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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
18th century philosophy

The Physiocrats (from the Greek for "Government of Nature") were a group of economists who believed that the wealth of nations was derived solely from the value of land agriculture or land development. Their theories originated in France and were most popular during the second half of the 18th century. Physiocracy is perhaps the first well developed theory of economics.

The movement was particularly dominated by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781) and François Quesnay (1694–1774). It immediately preceded the first modern school, classical economics, which began with the publication of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations in 1776.

The most significant contribution of the physiocrats was their emphasis on productive work as the source of national wealth. This is in contrast to earlier schools, in particular mercantilism, which often focused on the ruler's wealth, accumulation of gold or the balance of trade. A chief weakness from the viewpoint of modern economics is that they only considered agricultural labor to be valuable. Physiocrats viewed the production of goods and services as consumption of the agricultural surplus, while modern economists consider these to be productive activities which add to national income.

Historian David B. Danbom explains, "The Physiocrats damned cities for their artificiality and praised more natural styles of living. They celebrated farmers." They called themselves économistes, but are generally referred to as physiocrats in order to distinguish them from the many schools of economic thought that followed them.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Physiocracy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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