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Jean-Baptiste Say (J.-B. Say)

Jean-Baptiste Say was a French economist and businessman.

Background

  • SAY, Jean-Baptiste was born in 1767 in Lyon, France.

  • Career

    • Say was intended to follow a commercial career, and was sent, with his brother Horace, to England: here he lived first in Croydon, in the house of a merchant, to whom he acted as clerk, and afterwards in London, where he was in the service of another employer. When, on the death of the latter, he returned to France, he was employed in the office of a life assurance company directed by Étienne Clavière.

      Say's first literary attempt was a pamphlet on the liberty of the press, published in 1789. He later worked under Mirabeau on the Courrier de Provence.

      From 1794 to 1800 Say edited a periodical entitled La Decade philosophique, litteraire, et politique, in which he expounded the doctrines of Adam Smith. He had by this time established his reputation as a publicist, and, when the consular government was established in 1799, he was selected as one of the hundred members of the tribunate, resigning the direction of the Decade.

      In 1800 he published in Olbie, ou essai sur les moyens de reformer les moeurs d'une nation. In 1803 appeared Say's principal work, the Traité d'économie politique ou simple exposition de la manière dont se forment, se distribuent et se composent les richesses. In 1804, having shown his unwillingness to sacrifice his convictions for the purpose of furthering the designs of Napoleon, he was removed from the office of tribune. He then turned to industrial pursuits, and, having made himself acquainted with the processes of the cotton manufacture, founded at Auchy, in the Pas de Calais, a spinning-mill which employed four or five hundred persons, principally women and children. He devoted his leisure to the improvement of his economic treatise, which had for some time been out of print, but which the censorship did not permit him to republish.

      A third edition of the Traité appeared in 1817. A chair of industrial economy was founded for him in 1819 at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. In 1831 he was made professor of political economy at the Collège de France. Say in 1828–1830 published his Cours complet d'economie politique pratique. In 1826, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

    Major achievements

    • He is best known due to Say's Law, which is named after him and at times credited to him, but while he discussed and popularized it, he did not originate lieutenant

      Say's Law

      The exact phrase "supply creates its own demand" was coined by John Maynard Keynes, who criticized it, but this characterization is disputed as a misrepresentation by some advocates of Say's law. Similar sentiments, though different wordings, appear in the work of J. S. Mill (1848) and his father, James Mill (1808). The Scottish classical economist James Mill restates Say's Law in 1808, writing that "production of commodities creates, and is the one and universal cause which creates a market for the commodities produced."

      In Say's language, "products are paid for with products" (1803: p. 153) or "a glut can take place only when there are too many means of production applied to one kind of product and not enough to another" (1803: p. 178-9). Explaining his point at length, he wrote that:

      It is worthwhile to remark that a product is no sooner created than it, from that instant, affords a market for other products to the full extent of its own value. When the producer has put the finishing hand to his product, he is most anxious to sell it immediately, lest its value should diminish in his hands. Nor is he less anxious to dispose of the money he may get for it; for the value of money is also perishable. But the only way of getting rid of money is in the purchase of some product or other. Thus the mere circumstance of creation of one product immediately opens a vent for other products. (J.B. Say, 1803: p.138-9)

      He also wrote, that it is not the abundance of money but the abundance of other products in general that facilitates sales:

      Money performs but a momentary function in this double exchange; and when the transaction is finally closed, it will always be found, that one kind of commodity has been exchanged for another.

      Say's Law may also have been culled from Ecclesiastes 5:11 — "As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?" (NIV) Say's Law has been considered by John Kenneth Galbraith as the most distinguished example of the stability of economic ideas, including when they are wrong.

    Works

    • "Ou essai sur les moyens de reformer les moeurs d'une nation"
    • La Decade philosophique, litteraire, et politique, From 1794 to 1800
    • Cours complet d'economie politique pratiqu
    • Traité d'économie politique ou simple exposition de la manière dont se forment, se distribuent et se composent les richesse

    Politics

    He had classically liberal views and argued in favor of competition, free trade, and lifting restraints on business.

    In 1792 he took part as a volunteer in the campaign of Champagne; in 1793 he assumed, in conformity with the Revolutionary fashion, the pre-name of Atticus, and became secretary to Clavière, then finance minister.

    In 1804, having shown his unwillingness to sacrifice his convictions for the purpose of furthering the designs of Napoleon, he was removed from the office of tribune.

    In 1814 he "availed himself" (to use his own words) of the sort of liberty arising from the entrance of the allied powers into France to bring out a second edition of the work, dedicated to the emperor Alexander I of Russia, who had professed himself his pupil. In the same year the French government sent him to study the economic condition of the United Kingdom. The results of his observations appeared in A tract de l'Angleterre et des Anglais.

    Views

    Positivism

    Personality

    Interests

    Philosophers & Thinkers : Auguste Comte, Adam Smith

    Connections

    Jean-Baptiste Say
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    Born January 5, 1767
    Died November 15, 1831
    (aged 64)
    Nationality
    • 1785
      clerk, merchant house
      England
    • 1787
      employer, the office of a life assurance company directed by Étienne Clavière.
      France
    • 1799
      member of the tribunate, consular government
      France
    • 1826
      foreign member, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
    • 1831
      professor of political economy, Collège de France
      France

    Contributor  

    Алеся Бельзецкая last changed 11/11/2012 view changes

    Alexandra Remova

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    • Friends & colleagues
      • Thomas Malthus
      • Thomas Robert Malthus
    • Place
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    • Career
      • merchant house
        • Address
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      • the office of a life assurance company directed by Étienne Clavière.
        • Address
        • mainPhoto
      • consular government
        • Address
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      • Collège de France
        • Address
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      • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
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    • Address
    • Background
    • Membership description
    • Works
      • pamphlet: Pamphlet on the liberty of the press, published in 1789
        • Link
        • Works description
      • Periodicals edited: La Decade philosophique, litteraire, et politique, From 1794 to 1800
        • Link
        • Works description
      • 1800, book: "Ou essai sur les moyens de reformer les moeurs d'une nation"
        • Link
        • Works description
      • 1803, book: Traité d'économie politique ou simple exposition de la manière dont se forment, se distribuent et se composent les richesse
        • Link
        • Works description
      • Tract, 1814: A tract de l'Angleterre et des Anglais.
        • Link
        • Works description
      • 1828-1830, book: Cours complet d'economie politique pratiqu
        • Link
        • Works description
    • School and college years description
    • Personality
    • Quotes from others about the person
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