Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Autonomous components and capital accumulation in Richard Cantillon's Essai? An inquiry through the lens of classical-Keynesian theory

Gahn Santiago José, Roma Tre

The rediscover of autonomous components that do not create capacity have recently allowed growth theory to reach an important milestone. However, the importance for these components for some pre-Classical authors, although a matter of paramount, has not drawn sufficient attention until recent contributions. Because of this we would like to re-introduce the case of Richard Cantillon, one of the first authors in which an economic theoretical system could be found. We will introduce an analysis of Cantillon's thought on, what is under our view, the determinants of aggregate demand levels. At a very first sight, it must be said that, under our interpretation, Richard Cantillon's output approach is under no means in the same line of reasoning of the Classical authors (particularly, Smith and Ricardo), in the sense that, although not explicitly, he rejects what later was known as Say's Law (Brewer, 1988a, p. 1 and 1988b, pp. 447-448; Blaug, 2003, p. 29). According to some authors, Say's law was not the result of an analysis of output but rather the result of the lack of any such analysis in the Classical authors (Garegnani, 1978; Mongiovi, 1990, p.78) and this makes possible the Classical system of value and distribution to be `open' to different theories of output. In our view, in Cantillon's Essai there can be traced the very first notions of `autonomous expenditures' and some paragraphs of the original Essai might allow us to derive an implicit theory of accumulation which we will enrich with authors that, later with new analytical tools - steady growth - applied in modern growth theory, followed him in similar lines.


Keywords: growth, capital accumulation, Richard Cantillon

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