The enigmatic Mr Graslin. A Rousseauist bedrock for classical economics?
Drawing inspiration from aspects of the sensationist philosophy of the time and also the political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jean-Joseph-Louis Graslin (1727-1790) - a fierce critic of Physiocracy - developed a remarkably coherent political economy based on a 'three stages' theory of society, a labour theory of normal prices and distribution, and a concept of vertically-integrated sectors. He also put forward some ideas - the role of needs in the determination of market prices, a process of gravitation towards equilibrium, a quid pro quo theory of taxation - which attracted Turgot's attention. Had it not been neglected, Graslin's approach could well have formed a possible foundation for Classical economics - broadly defined as proposing a system of equilibrium 'natural' prices based on the conditions of production, with market prices oscillating around them. In the present article I first explore Graslin's basic motivation. I then deal with his 'three stages' theory of society, which lies at the core of his analytical argument. Then follows an analysis of his principle ideas in respect of needs, wealth and value, of production equilibrium and prices, and finally of public economics.
Graslin, Rousseau, Maupertuis, Pre-Classical economics, Classical economics, natural prices, market prices, needs, utility, happiness, labour theory of value, history of public economics, equity in taxation,
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