2017년 11월 16일 목요일

[발췌] Financial Origins of the French Revolution

출처: Gail Bossenga. "Financial Origins of the French Revolution," From Deficit to Deluge: The Origins of the French Revolution. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011.
자료: 구글도서


※ 발췌 (excerpt):

( ... ... ) The basic issues were threefold: French kings constantly engaged in expensive wars; the unwieldy French system of taxation was unable to generate sufficient revenues to pay for those wars; and finally, to make ends meet, the French monarchy borrowed large sums of money at relatively high interest rates, which eventually left it unable to meet its financial commitments. ( ... ... )

The government's descent toward bankruptcy in 1788, therefore, is hardly cause for surprise. France had, after all, fought two extremely expensive wars in the two decades before the Revolution: the Seven Years' War (1756-63) and the American War of Independence (1776-83) ( ... ... ) The financial problems of the French monarchy on the eve of the Revolution might be seen, therefore, as a predictable consequence of long-standing institutional difficulties. What was not predictable was the path that the monarchy took. In 1788, instead of defaulting on part of its obligations, the monarchy convoked the Estates-General, the kingdom's representative body, which had not met in 175 years. It was this act, the calling of the Estates-General to solve a financial crisis, and not impending bankruptcy per se, that was novel in French history.[주]3  This fateful decision opened the way to a whole new era in politics, in fact, to revolution.

( ... ... ) Could the French monarchy have survived with some "gradual" tax reforms, or with yet another round of defaults? The ministers in charge of the royal treasury obviously did not think so, or they would not have called the Estates-General. ( ... ... )

( ... ) This essay argues that although bankruptcies were a continual problem for the French monarchy, the pattern of borrowing shifted over the priod of Louis XIV to the Revolution and gradually gave rise to different interest groups. A well-known feature of the Old Regime was that new practices and institutions were placed on top of existing ones, thereby allowing institutions with potentially contradictory principles to develop simultaneously. This process occurred in the realm of credit. The French monarchy was originally built on an institutional network that could be described as absolute, patrimonial, and corporate. Its financial arrangements were similarly derived from these conditions. Increasingly, however, largely in response to the Anglo-Dutch "financial revolution," France had to compete against a rival state that mobilized resources with great success through politically transparent, legally secure, and market-oriented mechanisms. ( ... ) When this proved insufficient, French ministers began to supplement older arrangements with new ones that relied much more directly on voluntary public lending on the market. Hence the perception that France was more modern than is often assumed.

( ... ) Old institutions continued to be crucial for mobilizing credit, esp. short-term credit, but they created tenacious interest groups, including a host of financiers, who made their profits off inefficiencies in the system. Over time, the sustainability of borrowing on the market demanded that these inefficiencies be eradicated, or at least dramatically curtailed. ( ... ) Ultimately, however, a financial system rooted in patrimonial and privileged institutions could be reconciled neither with the French monarchy's growing reliance on a large, international pool of lenders, nor with the competitive advantage accruing to states that were able to mobilize credit efficiently in wartime. Pressures such as these led reforming ministers to begin to attack the traditional institutional base by which the monarchy had mobilized creit, and finally, in a time of crisis, to cast their lot with the Estates-General in an attempt to make public credit truly public, rather than personal and royal.

( ... ... )

( ... ) The monarchy came to rely on two types of long-term loans: rentes and venal offices. A rente was an annuity that an individual purchased from a provider (such as a government) in return for an assured annual revenue (actually interest on the loan) for the period specified in the contract. Because the lenders were afraid that the royal government would not honor its commitments, they city of Paris took on the role of actually issuing and servicing the ^rentes^, known as the ^rentes sur l'hotel de ville de Paris^. Later the government also used other intermediate governing bodies--the church, provincial estates, and large commercial cities--to borrow in various forms on its behalf, although on a smaller scale. Owing to their corporate status, these institutions had legal standing and privileges that gave them a degree of collective self-government, access to financial resources including taxes, a permanent structure. ( ... ... )

( ... ... )

It is often said that the "archaic" nature of the French system of credit was responsible for its high costs. That is not entirely accurate. Had French finances simply been archaic, France would never have survived as a great power. France was continually adopting measures associated with capitalism and intergrating them into its financial network up until the Revolution. Rather, the problem was that in an absolute monarchy lacking accountability financial capitalism was grafted onto privileged patrimonial structures: France modernized within traditional institutions. What developed in French finances was a peculiar kind of capitalism, sometimes called "court capitalism," utterly necessary to the monarchy's survival, but also extremely inefficient and expensive.

( ... ... ) Owing to its poor credit rating, the French government had come to rely on the sale of expensive liftime annuities (rentes viageres) that paid the purchaser interest until the person, or persons ("heads"), named in the contract died, at which time the loan was ended. In 1771, Swiss bankers started to figure out how to turn these lifetime annuities into "a rousing good investment" by forming syndicates that bought up French lifetime annuities on groups of 30 healthy young girls who had survived smallpox. The bankers pooled the annual income derived from the 30 lifetime annuities, so that even if one or two girls died, investors could still count on a respectable income. ( ... ... )

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