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J. B. Say:
An Economist in Troubled Times
Selected and translated by R. R. Palmer

Hardcover | 1997 | This edition is out of print | ISBN: 9780691011707


J.-B. Say is remembered most commonly as a disciple of Adam Smith and in particular as the author of what later economists have called Say's Law: often simplified as the idea that "supply creates its own demand." Here the distinguished historian R. R. Palmer shows that Say was an interesting figure for a multitude of reasons. Say modified and extended some of Adam Smith's insights, became a friend and correspondent of Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo, and was the first professor of political economy in France. His life coincided with the French Revolution and its long aftermath and with the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, on both of which he had much to say. He is exceptional among economists in that for several years he was in business for himself as a factory owner and so took part in the activities that he and other economists analyzed. Say always wrote in nontechnical language for a thoughtful but unspecialized audience, and Palmer's well-known skills as a translator serve well to present a collection of fascinating and hitherto untranslated material.

Say's Treatise on Political Economy, for instance, was first published in 1803. This first edition was suppressed by Napoleon, but in its fourth edition it was translated in England and widely read for many years in the United States. The pieces here include selections from the suppressed first edition, as well as Say's comments on contemporary events and on the development of economics as a social science.


"It is a breath of fresh air because for the first time in Anglo-American scholarship the historical republican Say [a political economist during the French Revolution] can be revealed and appreciated, not least because of the now accustomed excellence of Palmer's rendering of French into English . . . [It is] well-written, well organized, and of real worth."--History of Political Thought

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