Adam Smith's Simplified Wealth of Nations, Book 4, Chapter 9a: Agricultural systems -- The French system

Chapter 9a: Economic systems which represent the produce of land as the principal source of wealth -- The French system

1 2 No nation has ever adopted the system which represents the produce of land as the sole source of the country's revenue and wealth.

Jean Baptiste Colbert
3 Mr. Colbert was the famous minister of Louis XIV.

4 "If the rod be bent too much one way, says the proverb, in order to make it straight you must bend it as much the other."

5 The French philosophers divided people who contribute to the national annual produce, into three classes:

  1. The proprietors of land
  2. The cultivators, farmers, and country labourers
  3. Artificers, manufacturers, and merchants

6 The class of proprietors contributes to the national annual produce by their expences on the improvement of the land.

7 The cultivators or farmers contribute to the annual produce by their expences on land cultivation.

The produce which remains to him after paying the rent should be sufficient:

  1. To replace to him all of his original expences together with ordinary profits, within a reasonable time
  2. To replace to him annually all of his annual expences, together with ordinary profits

Those two sorts of expences are the two capitals which the farmer employs in cultivation.

The produce of land needed to enable the farmer to continue his business should be considered as a fund sacred to cultivation.

This system calls their original and annual expences as productive expences because they reproduce this net produce and replace their own value.

8 The ground expences is what the landlord spends on improving his land.

9 This system only considers three sorts of expences as productive:

All other expences and all other orders of people are represented as barren and unproductive, even those we commonly regard as the most productive

10 We commonly think that the industry of artificers and manufacturers increases the value of rude produce so much.

Therefore unlike rent, the profits of manufacturing stock are not a net produce which remains after repaying the whole expence for that stock.

11 Mercantile stock is equally barren and unproductive with manufacturing stock.

12 The labour of artificers and manufacturers never adds anything to the value of the total rude produce of the land.

For example, the person who works the lace of a pair of fine ruffles, might raise the value of 1 pence flax to 7,200 pemce.

It is otherwise with the work of farmers and country labourers.

13 Artificers, manufacturers, and merchants can increase the revenue and wealth of their society only by parsimony or privation.

On the contrary, farmers and country labourers may completely enjoy the whole funds for their own subsistence while increasing the revenue and wealth of their society.

The interest of nations so differently circumstanced is very different.

Their peoples' common character are different from other peoples.


Words: 2018
Next: Chapter 9b: The Unproductive class