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The Physiocrats' Concept of Economics Author(s): Thomas P. Neill Source: The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 63, No.

4 (Nov., 1949), pp. 532-553 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: Accessed: 28/07/2010 12:22
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SUMMARY Introduction, 532. - I. The nature and scope of physiocracy: a normative and mathematical science based on "natural law," 534. - II. The theory of innate economic ideas, 538. - III. A mathematicallyexact science deduced from firstprinciples, 540. - IV. Quesnay's own view of the new science, 544.- V. Quesnay's use of the inductive method and of mathematics,549. - VI. The gulf between Quesnay and his disciples, 551.

Historians ofeconomic thought generally holdthatthePhysiocrats were founders of "the first strictly scientific systemof economics."' There was economicthoughtbeforethe Physiocrats, to be sure,but this previousthoughtconsistedof scatteredtheories, like Gresham's law, and it was generally treatedas part ofethicsor of politics. Such subordinationof economic thoughtto ethics is only to have been expectedin a medieval and early modernsocietywhichlooked upon social activityas moral and therefore subject to the ethical teaching of the Christian churches. It was likewise natural that economic a branchofpoliticsin the sixteenth be considered thought and seventeenth centurieswhen the absolute state had established itselfin European society and succeeded in embracingor controlling most facetsof human activity. In the mid-eighteenth in that periodknownas century, however, the "Age ofEnlightenment," an intellectual thereoccurred revolution which was directedagainst the traditionalcontrolof both Church and State over social activity. And out of that revolutionthere seemed to emergea new science. Such, at least, was the pronouncementof an anonymousPhysiocratwho wrotethat "economicscience has at last penetratedthe sanctuaryof the Muses ... First because ofthe importance ofits object,in the chronological orderit is the last humanbranchof knowledgeto be discovered."2 This seems to have been the generalopinionof men of the Enlightenment. The gossipy Baron Grimm,for example, wrote fromParis to his German subscribersthat "political economyhas become la sciencea la modein
1. The phrase is Auguste Oncken's. See his compilation, Oeuvres6conomiques et philosophiqucsde F. Quesnay (Paris, 1888), ix. It is a statement that is as universally agreed to as any broad generalization in the history of economic theory. 2. "Dc l'utilite des discussions economiques," in Physiocratie (Paris, 1768), IV, 3. Physiocratieis a six volume collection of essential physiocratic writings made by Pierre-Samuel Dupont. Authorship of the individual articles is not indicated in the collection. 532



wishesto France," and he complainedthat "a sect [the Physiocrats] dominatethis science."3 Certainlythe Physiocratsbelieved that theyhad created a new not onlythat theirleader,FranqoisQuesnay, science.4 They thought had discoveredit but also that he had developed all the essential truthsit could properlycontain. Mirabeau consideredQuesnay's Tableau economiqueone of the world's three great discoveries equalled only by the inventionof printingand the discovery of money.5 The Physiocratswere all contentto sit at the feetof their was the oracle who possessed the truth masterwho, like Confucius,6 which, was a new discovery in all its fullness. For themphysiocracy fromthe head of Zeus, was born full-blown, like Minerva springing that completelydeveloped. The Physiocrats thought, therefore, theirappointed task was to explain and popularize the truthsdisthat they,themthought coveredby Quesnay. None ofthefollowers to the developoriginalor personalto contribute selves,had anything doctrine, ensembleofphysiocratic mentofeconomictheory. The first Mirabeau's Philosophierurale,was built around Quesnay's Tableaus it.' Mirabeau with the express purpose of popularizing economique to some extentunderhis supervision, wroteat Quesnay's suggestion, and he included at least one chapter writtenby Quesnay himself. In like manner,Le Mercier's L'Ordre nature et essentialdes societies of physiowhichturnedout to be the classic presentation politiques, in Quesnay'sapartment, underhisdirection, was written cratictheory, in systematic, the doctor'stheories and withthepurposeofpresenting fashion.8 orderly
3. Correspondancelitteraire,philosophique et critique (Paris, 1813), Pt. I, Vol. V (February 1766), 480. 4. The best source of informationon the Physiocrats and their contempormodernes qui ont concouru aries is Dupont's "Notice abr6g6e des differentsmcrits la science de l'6conomie politique," published in eight numbers en France 'a former in 1769. of the physiocraticjournal, Ephemeridesdu citoyen, 5. Cited by Louis de Lomenie, Les Mirabeau: Nouvelles etudessur la sociWtd franfaise au XVIIIe si'cle (Paris, 1879), II, 311. 6. Quesnay was likened to Confucius,Socrates, Zeno and othersuch intellectual giants whose teaching was enthusiastically received by their disciples, who in turn became missionersof the great man's gospel. 7. Mirabeau's book, published in 1763, was a miserable failure. It did not offer the age the brilliantphraseology and the cystral-cleararrangementof ideas then in vogue. It was because of Mirabeau's failure that Quesnay looked to Le Mercier fora successful popularization of his ideas. 8. Contemporaries, both the Physiocrats and their opponents, all looked upon Le Mercier's book as the definitive statement of physiocratic doctrine. Dupont called it a "sublime book" in whichthe "truthsdiscoveredby Dr. Quesnay are so superiorlyand so clearly developed." (Physiocratie,III, 15.) Adam Smith believed it was the "most distinctand best connectedaccount ofthis [physiocratic] doctrine." (Wealth of Nations, Bk. IV, Chapter IX.)



a "school" of theorists themselves considered So the Physiocrats doctrine. This was an from each otheron no important who differed disrepute, age when"sects" and "systems"had fallenintointellectual a man had to face the chargeofblindlyfollowing and the Physiocrats and the rules of "who had thoughtonly of the operationsof surgery medicine,to which he added for his amusementa confusedmetaphysics,"9 But they were willingto face the charge because they - and were convinced of the correctnessof Quesnay's doctrine personswould some day come to because theythoughtall intelligent agreewiththemin acceptingit. Dupont triedto parrytheaccusation whichevaded werea "sect" withcountercharges that the Physiocrats the pointat issue.
And now a word to the severe enemies of sects. If those who regard all men as theirbrothers, who occupy themselvespeacefullyand incessantlywith developing their interests,their duties and their rights,who show that there are sacred and supreme natural laws, the notion of which is evident to all who reflecton it and the sanction of which is visible, pressing,imperiousand inevitable, . . . if such a group is called a sect who prove methodically all these things by calculation and by measure, then we well deserve to be hated, decried and persecuted by the wicked, by violaters of the rightsof others, by breakers of the natural law, by arbitrarydespots and tyrants.'

Le Trosne handled the question better by admittingfrankly forthis [designation] that the Physiocrats"forma sect, if it suffices in to have the same opinions,the same language, to be perfectly a singlemaster."2 Both the Physiaccord on all points,to recognize ocrats and their opponents, then, consideredthe group a small school of men sittingat the feet of a single master, men whose was to popularizethe master's thoughtand thus bringthe function in blessingof the new scienceto the entireworld,a group,therefore, pointsofdoctrine, on important whichtherecould be no disagreement for Quesnay's writings were the "inspiredword" to which they all looked forultimatetruth. new science? What did the Physiocratsthinkof this wonderful What was its object? Its nature? Its method? What was it to embrace? How was it to discoverall facetsof social truth? What,
9. Abbe Gabriel Bonnet de Mably, "Du commerce des grains," Collection des oeuvresde l'abbgde Mably (Paris, 1794-95), XIII, 295. complete of 1769, the official du citoyen physiocraticjournal 1. From the Ephemerides edited by Dupont. The selection is found in Eugene Daire (ed.), Physiocrates (Paris, 1846), 315-316. Daire's collection of physiocratic writingsremains the most complete in any language. 2. De l'ordresocial (Paris, 1777), 312.



the to itselfand properly if anything, was to be put aside as foreign object of anotherscience? These are questionsthe Physiocratshad in an age of rationalism so that theirnew to answerforthemselves position. The sciencecould obtain a recognizedand clearlydefined are of some importancein the historyof answers they formulated forit is partlyupon theiranswersto thesequestions economictheory, contemporary either the first are to be considered thatthe Physiocrats or the last of the earliermoderneconomists. economists the Writing,as they did, in an age of intellectualconfusion,3 Physiocratsdid not have as clear-cuta pictureof the scope and the object of economicsas did their successorsof the early nineteenth freefromthe place, they did not cut entirely century. In the first older conceptswhichput economicsdown as a branchof ethicsor of and they economistes, politics. They called themselvesphilosophes looked upon their new science as a social philosophy including economic,political,ethical,and social activity. It was a normative social science, apparently,for it was based on natural law, as the wordphysiocratie indicates. Baudeau significantly entitledthe work Introduction in whichhe triedto sum up physiocracy d la philosophic and he concluded this work by stating,"Voila le droit economique, by nature el la philosophic morale,"a sciencewhichis to be perfected in the "l'instruction moraleeconomique, that is to say, instruction naturallaw of justice in its essence."4 to "naturallaw," bound their newsciencetightly The Physiocrats sometimes identifysometimes makingit a part ofthelaws ofnature,5 ing thetwo. Dupont states,forexample,that "witha littlereflection one can see withcertitudethat the sovereignlaws of nature include of the economicorder."6 Again, he writesto the essentialprinciples J.-B. Say that economics"is the science of natural law, applied, as
3. It is important that one remember how confusing things intellectual were in this age when almost every thinkertried, above all, to bring order to his subject. It is an age when Cartesian rationalism, long accepted by advanced accepted thinkers,has fallen into decline. Cartesianism becomes the officially philosophy of the Sorbonne, however, only in this age, replacing the even more decadent scholasticism. Empiricism, imported from England, had come to be accepted by the more daring thinkersby 1775. Romanticism, meanwhile, was beginningto undermineany formof rationalism. It should also be remembered that these methods and these systemswere not mutually exclusive in all respects. to findany one thinkerwho uses one system and belongs It is difficult, therefore, to one school exclusively. 4. Daire, olp. cit., 819-820. between 5. The younger Physiocrats are not consistent in differentiating "natural law" as a moral law and "law of nature" as a Newtonian physical law. The two concepts have merged in their minds, as we shall indicate later in this article, and it is only occasionally that they distinguishthem fromeach other. 6. In Oncken, op. cit., 362.



it should be, to civilized society."7 This same definition is offered by the author of the article De l'utilitedes discussionseconorniques whenhe states that economicsis "nothingbut the applicationof the naturalorderto the government of society." AlthoughQuesnay makes no specificstatementson the nature or the scope of economics,the youngerPhysiocratsthoughttheir definitions were implied in his writingsand were derived fromhis conversations.9In his Despotisme de la Chine,whichwas the closest Quesnay ever came to arranginghis physiocraticteachingsinto a unified piece, he tells how in that ideal country of China "ethicsand politicsform a singlescience."' This scienceis the model forhis own physiocracy. Quesnay goes on to tell how the Chinese U-King, apparentlya combinationconstitution and bible, governsall man's social and religious conduct.
These sacred books [of U-King] include a complete ensemble of religiona-id the governmentof the empire, of civil and political laws; both are dictated irrevocably by the natural law, the study of which is very searching and is, indeed, the capital object of the sovereign and the scholars charged with the details of

So the new science, which is based on natural law, is wide in scope. Apparentlyit is to include all social conduct, all of man's dealing with man. This was held as late as 1815 when Dupont condemnedSay for restricting economicsto the "science of wealth, whichis onlya collectionofcalculations."' "You see, my dear Say," Dupont went on, "that our scienceis veryextensive, that it includes a great numberof objects. Why do you restrain to that of yourself
wealth? .

and the language of the English.... Economics is the science of enlightened social relations."4 justice in all its domesticand foreign In 1777,whenthe physiocratic schoolwas twenty yearsold and there was little doubt as to its official teaching,Le Trosne had indicated the scope of physiocracy in morespecific terms:"This science,taken
7. In Daire, op. cit., 397. 8. Physiocratie,IV, 9. 9. Gustave Schelle, who has done more work on the activity of the physiocratic school than anyone else, observes: "It was in his [Quesnay's] apartment that economics was founded, more by Quesnay's conversations than by his writings." Le Docteur Quesnay (Paris, 1907), 122. 1. In Oncken, op. cit., 605. Quesnay's Despotisme de la Chine has recently been translated into English and is published as the second volume of Louis A. Maverick's China, A Model for Europe (San Antonio, 1946). 2. Ibid., 605. 3. In Daire, op. cit., 397. 4. Ibid., 397, 415.

. Your genius is vast.

Do not imprison it in the ideas




in its ensemble,includesall parts of the administration: agriculture, commerce, industry, taxation, justice, the police, legislation,peace and war: everything that is related to the security, the tranquillity and the welfare of men is its province."5 The Physiocrats, then,thoughtthat they had discovereda new science,that it was an elucidationof natural law, and that its scope extendedto all of man's dealing withman and withnature. It was a moral science governing therefore man's social activity,much the sort of thingthat John Locke once hoped to achieve for ethics by applyingto that subject the laws discoveredby his friendNewton. But physiocracy was also thoughtto be an exact science. Just as God had reservedto the French (in the person of Descartes), the honorofmakingan exact scienceout of philosophy, Dupont told the readersof Ephemerides du citoyen, so the honorof moldingmorality and politicsinto a mathematicalsciencehad been given to the same people in the person of Quesnay.6 That he was stating the official physiocratic positionis evidentfromall theirreferences to the new science, "a true science, says Baudeau, "which perhaps does not cede anythingto geometry itself."7 "Economic science," according to anotherPhysiocrat, "is as constantin its principles and as susceptible of demonstration as the most certainphysicalsciences."' And Le Trosne calls it "an exact sciencesubject to invariablerules."9 In thus definingand describingphysiocracythe Physiocrats in an anomalous position. They can appear to have put themselves consistently believe it to be both normativeand mathematicalonly if theyhold that human conductis susceptibleto the same physical laws that governthe physicaluniverse. Such a deterministic belief was not unknownin the eighteenth and althoughQuesnay century, had specifically writtenin defenseof freedomof the will' and had writtennothingdirectlyto encourage a deterministic approach to all showa tendency nevertheless the youngerPhysiocrats economics, to eliminatethe variable humanfactorfrom theircalculations. They were convincedthat Quesnay had discoveredthe secretthat would make all men act rationallyin the future:the utilityof conforming
5. De l'ordresocial, 346-347. 6. In Oncken, op. cit., 716. 7. Premiereintroduction a la philosophickonomique, in Daire, op. cit., 655. 8. "De 1'utilit6des discussions 6economiques,"Physiocratie,IV, 9. 9. De l'ordresocial, 320. 1. His most extensive defense of free will is his chapter "La liberty" in his Essai physiquesur lNcononie animale. His stand here is essentially the same as that of the medievalist schoolman. He also asserts freedom of the will in his Droit natural and Dc l'immortalitM de l'dme. These are all in Oncken's collection of Quesnay's writings.



to "natural law." This, said Dupont, was Quesnay's greatcontribuLe Trosne tion to humanity;2 "a principleof the greatestfertility," called it, "whichdecidesall questionsofpoliticaleconomy,dissipates all prejudices,undergoesneitherexceptionnor modification." The unimportant to the philosophicalproblemof freewill was therefore for they believed they had discoveredthe law of selfPhysiocrats,4 interestto whichall men were as much subject as a stone is to the unembarrassed by proposing law of gravity. They were therefore thattheirsciencewhichdealt withhumanactionswas bothnormative and mathematical. II Each science imposesits own properdisciplineupon those who work in it. Each science has its own methodof reasoning, its own at valid conclusions. rules of procedure, its accepted way of arriving then, Perhaps the Physiocrats'conceptof economicscan be clarified, by seeing what method of reasoningthey consideredproperforthe elucidation of economic truths. As typical Cartesian rationalists,5 the Physiocrats subscribed to the theory of innate ideas. "Our knowledge ofthislaw [naturallaw,whichincludesall economiclaws]," in all our hearts."6 Le Mercierwrites,"is written
The justice and the necessity of these natural laws are of a certitudewhich they themselves show to all men, without the help of any sensible sign.... It is in the code of nature itself that they are found written,and we distinctlyread them all there with the aid of reason, this light which illuaninatotnneni. honinem venientenin hunc mundum.7

Dupont goes even furtherand insists that economic truths as to manifest themselves to the simplesavage as fullyand certainly
2. Dupont states this in a letter to J.-B. Say. See J.-B. Say, Cours conple't d'iconoinie politique [17th. ed., edited by Horace Say (Brussels, 1844) ], 582. 3. De l'intiretsocial, 713. This second work of Le Trosne's is published in the same volume as his De l'ordresocial (Paris, 1777). 4. The youngerPhysiocrats did not deny freewill. They dismiss it quickly, however, to concentrateon what they call "social" or "physical" freedom,which is the libertyto do as one likes with his property. 5. It is not generally appreciated that Cartesianism was the "new" andi "daring" philosophyin France until the middle of the eighteenthcentury. It did not receive officialstatus at the University of Paris until after the de Prades scandal of 1751-52. Only the most "advanced" thinkers in the 1760's had revolted from the Cartesian system in favor of English empiricism,presented most effectively to the French thinkerby Condillac's TraitVdes sensations (1754) aid IHelvetius' De l'esprit (1759). When we say the Physiocrats were Cartesian rationalists, exception must be made for Quesnay, and to some extent for AMirabeau, as we shall show later in this paper. 6. L'ordre nalurel et essentialdes socieiis politiques (Londoin, 1767), Il, 434. 7. Ibid., I, 120-121.



the educated man. "These evident principlesof the most perfect constitution ofsociety,"he says, "manifest ofthemselves, themselves, to man. I do not mean to say only to an instructed and studious man, but even to the simplesavage."8 In the same vein the physiocratic journal, Ephemerides du citoyen, condemnedthe Italian economist and criminologist Beccaria forusing the inductivemethodin the sociologicalsciences.
We can know these sciences [the moral, political, and economic sciences comprisingphysiocracy]in theirfullextent,because theirfundamentalprinciples are by nature quite evident to those of us who wish to reflect a bit, and sometimes even despite ourselves. In applying ourselves to a thoroughknowledge of these principlesand always taking them as our point of departure,we arrive easily and with the greatest certitude at their most remote conclusions: an invincibly clear logic conducts us there rapidly by a series of incontestable deductions.9

in 1777whenphysiocracy Le Trosne,writing was fully formulated as a science,handlesthe questionof methodand the originof knowledge ofeconomic principles morefully thandoes any otherPhysiocrat. In the introductory chapterof De l'ordresocial he likensknowledge of economicsto a "light" which floods the soul of the economist. "Struck by the certitudeof these principles,"Le Trosne continues, "he is firmly convincedthat theywill one day be made manifest to all men."' Economic laws are knowninnatelybecause economicsis "a sciencederivedfromthe first of justice whichenlighten principles 2 It is not made known to man by a particularact of all men." revelationon God's part; instead "it is simple,certain,laid bare to all eyes, it is writtenin obvious charactersin the great book of nature. 3 The Physiocratsseem confusedin referring now to "the great book ofnature"and thento "the heart" as the repository ofeconomic truth. One naturallyasks whether the Physiocratslooked fortruth outsidethemselves in "nature" or in theirown minds. The solution of thisdifficulty lies in the age's identification of "nature" withone's own mind. For it is by reflection ratherthan by observationthat one reads in the "great book of nature."4 Le Trosne demonstrates
9. 1769, VI, 62. Quoted in Leon Cheinissc, Les idees politiqtes des physiocrates (Paris, 191-4),179. 1. De l'ordresocial, 10. 2. Ibid., 13. 3. Ibid., 23. 4. It is general vlyappreciated that Rousseau rea-tsoned in this way, because
8. "Discours de '(Iditeur,'' Physt'bOiiit, I, xix.

it: "What I feelis right,is right; what I feelis wrong,is wrong." The rationalists were not different from Rousseau in ,ll respects. Their book of nature, like

of his strongly Coistructed ease for sub jeetivisrn and for his pithy way of stating



thispoint well:
The firstprinciples of the social order [physiocracy,or the good economic society for Le Trosne] that reveal themselves to us are simple; they conformto the constitutionof man; they have always been known implicitly.... They are incontestable, and their certitude is easy to know. They are established partly on moral notions generally admitted and expressly dictated by instinct (par le sentiment on the laws of nature itself, the results of which interiorr, and 1)a.rtly lie before our eyes. This social order is at the same time prescribed by justice and indicated by self interest;it has forits basis the rightsand the duties of man as a moral and physical creature, of man fittedwith intelligenceand capable of discerningthe true fromthe false, the good fromthe evil, the just fromthe injust, of man subject to [physical]needs and forcedto make use of the means that the laws of reproduction offerhim, laws which he discovers by experience and reflection.5

These ideas are independentof the world about the thinker. Le Mercier,forexample,beginshis classic expositionof physiocratic doctrine with an analysis of man not too far removed from Descartes' je pense,doncje suis and fromit he deduces what the natural order should be, what m.nan's rightsand duties are, what political and economic laws flowfromman's nature and fromthe physical laws regulatingthe universe. Le Mercier describes his methodof reasoningaccuratelywhen he asserts: "I do not lay my eyes on any nation or any centuryin particular;I seek to describe thingsas theyshouldbe essentially, withoutbothering how theyare or how they have been in any countrywhatsoever."' Again, he insists:
As truth exists by itself and is the same in all places and all times, so by reasoning and examination we can arrive at it and all the practical consequences which result fromit. Examples which appear to contradict these consequences prove nothing,forit is only that men have lost the way and do not have certitude and full knowledge of the truth.7

III The physiocratic theoryof innate economicideas should not be misunderstood and oversimplified on the basis of a few quotations like the above, as Locke had unjustly oversimplified Descartes' theoryof innate ideas. The Physiocratsrealized that babies were not born mumbling that a smallersupply means a higherprice, or is the sourceof all wealth. These thingsare innate, that agriculture insofaras they are deduced fromthe accordingto the Physiocrats,
Quesnay's China, was prettymuch a product of theirown mindswhere they found "proof" of theirprinciples. 5. De l'ordresocial, 315-316. 6. L'Ordre nature, I, 194. 7. Ibid., I, 194-195.




firstprinciplesof knowledgewith which all normal men are born. They are in the mindpotentially at birth;theycan be brought to the lightof consciousknowledgeby the rightmethod,and withoutthe of any information intrusion outsidethe mind itself. The Physiocratstherefore sought to begin with incontestable firstprinciplesand to deduce fromthem, in typically rationalist, deductivefashion,theirwhole body of economicdoctrine. Done in this method,they believed, theirscience would be foolproof. Here again Quesnay stands apart from his disciples. Except for him, however,the Physiocratsall subscribedto the deductivemethodof elucidating detailedlaws ofeconomicbehaviorfrom innateprinciples. Even Mirabeau, who was temperamentally incapable of being a rationalist, triedfutilely to use the deductivemethod.8 Le Mercier, in using it that his book is a rationalistic however, was so successful chain,each pointbeing rigidly deduced from the preceding one, with the resultthat one weak link causes the whole argument to collapse. That is whycontemporary criticscondemnedhim for"his geometric his abuse of the wordsevident step-by-step pace, his solemnstiffness, whichpuzzledthePhysiocrats, and necessaire."IThis is an indictment in the full forthey constructed theirchain of reasoningknowingly, beliefthat it was the only correct methodof procedure. Le Trosne, forexample,introduces his De l'interet social, whereinhe deals with economicsubjects,by tellingthe readerthat he proposes specifically to follow "une logique exacte" in deducing economic consequences fromfirst principlesstated in his De l'ordresocial. "This theory," he continuesin justification of his method,"constitutes an ensemble so unitedby a seriesofnecessary and coherent thatwhen deductions, the chainis brokenone can present nothing morethanscattered parts, isolatedand disordered truths, parts of principles that are as obscure as the language is inexact."' So the Physiocrats adopted the rationalistic systemof deducing all truthfrominnate ideas. It was not a systeminto which they inadvertently fell,fortheywanted to do foreconomicthoughtwhat Descartes had done forphilosophy. They wantedto use his criterion
8. Mirabeau informsthe reader of L'Ami des homes that he wishes to begin with "general ideas" and "well-fixeddefinitions." His description of this work given in the last chapter indicates how poorly he followed the rationalist method of orderlydeductive reasoning. There he says, quite correctly, that there is order only in the chapter titles, that the work is "incgal, sans gofit,neglige, souvent diffus,et amphibologique ... fatigue et etouffe." L'Ami des hommes (4th. ed.; Hambourg, 1758), 426. 9. The remark is Edgard Depitre's in his introductionto a later edition of Le Mercier's L'Ordre nature (Paris, 1909), xviii. 1. De l'interet social, in De l'ordresocial, 492-493.



of the clear and distinctidea for measuringthe truthof each law theydeduced,and theywantedto start,as he had done,withnothing except a few incontestablefirstprinciples. Then their conclusions social science. would be irrefutable. Theirs would be the foolproof by de Descartes quotes the JEloge approvingly One of the Physiocrats Thomas, in whichthe lattertellshow the Cartesiansystemhad been as well as to philosophy. "This to social thought applied successfully would be a grand project," the Physiocrat concludes, "to apply Descartes' doubt to theseobjects,to examinethemone by one, as he onlyaccordingto his examinedall his ideas, and to judge everything greatmaximof certitude."2 agree. All withwhichthe otherPhysiocrats This is a procedure are to be decided thenew science,Le Trosneinsists, truths comprising "a sure and infallible guide,"' which as valid on the basis of evidence, discernment distinct in Descartes' own terms:"a clearand he defines which the perceptions whichwe have, of all of the ideas Lentirnmnl percepthese between depend on them,and of all the relationships of evidence, exactly the same definition tions."4 Le Mercier offers as trueonly accept science new and thenhe goes on to insistthat the he beway, In this of evidence.5 what is knownwith the certitude was as way same the in be demonstrable would lieved, physiocracy minds as enlightened over hold sway and it would Euclid's geometry do. to seemed then as Euclidian geometry sovereignly turnedtoward Because theybelievedthat men's mindsnaturally all they irresistible,6 evidence considered certitudeand because they teachtheir to expose which with of discussion asked forwas liberty spreading for time only need to truth of nature very of the "It is ings. and its itselfand libertyforexplainingitself. Its lawyeris evidence Physiocrats the that this reason for is mainly It judge is reason."7 believed they had discovereda science and a method optimistically which would usher in the perfectsociety withina relativelyshort time.
2. "De l'utilite des discussions economiques," Physiocratie,IV, 46. 3. De l'ordresocial, 305. 4. Ibid., 306. 5. L'Ordre naturel,I, 84-86. 6. Dupont, forexample, writes: "II a vu qu'on ne pourroit resistera l'evidence et A l'autorite de ces lois souveraines quand elles seroient suffisamment connues et manifestoes." "Discours de l'editeur," Physiocratie, I, lv. And Le Mercier tells the reader: "Nos esprits ont une tendance naturellc vers l'evidence; et le doute est une situation importuneet penible pournous. Aussipouvons nous regarderl'evidence comme le repos de l'esprit; il y trouve une sorte de bienetre qui ressemble fort a celui que le repos physique procure a nos corps." L'Ordre natural, 1, 100. IV, 23-24. 7. "De l'utilite des discussions e(conomiques,"IPhysiocratie,



This Cartesian certitudewas a mathematicalcertitudewhich ruledout anything like prudential decisionsforthe economist. There was no longerto be any questionof takingthe betterof two courses, no more weighing of advantages and disadvantages of alternatives. Things were rightor they were wrong,and the clear and distinct idea separated the true fromthe false as mechanicallyas a grain grader separates little kernels from big. Descartes had applied mathematics to philosophy to create modernrationalism, and in the had applied mathematics same way the Physiocrats to social matters to come out withthe exact scienceof physiocracy. It was a science, whichwas subject in all respectsto the laws of maththey insisted, ematicalcalculations, whether one dealt withthe questionoffreedom of commerce, the "natural price" of grain,taxation,or wages. The laws of this science are clearly discerned,in Dupont's words, "by reflection, by judgment, by physicaland moralarithmetic, by certain calculation."8 Mirabeau, in the same way, looked upon Quesnay's Tableau 6conomique, the basis of the new science in his opinion,as "the first whichwas inventedin orderto reduce rule of arithmetic, this elementary science [physiocracy] to an exact, precisecalculus."9 Le Trosne explains more fully how the new science is based on "Vevidence mathematique":
Calculus is a formula by which one works on measurable and comparable quantities, between which one seeks to discover some relationship. The result presents the unknown that was sought and which could be found only with a great deal of difficulty without this formula. Economic science, operating on measurable objects, is susceptible of being an exact science, of being subject to calculus.1

Such was the view the Physiocratsheld of theirnew science,a exact science which properlytreated of all man's mathematically social activity. Theirwritings, withtheir by and large,are consistent formal of physiocracy. Le Mercieris probablythe purest definitions of the school. Dupont and Baudeau rankclose Cartesianrationalist behind him. Le Trosne is undoubtedlya rationalist,but he uses historicalexamples and factual material to back up his arguments from timeto time,2something Le Mercierdisdainsto do. Le Trosne's
8. "Discours de 1'6diteur,"Physiocratie,I, iii. 9. Philosophie rurale (Amsterdam, 1763), xix. 1. De l'ordresocial, 320. 2. Le Trosne shows he has not completelydisassociated his theoryfromthe factual world about him by citing England as the great agricultural country of the time, Poland as the outstanding example of political disorder, and certain American colonies where he thinks one or another of the physiocratic principles is workingout. He also appeals to historyfromn time to time foradditional proof of a point he seeks to make.



reasoning,however,stands independentof the factual material to whichhe alludes; it is broughtin onlyby way of illustration or exemplification of the point he is makinglogicallyand deductively.

It has already been observed that the Physiocrats thought themselvesto be nothingmore than popularizersof Quesnay's discoveries. In their treatmentof specificeconomic questions of the of corn-uerce, day, such as freedom taxation,and the advantages of large farmsover small, they adhere closelyto the doctor's writing, and they occasionally invoke his authority. But when they deal with theirconcept of the new science they do not referdirectlyto his works or his conversation. As a matter of fact, Quesnay had on the subjectas such. Studentsofeconomicthought written nothing - but incorrectly - assumed that the Physiohave quite naturally oftheir and thathe master'sthought, cratswereaccuratepopularizers with all theirworks. Auguste Oncken, therefore agreedsubstantially to thinkotherwise, the only studentof physiocracy observedlate in the last centurythat he could not help believingthat Quesnay was not "completelyand consequentlyjustly understoodby any of his disciples. Various observationsmake us conclude that Quesilay, especiallytowardthe end of his life,had the same feeling."' worth investigating whetherQuesnay held the It is therefore same concept of the new science of economicsas did his followers. we must findhis attitude Since he neverwroteon the subject itself, of toward economicsby the indirectmethod seeinghow he handled economic questions, what method of reasoninghe pursued, what proofshe used, how he arrivedat conclusions. A word of caution is necessary at the beginning,if we would keep Quesnay's view of economics in properperspective. The "new science" was just one phase - and a passing one at that - in Quesnay's intellectuallife. economicarticlein 1756, when he was sixty-three He wrotehis first he was already famousin France as a physician old and when years and a writeron both medical and philosophicalsubjects. His last article on economicmattersappeared in February of 1768. After that time Quesnay showed no interestin physiocracy. He had his speculation and his enthusiasm to mathematics, transferred principallyto intricategeometric problems. These last years were
3. Op. cit., 721. Oncken does not enlarge upon this observation. The point "Quesnay is indicated in summary form,but not developed in Thomas P. NeLill, and Physiocracy," Journal of theHistoryof Ideas, IX (April 1948), 153-173.



a period of senile mathematicalspeculation -or at least so the thought.4 Physiocrats throwsome lighton his ideas on the Quesnay's earlierwritings method proper to economic investigation. They reveal him as a of the eighteenth century, one who is thinker well-rounded typically only by the sober good saved fromthe accusation of dilettantism of his sense he always exhibited and by the relative profundity writingsshow him to be an various essays. His nonphilosophical independentthinkerwho stands above any one method or any system.5 He lets the subject matterdictate the methodhe employs; he does not impose the same disciplineon all subjects, as the true forexample, did. His articles"Evidence" and "Fermiers," rationalist do not seem to whichappear in the same volume of the Encyclopedie, in methodofreasonby the same man. They differ have been written ing,in style,even in temper. His essays on medical subjects,again, stress the value of observationand experiencefor arrivingat new in medicine. His philosophicalarticlesreveal a man versed theories and of the Cartesianschool,in Locke's empiricism, in the rationalism men. in theolder traditionalist philosophyof the School1 accepts or rejects various theoriesfrom Quesnay independently each of these groups. In the main he agrees with Locke's stresson as a basis forsociety,forexample,but he rejects the role of property because he thinksit leaves the mind Locke's empiricalepistemology but too passive. Again, he accepts many of Descartes' conclusions, he decisivelyrejects his theoryof innate ideas and his methodical in acceptingmuch he showsindependence doubt. In similarfashion, about "order,"but he rejectshis occasionofMalebranche'sreasoning of the body and the soul. Thus alist explanationforthe interaction wrote on economicsin 1756 and was creditedby the man who first a "new science" was recognizedas an with discovering his followers and to deal withmedical,philosophical, eclecticwho was competent in is fields indicated His these social subjects. competency recognized by the articles he was assigned for inclusionin the famous Encyclopedie:"Evidence," "Fermiers," "Fonctions de l'Ame," "Grains," "Hommes," "Imp6ts," "Inte'retde l'argent." He would likelyhave
4. In 1773 Quesnay published his Recherchesphilosophiques sur l'6vidence a work of quite low caliber mathematically that Turgot des veritesgeometriques, referredto as "scandal of scandals" [Gustave Schelle, Du Pont de Nemours et (Paris, 1888), 124.] lV'colephysiocratique 5. It is worth noting that the three 6loqes on which most informationabout Quesnay's life depends treat him as an eclectic philosopher who excelled in speculative medicine, wrote philosophical articles, and finallyworked in agricultural economy. None of them looks upon him simply as tihefounder of physiocracy. All three elogesare contained in Oncken, op. cit.



if he had not severedrelationswith receivedadditional assignments Diderot's publishing venturein 1759.6 of physiocracy, The founder then,was not a rationalist. In his in 1756, he specifiarticle"Evidence," publishedin the Encyclopedie cally and vigorouslyattacks the Cartesian theory of innate ideas to by the younger subscribed Physiocrats. "Innate ideas," he writes, "or ideas that the mind producesof itselfwithoutthe action of any extrinsic cause, do not create in the mind any proofof the realityof to arriveat a knowlanything else."7 Reason alone is not sufficient of world both man the and "natural laws" outside edge governing and the universe. Quesnay tells us in anotherplace that "reason is to the mind what the eyes are to the body."8 Knowledgesiftsinto the mind throughreason and is acted on by it, but reason alone cannot procureknowledgeof itself. Consequently,Quesnay did not indulge in chain reasoning,as did Le Mercierand the restof his disciples. In his economicarticles, indeed,it is almost impossibleto findany of the typicallyrationalist phrases,suchas evident and nercessairement, or any ofthe "it-thereforefollows" transitions. Both Quesnay's backgroundand his temperament militatedagainst his succumbingto the rationalistformof reasoning, eitherin philosophyor in social science. By the time lie began to write on economicsubjects he was too old and too wise, too experienced and, as Baron Grimmput it, too "cynical"9to trust whichso intrigued his disciples. the Euclidian thinking That Quesnay did not look upon economicsas a mathematically of "natural law," exact science is to be impliedfromhis treatment the law on which his economicsis based. His analysis of natural law showsclearlythat he did not subscribeto the trendthencurrent of convertingthe normativemoral law into a Newtonian law of tendedto do. He treatsthe subject nature,as the otherPhysiocrats
6. License to publish was withdrawn from the Encyclopedie in 1759 as a result of the commotion caused by Helvetius' De l'esprit. The governmenthad revoked the Encyclopidie's license originallyin 1752 as a result of the de Prades affair, but permissionto publish was granted again in about a year. Because the Encyclopediewas always suspect and because Quesnay held a court position, the doctor could not continue his collaboration with Diderot after 1759. His three articles, "Evidence," "Fermiers," and "Grains," appeared under a pseudonym; "Fonctions de l'Ame" should have appeared before "Grains," but forsome reason Diderot never published it - mainly, this author believes, because of his disagreement with Quesnay's religious views expressed in the article. The other three articles were returnedto Quesnay in 1759, at his request, and he gave them to Dupont for publication in the physiocraticjournal. 7. In Oncken, op. cit., 777. 8. "Droit naturel" in Oncken, op. cit., 376.

9. Op. cit.,Pt. I, Vol. V, 481.



and analyticallyin two places: in his of natural law descriptively publishedin the September 1765, issue article "Droit naturel" first and later et des finances,' of the Journalde agriculture,du commerce included as the firstarticle in Dupont's Physiocratie;and in the he triesto give de la Chine,wherein eighthchapterof his Despotisme digestof the Chinesedoctrine." a "systematic his discussionof natural law In both places Quesnay introduces it into physicallaws and morallaws.2 He thendescribes by dividing morethan Shaftesbury in termswhichseem derivedfrom the former from anyoneelse. "By physicallaw is heremeantthe orderedcourse of all physicalhappeningsmost advantageous to the human race."3 This is the law that the Creator has ordained for the operationof much as a designermay be said to have ordained the the universe, motoroperates. It is the law which laws by whicha jet-propulsion the distribution animalhusbandry, as agriculture, suchthings governs ofcommerce and industry. Whenmenfollow ofwealth,the operation possible, theysecurethe greatestmaterialbenefits thislaw faithfully as, forexample,when they plant the rightcrops at the righttime, and lay away the rightamount for capital use the rightfertilizer year. the following investment works believed that everything Thus Quesnay optimistically formankind'sbest materialinterests. All man need do is properly withit. This physicallaw understand the law and workin harmony out. Man is freeto violate it, exact in its working is mathematically of course,but his doing so worksout to his material disadvantage. These physicallaws can be reduced to a science,Quesnay believed, just as Newtonhad collectedand collated all the laws discoveredby in hisPrincipia. oftheuniverse to explaintheworking hispredecessors Quesnay defineshis second kind of natural law as "the rule of to the physical everyhuman action in the moral order,conforming most advantageous to the human race."4 These are orderevidently
numberof the Journal edited by Dupont, who, inciden1. This was the first it a physiocraticjournal instead of the objective tally, was later firedfornirm-king organ it was supposed to be. In his introductionto Quesnay's article on natural law, Dupont tells the reader that "this is the solid foundationon which the edifice [of economics] should rest." Oncken, op. cit., 363. It is worth noting that in this introductionDupont shows how Quesnay's distinctionbetween physical and moral natural law made no impression on him. His firstsentence is typical: "C'est la connaissance de l'ordre et des lois physiques et naturelles qui doit servir de base a la science economique." Ibid., 362. 2. "Les lois naturelles sont ou physiques ou morales." "Droit naturel," Oncken, op. cit., 374. The same distinction is made in the same words in the article on China. See ibid., 637. 3. Ibid., 375.

4. Ibid.



"human"or"moral"or had traditionally beenconsidered actionswhich "ethical" acts, the dealings of man with man, such as the sale of a acts whichcome underthe headhorseor thepaymentof a contract, ing of "commutativejustice" with Quesnay. The rules governing such action are ordainedby the Creator,he tells us, and man can as well as that of mankindin general, promotehis own prosperity, by obeyingthese divine ordinances. These two divisionsof natural law, with Quesnay, have much in common. They are both discernedby the lightof reason. They of man's will,both are both objective rules,absolutelyindependent ordained by the Creator for man's governance on earth. Their purpose is to promote man's happiness, which Quesnay seems to with his materialwelfare. They can both be disobeyedby identify man, forhe has freewill,but the penaltyin each case is a material, physical punishment.5 This "discovery" of the physical sanction attached to the moral law, indeed, was thoughtby his disciples to have been Quesnay's great discovery.6 The fact remains,however, betweenthe two kindsofnaturallaw and that Quesnaydistinguished he did not thinkthemidenticalin all respects. The morallaw dealt withwhat we can call "human actions." Nowheredoes Quesnay try to reduce these actions to mathematicalformulas,as he does the materialcomprisedunder physicallaw. He refusedto believe that to followtheirself-interest enlightened menwould everbe sufficiently to make theirfreedom fashionas to surrender in such deterministic did. Nor did bad decisions -as theyounger Physiocrats economically classified as he believe that moralactions could be so "scientifically" to rule out prudentialdecisions. Quesnay insistedon keepingman a seemed anxious to overfreeagent' - a point whichhis followers look.
5. "Les transgressionsdes lois naturelles sont les causes les plus etendues et les hommes." Oncken, op. les plus ordinaires des maux physiques qui affligent cit., 369. Quesnay stated in several places, however, that moral transgressions are visited with moral punishmentas well. See his "De l'immortalitede l'Ame," ibid., 760-761. 6. It is true that the Physiocrats sometimes referred to the Tableau 6conomiqueas Quesnay's great discovery. Dupont, Le Mercier, and Le Trosne all mention his discovery of a physical sanction attached to the moral law as a turningpoint in civilization. quoiqu'il ne soit quelquefois 7. "Il est de sa nature d'etre libre et intelligent, ni l'un nil'autre." "Droit naturel," Oncken, op. cit., 370. It is in his essay "La liberty,"that Quesnay makes a thorough analysis of freewill. On this point he is in almost perfectaccord with the medieval Schoolmen. He indicates that free will is one of the two faculties distinguishingmen me-cely fromthe lower animals. He then asserts that free will does not consists in freedomof choice between alternatives,but of a number of steps of the intellect, fromwhich a decision results.



at economictheoriesis in keeping Quesnay's methodof arriving and his analysisofnaturallaw. Any economic withhis epistemology of the who rejectedinnateideas and century theorist conceptof naturallaw then to subscribeto the deterministic refused circles'would logicallyhave to use becomingpopular in enlightened the inductivemethod to arriveat economiclaws, which,instead of being mathematicalformulas,would be descriptiveof tendencies. This is what Quesnaydid. He used the inductivemethodknowingly, forhe had shownhis appreciationof thismethodof acquiringknowlarticle on edge more than a decade before he published his first of the Royal Academyof economics. In his prefaceto the feMmoires Quesnay stated that "there Surgery(of whichhe was the secretary), are two sources for discoveringtruths which can enrich our art: observation and physical experiment."9 In an essay on method modern Quesnay goes on to tell how which sounds surprisingly observationand experimentshould be used as checks upon each of past generations and of a wide circle other,how the observations how research of contemporaries should be gatheredfor comparison, should be correlated should neverstop, and how practiceand theory for mutual support and mutual correction,since neither can be neglectedwithoutthe othersuffering. Quesnay's articles on those economic subjects which involve man's free,human actions are also inductive in approach. In his article"Fermiers,"forexample,he startsout by warningthe reader in France only under its general that "if one considersagriculture ideas about it."' aspect, one can formonly vague and imperfect themselves."2 His articleis he says, "consultthe farmers Therefore, a descriptive studyof how farmsare managed in the variousparts of France,wherehorsesare used insteadof oxen,underwhat conditions is conductedin England. From it pays to use them,and howfarming farmingtechthis descriptionand comparativestudy of different niques, Quesnay draws his conclusions. His article "Grains" is a in whichhe similarkind of study,fullof statisticsand comparisons,
8. Helvetius, for example, insisted in 1759 that "man is a machine" and that "the propositions of morality, politics, and metaphysics are as susceptible of demonstrationas the propositions of geometry." Holbach reached the final de la nature, in which he claimed: "The conclusion of this trend in his Syste'me same necessity which regulates the physical, also regulates the moral world, in which everythingis in consequence submitted to fatality." 9. In Oneken, op. cit., 724. 1. Ibid., 159. 2. Ibid., 160.



forlarge farmsratherthan the presentsstrongeconomicarguments obstaclesto an agricultural petite culture whichwas one oftheprincipal revolutionin France similar to the one which had already made countryof Europe. Quesnay's writings England the model farming and of hardheadedrealisticstatements are fullof acute observations contrastto the deductivemethodadvocated whichstand in striking aware that his reasoningis freby his disciples. He shows himself in which have only limitedvalue, as is the quently generalizations case withall abstractions. "We shouldnot reasonagainstthe facts," he says in one place, "facts are realities. But a genericname, like tlee word 'commerce,' which confounds a multitude of different realities,is not itself a reality."' This is the very opposite of Le Mercier'sadvice to "ignorethe facts." There is one otheraspect of Quesnay's economicthoughtwhich cannot be ignored:its mathematicalaspect, seen forexample in his whichso impressed his followers. Here Quesnay Tableau econornique, economicsocietyhas been established,and assumes that his perfect he shows how the annual product of the land would flowfromthe and sterile productiveclass throughthe hands of the proprietary class again. This is classes back into the hands of the agricultural one ofth3doctor's"economicproblems"whichdeals withtheworking out ofthe physicaldivisionofnaturallaw - and forwhichhe showed a stronginclination.4 It is, he wrote to Mirabeau, "a fundamental expenses table of the economicorder,[drawnup] in orderto represent so as to judge clearlythe and productsin a way easy to understand, can cause [byits tax laws, that the government orderor the confusion and the like]."' its regulations on commerce There is no doubt that Quesnay believed certain economic problemswere subject to mathematicalsolution. And it is no less certainthat lie consideredothereconomicsubjects suitable only for descriptive and normative treatment. Using our more modern we can say that Quesnay treatedsome economicprobterminology, lemsas properly partsof a social scienceand othersas mathematical. divided the subject matterof economics,then,into a He implicitly scienceon the one hand and a moralscience physicalor mathematical on the other. This is a division which Quesilay never mentions forlie does not deal withthe natureor the provinceof the explicitly,
3. "Du commerce," in Oncken, op. cit., 459. 4. Various people around the court,such as Marmontel, relate how Quesnay spent hour after hour tracing "zig-zag" lines on paper and working out mathematical problems. Ironically, his published tables and problems quite frequently contain simple mistakes of addition. 5. Quoted in Schelle, Le Docteur Quesnay, 389-390.




new science in any of his writings. And it is a division which his disciplesnevercomprehended. VI The youngerPhysiocratstook up the mathematicalaspects of Quesnay's thoughtwith even greaterenthusiasmthan theirmaster. And theyfailedto maintainQuesnay's roundedoutlookon economic questions,for,as Onekenhas put it, theydid not completely understand him. A comparison of Le Mercier's work with Quesnay's various writings clearlyshows how the discipleproducedan entirely different product than the master had in mind.6 Le Mercier's analysis of libertyis typical. He treatslibertyas one of the rights man enjoys in the natural order,and he begins his analysis of the subject by mentioning that he is unconcernedwith the subject of "metaphysical" liberty,or freedomof the will, because the only of importance liberty is the social or physicalliberty to do withone's property what one wishes. Quesnay, on the otherhand, considered freedom of the will a basic pointfrom whichsocial liberty derivedas a natural right. So, whereas Quesnay grounded libertyin rnan's nature,Le Mercierbased it on property rights. It is not too much to say, we believe, that none of Quesnay's disciplesunderstoodhis - on which his economic thought was philosophical writings based. ultimately Quesnay seems to have realized this sometimeafterthe appearance of Le Mercier's L'Ordre naturelin 1767. He quit writingfor du citoyen, the Ephemerides and his contactswithhis disciplesbecame less and less frequent. Similarly, his disciplesseem to have realized that a gulfwas widening betweentheirmasterand themselves, a fact which they probably put down to his advancing age. Whether Quesnaywas growing senileby 1768,as may well have been the case, is beside the point. It is with his previouswritings that the Physiocrats dissented,whetherthey were willingto face the fact or not. The fate of Quesnay's then unpublishedmanuscripts indicatesthat his disciples realized their master's economic thoughtwas not as clear-cut and rationally arrangedas theirown. Quesnay had placed in Dupont's hands those articleswhichhe had withdrawn fromthe Encyclopedie when it fell under government censure. Dupont was
doctor's apartment writingand rewritinghis work - and then deny his father and his mother." Since all the Physiocrats insisted Le Mercier interpreted Quesnay, we can interpretthis statement only as meaning that the interpretation by Le Mercier was not a faithfulone.

L'Ordrenaturel et essential des societes worksix wholeweeks in the politiques

6. In 1788 Mirabeau wrote to his friendLongo: "I have seen the author of



threeofwhichdealt witheconomic supposedto publishthesearticles, subjects. The one on interesthe published in January,1766, but by the fact that it did not fitinto their the school was embarrassed rigid theory. They always passed this article by in silence when "Hommes," and "Impots," discussing interest. The othertwoarticles, werenot publisheduntilearly this century.7 AlthoughDupont had over fiveyears in whichto publish them,he never let them appear in print. There seems no adequate reason forthis omissionexcept his beliefthat theywerenot good physiocracy. In that respect,Dupont was right. For it was the old story, repeated iw ith the Physiocratsas with so many other schools of followed of the masternot being faithfully by his disciples. thought, "I am no Marxist," If Karl Marx could protest to his son-in-law, Quesnay could claim with greatervehemencethat he was no Physin an age of transition. He was an iocrat. The doctorhad written the Schoolthought comingfrom olderman who knewthe traditional men which was taught in the Sorbonne until the middle of the but eighteenth century. He was not immuneto newer influences, he was independent in selectingsome itemsand some methodsfromt of natural law them while rejectingothers. Thus in his treatment Quesnay offers a mixture of old attitudesand new. He looks on the law as being moral,but at the same timehe seeks to add themodern element of a physical sanction to its observance. Quesnay never nor did he ever to ultimateconclusions, thought his positionthrough push back to ultimate presuppositions. For that reason he never created a system,properlyspeaking. His doctrineswere a mixture of ideas and theorieswhich he handled with consummatecommon sense. It remained for his followers, particularlyLe Mercier, to reduce those theoriesto a system,subject them to a singleriethod, recognized basic assumptions.8 and place themupon frankly We are inclinedto think that the youngerPhysiocratswould if theyhad read the contrasting have privately nodded in agreement estimate made of Le Mercier and Quesnay by those collaborating Encyclopedists, Diderot and Grimm. Of Le Mercier'sexpositionof physiocratic doctrineDiderot observed: "I admirethe certitudeand of his principles, the fertility the easy mannerin whichhe solves the
7. "Hommes" was published in 1908 in the first number of the Revue d'histoire etsociales, edited by ftienne Bauer. "Impots" des doctrines cconomiques was published later in the same volume, edited by Gustave Schelle. 8. In 1939 Max Beer published his Inquiry into Physiocracy,in which he triedto establish the essential similarityof physiocracyand the economic teaching of the Schoolmen. It is worth noting that Beer used Quesnay's writings almost exclusively to establish his point.



gravestdifficulties, and the simplicity withwhichhe resolvesobjections."9 Of Quesnay Grimm wrote: "He is not only naturally obscure, he is even systematically obscure and be pretends that truthshouldneverbe stated clearly."1 Quesnay had not succutnbed to the rationalistic deductivemethod of buildingthe new science ol economics. His discipleshad.

9. Oeuwres completes de Diderot (Paris, 1875), XVIII, 273.

1. Op. cit.,481.