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Old 08-08-2019, 10:36 PM
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Location: Paris, France
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
Now, he was talking about nations not individuals but it's the same thing. Economies, products, and the welfare of people are all improved by allowing the market to find the most effective entity to do the desired work.
Counterpoint : insulin prices in the US. Or the subprime mortgage crisis. Or, to bring us back on topic, rents in Paris (which have been steadily climbing over the past 5 years despite repeated attempts by city hall to both build or subsidize new housing, control rents and discourage both slumlord-ing and overly air-bnbing). Which leads to people being forced to live ever further, commute ever longer and overtax public transportation. Like, rush hour had always been a thing as far as I've been alive, but these days you can easily have to wait 30 minutes for any subway you could possibly squish yourself into on some lines. We'd probably need pushers like they have in Japan at this point. People regularly faint, and woe to the claustrophobes.

The Invisible Hand does not work when actors are not moral and don't give a solitary shit how many people are harmed by their unrestricted greed. Superior product my sweet Aunt Fanny.

Quote:
Economic hardship or no, France was still flirting with the early stages of Capitalist thought and that was completely peripheral to the revolution. At the time, the central economy was mercantilist (i.e. state managed), the middle class were largely practicing feudalist economics (joining guilds, paying guild dues, inheriting their profession, etc.), and the lowest classes were probably mostly villeins or some equivalent.
Yes, but this tableau misses a key part : the population of France was 91% peasants. "The middle class" was, like, 5 guys shooting the shit at a café terrace .

Mercantilism wasn't really a thing any more by the 18th century - the big economic crisis was in fact caused by an attempt at deregulation. Previously grains of various types were heavily controlled either directly by the State, or by local nobles/town councils/bishoprics/whathaveyou, you could only sell grain here if you had produced it there, couldn't sell it higher than X or lower than Y, there were official stockpiles to be opened in various very specific cases which varied from place to place ; it was a huge complex patchwork system of local laws and special privileges and so forth established over the centuries to try and fix the whole "recurrent famines" thing. The physiocrats convinced the King that it would be a much better idea to just abolish all those trade barriers and, essentially, let overproducing regions feed any underproducing on the fly. Supply, demand, yadda yadda, Invisible handing before Adam Smith, in essence.

Which might have worked in the long run. In the short run, the nobles and middle class all rubbed their hands in glee at the prospect of so much newly possible speculation, started buying all the grain of overproducing regions to store it, hoping to sell it whenever prices got highest, in effect almost deliberately producing food shortages. For all the moneys. Soooo exactly what had been happening throughout the feudal era, which had led to those very regulations to be put in place to begin with. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. This was compounded by a long series of very bad years agriculturally speaking.

So that didn't work out very well, and bread started growing very expensive in Paris, and then the King tried to stamp out the looming revolt before it had started, which of course directly caused a revolt. Cue pitchforks up the King's palace.

That's the "real" Revolution, and the datapoint that the overwhelming majority of the population really gave a shit about (well, that and their often absurd fears of getting invaded by entire armies of brigands. Also a recurrent demand was for peasants to be allowed to hunt - because, again, famines).
All the ideals, and the heads rolling, and the King trying to leg it, the proposals for more sensible and rationalized this and that and the heady speeches were basically just window dressing. It's what we put in the history books and write like they were deathly important events because by and large the guys writing the history books were those 5 guys at the café ; but none of it concerned the greater French population in the slightest.
What did, same as it ever was, was "what's for dinner ?". And fucking with that economic reality is what caused the Revolution. It wasn't peripheral, but absolutely central. To caricature a bit, the hungry proles riotted first, the bourgeoisie then asked where they were going, for they needed to know where to "lead" them