Voltaire, Montesquieu, the Encyclopaedists and the Physiocrats (recurring to the tradition of Bayle and Fontenelle), by dissolving in their analytical crucible all consecrated beliefs and all fixed institutions, brought back into the human society of the 18th century that humanity which had been so rudely eliminated.
Whilst some, like Voltaire and the Physiocrats, representatives of the privileged classes and careless of political rights, wished to make use of the omnipotence of the prince to accomplish desirable reforms, or, like Montesquieu, adversely criticized despotism and extolled moderate governments, other, plebeiaris like Rousseau, proclaimed the theory of the social contract and the sovereignty of the people.
The theory of the physiocrats now found powerful advocates in Denmark; and after 1755, when the press censorship was abolished so far as regarded political economy and agriculture, a thorough discussion of the whole agrarian question became possible.
Here, as in other points, he differs entirely from the physiocrats, and his criticism of contemporary French views are, as a whole, in accordance with received modern opinion.
With the latter, which is best designated as the "system of natural liberty," we ought to associate the memory of the physiocrats as well as that of Smith, without, however, maintaining their services to have been equal to his.