Richard Cantillon

Irish-French economist and banker

Richard Cantillon (1680s – May 1734) was an Irish-French economist and author of Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général (Essay on the Nature of Trade in General), a book considered by William Stanley Jevons to be the "cradle of political economy". Although little information exists on Cantillon's life, it is known that he became a successful banker and merchant at an early age. His success was largely derived from the political and business connections he made through his family and through an early employer, James Brydges. During the late 1710s and early 1720s, Cantillon speculated in, and later helped fund, John Law's Mississippi Company, from which he acquired great wealth. However, his success came at a cost to his debtors, who pursued him with lawsuits, criminal charges, and even murder plots until his death in 1734.

Quotes about Richard Cantillon

  • Cantillon has been a much neglected figure in economics. He is known primarily for his influence on Quesnay and the Physiocrats, and for developing the notion that money flows connect the different sectors of the economy. Yet the place of Cantillon in history is more important than this. His Essay can legitimately be regarded as the first real economic treatise. It envisioned the economy as an interrelated system, and explained how that system worked. For this reason, Cantillon probably deserves to be regarded as the first real economist.
    • Steven Pressman, Fifty Major Economists (1999), "Richard Cantillon (1687?–1734?)"
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