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Illustration of the original visualisation of the Tableau by François Quesnay, 1759.

Physiocracy (from the Greek for "Government of Nature") is an economic theory developed by a group of 18th century French economists who believed that the wealth of nations was derived solely from the value of "land agriculture" or "land development" and that agricultural products should be highly priced


  • What is everybody's interest is nobody's interest.
    • Anonymous, quoted in: George Poulett Scrope (1833). Principles of Political Economy. p. 14
  • The physiocrats started a train of thought which was a powerful stimulus to the development of a labour theory of value and surplus value.They did not, however develop such a theory of value themselves. What attention they gave to the problem of exchange-value and price produced results of an altogether different character. Thus while one of their contributions finds its continuation in Smith, Ricardo, and Marx, the other leads to the post-classical supply and demand and utility theories of value.
  • The agricultural systems of political economy will not require so long an explanation as that which I have thought it necessary to bestow upon the mercantile or commercial system.
    That system which represents the produce of land as the sole source of the revenue and wealth of every country has, so far as I know, never been adopted by any nation, and it at present exists only in the speculations of a few men of great learning and ingenuity in France. It would not, surely, be worth while to examine at great length the errors of a system which never has done, and probably never will do, any harm in any part of the world. I shall endeavour to explain, however, as distinctly as I can, the great outlines of this very ingenious system.
    • Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776) Book IV: On Systems of Political Economy
  • François Quesnay was the leading figure of the Physiocrats, generally considered to be the first school of economic thinking. The name “Physiocrat” derives from the Greek words phýsis, meaning “nature,” and kràtos, meaning “power.” The Physiocrats believed that an economy’s power derived from its agricultural sector. They wanted the government of Louis XV, who ruled France from 1715 to 1774, to deregulate and reduce taxes on French agriculture so that poor France could emulate wealthier Britain, which had a relatively laissez-faire policy. Indeed, it was Quesnay who coined the term “laissez-faire, laissez-passer.”
    • "François Quesnay." The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. 2008. Library of Economics and Liberty. 21 July 2014.

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The Physiocrats - In Our Time - BBC Radio 4 podcast