Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Riches
An 1898 edition of one of the more important works on economics before Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. It covers a broad range of topics including money, exchange, value, and capital investment in agriculture. Turgot discussed economic matters with Smith when Smith visited France in the 1760s.
Reflections on the Formation and the Distribution of Riches, trans. William J. Ashley (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1898).
The text is in the public domain.
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Table of Contents
- 1. The impossibility of the existence of Commerce upon the supposition of an equal division of lands, where every man should possess only what is necessary for his own support.
- 2. The above hypothesis neither has existed nor could continue. The diversity of soils and multiplicity of wants, compel an exchange of the productions of the earth, against other productions.
- 3. The productions of the earth require long and difficult preparations, before they are rendered fit to supply the wants of men.
- 4. The necessity of these preparations, bring on the exchange of productions for labour.
- 5. Pre-eminence of the husbandman who produces, over the artificer who prepares. The husbandman is the first mover in the circulation of labour: it is he who causes the earth to produce the wages of every artificer.
- 6. The wages of the workman is limited by the competition among those who work for a subsistence. He only gains a livelihood.
- 7. The husbandman is the only one whose industry produces more than the wages of his labour. He, therefore, is the only source of all Wealth.
- 8. First division of society into two classes, the one productive, or the cultivators, the other stipendiary, or the artificers.
- 9. In the first ages of society, the proprietors could not be distinguished from the cultivators.
- 10. Progress of society; all lands have an owner.
- 11. The proprietors begin to be able to ease themselves of the labour of cultivation, by the help of hired cultivators.
- 12. Inequality in the division of property: causes which render that inevitable.
- 13. Consequences of this inequality: The cultivator distinguished from the proprietor.
- 14. Division of the produce between the cultivator and the proprietor. Net Produce, or revenue.
- 15. A new division of society into three classes. Cultivators, Artificers, and Proprietors, or the productive, stipendiary, and disposible classes.
- 16. Resemblance between the two laborious classes.
- 17. Essential difference between the two laborious classes.
- 18. This difference authorises another distinction into the productive and barren classes.
- 19. How the proprietors may draw a revenue from their lands
- 20. First method, or cultivation by labourers on wages.
- 21. Second method, cultivation by slaves
- 22. Cultivation by slaves cannot exist in great societies.
- 23. Slavery annexed to the land, succeeds to slavery properly so called.
- 24. Vassalage succeeds to slavery, annexed to the land, and the slave becomes a proprietor. Third method; alienation of the land for a certain service.
- 25. Fourth Method. Partial colonization
- 26. Fifth method. Renting, or letting out the land
- 27. The last method is the most advantageous, but it supposes the country already rich.
- 28. Recapitulation of the several methods of making lands productive.
- 29. Of capitals in general, and of the revenue of money.
- 30. Of the use of gold and silver in commerce.
- 31. Rise of Commerce. Principle of the valuation of commercial things.
- 32. How the current value of the exchange of merchandize is established.
- 33. Commerce gives in all merchandize a current value with respect to any other merchanize; from whence it follows that all merchandize is the equivalent for a certain quantity of any other merchandize, and may be looked on as a pledge to represent it.
- 34. Every merchandize may serve as a scale or common measure, by which to compare the value of any other.
- 35. Every species of merchandize does not present a scale equally commodious. It is proper to prefer the use of such as are not susceptible of any great alteration in quality, and have a value principally relative to the number and quantity.
- 36. For want of an exact correspondence between the value and the number or quantity, it is supplied by a mean valuation, which becomes a species of real money.
- 37. Example of those mean valuations which become an ideal expression for value.
- 38. All merchandize is a representative pledge of every object of commerce, but more or less commodities for use, as it possesses a greater or less facility to be transported, and to be preserved without alteration.
- 39. All merchandize has the two essential properties of money, to measure and to represent all value: and in this sense all merchandize is money.
- 40. Reciprocally all money is essentially merchandize.
- 41. Different matters are able to serve and have served for current money.
- 42. Metals, and particularly gold and silver, are the most proper for that purpose, and why.
- 43. Gold and silver are constituted, by the nature of things, money, and universal money, independent of all convention, and of all laws.
- 44. Other metals are only employed for these uses, in a secondary manner.
- 45. The use of gold and silver, as money, has augmented their value as materials.
- 46. Variations in the value of gold and silver, compared with the other objects of commerce, and with each other.
- 47. The use of payments in money, has given room for the distinction of seller and buyer.
- 48. The use of money has much facilitated the separation of different labours among the different orders of society.
- 49. Of the excess of annual produce accumulated to form capitals.
- 50. Personal property, accumulation of money.
- 51. Circulating wealth is an indispensible requisite for all lucrative works.
- 52. Necessity of advances for cultivation.
- 53. First advance furnished by the land although uncultivated.
- 54. Cattle a circulating wealth, even before the cultivation of the earth.
- 55. Another species of circulating wealth, and advances necessary for cultivation, slaves.
- 56. Personal property has an exchangeable value, even for land itself.
- 57. Valuations of lands by the proportion of their revenue, with the sum of personal property, or the value for which they are exchanged: this proportion is called the price of lands.
- 58. All capital in money, and all amounts of value, are equivalent to land producing a revenue equal to some portion of that capital or value. First employment of capitals. Purchase of lands.
- 59. Another employment for money in advances for enterprises of manufacture or industry.
- 60. Explanation of the use of the advances of capitals in enterprises of industry; on their returns and the profits they ought to produce.
- 61. Subdivisions of the industrious stipendiary class, in undertaking capitalists and simple workmen.
- 62. Another employment of capitals, in advances towards undertakings of agriculture. Observations on the use, and indispensable profits of capitals in undertakings of agriculture.
- 63. The competition between the capitalists, undertakers of cultivation, fixes the current price of leases of lands.
- 64. The default of capitalists, undertakers, limits the cultivation of lands to a small extent.
- 65. Subdivisions of the class of cultivators into undertakers, or farmers, and hired persons, servants, and day-labourers.
- 66. Fourth employment of capitals, in advances for enterprises of commerce. Necessity of the interposition of merchants, properly so called, between the producers of the commodities and the consumers.
- 67. Different orders of merchants. They all have this in common, that they purchase to sell again; and that their traffic is supported by advances which are to revert with a profit, to be engaged in new enterprizes.
- 68. The true idea of the circulation of money.
- 69. All extensive undertakings, particularly those of manufactures and of commerce, must indispensibly have been very confined, before the introduction of gold and silver in trade.
- 70. Capitals being as necessary to all undertakings as labour and industry, the industrious man shares voluntarily the profit of his enterprize with the owner of the capital who furnishes him the funds he is in need of.
- 71. Fifth employment of capitals, lending on interest; nature of a loan.
- 72. False ideas on lending upon interest.
- 73. Errors of the schoolmen refuted.
- 74. True foundation of interest of money.
- 75. Answer to an objection.
- 76. The rate of interest ought to be fixed, as the price of every other merchandize, by the course of trade alone.
- 77. Money has in commerce two different valuations. One expresses the quantity of money or silver we give to procure different sorts of commodities; the other expresses the relation a sum of money has, in the interest it will procure in the course of trade.
- 78. These two valuations are independent of each other, and are governed by quite different principles.
- 79. In comparing the value of money with that of commodities, we consider silver as a metal, which is an object of commerce. In estimating the interest of money we attend to the use of it during a determinate time.
- 80. The price of interest depends immediately on the proportion of the demand of the borrowers, with the offer of the lenders, and this proportion depends principally on the quantity of personal property, accumulated by an excess of revenue and of the annual produce to form capitals, whether these capitals exist in money or in any other kind of effects having a value in commerce.
- 81. The spirit of oeconomy continually augments the amount of capitals, luxury continually tends to destroy them.
- 82. The lowering of interest proves, that in Europe oeconomy has in general prevailed over luxury.
- 83. Recapituation of the five different methods of employing capitals.
- 84. The influence which the different methods of employing money have on each other.
- 85. Money invested in land, necessarily produces the least.
- 86. Money on interest ought to bring a little more income, than land purchased with an equal capital.
- 87. Money employed in cultivation, manufactures, or commerce, ought to produce more than the interest of money on loan.
- 88. Meantime the freedom of these various employments are limited by each other, and maintain, notwithstanding their inequality, a species of equilibrium.
- 89. The current interest of money is the standard by which the abundance or scarcity of capitals may be judged; it is the scale on which the extent of a nation's capacity for enterprizes in agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, may be reckoned.
- 90. Influence of the rate of interest of money on all lucrative enterprizes.
- 91. The total Riches of a nation consists, 1. in the clear revenue of all the real estates, multiplied by the rate of the price of land. 2. in the sum of all the moveable riches existing in a nation.
- 92. The sum of lent capitals cannot be understood without a two-fold reckoning.
- 93. In which of the three classes of society the lenders of money are to be ranked.
- 94. The lender of money belongs, as to his persons, to the disposing class.
- 95. The use which the money-lender makes of his interest.
- 96. The interest of the money is not disposable in one sense, viz. so as the state may be authorized to appropriate, without any inconvenience, a part to supply its wants.
- 97. Objection.
- 98. Answer to this objection.
- 99. There exists no revenue strictly disposable in a state, but the clear produce of lands.
- 100. the land has also furnished the total of moveable riches, or existing capitals, and which are formed only by a portion of its production reserved every year.
- 101. Although money is the direct object in saving, and it is, if we may call it so, the first foundation of capitals, yet money and specie form but an insensible part is the total sum of capitals.