The first economic thinker to run an entire country was the Scotsman John Law, who took over in France during the second decade of the eighteenth century. His actions would transform the fortunes of Europe’s largest nation. They would also transform his personal fortune beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.
By 1720 John Law was the richest man on earth. Some even claim that he was the richest man in history. This is no idle claim. Law’s possessions included the French central bank, the Banque Royale, the only bank in France at the time. Through the Banque Royale he held the entire French Louisiana territory, which stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, from the Appalachians through the Midwest to the Rockies (the equivalent of almost two-thirds of the present U.S.A.). His companies had a monopoly on French trade with the Americas, including the lucrative slave trade with the West Indies, as well as complete control of French trade with its colonies in India and the Far East. — A Brief History of Economic Genius
I read A Brief History of Economic Genius on the train between Vienna and Salzburg back in July. It got me thinking: isn’t all of this just a grand, real-time economics experiment?
For more on John Law, please visit FranÃ§ois Velde’s website. He’s also the co-author of the award-winning book, The Big Problem of Small Change.