John Law: Economic Theorist and Policy-maker

Front Cover
John Law (1671-1729) left a remarkable legacy of economic concepts from a time when economic conceptualization was very much at an embryonic stage. Yet he is best known-and generally dismissed-today as a rake, duellist, and gambler. This intellectual biography offers a new approach to Law, one
that shows him to have been a significant economic theorist with a vision that he attempted to implement as policy in early-eighteenth-century Europe.
Law's style, marked by a clarity and use of modern terminology, stands out starkly against the turgid prose of many of his contemporaries. His vision of a monetary and financial system was certainly one of a later age, for Law believed in an economy of banknotes and credit where specie had no role
to play. Ultimately Law failed as a policy-maker, in part because of the entrenchment of the financiers and their aristocratic backers and in part because of theoretical flaws in his vision. His struggle for power took place against the background of Europe's first major stock boom and collapse. The
collapse of the Mississippi System, which he had conceived, and the South Sea Bubble led to a lasting impression of Law as a failure. It is this impression that Antoin Murphy seeks to dispel.
 

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Contents

Introduction I
1
Laws Writings and his Critics
8
Laws Background
14
Duelling Beaux
20
The Gambling Banker
35
John Law the Economist
45
The Edinburgh Environment in 1705
67
Money and Trade
76
The Rise and Rise of the Mississippi Company 1719
188
A Specieless France 1720
213
The Lull before the Storm
231
The Measures of 21 May 1720
244
Law the Improviser
265
Requiem for the Banknote
293
The Possibility of a Recall to France
312
Death in Venice
323

The Conceptualization of the System
105
France 17141715
123
The Establishment of the General Bank
149
The Establishment of the Company of the West
164
The Slow Development of the System
173

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About the author (1997)


Antoin E. Murphy is a retired Professor of Economics and Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin. He was a visiting scholar at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard, the Institut d'Études Démographiques in Paris, the Hoover Institution, and the Department of
Economics at Stanford University. His special interests are in macroeconomics, monetary economics, and the history of monetary thought. He was one of the founding and joint managing editors of the European Journal of the History of Economic Thought.

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