In 1767, did Sir James Steuart predict the political and financial crises that started the French Revolution? Étienne de Sénovert, the editor and translator of Steuart’s…
In 1767, did Sir James Steuart predict the political and financial crises that started the French Revolution? Étienne de Sénovert, the editor and translator of Steuart’s work, seems to argue to this effect in the introduction to the first French edition of An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy in 1789. The visionary “prediction” set forth by Steuart was the following: if the king of France had introduced public credit, this would have changed the political balance in French political society, making it very unstable. The English and the French governments used different ways of borrowing money in 1760: the French king contracted debts with a network of financiers close to the government, while the English government borrowed on the credit markets through the intermediary of the Bank of England. The second of these methods constitutes public credit and has proved its efficiency. According to Steuart, implementing the English public credit system in France could have dangerous consequences. Landed interests and moneyed interests would compete for the control of the State. The author realized that the French nobility, the landowners, as a social and economic group would have no chance in facing such a powerful rival (the public creditors). In this chapter, the author analyzes Steuart’s “prediction” as a coherent part of his systematic and original approach to political economy. Steuart’s theories about the role of political economy and the role of “interest” are connected to his understanding of institutions. Introducing such a complex support for the value as public credit might have different consequences in France and England. Steuart thinks each country’s economy should be analyzed according to its own institutional and social context.
Steuart’s work was still relevant in 1789 for two reasons. Firstly, the author’s prediction of political antagonism between capitalists and nobility anticipated the political conflict about debt expressed by pamphleteers such as Sieyès, Mirabeau, and Clavière between 1787 and 1789. This is the context of Étienne de Sénovert’s claim: the political narrative built by the revolutionaries of 1789 (rescuing the “sacred” public debt from royal despotism) fitted Steuart’s prediction. This may have been the incentive for the translation and publication of his work in 1789 and 1790. Secondly, Steuart’s financial and monetary theory was at the heart of the project of financial reform that would lead to the assignats. Steuart’s (1767) theory of public finance and state power in 1789 provides a key to the understanding the events of the time, and to how actors tried to make sense of them. Steuart made another crucial observation about the deep effect of what he called “the modern economy” upon the power of the governments of Europe: even an absolute monarch could not damage public credit without destroying his own sovereignty.
Though contemporaries, Adam Smith and Sir James Steuart are commonly portrayed as if they belonged to different eras. Whereas Smith went down in history as both founder of the science of political economy and patron saint of economic liberalism, Steuart became known as the last, outdated advocate for mercantilist policies in Britain. Smith himself was responsible for popularizing the notion of the “system of commerce” as an approach to political economy that dominated the early modern period. As a historiographical concept, the mercantile system became a misguided international trade theory grounded upon the Midas fallacy and the favorable balance of trade doctrine. Smith’s treatment of international trade in the Wealth of Nations, however, was criticized for its inconsistencies and lack of analytical clarity even by some among his own followers. Given Smith’s doubtful credentials as an international trade theorist, the chapter investigates the reasons that led him and Steuart to be placed on opposite sides of the mercantilist divide. The authors analyze the works of both authors in depth, showing that their disagreements had chiefly to do with different views on money and monetary policy. Additionally, the authors explore how early nineteenth-century writers such as Jean-Baptiste Say and J. R. McCulloch helped forge the intellectual profiles of both Steuart and Smith.
This chapter examines James Steuart’s explanation of the relationship between banking system and economic development. Unlike other Scottish thinkers of the time, Steuart…
This chapter examines James Steuart’s explanation of the relationship between banking system and economic development. Unlike other Scottish thinkers of the time, Steuart argues that the origin of commercial nations was not, in his view, a consequence of human nature and a long period of historical evolution. The establishment of the system of trade and commerce that gives rise to a “commercial nation” is conditioned by a series of elements that can render its appearance impossible. This chapter examines how the establishment of the system of trade and commerce that gives rise to a commercial nation is conditioned, according to Steuart, by the development of the banking system. It also broaches Steuart’s explanation of how the banking system functions within a non-commercial nation, which the Scottish author called “the infancy of banking.”
This chapter explores a number of relatively unknown aspects of the controversy over Milton Friedman’s March 1975 visit to Chile through the analytical framework provided…
This chapter explores a number of relatively unknown aspects of the controversy over Milton Friedman’s March 1975 visit to Chile through the analytical framework provided by James M. Buchanan’s late 1950s assessment of the economist-physician analogy. The chapter draws upon a range of archival and neglected primary sources to show that the topics which generally rear their head in any contemporary discussion of Friedman’s visit to Chile – for example, whether it is appropriate to provide policy advice to a dictator – were aired in a largely private mid-1970s exchange between Friedman and a number of professional associates. In particular, the controversy over Friedman and Chile began several months before Friedman arrived in Santiago.
The purpose of this article is to study how the German historical schools are treated in the histories of economic thought as the background for an exploration of some…
The purpose of this article is to study how the German historical schools are treated in the histories of economic thought as the background for an exploration of some historiographical issues in the history of economic thought.
The study describes the contributions of the members of the German historical schools from a variety of different viewpoints and attitudes toward the history of economic thought.
One conclusion is that several of the things most of the economists of the German historical schools desired are now part of mainstream economics. These include an enlarged scope of economics, changes in the role of the state in economic life, attention to the relationships of law and economics and recognition of the importance of history. Another conclusion is that several historiographical and methodological problems important for the history of economic thought need further study.
The study helps to explain and understand some historiographical aspects of the history of economic thought. It examines practices, principles, theories, methodology and forms of presentation of scholarly historical research on one subject in the history of economic thought.
Nobody concerned with political economy can neglect the history of economic doctrines. Structural changes in the economy and society influence economic thinking and…
Nobody concerned with political economy can neglect the history of economic doctrines. Structural changes in the economy and society influence economic thinking and, conversely, innovative thought structures and attitudes have almost always forced economic institutions and modes of behaviour to adjust. We learn from the history of economic doctrines how a particular theory emerged and whether, and in which environment, it could take root. We can see how a school evolves out of a common methodological perception and similar techniques of analysis, and how it has to establish itself. The interaction between unresolved problems on the one hand, and the search for better solutions or explanations on the other, leads to a change in paradigma and to the formation of new lines of reasoning. As long as the real world is subject to progress and change scientific search for explanation must out of necessity continue.
A collection of essays by a social economist seeking to balanceeconomics as a science of means with the values deemed necessary toman′s finding the good life and society…
A collection of essays by a social economist seeking to balance economics as a science of means with the values deemed necessary to man′s finding the good life and society enduring as a civilized instrumentality. Looks for authority to great men of the past and to today′s moral philosopher: man is an ethical animal. The 13 essays are: 1. Evolutionary Economics: The End of It All? which challenges the view that Darwinism destroyed belief in a universe of purpose and design; 2. Schmoller′s Political Economy: Its Psychic, Moral and Legal Foundations, which centres on the belief that time‐honoured ethical values prevail in an economy formed by ties of common sentiment, ideas, customs and laws; 3. Adam Smith by Gustav von Schmoller – Schmoller rejects Smith′s natural law and sees him as simply spreading the message of Calvinism; 4. Pierre‐Joseph Proudhon, Socialist – Karl Marx, Communist: A Comparison; 5. Marxism and the Instauration of Man, which raises the question for Marx: is the flowering of the new man in Communist society the ultimate end to the dialectical movement of history?; 6. Ethical Progress and Economic Growth in Western Civilization; 7. Ethical Principles in American Society: An Appraisal; 8. The Ugent Need for a Consensus on Moral Values, which focuses on the real dangers inherent in there being no consensus on moral values; 9. Human Resources and the Good Society – man is not to be treated as an economic resource; man′s moral and material wellbeing is the goal; 10. The Social Economist on the Modern Dilemma: Ethical Dwarfs and Nuclear Giants, which argues that it is imperative to distinguish good from evil and to act accordingly: existentialism, situation ethics and evolutionary ethics savour of nihilism; 11. Ethical Principles: The Economist′s Quandary, which is the difficulty of balancing the claims of disinterested science and of the urge to better the human condition; 12. The Role of Government in the Advancement of Cultural Values, which discusses censorship and the funding of art against the background of the US Helms Amendment; 13. Man at the Crossroads draws earlier themes together; the author makes the case for rejecting determinism and the “operant conditioning” of the Skinner school in favour of the moral progress of autonomous man through adherence to traditional ethical values.