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An overview of public finance theories in French economic thought between 1870 and 1914

Claire Silvant, Triangle / Université Lyon 2

This article aims at presenting and analyzing the landscape of public finance issues in the French economic thought after the Prussian war of 1870-1871, until the beginning of the First World War. This period is of high interest for the history of economic thought since difficulties of financing appear as a consequence of increasing expense due to the war, and also as an effect of the growing role of the French State in the economy, making public finance issues as a key topic. It takes place in a context of institutionalization of political economy in the French universities, in which the influence of the French Liberal School drastically declines. The paper examines the positions of the most important French economists of that time (Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, Charles Gide, Paul Cauwès, Gaston Jèze or Edgard Allix) regarding taxation and public borrowing. It investigates a little-known topic in the history of economic thought, as well regarding the theme studied as regarding the epoch considered. The analytical examination of the evolution of public finance theories shows – among others – a turn towards a more administrative and less theoretical knowledge. JEL-codes: B.12, B.14 Keywords: public finances; French economic thought; taxation; public debt; public expenditure.

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Keywords: Public finance, French political economy

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