This chapter emphasizes the incompleteness of knowledge on key economic variables, which is in part due to the reluctance of individuals, from all social classes, to comply with requests for information. It notes how individuals and institutions had an incentive to misreport, exaggerate, or understate their income and property. At a different level, statements by royal officials, venal magistrates, and elected deputies can rarely be taken at face value. The chapter analyzes the universal tendency of speakers or writers to disguise self-interest or group interest as the public interest. It also argues that by the end of the ancien régime, public opinion was considered a poor substitute for publicity as it is often based on rumors rather than on facts in the public domain.
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