First Published:1767 [?]
Source:Francois Quesnay, 'General Maxims of the Economical Government in an Agricultural Kingdom', tr E.R. Blake, The Library of Original Sources, Volume VI, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, 1915, pages 393-398. Original source is not documented, but probably Du Pont, Physiocratie.
Copyleft: Out of copyright. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Non-Commercial License
Let the sovereign authority be unrivalled and superior to all individuals of society, and to all unjust enterprises of particular interests; for the domination and subjection of certain forces is the safeguard and lawful interest of all. The destructive theory of the system of counter forces in a government can show nothing but discord between the large proprietors and the lower class of farmers. The division of society into different orders of citizens of which some exercise sovereign authority over others, destroys the general interest of the nation itself and introduces the dissension of particular interests between the different classes of people: this division would invest the order of the government of an agricultural kingdom that would unite all interests. having as the capital object, the prosperity of agriculture, which in itself is the source of the state's and the people's riches.
The study of human jurisprudence does not suffice to make statesmen; it is necessary that they who are fitting themselves for public service be constrained to the observance of natural law, which tends toward the good of society as a whole. It is also necessary that the clear and practical knowledge a nation acquires by experience and reflection be added to the general science of government; in order that the sovereign authority, always surer in the light of experience, institutes the best laws for the well-being of all to reach and embrace the greatest possible prosperity for society.
Let the sovereign and the nation never lose sight of the fact that the earth is the sole source of all riches, and that it is agriculture which multiplies riches. For it is the augmentation of riches that assures the wealth of the population; men and wealth cause agriculture to prosper, extend commerce, animate industry, increase and perpetuate all wealth. Upon that abundant source of wealth, agriculture, depends the success of all the parties concerned in the administration of the kingdom.
For the security of property is the substructure upon which the economic order of society rests. Without the certainty of the security and safety of property the land would remain unfilled. There would be neither proprietors nor tenants to make the necessary outlay in cultivating the land, if the title to the land and its products were not assured to them who made the necessary outlay towards improvement and cultivation. It is the surety of permanent possession that brings about the employ of labor and riches in the improvement and culture of the land, and in industrial and commercial enterprises. Nothing but a sovereign power can assure the property of subjects who have a primitive right to the portion of the fruits of the earth, the sole source of riches.
Let taxes be not destructive nor disproportionate to the revenue of the nation; let increase in taxes attend increase in revenue; let taxes be immediately placed on the net product of property in land, and not on the wages of man, nor on produce, where it would multiply the cost of collection, would be prejudicial to commerce, and would annually destroy a portion of the wealth of the nation. Neither should taxes be placed on the riches of cultivators of landed property; for investment in the agriculture of a kingdom, i.e., advance money expended in agriculture, must be regarded as a landed estate to be preciously preserved for the raising of taxes and revenue and subsistence for all classes of citizens. Otherwise the tax would degenerate to spoliation and promptly cause the state to ruin and decay.
Let the investment of cultivators be sufficient to cause annually to re-appear from the expense undergone in cultivating the land the greatest possible amount of production: for if the investment is not sufficient the expense of culture is larger in proportion and gives less of net product.
Let the sum total of the revenues be annually returned into and along the entire course of circulation; let no money fortunes be accumulated, or rather, let there be compensation between those which are made and those which are derived in the circulation; for otherwise the money fortunes would arrest the distribution of a portion of the annual revenue of the nation and would withhold the moneys of the kingdom to the harm and prejudice of their re-investment into the cultivation of the land, from paying the artisan's wages, from making the various professions lucrative and would also diminish the reproduction of revenues and taxes.
Let the economic government favor productive expenditures and the commerce of the land's products and let fruitless expenditure attend to itself.
Let a nation which has a large territory to cultivate and the facilities to carry on a large commerce with the land's products not use too much of the people's money in the manufactures and in the commerce of luxuries to the prejudice of labor and agricultural investments; for above all, the kingdom would well be a people of rich agriculturists.
Let none of the revenue pass into the home of the stranger without return either in money or merchandise.
Let the desertion of those inhabitants who would take with them their wealth, to the loss of the kingdom, be prevented.
Let the children of rich farmers establish themselves in the country so as to perpetuate and preserve husbandry; for if vexation of any kind causes them to abandon the country and determines than to repair into the cities they take with them the wealth of their fathers who were employed in agriculture. It is less men than wealth that should be drawn into the country, for the more one employs money in agriculture the less it occupies men and prospers more and gives more to the revenue. Take, for example, grain, the great product of the rich agriculturist, and compare that with the contracted tillage of a poor tenant who labors with an axe or a cow.
Let each one be free to cultivate in his own field those products that his interest, his faculties, and the nature of the earth suggest to him will produce the largest possible result. One ought not to favor monopoly in the cultivation of land, for it is prejudicial to the general revenue of the nation. The precedent that favors the abundance of products of the greatest need, in preference to other productions, disregarding the purchasable value of the one or the other, is inspired by that short-sightedness that sees not the effects of exterior reciprocal commerce that supplies to all; and which fixes the price of the products that each nation can cultivate with the greatest profit. Next to the riches of land cultivation, it is the revenue and taxes that are the riches most needed in a state to defend subjects against scarcity of food and want, against enemies, and to sustain the glory and strength of the monarch and the prosperity of the nation.
Let the raising and multiplication of cattle be favored; for it is they that furnish to the earth the manure that produces the richest harvests.
Let the land employed in the culture of grain be reunited as far as possible to form large farms to be cultivated by rich laborers ; for there is less of expense and much more of net products in the larger enterprises of agriculture than in the smaller. The multiplicity of small farmers is prejudicial to the population. A more secure population, more freedom for the different occupations, and different labors that divide men into different classes, it is this that is maintained by the net product. All thrift and economy profits the work that can be done by means of animals, machinery, rivers, etc., returns to the advantage of the people and the state, for the greater the net product, the more of gain is there to the people of whatever service or occupation.
External commerce of the products of the land should not be arrested nor prevented in any way, for it is the demand, the market, that regulates the production each year.
Let the means of the transportation of the productions of manual labor be facilitated by repairing roadways, and by the navigation of canals, of rivers, and of the sea ; for the more that is saved in the act of carrying on commerce, so much more is added to the revenue of the territory.
Let the price of agricultural products and merchandise, in a country, be not lowered ; for then reciprocal commerce with foreign countries would become disadvantageous to the nation. As is the purchasable value of things, so is the revenue. Abundance and no value is not wealth. Dearth and high prices is misery. Abundance and high prices is opulence.
Low prices are not profitable to the laboring class; for cheapness of products lowers the wages of the laboring people, diminishes their comfort, procures less lucrative work and occupation for them, and destroys the revenue of the nation.
Let the comfort of the lowest classes of citizens be not diminished; for they must aid in the consumption of products, if reproduction and the revenue of the nation are not to be lessened.
Let the landlords and those who exercise the lucrative professions not give themselves up to unfruitful economy, for this would cut off from circulation and distribution a portion of their revenue or of their gains.
Let the luxury of decoration not be entertained to the detriment of land culture, or any of the investments and outlays made necessary for subsistence, for the stability of these preserves good prices, the demand for the lands, products, and the production of the nation's revenue.
Let the nation not suffer from loss through reciprocal commerce with other countries even if this commerce were profitable to the merchants, who would gain, regardless of the welfare of fellow-citizens, in the sale of commodities thus brought about The accumulations of the fortunes of these merchants would create a curtailment in the circulation of revenue prejudicial to distribution and reproduction.
Let no one be deceived by an apparent advantage in reciprocal commerce with foreign countries, which is simply a balance received in money, without examining and comparing the profits that result from the merchandise one has sold and the merchandise which has been bought. For often the loss is to that nation which receives a surplus in money. And that loss reacts to the prejudice of the distribution and reproduction of the revenues.
Let there be complete liberty in commerce; for the surest, most exact, and most profitable policy for interior and exterior commerce of the state and nation consists in the greatest possible freedom in competition.
Let there be less attention given to the augmentation of the population than to the accumulation of revenue, for greater freedom or ease in procuring large revenues is preferable to the greater pressing wants of subsistence, created by a population, and which exceed the revenue ; and the resources are greater for the needs of a state when a people are in comfort, and there are also more means to make agriculture prosperous.
Let the government occupy itself with those operations necessary for the prosperity of the kingdom rather than with attention toward expenditures; for with greater riches the larger expenses will cease to appear so excessive. But one should not confound a perversion of funds with simple expenses, for such a perversion can dissipate all the riches of a nation and of the sovereign.
Let the administration of the finances be in the tax collection, not in the expenses of the government, nor occasion pecuniary fortunes that take away a portion of the revenue from circulation, distribution and reproduction.
Let no one hope for resources, to meet the extraordinary needs of a state, but in the prosperity of the nation, and not in the credit of financiers; for pecuniary fortunes are clandestine riches that know not king nor country.
Let the state avoid loans formed of the funds of financiers, for they burden a state with devouring debts, occasion a commerce or traffic of the finances, through the agency of negotiable paper, and where the rebate or discount augments more and more the unfruitful pecuniary fortunes. These fortunes separate money from agriculture and deprive the country of the necessary riches for the improvement of real estate and the exploitation of agriculture.