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Capitalism's Economist: The Life and Doctrines of Jean-Baptiste Say

Richard M. Salsman

Presented at: OCON 2005

Date: Jul 02, 2005

In the field of economics, Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) is history's greatest champion of laissez-faire capitalism. Deriving economic laws by induction, Say eschewed the rationalism of later pro-capitalist economists. Stressing reason's prime role in economic analysis, wealth-creation and profit-making, Say rejected the labor theory of value upon which "exploitation" theories were based. Say also pioneered utility analysis, laid the ground for rational price theory and emphasized the productive role of entrepreneurs. His most enduring legacy—Say's Law—stressed the primacy of production; the law's many corollaries form the foundation of a consistent economic case for laissez-faire capitalism. Both a product of and contributor to the French Enlightenment, Say courageously advocated limited, republican government while simultaneously facing persecution and censorship by Napoleon. Champions of capitalism today can find no better hero in the history of pro-capitalist economic thought than Say—and no better guide for refuting the innumerable perversities embedded in contemporary economics.


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