A Treatise on Political Economy by Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy

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The neglect of Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy (1754–1836) in the history of political economy is both strange and tragic. He was, after all, Thomas Jefferson's number-one favorite economist — the thinker who influenced him and, arguably, laid the ideological foundation of the American economic system as Jefferson understood it.

This high praise from Jefferson has somehow not translated into deserved fame for this book. One reason has to do with Tracy's own radicalism. He went further than any of his French contemporaries in the defense of trade, property, hard money, commerce, and his attacks on the state. This led to the banishment of his works in France, and an attempt by Napoleon to blunt his influence. Whereas Tracy coined the term "ideology" to refer to the science of the formation of ideals, Napoleon dismissed him and all those he influenced as "ideologues." This is how the term enters into modern usage.

This work presents the main thrust of all of his ideas, including his loathing of inflation and state-granted monopoly privileges. He was even opposed to state spending on infrastructure, pointing out that private individuals have built bridges, roads, canals, and even monuments.

Summing up this book, Professor Timothy Terrell writes that, despite the neglect of Tracy, it is clear that his "deductive methodology, his subjectivism, his catallactics, and his opposition to governmental monetary fraud and regulation have been carried through to the modern-day Austrian school in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard."

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About Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy

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Published February 3, 2012 by Ludwig von Mises Institute. 254 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences.