Monday, November 28, 2011

A great insight from Karl Marx

"Adam Smith baulked at the logical conclsuion of his resolution of commodity value, and thus of the value of the annual social product, into wages and surplus-value, i.e. simply into revenue: the conclusion that the total annual product could then be entirely consume. It is never the original thinkers who draw the absurd conclusions. They rather leave this for the Says and the MacCullochs."

- Capital, Vol. 2, (pg. 466 in the Penguin edition)

That observation by Marx is also interesting considering what Keynes said about the intellectual history of Say's Law. He came down hard on Say and even Mill, but then said that those who followed them - particularly Marshall, Pigou, and Edgeworth - were too smart to put it as crudely as Say did. Still, their conclusions rely on Say's Law (whatever the hell that is - I'm not trying to minimize the arguments over the "law" itself - I'm just not interested in getting into that argument).


  1. I actually wanted to encourage you to post about Says law in post about your final. I have read De Longs posts abotu Says law and I still dont quite get it (i mean i get it is just doesnt feel right). Anyway I would definitely be into an introduction/your thoughts on says law.

  2. The quoted statement in bold font can also easily apply to the founders and followers of any intellectual tradition. A good example would be John Maynard Keynes and the Keynesians - Lord Keynes certaintly didn't agree with everything his followers did, and vice-versa.

  3. Etienne Gilson makes the point that disciples start with the master's conclusions. So, naturally they end up places different from the master.

  4. "I'm just not interested in getting into that argument"

    Then why even mention it? I get the feeling (from your post) that you do want to (get into that argument).

  5. Joesph,

    I think I know what Daniel feels like. I tried to draft a paper about Say's law once. It took pages just to define all the things that different people think Say's law and Walras' law mean, before even getting to whether it's true or not. I still haven't come back to that, though I plan to in the future. It is an interesting topic, but it's very difficult to do it justice in a few words.

  6. Joseph - because if I don't clarify that I'm aware there is a discussion about that, it will be raised in the comment section as if I have neglected it. I'm just indicating that I am aware, and I am choosing not to discuss that particualr facet.


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