Commerce and Government Considered in Their Mutual Relationship

Commerce and Government Considered in Their Mutual Relationship

By:

Étienne Bonnot de Condillac

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Summary

Étienne de Condillac (1714–1780) was the pioneering French economist who not only anticipated the market thought of the classical school but also foreshadowed the advances of the Austrians. He probably deserves the prize as the greatest of the unknown economists in the history of ideas - for his actual contributions far exceed his fame.

This work is only recently translated into English but it shows that he should be held in high esteem, precisely as Rothbard wrote in his History of Economic Thought. Condillac's Commerce and Government is one of the milestones in the history of economic science, on equal footing with the works of Cantillon, Say, and Bastiat.

The ideas contained in this book not only have a strong affinity with Austrian economics, but they also had a considerable and direct impact on the development of Menger’s thought. Thus is this an important work in the history of the Austrian tradition.

The book was originally published in 1776. He already had an established international reputation as one of the most brilliant philosophers of his time. But whereas his philosophical work was widely acclaimed and is still studied today, his economic thought has been systematically neglected.

He writes here of the origin and nature of wealth, on value theory (""A thing does not have value because it costs, as people suppose; instead it costs because it has a value") and even on monetary issues as a severe critic of inflation.

"When trade is perfectly free, the quantity and the need are apparent in all the markets. Then goods put themselves at their true price, and plenty spreads equally everywhere. That is what we have proved sufficiently. But when one has once taken all freedom from trade, it is no longer possible to judge, either if there is really an imbalance between the quantity and the need, or what it is."

Jorg Guido Hulsmann writes: "The book is essential reading for students of the history of economic thought, but it could also be used with great profit as a supplementary reading assignment in any course on the principles of economics. Condillac’s work is a timeless classic. Its elegant prose and the axiomatic clarity of the argument still make it a great introduction to economics."

Summary courtesy of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The Mises Institute is the premier organization in support of the free market, peace and prosperity. They provide free educational material, books audio books, lectures and courses that free your mind. This site would not exist were it not for the generosity, hard work and dedication of the Mises Institute, its employees, fellows and its benefactors. Books of Liberty is eternally grateful to all of their work and efforts. Please consider supporting the Mises Institute in any way you can.

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