Richard Cantillon

Richard Cantillon

Richard Cantillon (1680-1734), acknowledged by many historians as the first great economic "theorist", is an obscure character. This much is known: he was an Irishman with a Spanish name who lived in France most of his life. He is said to have speculated profitably in Compagnie Perpetuelle des Indes shares, unlike so many others, during the John Law adventures, making a fortune of some twenty million livres before moving to England. He died in a fire, allegedly set by his discharged cook, in his London home.

Cantillon's entire reputation rests on his one remarkable treatise, "Essai Sur la Nature du Commerce en Général", that was written in French circa 1732 and published anonymously in England some twenty years after his death (though some claim it was only a French translation of a lost English original). Although his work was well-known to the Physiocrats and the French school, Cantillon fell into obscurity in the English-speaking world until resurrected and popularized by William Stanley Jevons in the 1880s.

Cantillon was perhaps the first to define long-run equilibrium as the balance of flows of income, thus setting the foundations both for Physiocracy as well as Classical Political Economy. Cantillon's system was clear and simple and absolutely path-breaking. He developed a two-sector general equilibrium system from which he obtained a theory of price (determined by costs of production) and a theory of output (determined by factor inputs and technology). His work is quoted by Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations". According to Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, Jevons was scarcely exaggerating when he entitled Cantillon's work as the "Cradle of Political Economy".

He followed up on William Petty's conjecture about the par of labour and land, thereby enabling him to reduce labor to the amount of necessities needed to sustain it and thus making both labor supply and output a function of the land absorption necessary to produce the necessities to feed labor and the luxuries to feed landlords. By demonstrating that relative prices are reducible to land-absorption rates, Cantillon can be said to have derived a fully-working "land theory of value". Cantillon's careful description of a supply-and-demand mechanism for the determination of short-run market price (albeit not long-run natural price) also stand him as a progenitor of the Marginalist Revolution. In particular, his insightful notes on entrepreneurship (as a type of arbitrage) have made him a darling of the modern Austrian School. Cantillon was also one of the first (and among the clearest) articulators of the Quantity Theory of Money and attempted to provide much of the reasoning behind it.

Finally, one of the consequences of his theory was that he arrived at a quasi-Mercantilist policy conclusion for a favorable balance of trade but with a twist: Cantillon recommended the importation of "land-based products" and the exporting of "non-land-based" products as a way of increasing national wealth.

Cantillon was born in the town of Ballyheigue, County Kerry, Ireland, lived a considerable portion of his life in France, and died in London.


* Jevons, Stanley W. (1881), "Richard Cantillon and the Nationality of Political Economy," "Contemporary Review" 39, January 1881, reprinted in "The Principles of Economics. A Fragment of a Treatise on the Industrial Mechanism of Society and other Papers" with a Preface by Henry Higgs, (London, 1905). pp. 155-83. []
* Hutchison, Terence W. (1988), "Before Adam Smith: the emergence of political economy", Oxford.
* Murphy, Antoin E. (1986), "Richard Cantillon: Entrepreneur and Economist", Oxford.

External links

* [ Biography - "The Life and Work of Richard Cantillon"] by Henry Higgs
* [ "Richard Cantillon"] , by Friedrich A. Hayek, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Fall 1985, 7(2), pp. 217-247.
* [ McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought] | [ An Essay on Commerce in General - Part 1, 2, and 3]
* [ Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général (The Nature of Trade in General) by Richard Cantillon -- available for download]
* [ Richard Cantillon Land Theory of Value]
* [ Essai sur la nature du commerce en general Part One]
* [ Essai sur la nature du commerce en general Part Two]
* [ Essai sur la nature du commerce en general Part Three]


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  • Richard Cantillon — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Richard Cantillon fue un economista nacido probablemente el año 1680 en Irlanda y fallecido en 1734. Contenido 1 Introducción: Vida y obra 2 Ensayo sobre la naturaleza del comercio en general 2.1 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Richard Cantillon — L unique ouvrage de Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la nature du commerce en général, paru à Londres en 1755 Richard Cantillon, né à Ballyheigue (Irlande) vers 1680 et mort à Londres le 14 mai 1734, financier et économiste, a fait fortune en France… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Richard Cantillon — Buchumschlag, 1755 Richard Cantillon (* 1680 in Ballyheigue, Kerry, Irland; † 1734 in London) war ein irischer Bankier, der in seinem ökonomischen Werk den Physiokraten nahe stand. Er war einer der ersten Ökonomen, die den Gedanken eines… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Cantillon, Richard — ▪ Irish economist born 17th century, , Ballyheige, County Kerry, Ire. died May 14, 1734, London       Irish economist and financier who wrote one of the earliest treatises on modern economics.       Cantillon was an Irishman of Norman origins and …   Universalium

  • Cantillon — Recorded as Cantillion, Cantillon, and Chantillion, this is a medieval surname of French origins. It originates from the word chantille which has two possible explanations. The first origin is from the early word chanter , and as such it would… …   Surnames reference

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