Nicholas Barbon (c. 1640-1698) was an English economist, physician and financial speculator. He is counted among the critics of mercantilism and was one of the first proponents of the free market.
He was born in London in 1640, probably the son of Praise-God Barbon, studied medicine at Leiden, graduated M.D. at Utrecht in 1661, and was admitted an honorary fellow of the College of Physicians in 1664. He took a considerable part in the rebuilding of London after the great fire of 1666, and has a claim to be considered the institutor of fire-insurance in England, which he started one year after the Great Fire in 1667. In 1680 his fire office formed the First London fire brigade. He was M.P. for Bramber in 1690 and 1695.
He founded a land bank with John Asgill which, according to contemporaries, was fairly successful and was united with that of John Briscoe in 1696. He died in 1698. His writings on political economy are interesting for expressing views much in advance of his time. The more important were Apology for the Builder; or a Discourse showing the Cause and Effects of the Increase of Building (1685); A Discourse of Trade (1690); and A Discourse Concerning Coining the New Money Lighter (1696).
In these books, he demanded wider economic freedom and supported fashion which, he believed, inclined people towards continuous purchasing of goods and therefore created constant demand. Being influenced by populationism, he identified country's wealth with its population. He also advocated paper and credit money and postulated the reduction of interest rates which he thought impeded the growth in manufacturing and trade. His works influenced the other critics of mercantilism and hence indirectly contributed to the development of the foundations of classical economics.
Barbon, like his father, had an unusual full name: Nicholas If-Jesus-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barbon.[citation needed By all accounts, though, he went by Nicholas throughout his life.
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