This text covers such topics as value, money, agriculture, domestic and foreign trade, war, labor, interest rates, luxuries, and the various government policies that affect these subjects.The theme that unites these disparate subjects is liberty. As Condillac writes near the end of the work, the means to eradicate all the abuses and injustices of government is “to give trade full, complete and permanent freedom.” In their preface to the 1997 edition, Shelagh and Walter Eltis wrote, “English language readers … will find … that the case for competitive market economics has rarely been presented more powerfully.”
"How Trade Increases the Mass of Wealth
We Have Seen that trade, which consists in the exchange of one article for another, is carried on chiefly by merchants, traders and dealers. Let us now try to understand the utility which society draws from all these men who have set up as agents between producers and consumers; and to that end, let us look at the source of wealth and the course it follows.
Wealth consists in an abundance of things which have a value, or, which comes to the same, in an abundance of things that are useful because we need them, or finally, which is again the same, in an abundance of things which are used for our food, for our clothing, for our housing, for our comforts, for our pleasures, for our enjoyment, in a word for our use.
Now, it is the earth alone which produces all these things. It is therefore the sole source of all wealth.
Naturally prolific, it produces by itself and without any work on our part. Savages, for instance, live off the fecundity of lands which they do not cultivate. But they need for their consumption a vast extent of land. Each savage can consume the product of a hundred arpents. Then again it is hard to imagine that he will always find plenty in that space."
Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de Condillac
Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de Condillac (1714–1780) was a French priest, philosopher, and economist and a member of the French Academy. He was one of eighteenth-century France’s preeminent philosophers of the Enlightenment, who had wide-ranging influence beyond metaphysics and epistemology to political thought and economics. He was a leading advocate in France of the ideas of John Locke, Bishop George Berkeley, and David Hume, and a friend of the encyclopedist Denis Diderot. His work on Commerce and Government appeared in the same year as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.