Voltaire on the Benefits which Trade and Economic Abundance bring to People living in the Present Age (1736)


Found in Commerce, Culture, and Liberty: Readings on Capitalism Before Adam Smith

Voltaire’s poem celebrating the fact that he was living in an age of developing commerce and markets:

Others may with regret complain That ’tis not fair Astrea’s reign, That the famed golden age is o’er That Saturn, Rhea rule no more: Or, to speak in another style, That Eden’s groves no longer smile. For my part, I thank Nature sage, That she has placed me in this age… I have, I own, a worldly mind, That’s pleased abundance here to find; Abundance, mother of all arts, Which with new wants new joys imparts The treasures of the earth and main, With all the creatures they contain: These, luxury and pleasures raise; This iron age brings happy days.

Voltaire was best known in his lifetime as an author of poetry and plays. To us in the 21st century he is best known for his satirical work Candide (1759) and the Philosophical Dictionary (1764). Yet as this quote shows even in his poetry and plays Voltaire had sharp observations about political and economic matters.