Monsieur Deficit, or How the French Invented Financial Politics, 1780-1840
A lecture by
Jacob Soll (2011 MacArthur Fellow, Rutgers University)
Today, we often talk about good politics in terms of balanced budgets. The first time politicians used numbers and accounting calculations in political debate was in France in the 1780s. Rather than simple numbers, the French Director of Finances Jacques Necker produced what he claimed were accurate state accounts.
A battle of financial numbers ensued between government ministers and critics of the crown. Numbers became a part of political theater and of modern political language – and continue to play a dominant role in political debate today.
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