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A Catechism on Political Economy


Tags Calculation and KnowledgeValue and Exchange

I surely should have heard about J.B. Say's Catechism on Political Economy, but in fact I don't recall knowing about it. It appears in this newly uploaded and bookmarked volume Letters to Malthus. So a short sample:

What do you understand by the word Products?
I understand all those things to which men have consented to give a value.
How is value given to a thing?
By giving it utility.
How is the utility of a thing the cause of its having a value?
Because persons are then to be found who are in want of this thing; they desire to have it from those who produce it. These, on their side, will not part from it until they are paid the expenses they have been at in producing it, including their profits, The value of the thing is established by the result of this opposition between the producer and the consumer.
But there are many things of great utility, and no value, as water. Why have they no value?
Because nature gives them gratuitously, and without stint, and we are not obliged to produce them.

In general, it seems to hold up pretty well, given that it appeared first in 1821.

Jeffrey Tucker is Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research. He is author of It's a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes and Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail.

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