Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 18: Jean-Baptiste Say (1767–1832)
Jean-Baptiste Say was born in Lyon, on 5 January 1767, in a Protestant family. At the age of 15, he started an apprenticeship in a trading house in Paris, then went to England and, in 1787, Étienne Clavière, a Swiss businessman, took him on in the insurance company he was managing. Say took an active part in the Revolution. He worked at a newspaper, the Courrier de Provence, published by Gabriel-Honoré de Mirabeau, and was close to the Girondins, to whom Clavière, who was for a time Minister of Finance in 1792, had introduced him. In 1794, Sébastien-Roch de Chamfort involved him in the foundation of the periodical La Décade philosophique, littéraire et politique, par une société de républicains and as its managing editor. The incapacity of the Directoire to stabilize the Revolution led Say and his friends, the “Idéologues”, to support Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’état on 18 Brumaire of Year VIII (9 November 1799). He became secretary of the Legislative Committee of the Conseil des Cinq-Cents and then, after the new Constitution of Year VIII, a member of the Tribunat. The first edition of his Traité d’économie politique was published in 1803. In March 1804, with some other members of this assembly, he was eliminated from the Tribunat because of his opposition to Bonaparte. “From the texts written during this period, Say appears . . . as an committed intellectual . . . who never betrayed his republicanism” (Steiner 1990: 176). He was and remained...
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