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Thread: Richard Cantillon - "A grievously neglected historical Irish figure"

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    Politics.ie Member Hazlitt's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Richard Cantillon - "A grievously neglected historical Irish figure"

    I am writing this thread about an Irishman whom I feel is shamefully unknown by people in this country, and his contribution to world history and economic-thought sadly uncelebrated and unacknowledged. This man is Richard Cantillon (1680-1734).

    Cantillon's only published work "Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General" ("Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General") published in 1755 (21 years after his death) preceeds Adam Smiths "Wealth of Nations" by 21 years (Indeed Cantillon is one of the few people quoted by Smith in his book).

    The 'Essai' is considered by many to be the most important treatise on economic theory ever, and influenced many other economists such as Smith and David Hume.

    Although it is Smith who is widely considered nowadays to be the "founding father" of economics, many scholars including Murray N. Rothbard the prominent Austrian economist called Cantillon "the founding father of modern economics". [1]

    American economist Mark Thornton writes in his article on Cantillon [2]:

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Thornton
    .
    ...the origins of economic theory itself can be traced to Cantillon. William Stanley Jevons, one of the cofounders of the marginalist revolution, and the economist who is generally credited with rediscovering Cantillon, called the Essai "a systematic and connected treatise, going over in a concise manner nearly the whole field of economics. . . . It is thus the first treatise on economics." He dubbed the work the "Cradle of Political Economy."[3]
    Cantillon was born in 1680 (exact date unknown) in Ballyheige, County Kerry. I was looking up Ballyheige on Wikipedia and the History section of the article has a very interesting paragraph on the Cantillon family ( Link : Ballyheigue - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )

    There's no point in my re-writing what has already been written better by other people (well, maybe one day when I have some time on my hands...), so here is an outline of the mans life (link here):

    Quote Originally Posted by Encyclopedia Britannica
    .
    Cantillon was an Irishman of Norman origins and Jacobite connections who spent much of his life in France. He took over the bankrupt banking business of an uncle of the same name in Paris and made a fortune from the collapse of John Law’s Mississippi Scheme (a colonial development project whose profits could not match the expectations stirred up by speculators).

    He operated as a financier in a number of centres, including Amsterdam, where his transactions were on a large scale.

    Cantillon was murdered by a dismissed cook who then robbed and set fire to his house.

    Cantillon’s fame rests entirely on the one work which survived the blaze, his Essai sur la nature du commerce en général, written about 1730–34 and published by the Marquis de Mirabeau in 1755. Its treatment of population influenced Mirabeau and Adam Smith and, through the latter, Malthus. It contained a theory of relative wages which was used by Smith; the famous Tableau économique of the Physiocrats was probably inspired by the Essai, and the treatment of the theory of money was of pioneering importance. The Essai also contains his theories of wages, prices, and interest, the workings of currency circulation, the role of precious metals in the international economy, and other subjects.

    Legacy

    When you see the Legacy section of Adam Smith's Wikipedia page ( link ) and see statues such as this, or plaques in Smiths birthplace such as this, I do think it a terrible shame that we don't have some form of tribute to this great Irish historical figure. I do think it would be a worthy project to have private donations used to fund any such tribute/project.

    I urge you all to read more into this man, and maybe one day people in Ireland and beyond will know Richard Cantillon the way people in Scotland know and revere Adam Smith.

    To all who are interested, here are some good links on the man:

    - Biography: Cantillon Biography

    - Cantillons Legacy lecture by Mark Thornton: [mp3] and [vid]

    - Life and Work of Richard Cantillon, by Henry Higgs : - Life and Work of Richard Cantillon, by Henry Higgs

    - Cantillon for Laymen: Cantillon for Laymen - Karen De Coster - Mises Institute

    - Cantillons Wikipedia entry: Richard Cantillon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General
    - Part I
    - Part II
    - Part III


    _________________________

    [1] Rothbard, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, chap. 12, pp. 343-62.

    [2] Mark Thornton, 1999: "Richard Cantillon: The Origin of Economic Theory", 15 Great Austrian Economists, chap. 2, p. 13.

    [3] William Stanley Jevons, "Richard Cantillon and the Nationality of Political Economy," Contemporary Review January 1881), reprinted in Essai sur la
    Nature du Commerce en General, by Richard Cantillon [and other essays], Henry Higgs, ed. and trans. (London: Frank Cass, [1931] 1959), p. 342, with
    emphasis in the original.
    Last edited by Hazlitt; 11th June 2009 at 06:34 PM. Reason: deleting whitespace

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    Antoin Murphy wrote a biography of him, sponsored by NCB stockbrokers, sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

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    Politics.ie Member Hazlitt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nuj View Post
    Antoin Murphy wrote a biography of him, sponsored by NCB stockbrokers, sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
    Hi nuj,

    Thanks for the info - any idea of the name of the book? I'll google it see what I can find.

    Cheers mate.
    .

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Smile

    Can't say I've ever heard of him.

    Has anyone got a DOB or a DOD for him?

    If so I will include him in my database for insertion in my 'Irish History on this day' Blog.

    Thanks in advance anyway.

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    Politics.ie Member Hazlitt's Avatar
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    Exclamation

    Have it! 2 Editions. Will have to try search out a copy.

    Antoin E. Murphy, Richard Cantillon: Entrepreneur and Economist, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 1989, 337pp

    Antoin E. Murphy, Richard Cantillon: Entrepreneur and Economist, Oxford University Press, 1986, 337pp
    Notes: [(re-print 1989)]
    .

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    Jeez! 1986, huh? Time flies.

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    Politics.ie Member Hazlitt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catalpa View Post
    Has anyone got a DOB or a DOD for him?
    Sadly not Catalpa, not that I know of anyway...

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    Excellent post Hazlitt.

    Would you be interested in posting it on the Irish Liberty Forum blog?

    Myself and 'Irish Liberty Forum' spoke with Mark Thornton at Mises U last year. He said he thought Cantillon was the greatest economist of all time. I actually created a Richard Cantillon 'facebook page' a few months ago but only a load of foreigners added him. I contacted one girl from Bulgaria who seemed to know who he was but she had poor English so I didn't learn much.

    I'm attending the Austrian Scholars Conference in two weeks and I'm going to pick up a copy of the 'Essai' while I'm there. I can't wait to see how much of 'the truth' Cantillon had 'figured out' in that pamphlet. It would be nice to be able to quote him to Irish people if he says anything profound in it.
    Tu Ne Cede Malis Sed Contra Audentior Ito
    Irish Liberty Forum
    Ludwig Von Mises Institute

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    How would you rate him relative to William Thompson?

    http://homepage.eircom.net/~thompson..._thompson.html
    Last edited by He3; 27th February 2009 at 03:33 PM.
    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair.

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    Politics.ie Member ArtyQueing's Avatar
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    If I could figure out how to thank you for this I would
    "You Popish rogue" 'ní leomhaid a labhairt sinn
    acht "Cromwellian dog" is focal faire againn
    nó "cia súd thall" go eann gan eagla
    "Mise Tadhg" géadh teinn an t-agallamh

    Bodaigh an Cháise táid go hatuireach
    ag filleadh ar a gcéird gach spéice smeartha aca
    gan ghunna, gan chloidheamh gan pinnse chleachtadar
    d'imthigh a mbrígh is tá an cridhe dá ghreada aca.

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