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PREFACE - Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de Condillac, Commerce and Government Considered in their Mutual Relationship 
Commerce and Government Considered in their Mutual Relationship, translated by Shelagh Eltis, with an Introduction to His Life and Contribution to Economics by Shelagh Eltis and Walter Eltis (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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This book was originally published by Edward Elgar Publishing in 1997, copyright 1997 by Shelagh Eltis and Walter Eltis. Reprinted by permission of Edward Elgar Publishing.
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We both read Commerce and Government for the first time in 1990, and we were astonished that such a brilliantly written and powerfully argued book had made so little impact, and that it had never been translated into English. We resolved then, six years ago, that we would produce the first English language edition.
Commerce and Government was published in the same year as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and their analysis and implications for policy have much in common. It was presented with the comparative brevity and precision of a distinguished philosopher of the French Enlightenment, who was one of the first to base value on utility, an achievement which was recognised after the marginal revolution of the 1870s.
Eighteenth-century France was not fertile ground for the demolition of dirigisme, and the advocacy of the universal benefits of competition was resisted everywhere by vested interests. The physiocrats who controlled an economic journal in which the book was reviewed took exception to Condillac’s powerful demonstration that industry and commerce and not merely agriculture contributed to the wealth of France. The reviews were dismissive, the great preferred Colbert, so Commerce and Government made little headway in France, and British political economists of the eighteenth century were unaware of it, so there was no demand for an immediate translation. The abbé Morellet sent a copy to the Earl of Shelburne, the future British Prime Minister, with the accolade that “in every part of it you will find freedom of commerce sustained.” There may have been an occasional nineteenth- or twentieth-century British Prime Minister who could plausibly be expected to wish to read 90,000 words of French political economy in French, but the eighteenth century was another world.
After 1990 we pursued detailed research, on Condillac’s life: Chapter 1 (by Shelagh Eltis) is the result; and on the impact of his economics, which is outlined in Chapter 2 (by Walter Eltis). This was preceded by conference papers on his economics in the École Normale Supérieure in St-Cloud, Paris, and in the University of Birmingham, with the subsequent publication of articles on Condillac’s economics in French and English language journals.
Condillac’s life is a revelation. He combined the respect and friendship of Voltaire and Rousseau (he is prominent in the Confessions) with the high regard of the King and the Church. He was appointed Director of Studies to Louis XV’s grandson, the Bourbon heir to the throne of Parma, and after the success of that assignment, he was invited to go on to supervise the education of the three royal children who subsequently reigned in France: Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X. He declined that invitation which could have changed the world if he had had any impact.
In 1796, after the Revolution, the Minister of the Interior, no less, believed that education in France would be advanced by a complete edition of Condillac’s works which made use of all his posthumous papers. Orders were given for the preparation of an edition which appeared in 1798 in twenty-three volumes and included Commerce and Government. The story is outlined in Chapter 3. It takes a certain kind of genius to earn the admiration of liberal philosophers, a monarchy and a post-revolutionary government.
It will give us great pleasure if this first English language translation increases the attention which Condillac’s economics deservedly receives. We have had valuable help from the Taylorian Library in Oxford, the Direction des Archives Municipales in Grenoble, Professor Ramon Tortajada of the University of Grenoble, Professor Gloria Vivenza of the University of Verona, Dr Adam Brown, and the participants at the conferences in St-Cloud and Birmingham.