); a facsimile reprint of the Tableau économique, from the original
MS., was published by the British Economic Association (London,
1895). His other writings were the article "Évidence" in the
Encyclopédie, and Recherches sur l´évidence des vérites geometriques,
with a Projet de nouveaux éléments de géometrie, 1773. Quesnay's
Eloge was pronounced in the Academy of Sciences by Grandjean de
Fouchy (see the Recueil of that Academy, 1774, p.134). See also F.J.
Marmontel, Mémoires; Mémoires de Mme. du Hausset; H. Higgs, The
Physiocrats (London, 1897).
In 1758 he published the Tableau économique (Economic Table),
which provided the foundations of the ideas of the Physiocrats. This
was perhaps the first work to attempt to describe the workings of the
economy in an analytical way, and as such can be viewed as one of the
first important contributions to economic thought.
The publications in which Quesnay expounded his system were the following: two articles, on "Fermiers" and on
"Grains", in the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alembert (1756, 1757); a discourse on the law of nature in the
Physiocratie of Dupont de Nemours (1768); Maximes générales de gouvernement economique d´un royaume
agricole (1758), and the simultaneously published Tableau économique avec son explication, ou extrait des
économies royales de Sully (with the celebrated motto, Pauvres paysans, pauvre royaume, pauvre royaume, pauvre
roi); Dialogue sur le commerce et les travaux des artisans; and other minor pieces.
The Tableau économique, though on account of its dryness and abstract form it met with little general favor, may be
considered the principal manifesto of the school. It was regarded by the followers of Quesnay as entitled to a place
amongst the foremost products of human wisdom, and is named by the elder Mirabeau, in a passage quoted by Adam
as one of the three great inventions which have contributed most to the stability of political societies, the
other two being those of writing and of money. Its object was to exhibit by means of certain formulas the way in
which the products of agriculture, which is the only source of wealth, would in a state of perfect liberty be
distributed among the several classes of the community (namely, the productive classes of the proprietors and
cultivators of land, and the unproductive class composed of manufacturers and merchants), and to represent by other
formulas the modes of distribution which take place under systems of Governmental restraint and regulation, with
the evil results arising to the whole society from different degrees of such violations of the natural order. It follows
from Quesnay's theoretic views that the one thing deserving the solicitude of the practical economist and the
statesman is the increase of the net product; and he infers also what Smith afterwards affirmed, on not quite the same
ground, that the interest of the landowner is strictly and indissolubly connected with the general interest of the
society. A small edition de luxe of this work, with other pieces, was printed in 1758 in the Palace of Versailles under
the king's immediate supervision, some of the sheets, it is said, having been pulled by the royal hand. Already in
1767 the book had disappeared from circulation, and no copy of it is now procurable; but, the substance of it has
been preserved in the Ami des hommes of Mirabeau, and the Physiocratie of Dupont de Nemours.
Orientalism and China
Quesnay is known for his writings on Chinese politics and society. His book Le Despotisme de la Chine, written in
1767, describes his views of the Chinese imperial system.
He was supportive of the meritocratic concept of giving
scholars political power, without the cumbersome aristocracy that characterized French politics, and the importance
of agriculture to the welfare of a nation. The phrase laissez-faire, coined by fellow Physiocrat Vincent de Gournay, is
postulated to have come from Quesnay's writings on China.
Gregory Blue writes that Quesnay "praised China as a
constitutional despotism and openly advocated the adoption of Chinese institutions, including a stardardized system
of taxation and universal education." Blue speculates that this may have influenced the 1793 establishment of the
Permanent Settlement in Bengal by the British Empire.
Quesnay's interests in Orientalism has also been a source of
criticism. Carol Blum, in her book Strength in Numbers on 18th century France, labels Quesnay an "apologist for
Because of his admiration of Confucianism, Quesnay follower's bestowed him with the title "Confucius of Europe."
Quesnay's infatuation for Chinese culture, as described by Jesuits, led him to persuade the son of Louis XV to mirror
the "plowing of sacred land" by the Chinese emperor to symbolize the link between government and agriculture.
 Cutler J. Cleveland, "Biophysical economics" (http://www. eoearth.org/ article/Biophysical_economics), Encyclopedia of Earth, Last
updated: September 14, 2006.
 See the biographical note in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Volume 31 (International Publishers: New York, 1989)
  Smith, Adam, 1937, The Wealth of Nations, N. Y.: Random House, p. 643; first published 1776.
This articleincorporates text from a publication now in the public domain:Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911).
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
· Hobson, John M. (2004), The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization, Cambridge University Press,
· Le Despotisme de la Chine (http:/ /courses. umass. edu/ pols294p/documents.html/quesnay. pdf) (1767) by
François Quesnay, hosted on the University of Massachusetts website
Article Sources and Contributors
Article Sources and Contributors
Tableau économique Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=548764931 Contributors: ChrisGualtieri, Ekabhishek, Guenael, Jojalozzo, Mdd, Nbarth, 3 anonymous edits
François Quesnay Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=541209002 Contributors: 777sms, 7e7, AVIosad, Alex1011, Alf.laylah.wa.laylah, Alterrabe, Andres, Anthon.Eff,
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Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors
Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors
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