I am now reading the book Decadent Societies by R.M. Adams and on pp.66-7 he writes:

Quesnay's ideas, which fell on stony ground in France, showed their basic vitality when picked up by Adam Smith for incorporation in The Wealth of Nations and then put into practice by William Pitt the younger. But in France they remained the deadest of dead letters.

What is he talking about? I am more interested in the second allusion - did Pitt institute any reforms based on Quesnay's ideas?

1 Answer 1


I believe that the author is referring to William Pitt the Younger, who was at various times Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister during the end of the reign of George III and then during the Napoleonic Wars.

He was a strong advocate of free trade policies as advocated by Adam Smith. There is a story where Pitt and other dignitaries refused to sit down until Adam Smith did because they considered him to be their teacher and they mere students.

The economic policies that Pitt advocated in the 1780's (lowering of duties, free trade with Ireland and France) certainly bear the stamp of Quesnay's thought. It is most likely, however, that Pitt learned of these concepts from reading "Wealth of Nations" rather than from "Tableau Économique".

  • Can you perhaps give more specific examples? Feb 21, 2014 at 10:46
  • Hmm, the link to the paragraphs inside the book isn't working. I'll try to fix that.
    – Mike
    Mar 7, 2014 at 17:34

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