French Liberal School


French Liberal School

The French Liberal School (also called the "Optimist School" or "Orthodox School") is a 19th century school of economic thought, that was centered around the "Collège de France" and the "Institut de France". The "Journal des Économistes" was essential in promulgating the ideas of the School.

The School veraciously defended laissez faire free trade, against collectivist, interventionist and protectionist ideas. One author has claimed its demise in the rise of the law faculties in France, which started teaching economics from a legal, positivist point of view, and which advanced the ideas of the various German economic schools of the days. [cite journal|author=Charles Gide|title=Economic Literature in France at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century|journal=Economic Journal|volume=17|issue=|66|pages=192–212|doi=10.2307/2220664|year=1907]

William Stanley Jevons, dismissing arguments that the French Liberal School did nothing more than rehash Ricardian theories, wrote about the School: cquote|There are valuable suggestions towards the improvement of the science contained in the works of such writers as Senior, Cairnes, Macleod, Cliffe-Leslie, Hearn, Shadwell, not to mention long series of French economists from Baudeau and Le Trosne down to Bastiat and Courcelle-Seneuil: but they are neglected in England, because the excellence of their works was not comprehended by David Ricardo, the two Mills, Professor Fawcett and others who have made the orthodox Ricardian school what it is. [cite book|author=William Stanley Jevons|title=The Theory of Political Economy|year=1871|edition=1st] I am convinced that the doctrine of wages, which I adopted in 1871, is not really novel at all, except to those whose view is bounded by the maze of the Ricardian economics. The true doctrine may be more or less clearly traced through the writings of a succession of great French economists, from Condillac, Baudeau and Le Trosne, through J.-B. Say, Destutt de Tracy, Storch and others, down to Bastiat and Courcelle-Seneuil. The conclusion to which I am ever more clearly coming is that the only hope of attaining a true system of economics is to fling aside, once and for ever, the mazy and preposterous assumptions of the Ricardian school. Our English economists have been living in a fool's paradise. The truth is with the French school, and the sooner we recognize the fact, the better it will be for all the world, except perhaps the few writers who are too far committed to the old erroneous doctrines to allow of renunciation. [cite book|author=William Stanley Jevons|title=The Theory of Political Economy|year=1879|edition=2nd]

References and further reading

ee also

* Physiocratism
* Austrian School


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