Eighteenth Century Economics: Turgot, Beccaria and Smith and Their Contemporaries

By Peter Groenewegen | Go to book overview

Notes
1
A survey of some new literature on this subject produced since the early 1970s and specifically inspired by a critical reading of Hutchison’s (1988) Before Adam Smith: The Emergence of Political Economy 1662-1776 (Oxford: Blackwell). This chapter has been adapted from a paper on the emergence of economics as a science presented to a seminar at the History of Ideas Unit, Australian National University, in June 1988. For assistance in this transformation I am indebted to participants at that seminar (especially Knud Haakonssen, Eugene Kamenka and Melvin Richter) and in addition to Tony Aspromourgos, Terence Hutchison, Michael White, Philip Williams and an anonymous referee.
2
During 1972 and 1973 the present author (see Groenewegen, 1973) prepared papers on this subject for presentation at two conferences, but both of these contained problems not easy to resolve. A closer examination of some of these difficulties inspired the earlier version of this paper.
3
I have heavily relied on Viner (1978) in preparing this summary of Nicole and Domat’s views on enlightened self-interest, the significance of which only became apparent when my attention was drawn to them in the context of the origins of Boisguilbert’s economics by Terence Hutchison at a 1987 colloquium on economic liberalism at Verona.
4
Both Nicole and Domat were well represented in Turgot’s very extensive library (Tsuda, 1975, items 181, 182, 222, 223, 253, 310-12, 318, 319, 335, 343, 2459, 3498, 3520, 3521 for Nicole; 702-4 for Domat), a sign of the importance assigned to their works by a French intellectual of the Enlightenment. Melvin Richter has drawn my attention to the article on ‘Economie Politique’ in Handbuch Politschsozialer Grundbegriffe in Frankreich 1680-1820, Munich, vol. 8, 1988, p. 75, which provides additional references to French material on Nicole’s influence on late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century economics.
5
In this context Hutchison (1988) also ignores what Ashley (1900) - and subsequently Beer (1939) - called the Tory origins of free trade policy. This suggests a specifically secular (political) catalyst in the process of the evolution of economic liberalism, which had clearly an important part in the emergence of economics as a science. Laski’s (1936) still very readable study of the rise of European liberalism mentions these theological factors, but not the Jansenist contributions referred to by Viner (1978). In discussion, Haakonssen drew my attention to the need to investigate the degree of influence Domat and Nicole may have exerted on the Scottish Enlightenment, but preliminary investigations unearthed little of use in this respect.
6
These implications arise from the savage society context in which Turgot placed his more sophisticated value and exchange theory, as I point out in some detail in Groenewegen (1982a, pp. 128-9). Similar considerations apply to the interpretation of that early and rude society in Smith’s account of natural price. Two further points may be noted in this context. First, my 1982 interpretation of Turgot on value allows him to be more firmly placed within the mainstream of classical value and price theory, which distinguishes market prices from the more ‘fundamental’ natural prices (see second section of this chapter). Second, the similarity which Hutchison (1988, pp. 300-1) notes between Beccaria and Turgot on value theory is probably explicable by the fact that Morellet’s Prospectus for an Economic Dictionary (1769), which he sent Beccaria, contains a long article on value and money which either derives from the paper on that subject by Turgot or else was written by Turgot himself (see Groenewegen, 1977, pp. xxvi-xxvii). Since Turgot explicitly cited Galiani in this context, this makes it more difficult to speak of an independent subjective value tradition of the eighteenth century, particularly since both Condillac and Le Trosne (the last not dealt with by Hutchison [1988]) would also have been familiar with some of Turgot’s work on value.

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