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Member of a school of economics, founded in 18th-century France, that held that government should not interfere with the operation of natural economic laws. Generally regarded as the first scientific school of economics, the physiocratic school (the name refers to the rule of nature) was founded by François Quesnay, who demonstrated the economic relation between a workshop and a farm and asserted that the farm alone added to a nation's wealth. Land and agriculture were therefore believed to be the source of all wealth. The physiocrats envisaged a society in which written law would be in harmony with natural law. They pictured a predominantly agricultural society, attacking mercantilism for its emphasis on manufacturing and foreign trade and its mass of economic regulations. Quesnay's disciples included Victor Riqueti, count de Mirabeau, and Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817). The school was in decline by 1768, and after the dismissal of a sympathetic comptroller general in 1776 the leading physiocrats were exiled. Though many of their theories, notably their theory of wealth, were later demolished, their introduction of scientific method to economics had a permanent effect on the discipline.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on physiocrat, visit Britannica.com.