Richard Cantillon is one of the key figures in the early history of economics. He was certainly not the first to think about economic problems, but he was the first to have clear insight into the way the economy functions as a system. He was arguably the first to structure a theory of how the economy works. In this sense he could be called the first real economist. Today, his ideas on population, determination of prices, wages and interest, the role of the entrepreneur, banking, and the influence of money supply on the economy are increasingly quoted and appreciated. This is a translation of the Essai sur la nature du commerce en general his only surviving work. It was circulated in manuscript form for many years after his death and was extremely influential, albeit not well known, at least throughout the eighteenth century. The Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General shaped the development of economics through its formative influence on Francois Quesnay and Adam Smith. It is a cornerstone upon which all subsequent economic theory has been built. Transaction is proud to breathe new life into this classic work as part of its distinguished series in economic theory and history.
In his new introduction, Anthony Brewer showcases Cantillon, the prophetic thinker, for a new generation of readers. This volume's broad-based appeal and great cultural import can no longer afford to be overlooked. Students of economic theory, intellectual historians, and sociologists will find this volume indispensable.
- Paperback | 188 pages
- 188 x 244 x 18mm | 780.19g
- 01 Sep 2001
- Taylor & Francis Inc
- Transaction Publishers
- Somerset, United Kingdom
- black & white illustrations
Here is the first accurate translation of Richard Cantillon's 1755 masterpiece on economics. This treatise is widely credited with being the first to describe the market process as one driven by entrepreneurship. William Stanley Jevons, in the first blush of discovery, proclaimed Cantillon’s Essai, “the cradle of political economy.”
A cradle holds new life; and there can be little doubt that the Essai added new life to the organizing principles of economics. But “political economy” does not accurately describe the subject Cantillon addressed. Indeed, he scrupulously avoided political issues in order to concentrate on the mechanics of eighteenth-century economic life. When confronted by “extraneous” factors, such as politics, Cantillon insisted that such considerations be put aside, “so as not to complicate our subject,” he said, thus invoking a kind of ceteris paribus assumption before it became fashionable in economics to do so.
Murray Rothbard, for this reason, called Cantillon the "founding father of modern economics."
This book preceded Adam Smith by a generation. Unlike any previous writer, Cantillon explicated the vital role of the entrepreneur with perception and vigor. Hence, he deserves to be called “the father of enterprise economics.”
We know little of Cantillon’s life and the circumstances of his authorship. The manuscript that was eventually published in 1755 circulated privately in France for almost two decades before; when published, it appeared under mysterious circumstances.
Mark Thornton and Chantal Saucier have accomplished the arduous task of bringing forth a new and improved translation of Cantillon’s famous work. Heretofore the only English translation of the Essai available has been the 1931 edition produced by Henry Higgs for the Royal Economic Society. Though competent, it has become less serviceable over time, as more and more of its shortcomings devolved (not the least of which is the antiquated use of “undertaker” in place of “entrepreneur”).
Saucier provides a more accurate and lucid account, better suited to the 21st century. Thornton’s hand shows not only in competent guidance of the translator but in the inclusion of numerous explanatory footnotes that add historical context.
Robert F. Hébert writes the foreword.
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