Mercantilism and Bureaucratic Modernization in Early Eighteenth-Century France
Beuve, Jean; Brousseau, Eric; Sgard, Jérôme (2017), Mercantilism and Bureaucratic Modernization in Early Eighteenth-Century France, Economic History Review, 70, 2, p. 529-558. 10.1111/ehr.12284
TypeArticle accepté pour publication ou publié
Journal nameEconomic History Review
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Abstract (EN)French mercantilism is generally associated with absolutist policymaking subject to capture by rent-seeking interests. This paper investigates how the Bureau du Commerce, a small agency in charge of commerce and the supply side, handed out rents and privileges to private entrepreneurs. We thus coded how it investigated and decided all 267 voluntary submissions received between 1724 and 1744. We show (i) that the Bureau’s formal, rule-based decision-making process could actually differentiate between alternate policy aims and target them consistently over time, with more or less powerful sets of rents. From this (ii) we derive a hierarchy of revealed policy preferences. First comes technical innovation and diffusion, then local economic development; import substitution is only in the third position, followed by consumers’ welfare. Lastly, and against a long line of authors, we show that the production of luxury-goods was not a significant or valued objective.
Subjects / KeywordsBureau du Commerce; Policy preferences; French mercantilism; Decision-making process; Bureaucratic Modernization
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