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Richard Cantillon - "A grievously neglected historical Irish figure"


Hazlitt

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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]:

Mark Thornton said:
.
...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):

Encyclopedia Britannica said:
.
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.
 
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nuj

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

Hazlitt

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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)]
.
 

nuj

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Jeez! 1986, huh? Time flies.
 

Beagbuí

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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.
 

ArtyQueing

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If I could figure out how to thank you for this I would
 

Lefournier

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Anyone fortunate enough to have a subscription can read A. Murphy's book here:
Oxford Scholarship Online: Richard Cantillon: Entrepreneur and Economist

He is clearly a figure of great historical interest who deserves greater attention. His life history would make him the perfect candidate for a symposium bringing European economists to Ireland. Ballyheigue is beautiful and Tralee has the facilities for a conference including a sizeable IT. It's close enough to Killarney that the IMI might do something to coincide with their conference.
 

Hazlitt

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Anyone fortunate enough to have a subscription can read A. Murphy's book here:
Oxford Scholarship Online: Richard Cantillon: Entrepreneur and Economist

He is clearly a figure of great historical interest who deserves greater attention. His life history would make him the perfect candidate for a symposium bringing European economists to Ireland. Ballyheigue is beautiful and Tralee has the facilities for a conference including a sizeable IT. It's close enough to Killarney that the IMI might do something to coincide with their conference.
Hi LeFournier,

I could not agree more. It would be fantastic to get people like Mark Thornton and Antoin Murphy in the same room to discuss notes on Cantillon. Indeed, Thornton read Murphy's biography of Cantillon and draws heavily from it in his article.

I was only just saying to Retrolives that our great historical figures are a great resource for our country. Any such symposium that could be organised in or near Ballyheigue really would be of great benefit to our economy, to our reputation, etc.

Also, thanks for the link there, am going to look into subscribing or finding a hard copy of the text. Great post Lefouriner, thanks for your input mate.
 
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joeclogs

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Great to read this post. There is actually a proposal to run a Summer school commemorating Cantillon in Ballyheigue this summer from the 15th to the 17th July. I am involved in the committee and we are looking for suggestions as to suitable speakers and content. Alas Antoin Murphy who was very supportive is unable to attend on the preferred dates. If anyone has suggestions please post or pm
 

Lefournier

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Great to read this post. There is actually a proposal to run a Summer school commemorating Cantillon in Ballyheigue this summer from the 15th to the 17th July. I am involved in the committee and we are looking for suggestions as to suitable speakers and content. Alas Antoin Murphy who was very supportive is unable to attend on the preferred dates. If anyone has suggestions please post or pm
My earlier post was made in ignorance of these plans. Would this be the first such summer school in Ballyheigue? There are a plague of political/cultural summer schools around Ireland but there must be scope for one based around economics - the Desmond Greaves and the Patrick McGill summer schools have a politico-economic flavour but decidedly left-wing. If the Irish media ever had an appetite for economic discussion, this is the year.

Are there facilities in Ballyheigue, particularly a good venue at a reasonable cost? I think the key would be to get an international speaker, e.g. a major European figure who would give credit to Cantillon's importance and who would speak on the global crisis.
 

Kev408

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Never heard of that bloke either.
 

juanpablo

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Wouldn't ya know it a Kerry man would ultimately be responsible for the current crisis we are facing.
 

Hazlitt

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Great to read this post. There is actually a proposal to run a Summer school commemorating Cantillon in Ballyheigue this summer from the 15th to the 17th July. I am involved in the committee and we are looking for suggestions as to suitable speakers and content. Alas Antoin Murphy who was very supportive is unable to attend on the preferred dates. If anyone has suggestions please post or pm
Hi joeclogs,

That's very interesting. Who is organising the event? Are the dates flexible? The inclusion of Antoin Murphy to the roster would really be fantastic. I'm sure a few people on p.ie can come up with a few speaker suggestions for the event. I suppose who you can get at the end of the day will depend on how much money the organisation has.

Can you keep us posted on any developments on this thread please?

Thanks for the input mate.
.
 

Hazlitt

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Cantillon Summer School

I received a message from Mary Beary the co-ordinator of the new Richard Cantillon Summer School. They are now actively promoting the event. Full details are available at www.richardcantillon.com and if you want a pdf brochure just email info@richardcantillon.com

Looks like they are unveiling a commemorative plaque which is great, and they have plenty of talks, lectures, debates, workshops planned. One thing I'd like to see however (I could be wrong maybe they have planned) is a talk on the man himself.
 

zakalwe1

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kevin murphy (think he is now economics lecturer in TCD) introduced me to him back in 1997. thanks for reminding me of his essai (which i studied) and of course, the Physiocrats (great name for a school of thought!!!).
 
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