LIBERALISM, ECONOMIC. Economic liberalism is an anachronistic but useful term to describe theories propounded in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The term was coined by nineteenth-century thinkers to describe their own theories; rather than "economics," seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers considered their inquiries "political economy," and those who defended the rights and freedoms of individuals over and against the state would not bear the appellation of liberals until the 1820s. Nevertheless, "economic liberalism" usefully describes theories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that defended the individual liberty to buy, sell, work, employ, and trade without restriction or governmental interference. The general tenor of economic liberalism is succinctly captured in the French phrase of the era, laissez-faire, or 'leave people alone'. This theory maintained that people should be left alone because their self-interested activities in the market were self-regulating, guided by natural economic laws that were far more conducive to social well-being than the directives of state authorities. Thus, economic liberalism was the doctrine typified by seventeenth-century English, French, and Dutch pamphleteers who were critical of state restraints on trade and regulation of interests rates; by the treatises of eighteenth-century French économistes (retrospectively designated Physiocrats); and best exemplified by Adam Smith's 1776 Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
Economic liberalism can be seen as a response to the wide-ranging policies of European governments from the sixteenth century onward to shape economic activity for state purposes. Such state policies are designated by historians as mercantilism. Economic liberalism manifested itself in systematic criticism of such state interference for violating natural economic laws to the detriment of society. Economic liberalism arose after a wide variety of authors who had spent decades speculating about economic processes articulated natural economic laws that produced an automatic self-regulation of economic activity most conducive to social well-being.
The enormous fiscal demands of state-building in the modern era led various European crowns in relentless efforts for new revenues. Taxation was increased and expanded, and the sale of exclusive monopolies for the production of goods and trade, domestic and foreign, also brought new revenues. Thus, in France, the seventeenth-century minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619–1683) transformed the medieval system of producers' guilds into state-licensed monopolies in goods ranging from salt to lace. In England, trade monopolies were granted for trade with Russia (the Muscovy Company, 1558), the Middle East (the Levant Company, 1592), and India and southeast Asia (the East India Company, 1600). By the seventeenth century in Europe, almost any foreign goods people used were likely imported by a trade monopoly; any domestic goods, by someone operating under a monopoly patent.
European crowns also engaged in currency debasement, that is, adulterating the silver coinage with a base metal and pocketing the difference between the original silver content of the coinage and its nominal value. This had significant consequences in terms of domestic price increases and distortions of rents and real wages. It also disrupted foreign exchange rates, interest rates, and international flows of gold and silver (specie). To ameliorate such consequences, governments undertook the regulation of wages, the prices of primary consumer goods, and interest rates. Since currency debasement created incentives for holders of specie to send it out of the country (to markets where purchasing power was determined by specie value, rather than nominal values), governments were also greatly concerned about the loss of specie within their borders. The power of any state depended on its possession of specie, which allowed it to purchase mercenary troops and supplies abroad for the military struggles of European power politics. Although colonial mines served as the key source of specie for Spain, most other European powers could only obtain specie through international trade. It became an article of faith that state power was maximized by policies that produced a favorable balance of trade, that is, an influx of foreign specie in payment for domestic exports that was greater than the specie outflows to pay for foreign imports. To restrict outflows of specie, heavy import taxes restrained purchases of foreign goods and also produced revenue. To facilitate exports, and therefore specie inflows, government policy promoted the production of high-value domestic manufactures, protected by high tariffs or even prohibitions on imports of foreign manufactures.
The above mercantilist state-building objectives introduced new perspectives on economic activity. Because national power was promoted by influx of specie, international trade was seen in a new, positive light. Medieval views of merchants as exploitative were supplanted by a view of traders as national assets. From this perspective, domestic trade only transferred wealth from one group to another, but foreign trade brought in new treasure from abroad. Nevertheless, many believed that the selfish interests of merchants might run contrary to the interests of the state, and for that reason, trade needed strict regulation and the guiding hand of authorities.
MERCANTILISM AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
By the seventeenth century, the growing role of government in control of the economy prompted extensive commentary on public affairs and public policies related to usury, prices, and the state of international trade. Such commentators, now designated mercantilists, were not mere spokesmen for the system of the same name. They frequently wrote to get the government to pursue some policy that would benefit them (for example, reduction of interest rates or prohibition of imports by competitors), but there was a wide variety of views and motives in their work, and many criticisms of government policy. Over time, the proliferation of such works resulted in a general understanding of "the economy" as a linkage of prices, money flows, interest rates, and international trade, which could be subjected to and explained by analytical theories. The analytical tools and theories developed by these writers were not terribly sophisticated, nor universally accepted or applied in anything like a systematic manner. Yet from such efforts to comprehend the intricate network of exchanges, prices, and behavior of human beings as producers and consumers, a new science emerged called political economy. Most authors now described as mercantilists showed a clear understanding, for example, of sophisticated ideas such as international trade representing a sort of barter mediated by money, and that there can be no export customers if nations do not also purchase imports from those to whom they hope to sell. Even though most recognized the need for regulated trade, virtually none proposed economic self-sufficiency. Similarly, most understood that the merchants could not simply set prices for exports; rather, prices were determined by the actions of all involved "in the common market of the world."
A pamphlet dispute in the 1620s between two early English political economists, Gerald de Maylnes (1586–1641), an official of the Royal Mint, and Edward Misselden (1608–1654), a merchant, reveals the general level of analysis. Maylnes was alarmed at specie outflows from England, and he accused merchants involved in the exchange of foreign currency of being the cause of the kingdom's loss of bullion. Since the merchants' selfish desire for gain, amounting to usury, resulted in specie outflow, Maylnes proposed government-run currency exchange at "fair rates" to keep specie in the country. Misselden, on the other hand, denied Maylnes's simplistic attribution of the problem of specie outflows to the malevolence of merchants. Specie flows, he explained, followed general levels of trade; if there was more specie flowing out of the country, it was because the balance of trade was not in England's favor. Since England imported more than it exported, specie was lost to the nation. The true solution to the problem, Misselden urged, was to restore a favorable balance of trade.
Misselden's use of the balance of trade concept illustrates a central feature of mercantilist economic theory. A favorable balance of trade provided specie for national strength, but it was also desired because plenty of money at home would stimulate domestic trade and employment. Further, since interest rates were determined by the supply of money, plenty of money would reduce interest rates and stimulate investment. Thus, the English merchant Thomas Mun's tract (written 1623; published 1664) ridiculed the idea that an exchange board could simply decree that specie stay in the country, as exchange rates were determined by supply and demand. He even expressed suspicion about any policy's capacity to maintain plenty of specie in the country: since prices were determined by the quantity of money, more specie would invariably raise prices, and thereby diminish exports. Still, Mun argued that policies restricting shipping to English carriers, sumptuary laws to limit luxury imports, and state support of exports (such as herring), would promote, as his title declared, England's Treasure by Forraigne Trade, or the Balance of Our Forraigne Trade Is the Rule of Our Treasure.
POLITICAL ECONOMY AND THE IDEA OF ECONOMIC LAW
The seventeenth century was a period of great intellectual ferment in which the techniques of the new natural sciences, exemplified by Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) and Isaac Newton (1642–1727), gripped the imaginations of thinkers such as Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and René Descartes (1596–1650), who boldly proclaimed that the new techniques of scientific analysis would transform the whole of human thought. Such aspirations fed the ambitions of those who sought to place human action within the descriptive bounds of similar natural laws. The notion of economic law developed out of a century's observation of the regularity of markets, of rising prices producing increased supplies, and of gluts in the market producing falling prices. Many writers believed that the cause of such regularities was economic actors responding to opportunities for personal gain. Thus, the seventeenth century saw a new regard for self-interest. On the one hand, self-interest came to be seen as a more rational, less dangerous motivation for human behavior than the passions. On the other hand, because self-interest involved rational calculation, some believed that acts of self-interest demonstrated the same kinds of regularity in human nature as was found in other scientific laws in the natural realm. The whole of human activity in buying, growing, selling, spending, and the satisfaction of human wants, without anyone's directing or even intending the result, could be explained as people pursuing their interests.
In his Discourse of Trade (1690) English physician Nicholas Barbon asserted that, as with all things necessary to life, everything that produced delight and pleasure, along with peace and economic development, was the product of trade, the consequence of people acting in the market for their own benefit. Such actions resulted in the nation being "well fed, clothed, and lodged" while "the richer sort are furnished with all things to promote the ease, pleasure, & pomp of life."
SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLISH ECONOMIC LIBERALS
The idea of natural economic law lay at the heart of the economic liberal critique of mercantilism. Perhaps no name is more closely associated with the concept of natural law than that of John Locke (1632–1704), the English philosopher widely accorded status as a founder of political liberalism. Although Locke's writings are concerned with both political and economic liberalism, proponents of these two fields were often at odds with one another. Locke's economic writings chiefly dealt with money and interest rates, and in both cases he utilized natural economic law to criticize government interference. In 1692, Locke published Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising the Value of Money to oppose a legislative reduction of interest from 6 percent to 4 percent along with a scheme to reduce the silver content of England's coinage. In the case of interest rate reductions, Locke insisted that there was a "natural rate" that was the product of "the present state of trade, money, and debts," in other words, by the supply and demand for funds that could be loaned. Locke denied that interest rates could be regulated by law. The law would be flouted, as "it will be impossible by any contrivance of the law, to hinder men . . . to purchase money to be lent to them what rate soever their occasions shall make it necessary for them to have it." But all legal lending would also be reduced, since the interest reduction would reduce the supply of funds for loans, and guarantee that only the safest loans would be made. Thus, rather than making loans more available, artificial reductions of the rate of interest decreased the supply of credit. The idea of legislating interest rates, Locke says, is as absurd as legislating rents: in both cases "things must be left to find their own price." In the case of the recoinage, Locke argued that the value of a coin was determined by its silver content, and "the opinion of men consenting to it," rather than the denomination stamped on it by the mint. Since contracts and rents had been entered into based upon coins having a given silver content, to change the silver content of the coins would amount to fraud. The proponents of the scheme may call debased coins shillings, but "one may as rationally hope to lengthen a foot by dividing it into fifteen parts instead of twelve and calling them inches."
Sir Dudley North (1641–1691) was a zealous partisan of Charles II (ruled 1660–1685) and James II (ruled 1685–1688) who led the legal persecution of liberal Whigs for the crown, but he was also an economic liberal. His Discourses upon Trade (1692), edited and published posthumously by his brother Roger, was suffused with the "principles of the new philosophy," the "mechanical" science that alone provides "clear and evident truths." Principles derived from scientific reasoning proved that "to force men to deal in any prescribed manner, may profit such as happen to serve them; but the publick gains not, because it is taking from one subject to give to another." North, too, contested the proposal to legislate a lower rate of interest, and, like Locke, argued that the natural rate of interest was determined by the supply and demand for loans. Indeed, North observed, the reason interest rates were lower in the Netherlands—which had no interest regulations—was that the trading wealth of the Dutch meant that more money was available for loans. North argued that artificial reductions of the rate of interest would reduce the sums available for loans since "it probably will keep some money from coming abroad into trade; whereas on the contrary, high interest certainly brings it out." Nor was there any need for the government to increase the money supply by means of the recoinage that Locke had contested; in North's view, money, like any commodity, was subject to the automatic equilibrating processes of the market. As North explained, the "ebbing and flowing of money, supplies and accommodates itself, without any aids from politicians . . . when money is scarce, bullion is coyned, when bullion is scarce, money is melted." People looked in vain to the government to produce prosperity, North averred, "for no people ever yet grew rich by policies; but it is peace, industry, and freedom that brings trade and wealth, and nothing else."
Another self-conscious crafter of a new human science was the physician-politician Sir William Petty (1623–1687) who, taking a cue from Francis Bacon, sought to understand human society as a form of anatomy. (Petty also served as secretary to Thomas Hobbes, another great social anatomist.) Instead of the dissection of nerves and tissues, the scientific investigator of human society had to master quantitative data on population, tax revenues, trade and production, and all manner of social statistics. Petty called his program "political arithmetic," and, while his general view of economic policy followed predictable mercantilist lines in viewing national wealth as contingent on its share of the (fixed) world trade, he also argued that government policy had limited capacity to directly control economic events because of the immutable operation of natural economic laws. Thus he attacked legislative reduction of the rate of interest as one example of "the variety and fruitlessness of making Civil Positive Laws against the Laws of Nature."
Although Petty's contributions to social statistics and economics are today judged negligible, he had followers who pursued his program of attempting to discern and articulate economic laws. One disciple, the politician and civil servant Charles Davenant (1656–1714), illustrates how economic law came to undermine the old sureties of beneficent government direction of the economy. In the 1690s, the English East India Company began to import large quantities of cheap printed Indian cotton goods. This produced a storm of protest from writers who attacked the company for undermining the domestic production of English woolens and silks. Davenant's defense of the company (he was at this time an employee), called Essay on the East India Trade (1696), argued that economic regulation for the protection of a single industry ignored the systemic nature of economic life, in which all trades were linked, and injurious policies could spread their effects far beyond their intended purpose. Although he conceded that Indian imports injured English woolen manufactures, Davenant merely took this as evidence that they were akin to hothouse flowers, unable to survive without artificial aids. To force trade in this manner brought no "natural profit" and was ultimately injurious to the public. Woolen manufactures were injured only because the public benefited more from cheap Indian cottons than from woolen garments dependent upon protection for a market. "Trade is in its nature free, finds its own channel," he wrote, "and best directs its own course; and all laws to give it rules and directions, and to limit and circumscribe it, may serve the particular ends of private men, but are seldom advantageous to the public."
Five years later, Henry Martyn's Considerations upon the East India Trade (1701) took up the same matter and attacked the very idea of the legal monopoly of the East India Company. Cheap Indian cloth, Martyn wrote, was just one of many benefits, including from spices, silks, and wine, which foreign trade produced. While the public benefited from Indian imports, it would benefit still more, Martyn argued, if the trade were open to all, as competition between merchants would force prices and transportation costs to the minimum. Martyn also reasoned that if Indian goods could be purchased more cheaply than those produced at home, English cloth manufactures simply wasted labor. But if competition were unleashed, it might stimulate inventiveness of skill and machinery to reduce the costs of English cloth below India's. Martyn's central contention was that free competition of self-interested actors in the marketplace benefits the public by producing more at less cost.
DUTCH REPUBLICANISM AND ECONOMIC LIBERALISM
Pieter de la Court (1618–1685), polemicist for the republicans fighting the establishment of a Dutch monarchy by the House of Orange, published a very liberal tract that fused political and economic liberalism. Political Maxims of the State of Holland (Aanwysing der heilsame politike Gronden en Maximen van de Republike van Holland en West-Vriesland, 1662) attacked monarchical principles and linked the cause of crowns with standing armies, clerical mystification, and the destruction of urban commercial society. Commerce, he wrote, by "common interest wonderfully linked together" all the people of the Netherlands "from the least to the greatest" in "excellent and laudable harmony." He pleaded for religious toleration to promote Dutch economic growth since "those that deal in manufactures, fishing, traffic [and] shipping" would not come to live in a "country where they are not permitted to serve and worship God outwardly, after such a manner as they see fit." Domestic markets were integral to the prosperity of Dutch trade and shipping, he argued, and therefore he defended occupational freedom, "the liberty of gaining a livelihood without any dear-bought city freedom," since no immigrants would come to the Netherlands "if they should have no freedom of chusing and practicing such honest means of livelihood as they think best for their subsistence." Immigrants would not depress wages of native inhabitants; on the contrary, they would "lay out their skill and estate in devising new fisheries, manufactures, traffick and navigation." Immigrants were essential in a commercial society to take up those enterprises—"in Amsterdam alone there are yearly three hundred abandoned"—whose native proprietors "finding the gain uncertain, and the charge great, are apt to relinquish it." De la Court attacked monopolies and guild restrictions for violating people's "natural liberty of seeking their livelihoods." Trade should be open to "the industrious and ingenious," for monopolies—"dull, slow, unactive, and less inquisitive"—were unable to exploit even opportunities guaranteed them by law. The whaling monopoly, for example, proved unprofitable; but under competition, "everyone equips their vessel at the cheapest rate, follow[s] their fishing diligently, and manage all carefully" and whaling became profitable with fifteen times more ships involved in the industry. Monopoly did nothing more than cause the Dutch to be "bereft of the freedom of buying their necessaries at the cheapest rate they can."
ECONOMIC LIBERALISM IN FRANCE
In late seventeenth-century France, a civil servant, Pierre la Pesant, sieur de Boisguillebert (1646–1714) argued for economic laissez-faire with a sophistication that earned the respect of the great twentieth-century economist Joseph Schumpeter. In his chief work, A Detailed Account of France (Le detail de la France, 1695), Boisguillbert dismissed the mercantilist equation of money with wealth, contending that wealth lay in goods, rather than coin. Social harmony and well-being were the products of individuals acting in their self-interested pursuit of happiness. The transactions of self-interested actors in a market created order and peace, for "the pure desire of profit will be the soul of every market for buyer and seller alike; and it is with the aid of that equilibrium or balance that each partner to the transaction is equally required to listen to reason, and submit to it." The natural order produced by laissez-faire, however, could be disturbed: "nature alone can introduce that order and maintain the peace. Any other authority spoils everything by trying to interfere, no matter how well intentioned it may be." Boisguillebert claimed that good intentions gone awry were behind the French crown's efforts to diminish hunger by controlling grain prices, since price controls merely diminished cultivation of grain and exacerbated shortages. If the government would merely lift its controls on prices and grain imports, he argued, food would soon be abundant.
Boisguillebert's concern with food supplies highlights one chief difference between French and English political economy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the French focus on agriculture, rather than international trade. Liberal critics saw the persistence of a feudal land tenure system in France as responsible for backwardness in agriculture, especially in comparison with her neighbors, England and the Netherlands. Chief among these critics was the circle gathered around the physician Francois Quesnay (1694–1774). Quesnay's allies, such as Mercier de la Riviere (1720–1793) and Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817), called themselves les economistes, but are now designated Physiocrats. The Physiocrats popularized the slogan, "laissez-faire, laissez passer," as the essence of economic wisdom. At the heart of physiocratic doctrine was the conviction that agriculture alone was the source of all wealth, since only it provided surplus, or net product. Therefore, all restrictions on agriculture, such as price controls and barriers to internal and foreign trade, undermined national wealth. Quesnay's famous Tableau economique (1759) drew upon insights developed by an Irish banker living in Paris, Richard Cantillon (d. 1734) in his Essai sur la nature du commerce, which explained the circular flow of income produced by markets. Quesnay's intricate chart purported to demonstrate the circulation of net product throughout the entire society, which was as perpetual and self-regulating as the circulation of blood. In the eyes of the Physiocrats, the countless restrictions on free commerce imposed by the government were as socially beneficial as blood clots in human circulation.
One of Quesnay's associates, Vincent de Gournay (1712–1759) a wealthy merchant and royal administrator, spent years in the Netherlands and admired de la Courts's Maxims. He also commended Cantillon's work to Quesnay, and although he never wrote economic tracts, he had a profound influence as tutor and advisor to Finance Minister Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781). Turgot, in a eulogy to Gournay, praised him for grasping the fundamental principle of economic policy, which was that every individual knew his or her own interest best, and that with individuals left free to pursue their interests, "it would be impossible for the aggregate individual interests not to concur with the general interest." Competition in the market, which was the consequence of the pursuit of interest, produced innovation in manufacturing, and the lowest prices for consumers. Rather than the plethora of regulations covering every aspect of economic life, or monopoly privileges, Gournay favored the "natural liberty" to buy and sell as the guarantor of production, and of consumers obtaining goods at the best price. Short of providing justice, and bestowing honors on inventors and artists, government best served the economy by removing obstacles it had erected.
Turgot's turbulent years as finance minister to Louis XVI (ruled 1774–1792) saw an effort to create the system of freedom articulated by French liberals over previous decades. His chief objective was to remove all barriers to agricultural and international trade. The farmer was "the only one who suffers from monopoly as buyer and at the same time as seller. There is only he who cannot buy freely from foreigners the things which he has need; there is only he who cannot sell to foreigners the commodity he produces." Domestic and international laissez-faire, a "general liberty of buying as selling is . . . the only means to insure on one side to the seller a price sufficient to encourage production; on the other side to the consumer the best merchandise at the lowest price." Turgot's management of the economy amounted to not interfering with natural economic law, because "in order to direct it without deranging it, and without injuring ourselves, it would be necessary for us to be able to follow all the changes in the needs, the interests, and the industry of mankind . . . Even if we had in all these particulars that mass of knowledge impossible to be gathered, the result would only be to let things go precisely as they would have gone of themselves, by a simple action of men's interests, influenced by the balance of a free competition."
ADAM SMITH'S WEALTH OF NATIONS
Adam Smith (1723–1791), professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow, published his great contribution to economic liberalism, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776, a significant date in the history of political liberalism. Deeply affected by the example of Isaac Newton's scientific system, which explained the orbits of the planets from the operation of basic laws of motion and mass, Smith sought to explicate how basic economic laws produced the regular operation of markets he called "the system of natural liberty." As the title of the book intimates, Smith's central concern was with economic development and growth, the means to secure "universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people." Opulence was a matter of the material wellbeing of the people, which consisted of cheap and plentiful goods. The key was productivity, the secret of which Smith identified as the "division of labor." Since the degree of specialization was determined by the extent of the market, the more extensive the market, the more productive human activity would be and the wealthier people would become. Smith was scornful of all the policies that were designed over centuries to secure a favorable balance of trade. Trade itself reflects the fact that different regions, different countries, have certain "natural advantages" in producing goods; and so if "a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them."
Just as Newton described the motion of the heavens in terms of simple concepts of mass, motion, and the force of gravity, Smith's "simple system" operated from little more than self-interest, competition, and enforcement of basic rules of justice. Smith's previous book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), explained how people's desire to be loved led them to conform to moral rules, but this principle, so effective at the level of family, friends, and neighbors, was too weak to account for relations between strangers. Rather, the extensive transactions that characterized markets were based on mutual gains from trade. "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." Because the public interest is for people to live in opulence, individuals led by self-interest to employ their labor and capital to make the society more productive, and satisfy human wants, are "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of [their] intention." Smith was acutely aware of the dangers presented by self-interest, however: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." It was for this reason that the force of competition was vital to the operation of his system. Contrivances to replace "the natural price, or the price of free competition" ranging from outright monopoly privileges, to bounties, to restrictive tarries, to restrictions on free movement of labor—there were myriad ways governments could protect some person or group against competition, and thus allow private interest to take precedence over the public good. The elimination of all schemes to insulate people against competition was vital. "All systems either of preference or restraint, therefore, being completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with any other man, or order of men."
Economic liberalism as an influence on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century policy was limited at best. Turgot's reforms were abandoned, and Smith's myriad recommendations for overhauling Britain's policies, while admired by prime ministers, were too radical to be undertaken in an age of war and revolution. In the nineteenth century economic liberalism acquired not only its name, but the status of scientific orthodoxy, with the establishment of professorships in the new academic discipline of political economy in universities throughout Europe. The nineteenth century also saw the implementation of such iconic economic liberal policies as free trade in Britain.
See also Bacon, Francis ; Capitalism ; Democracy ; Hobbes, Thomas ; Locke, John ; Mercantilism ; Money and Coinage ; Petty, William ; Physiocrats and Physiocracy ; Smith, Adam .
All citations from primary sources in this article are from microfilms of the catalog of the Kress-Goldsmith Library of Economic Literature, available at many large research libraries.
Barbon, Nicholas. Discourse of Trade. London, 1690.
Boisguillebert, Pierre de Pesant. Le detail de la France, sous le regne present. n.p., 1695.
Bramsted, E. K., and K. J. Melhuish, eds. Western Liberalism: A History in Documents from Locke to Croce. London and New York, 1978. Has selections from Turgot and Smith, especially valuable for nineteenth-century economic liberalism.
Cantillon, Richard. Essay on the General Nature of Commerce. Edited and translated by Henry Higgs. New York, 1931. Translation of 1757 Essai sur la nature du commerce en general.
Clark, Henry C. ed. Commerce, Culture, and Liberty: Readings on Capitalism before Adam Smith. Indianapolis, 2003. A superb collection of previously inaccessible writings, including most cited in this article.
Court, Pieter de la. Aanwysing der heilsame politike Gronden en Maximens van de Republike van Holland en West-Vriesland. Leiden, 1669. English translation, Political Maxims of the State of Holland. London, 1702.
Davenant, Charles. Essay on the East India Trade. London, 1696.
Locke, John. Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising the Value of Money. London, 1692.
Martyn, Henry. Considerations on the East India Trade. London, 1701.
Meek, Ronald. The Economics of Physiocracy: Essays and Translations. Cambridge, Mass., 1963. Translated selections from Quesnay, DuPont, and others.
Mun, Thomas. England's Treasure by Forraigne Trade. London, 1664.
North, Sir Dudley. Discourses upon Trade. London, 1692.
Smith, Adam. Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Edited by Edwin Cannan. New York, 1937. (1776) Many editions. Cannan's marginal annotations make it ideal for students.
Appleby, Joyce Oldham. Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England. Princeton, 1978.
Brewer, Antony. Richard Cantillon: Pioneer of Economic Theory. London, 1992.
Cole, Charles Woolsey. French Mercantilism, 1683–1700. New York, 1943. Covers both policy and the political economists' discussions.
Eatwell, John, Murray Milgate, and Peter Newman, eds. The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics. 4 vols. London and New York, 1987. Articles on most authors cited.
Heckscher, Eli. Mercantilism. 2 vols. 2nd rev. ed. New York, 1955.
Hirschman, Albert O. The Passions and the Interests. 2nd ed. Princeton, 1997.
Hutchison, T. W. Before Adam Smith: The Emergence of Political Economy, 1662–1776. Oxford, 1988.
Letwin, William. The Origins of Scientific Economics. New York, 1966.
Muller, Jerry Z. Adam Smith in His Time and Ours. Princeton, 1993.
Schumpeter, Joseph. History of Economic Analysis. New York, 1954. Encyclopedic, deeply learned, somewhat inaccessible.