Society, from an economic perspective, is the exchange of paid services.
Complete Works, Volume 1, pages 428 to 433 (in French)
This text is a draft review of Charles Dunoyer’s Magnus Opus, De La Liberté Du Travail. I have not had the pleasure to read this book but it is referenced in Joseph A. Schumpeter’s bible, History of Economic Analysis, who finds Dunoyer “admirable” and his book of “genuine brilliance, coupled with strong sense” while at the same time denying it the scientific quality he would expect (having found the original edition on ebay, I have just bought it and I am expecting to receive it as soon as possible). However, Frédéric Bastiat recognises a “more rational, more methodical and above all, more complete nomenclature […] than that which has been adopted by economic science traditionally”.
I extract today’s quote because it announces a few dozens of years ahead the approach that would be that of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, placing catallactics at the heart of economic science.
Moreover, when economists are criticised for having an approach of society that is too materialistic, this quote explains why it cannot be otherwise – it is the very essence of economic science to study society by analysing its commercial exchanges. I would even go further and think that the problem comes more from the fact that the politicians allow themselves to place their fat fingers into the economy where they have nothing to do. And this is no business of government any more than that of the economists to decide about morality, even if each individual (including politicians) is concerned about the issue about what is moral and what is not.