François Quesnay 101: The Leader of Physiocrats
Zatrun Published at April 24, 2023

French economist François Quesnay is known as the intellectual leader of physiocrats, the first systematic school of political economy. Quesnay made significant contributions to economic theory with his “Tableau économique” doctrine emphasising the importance of agriculture in economic development and his “diagramme” illustrating the economic production process.

His works still hold an important place in today’s economic theory and practice. Born near Paris in 1694, the thinker passed away in the city of Versailles in 1774. If you would like to learn more about Quesnay, you can read this article on

Who is François Quesnay?

François Quesnay was an 18th-century French economist, physician and intellectual. He is one of the leading figures of the “physiocratic school” in economics. Quesnay played a significant role in developing the ideas that laid the foundation of the physiocratic school and published “Tableau économique” (Economic Table), one of the first works attempting to analytically define the economic system. This book made important contributions to the field of economics.

Quesnay also described Chinese policy and society in his 1767 work, “Le Despotisme de la Chine” (Despotism of China). In this work, he clearly expressed his support for enlightened despotism. François Quesnay stands out as a thinker who is still remembered for his contributions to economic thought and his leadership of the physiocratic school.

François Quesnay, a French economist, and the leading intellectual figure of physiocrats is the precursor of the first systematic school of political economy. In his book “Tableau économique,” Quesnay summarised political economy theory, modelling the relationships and payment flows between different economic classes and segments of society.

In the book, he explained the concept of economic balance, which became a fundamental point in later economic analyses. Another important topic was his definition of capital as “avances.” Quesnay saw capital as a wealth stock that needed to be accumulated before production. The concept of “avances” is significant because it distinguishes between fixed and circulating capital in economics.

Physiocratic Ideas and Quesnay

Quesnay, the precursor of the laissez-faire, laissez-passer terms, opposed the prevailing French mercantilist movement of the time. Unlike famous thinkers of the time such as Jean-Baptiste Colbert, he believed that high taxes, high internal transit fees, and barriers to imported goods were the cause of French poverty.

Quesnay’s physiocratic system and political principles came from his natural law doctrine. His views were formed by his belief in methodology and the divine determination of the economic order. In this sense, he can be considered a liberal economist. Quesnay was among the thinkers who argued that the doctrine of harmonious class interests and maximum social satisfaction would be achieved under free competition.

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