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napoleon new york Anne Robert Jaques Turgot and His Relevance to the French Revolution

Introduction

Anne Robert Jaques Turgot, baron l' Aulne, was born in Paris on May 10, 1727 to a noble French family of Normandy. Following in the footsteps of his ancestors, who had furnished the state with numerous public officials, Turgot would achieve public renown as Intendent of Limoges and later as Controller General of all France. Although Turgot ended his public career in unfortunate circumstances, being dismissed by Louis XVI for ineffectiveness, his political theories became a major influence in the remaining years of the Old Regime. The depth of Turgot's economic thought was not recognized at the time because it largely went against what the ruling aristocracy wanted to hear. His clairvoyance is much more fully noted in light of the last two centuries. Furthermore, Turgot was one of the King's last controller-generals before the French Revolution ended the monarchy. When his political and economic ideals are considered against this backdrop their importance as well as their contradictory nature become apparent.
Turgot's main contribution to economic theory is his Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Riches. Apart from this short but highly systematic account of the nature of economic development, Turgot's other relevant writings are sparse and far from cohesive. Since this paper will consider his economics with regard to his political thought, only Turgot's theories on the nature of government influence, free trade, and taxes will be examined. Furthermore, an explanation of Turgot's theory on administration will be provided. In gaining an understanding of Turgot's political and economic thought a powerful example of the problems that manifested themselves in the revolution is provided. Turgot was the model of an enlightened, reform-minded administrator and this may be glimpsed in the liberality of his economic ideas. However, while he certainly advised reforms in administration, they were simply intended so that the King could more effectively centralize political power.

Laissez-Faire and Free Trade:
     
As a young man Turgot was very close to Claude Marie Vincent, the Marquis de Gournay. Vincent was not only a friend but also Turgot's mentor in economics and administration. It is in tribute to Vincent that after his death Turgot developed his ideas on laissez-faire government in a paper called, the "Elegy to Gournay" (1759). Within this paper Turgot condemns the foolishness of mercantilist regulation of industry while expounding the benefits of free domestic and foreign trade following from the presence of free exchange.
     In a detailed analysis of the market process, Turgot writes that self-interest is the prime mover in the market process and that in a free market the individual interest must always coincide with the general interest. It can be assumed that the buyer will purchase from the seller who will give him the lowest price for the most suitable product. Furthermore, sellers will naturally sell their best merchandise at the highest competitive price. Conversely, Turgot says that when governmental restrictions are present, consumers are compelled to buy inferior goods at higher prices. Only by free exchange can sellers be assured the profit needed to match production while at the same time providing the consumer with the best goods at the lowest prices. Governments are present not to interfere with the market but to protect citizens from injustice and to ensure national security against foreign menace.
     Turgot did allow that it was possible for the consumer to get cheated by a fraudulent seller. However, Turgot says that common sense will provide the remedy because it is logical that the cheated consumer will learn from his experience and respond by not returning to the dishonest merchant. Word will spread of the sellers fraudulence and he will fall into discredit and be weeded out of the market. The market has thus solved its own problem through the logical sequence of rational consumers protecting their individual interests. On the other hand to think that government would be able to prevent such malpractice through regulation is foolish. It would certainly not be able to handle every instance of fraud and as it is compelled to regulate more and more the progress of industry would suffer.
     Turgot also touched on the subject of taxation by calling for a single tax on the ... more

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Heliocentrism

The impact of the Heliocentric Theory Heliocentric: Relating to the sun as a
center; appearing as if seen from the sun's center.(Webster,447) The
heliocentric theory was first introduced to the world by a Polish astronomer
named Nicolaus Copernicus. Copernicus published his views on the heliocentric
theory in his book Commentariolus, in 1514, which sparked the time period now
known as the Copernican Revolution. Heliocentrism was proven true by the
discoveries of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton; through their efforts to prove the
validity of the heliocentric theory people began to find truth in science
through experimentation rather than religion with no proof. Many scientists went
through great ordeals for their scientific beliefs, thus making the heliocentric
theory the most electrifying idea in human history. Ancient people's believed in
Gods and deities for causes to nature and the unexplained. Once the fourth
century BC rolled around, people began to see "astronomical phenomena"
as "natural compound products of simple operations repeated in
perpetuity" rather than the actions of Gods. (Morphet, p.6) Greeks did not
revere celestial bodies very strongly in their religion, despite having deities
for the Sun and Moon. (North, p.78) Different peoples beliefs varied greatly in
ancient times. Different countries progressed in thought at different speeds.
During the Renaissance, many began to "toss aside medieval preoccupations
with supernatural forces and turned to secular concerns" like fame. (Yamasaki,
p.50) With the "Age of Discovery," people began to think for
themselves and ponder truths through philosophy, science, astronomy, astrology,
etc. Philosophers' minds began to turn, the human mind was finally awake. Plato,
a famous Greek philosopher, believed stars were Gods that the creator gave life
to. This view was very influential and proved to be sort of a religion for
intellectual idealists, no longer for the populace. At the time, the thought of
heavenly bodies being divine, and stars being eternal objects in unchanging
motion were common knowledge. Thinking otherwise was considered Atheistic.
(North, p.78) Fellow famous Renaissance man, and Plato's pupil, Aristotle, was
also a very important figure. Born in Stagira in 384, Aristotle is regarded as
the most influential ancient philosopher of the sciences. Aristotle refined
Callippus' geometrical and spherical concepts, and developed the geocentric
theory, which was believed for two thousand years. (North, p.80) Aristotle
believed that the sphere is the most perfect figure because when rotated to any
diameter it occupies the same space; and that circular motions are a sign of
perfection, which is why Heaven is considered divine. The spherical nature of
the Earth and Universe according to Aristotle, is the natural movement of
Earthly matter from all places downwards, to a center, around which a sphere of
matter will build up. "Only circular motion is capable of endless
repetition without a reversal of direction, and rotary motion is prior to linear
because what is external, or at least could have always existed, is prior, or at
least potentially prior, to what is not." In Aristotle's book De Caelo (On
the Heavens), he speaks of the celestial sphere, the Earth's center being the
same shape, and dismissing the idea of the Earth rotating at the center of the
universe. He also dismisses the idea of an orbital motion of the Earth. (North,
p.81) Contradicting Aristotle, Heracleides, an astronomer, believed in the
rotation of the Earth on it's axis and is known to be the earliest astronomer to
stand by it. He was thought to have taken the first step in "Copernicanism."
It is believed in the years to follow that Copernicus was said to have mentioned
Heracleides' name in this connection. (North, p.85) Aristarchus of Samos was the
first astronomer to clearly put forth a true sun-centered theory, learned from
Archimedes. (North, p.85) "...Aristarchus' hypotheses are that the fixed
stars and the Sun are stationary, that the Earth is carried in a circular orbit
around the Sun, which lies in the middle of it's orbit, and that the spheres of
fixed stars, having the same center as the Sun, is so great in extent that the
circle on which the Earth is supposedly carried is in the same ratio to the
distance of the sphere has to its surface." (North, p.85-6) If Aristarchus
did believe in heliocentrism, he still could not prove the differences in the
Earth's motion and seasons, which explains its failure to be accepted. (North,
p.86-7) Although scientists such as Eudoxus, Callippus, and Aristotle all came
up with Earth-centered systems based by providing a center for all motions,
Ptolemy was triumphant for he was able to explain sphere sizes and achieved a
single system, which was not ... more

napoleon new york

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