The Optimum Government of the Physiocrats: Legal Despotism or Legitimate Despotism?

Bernard Herencia

Table of Contents


This article argues for the existence of an original analysis of Lemercier de la Rivière’s concept of legal despotism unheralded by commentators. Quesnay, leader of the physiocrats, is usually acknowledged as the main source but the literature systematically refers to Lemercier de la Rivière’s writings. Lemercier de la Rivière’s main text, L’Ordre naturel et essentiel des sociétés politiques, presents other ambiguities This article sheds new light on the projects of the physiocrats to provide a foundation for the rule of law.


  • physiocracy
  • legal despotism
  • Rule of Law
  • Lemercier de la Rivière
  • Quesnay