Jean-Baptiste Say’s Treatise on Political Economy

My foreword to the Laissez Faire Books ebook edition, 2014, available on Amazon.com

Does a foreign tourist who spends $2,000 in America bring $2,000 in benefits? Of course not. But this was not always obvious. In fact, it is still not obvious to many of our contemporaries. But it was already well explained by Jean-Baptiste Say in his book A Treatise on Political Economy, first published in 1803. Say explains that, for his $2,000, the tourist obtains the equivalent value in goods and services, and it is just as if he had imported goods worth $2,000 to wherever he lives. It is an exchange like any other exchange of something for something else, from which each party to the exchange benefits, but nobody gives away free money. Continue reading

An Interpretation of the American Political Mess

For several decades, the political establishment told Americans that the government is nice and can give them what they want. They did get much from government, but (not surprisingly) also paid much. And ordinary people got their preferences crushed and their lifestyles scorned or controlled by political correctness, the war on smokers and rednecks, and countless regulations. Life became more politicized and conflictual. No wonder that so many people are angry.
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The Tobacco Manufacturer and the State

Here is the typical dialogue between a standard tobacco manufacturer and the state (it is stylized but only slightly):

The State: “You intentionally sell a product that has no benefit for your idiotic customers and just kills them.”

The Tobacco Manufacturer: “Yes, I intentionally sell a product that has no benefit for my idiotic customers and just kills them.”

The State: “We shall impose a legal prohibition.”

The Tobacco Manufacturer: “No, you cannot do that, it’s a perfectly legal product!”

A Student Who Still Needs to Study and Think

From tonight’s Financial Times: “Colin Dudgeon, a student at University of New Hampshire Manchester, said he had been choosing between Mr Trump and Mr Sanders but ultimately went with Mr Trump because he believed the property billionaire needed his help more. ‘They’re two sides of the same populist coin,’ he said. ‘I wanted to stick the finger to the establishment.'” Poor little guy! He still has some non-romantic studies and thinking to do about politics. Trump does not need his help at all. And were it not for this Financial Times story, nobody would have noticed his finger to the establishment.

What Would Happen to Taxes if Cash Were Banned?

Here is a little exercise in Public Choice economics: If a government banned cash (as some are proposing), what would happen to its tax rates? Answer: they would increase as the cost of tax resistance would be lower and Leviathan would take advantage of this. On this topic, see my article “The Economics of Tax Dodging” in the Library of Economics and Liberty. The same would happen to a lesser extent if the size of large denominations is further restricted.

The Modernity of Say’s Treatise on Political Economy

Does a foreign tourist who spends $2,000 in America bring $2,000 in benefits? Of course not. But this was not always obvious. In fact, it is still not obvious to many of our contemporaries. But it was already well explained by Jean-Baptiste Say in his book A Treatise on Political Economy, first published in 1803. Say explains that, for his $2,000, the tourist obtains the equivalent value in goods and services, and it is just as if he had imported goods worth $2,000 to wherever he lives. It is an exchange like any other exchange of something for something else, from which each party to the exchange benefits, but nobody gives away money. Continue reading

Why We Don’t Need Jobs

My new book, Jobs-veryverysmall-BuYQYxWIUAAeFSTWho Needs Jobs? Spreading Poverty or Increasing Welfare, is just out at Palgrave Macmillan. In this book, I explain why jobs are costs, not benefits; and why, consequently, we need as few of them as possible. I also explain the economic concepts necessary to understand this (rather standard) economic result, so the book is accessible to the lay reader. It may even be considered as an introduction to the economic way of thinking.

You can order the book from Amazon.com, from Palgrave Macmillan, or from your favorite brick-and-mortar library.

Perhaps after reading it you will want to leave a comment on Amazon?