18th-19th century French economist
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  • Jean-Baptiste Say

    Jean-Baptiste Say (5 January 1767 - 15 November 1832) was a French economist and businessman. He had classically liberal views and argued in favor of competition, free trade and lifting restraints on business. He is best known for Say's Law, also known as the law of markets, which he popularized. Scholars disagree on the surprisingly subtle question of whether it was Say who first stated what we now call Say's Law.


    Say, Jean-Baptiste (1767-1832), by David M. Hart, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay
    "Jean-Baptiste Say was the leading French political economist in the first third of the 19th century. ... Say made his name with the publication of the Traité d'économie politique (1803), which went through many editions and revisions during his lifetime. The ideas that are most closely associated with his name include 'Say's law' of markets—crudely formulated sometimes as 'supply creates its own demand' or more broadly understood as the idea that nations and individuals benefit from each other's rising level of wealth as it provides increased opportunities for mutually beneficial trade."
    Related Topic: Economics


    5 Jan 1767, in Lyon, France


    15 Nov 1832, in Paris, France


    Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832)
    The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics


    Book Review: J. B. Say, by Richard Ebeling, Future of Freedom, May 1998
    Review of J.B. Say: An Economist in Troubled Times, writings selected and translated by R.R. Palmer, 1997
    " ... the main focus of his writings was to emphasize the importance of sound economic principles for understanding why the market should be freed from government control. He strongly believed that freeing the market was the best avenue for reducing poverty, eliminating the artificial inequalities in income created by state regulation ..."
    Book Review: Say's Law and the Keynesian Revolution, by Richard Ebeling, Future of Freedom, Feb 1999
    Review of Say's Law and the Keynesian Revolution: How Macroeconomic Theory Lost Its Way by Steven Kates, 1998
    "Beginning with Jean-Baptiste Say ... the law of markets was stated in the following way: Ultimately it is always goods that are traded for goods. ... In the more complex market economy ... the fundamental 'law of markets' still holds true: each participant in the market must first supply some good to earn the money that enables him to demand other goods."
    Editorial: Turgot and the Battle Against Physiocracy, by Leonard Liggio, Literature of Liberty, 1979
    Editorial essay for volume II, number 1; discusses those who influenced Turgot and those influenced by him
    "Turgot’s economic influence is also evident on J. B. Say's law of markets. In the 'Observations on a Paper by Saint-Péravy' (1767), Turgot exposited what later became 'Say's Law of Markets.' Turgot's analysis of the basic issues inspired Say's effective statement of his theory of markets. As did Say, Turgot noted the economic effects of wars, especially in causing inflation: 'The deadly contrivance of borrowing derives from the mania of spending more than one owns...; the ambition of Louis XIV and other princes has no less been a cause of it [the borrowing] through their stubborn wars pushed to the point of exhaustion. ...'"
    Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jun 1997
    Lengthy biographical essay, covering those who influenced Bastiat as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Félix Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
    "Say descended from Protestants who had fled France during religious persecution. He worked for a while in Britain before joining a Paris insurance company. There his boss suggested that he read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. The book thrilled him, and he resolved to learn more about how an economy works. ... The Traité d'économie politique, Say's major work, appeared in 1803. He reintroduced free-market views to France and Europe generally."
    UpdJean-Baptiste Say: Neglected Champion of Laissez-Faire, by Larry J. Sechrest
    "J.B. Say deserves to be remembered, especially by Austrian economists, as a pivotal figure in the history of economic thought. ... Say's approach to economics ... combines a healthy skepticism regarding the usefulness of statistical investigations with an emphasis on observing the facts of reality."
    Jean-Baptiste Say (1767 - 1832), Religion & Liberty, Jun 2002
    "His Treatise, often described as a popularization of Smith's ideas, departed from the typical economics methodology of his day. This departure was based on Say's conviction that the study of economics should start not with abstract mathematical and statistical analyses but with the real experience of the human person."
    Related Topics: Entrepreneurship, France
    Life and Work of Richard Cantillon, by Henry Higgs, 1959
    Concluding essay to the 1959 edition of the Essai, edited and translated by Henry Higgs, pp. 363-389
    "So eminent an authority on the history of economic thought as Professor Gide claims for J. B. Say that he 'first employed the well-chosen term Entrepreneur to designate that most important economic function of the man who collects in his hands the productive forces of capital—labour and natural agents'. And again, J. B. Say 'gave economic science its present form and its definitions... (e.g. the term "Entrepreneur" which has been borrowed by most other languages)'. Say's Traité appeared in 1803."
    Related Topic: Richard Cantillon
    Monetary Central Planning and the State, Part 18: Say's Law of Markets and Keynesian Economics, by Richard Ebeling, Future of Freedom, Jun 1998
    Explains the basics of exchange and markets, then discussing Say's Law and John Stuart Mills refinement
    "The cobbler makes shoes and sells them ... The cobbler then uses the money he has earned ... to buy the food he wants to eat. ... his supply of shoes has been the means for him to demand a certain amount of food. This, in essence, is the meaning of Say's Law, named after the 19th-century French economist Jean-Baptiste Say. Say called it 'the law of markets.' Unless we first produce, we cannot consume; unless we first supply, we cannot demand."
    Non-Marxist Theories of Imperialism, by Alan Fairgate, Feb 1976
    Examines writings of critics of imperialism that are not based on Marxist analysis
    "Those with a background in Austrian economics should be well acquainted with the classic statement of Say's Law of Markets and the logic behind the contention that a situation of absolute or general overproduction (or underconsumption) cannot emerge in the free market. The economist Benjamin M. Anderson offers the following concise summary of Say's Law: 'Supply and demand in the aggregate are ... not merely equal, but they are identical, since every commodity may be looked upon either as supply of its own kind or as demand for other things. ...'"
    UpdThe Accidental Inventor of Today's Capitalism: Jean-Baptiste Say, No Longer a Villain, Stands Guard Over Free Markets, by Louis Uchitelle, The New York Times, 21 Feb 1998
    "He came of age in the French Revolution. In the spirit of the times, he greatly admired Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. ... The Say family -- there were five children -- never came to America. ... But the economic theory he popularized in a French best seller eventually made the journey."


    J. B. Say: An Economist in Troubled Times
        by R. R. Palmer ((editor, translator)), 1997
    Chapter list: The Mild Revolutionary, The Sober Utopian, The Frustrated Economist, The Innovative Economist, The Commentator on England, The Professor of Political Economy

    Books Authored

    A Treatise on Political Economy: or The Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth, 1803
    Electronic text available at The Library of Economics and Liberty; contents: Of the Production of Wealth - Of the Distribution of Wealth - Of the Consumption of Wealth
    Related Topic: Economics

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