It is not granted to any man to arrive at the outermost limits of knowledge. Scholars climb upon one another’s shoulders to explore a horizon that keeps on extending farther and farther.
Jean-Baptiste Say, quoted by Frédéric Bastiat
In this part, Frédéric Bastiat informs us that Jean-Baptiste Say was propably the first to have criticised Adam Smith on his mistakes about the concept of value. Today’s quote, which is from Jean-Baptiste Say, sounds like an apology towards the master who may have been mistaken but allowed his successors to climb upon his shoulders. It also sounds like an apology from Frédéric Bastiat towards both Smith and Say.
The idea from Jean-Baptiste Say is that value comes from the utility that goods and services provide but, in some cases, he attributed it to nature. This would create an issue concerning property rights and would justify a certain number of attacks towards it. Frédéric Bastiat being convinced that property rights are absolutely necessary for the good functioning of society hereby attempts to demonstrate why Say was wrong as well and why utility provided by capital is not a gift from nature but comes from a service rendered by its owner indeed, thus justifying its remuneration.
Today’s quote also makes me think about the humility with which Leonard Read approached knowledge – he had discovered that the more knowledgeable he became, the more he became aware of how the number of things remaining to be known increased.
Other quotes from On Value:
Introduction – Part 1 of 10 – Part 2 of 10 – Part 3 of 10 – Part 4 of 10 – Part 5 of 10 – Part 6 of 10 – Part 7 of 10 – Part 8 of 10 – Part 9 of 10 – Part 10 of 10 – Conclusion – Epilogue