Benjamin Franklin: A Liberal Practitioner of Political Economy

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Benjamin Franklin, economic history, history of economic thought, physiocrats, political economy


Few eighteenth century practitioners of political economy have been as misunderstood or stereotyped as Benjamin Franklin. His economic essays which spanned a sixty-one year period (1729-1790), still create disagreement among scholars even on the doctrinal origins of Franklin's economic ideas. If Franklin was not a mercantilist, neither was he exclusively a physiocrat nor an early classical economist, especially if both of these schools or early "research programs" in economics are viewed as mutually exclusive. As this paper will show, there was a unity and consistency in Franklin's political economy, and it reflected the content and liberal character of physiocratic and early classical thought.

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