Jean-Baptiste Say

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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 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 it.

Contents

Biography

J. B. Say was born in Lyon. His father, Jean-Etienne Etienne Say, was of Protestant family which had moved from Nîmes to Geneva for some time in consequence of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. (His brother Louis Auguste (1774–1840) was also an economist). 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. 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 1793 Say married Mlle Deloche, daughter of a former lawyer. 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.

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