Jean-Baptiste Colbert

French statesman (1619-1683)

Jean-Baptiste Colbert (29 August 1619 – 6 September 1683) was a French politician who served as the Minister of Finances of France from 1665 to 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV. His relentless hard work and thrift made him an esteemed minister. He achieved a reputation for his work of improving the state of French manufacturing and bringing the economy back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert.


  • It is simply, and solely, the abundance of money within a state [which] makes the difference in its grandeur and power.
    • Arthur John Sargent (1899), The Economic Policy of Colbert. p. 65
  • Que faut-il faire pour vous aider?
    Laissez-nous faire!
    • What should be done to help you? Let us be!
    • Alleged conversation between French Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert and a merchant named Legendre (1680), quoted in, among others, "The End of Laissez-Faire" (1926) by John Maynard Keynes

Quotes about Jean-Baptiste Colbert

  • As a rigid logician, [Colbert] cannot object to the reduction of his principles to a logical absurdity, which may be stated thus. The growth of French industry and commerce requires that a high standard of quality in the products be maintained. This standard can only be secured by Government regulation: this regulation can only be forced on an unwilling people by search for and exposure of defective goods: this search injures the trade which it is desired to promote, and disheartens the merchants and others whose zealous cooperation is of the last importance for the success of French industry and commerce. Of course the fallacy lies in the first statement, the assumption that an absolute standard of excellence exists, and that the producer is a better judge of it than the consumer.
    • Arthur John Sargent (1899), The Economic Policy of Colbert. Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books, 2004. p. 39; As cited in: William H. Starbuck and Philippe Baumard (2009). "The seeds, blossoming, and scant yield of organization theory,"
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