Argenson, Rene Louis

Argenson, Rene Louis

 

(also R. L. d’Argenson). Born Oct. 18, 1694; died Jan. 26, 1757. French statesman and economist; one of the early precursors of bourgeois liberalism.

After a short term as minister of foreign affairs during the reign of Louis XV, Argenson retired and joined the opposition to the government. In his works he stressed the need to limit the government’s power, liquidate class privileges, and eliminate government interference with the economy. He spoke out against mercantilism and for freedom of trade. His slogan “Pas trop gouverner” (“Do not govern too much”) anticipated the formula “Laissez faire” (“Do not interfere”), which later attained wide currency. Argenson gave first priority to agriculture, maintaining that the nation’s welfare depended on the “general welfare of agriculture, of the crafts of the inhabitants incapable of being farmers, and upon healthy domestic trade.” Argenson’s views were close to those of the physiocrats. His major work was Meditations on the Past and Present Government of France (published in 1764, written about 1737).

WORKS

Journal et mémoires, vols. 1–9. Paris, 1859–67.
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