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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Francois Quesnay and the Tableau économique


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Musee Carnavalet


Francois Quesnay (1694-1774) is an influential economist best known for publishing the Tableau économique in 1758. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith said,


"At the time, the Tableau seemed a wonderful thing - an insight as from the gods. Victor Riquetti Mirabeau - Mirabeau the elder, an important figure among the Physiocrats - was perhaps the most extravagant in his comment. He thought that Quesnay's invention, along with the inventions of writing and money, was one of the three great achievements of the human mind." (A History of Economics, 1987)


Economist David Warsh said,


"The French court physician Francois Quesnay rendered it [estimating national income accounts] at least theoretically measurable... with his Tableau économique, a zigzag diagram designed to serve as a blueprint for measuring the flows of income among various sectors of the French economy." (Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations, 2007)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Quesnay.




"Productive expenditure is employed in agriculture, grasslands, pastures, forests, mines, fishing, etc, in order to perpetuate wealth in the form of corn, drink, wood, livestock, raw materials for manufactured goods... Sterile expenditure is on manufactured commodities, house-room, clothing, interest on money, servants, commercial costs, foreign produce etc." (Tableau économique, 1758)


Mathematical economics


"Calculations are to the economic science what bones are to the human body. Without them it will always be a vague and confused science, at the mercy of error and prejudice." (Letter to Victor Riquetti Mirabeau)


Free markets


"To secure the greatest amount of pleasure with the least possible outlay should be the aim of all economic effort... when everyone does this the natural order, instead of being endangered, will be all the better assured." (Quoted in Economics Modern Business by Vassie and Chadburn)