The Turgot Collection
Writings, Speeches, and Letters of Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune
Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727-1781) was one of the foremost classical liberals of the 18th century. In the opinion of Murray Rothbard, he was one of the greatest economists of all time, and he served with distinction under Louis XVI as Minister of the Navy and Comptroller-General. In these positions, he attempted to put into practice his free market ideas, but, owing to the opposition they encountered, the king dismissed him.
The Turgot Collection provides a well-chosen collection of Turgot’s economic writings. Although he was a disciple of the Physiocrats, he extended economic theory, in remarkably original ways, beyond what this group had accomplished. He consistently defended free trade, arguing that the local knowledge of those engaged in trade was far superior as a guide to policy than whatever could be gleaned by government bureaucrats.
Turgot, as readers of this collection will discover, also developed an early though incomplete version of the subjective theory of value and anticipated the notion of opportunity cost. He did pioneering work on the importance of the capitalist-entrepreneur in the economic process.
Turgot’s work was by no means confined to economics. Like other figures of the Enlightenment, he believed that mankind progresses through a series of historical stages. “On Universal History,” included here, elaborates this view.
Like Voltaire, Turgot hoped that his reforms could be put into effect through appeal to an enlightened monarch. In that regard, he proposed that a system of state schools should be established. In this way, he hoped, young people could be taught liberal principles; and what he regarded as the malign influence of the Church on education could be reduced.
The book also includes selections from Turgot’s correspondence with other figures of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire, Condorcet, and Hume.
The Turgot Collection will give readers a thorough grounding in the work of a major economist and advocate of freedom.
Introduction by Murray N. Rothbard.