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Skousen CAFE: Say's Law vs. Keynes' Law: Which More Accurately Reflects Reality?

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Skousen's Investor CAFE
Skousen CAFE: Say's Law vs. Keynes' Law: Which More Accurately Reflects Reality?

By Mark Skousen
Editor, Forecasts & Strategies

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"They say children are the future, but really teachers are the key to the future." -- Author Unknown

We all know that teachers, especially at the college level when students are away from their parents, can have tremendous influence on young minds.

Here's a good example. I like to ask ask my economics students,“Which is more accurate, Say’s law or Keynes’s law?” Say’s law (defined below) is named after the 19th century French economist Jean-Baptiste Say, while Keynes’ law is named after the 20th century British economist John Maynard Keynes.

Most of the students have never heard of either law, so on the blackboard or PowerPoint, I simplify the definition as follows:

Say’s Law: “Supply creates demand.”

Keynes’ Law: “Demand creates supply.”

Before we have any discussion, I ask the students to intuitively decide which one makes more sense, and why.

Invariable, the vast majority of students side with Keynes. Demand, they say, is essential. Without consumers willing to buy a product, suppliers will go out of business. They conclude that consumer spending drives the economy.

Currently, I am a presidential scholar at Chapman University in California, where I teach a course entitled, “Modern Political Economy: Who is Winning the Battle of Ideas?” I have 22 students in the class. In the above exercise this week, 15 students voted with Keynes, and seven voted for Say.

For the next hour, I took the students through a series of exercises, historical examples and economic studies that suggest that Say’s law, not Keynes’ law, is a far more accurate view of the economy. I won’t go into all of the arguments here, but they can be found in chapter 2 of my history book, “The Making of Modern Economics” (3rd edition published by Routledge Publishers) and chapter 17 of my textbook, “Economic Logic” (4th edition, published by Capital Press).

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Essentially, I demonstrate that economies grow not because consumers demand more and are willing to go into debt, but largely because of a willingness of entrepreneurs and businesses to save and invest in new products and technologies -- the supply side of the economy. I use Seattle as an example. Seattle residents did not become wealthy because consumers decided to demand more, but because creative businesses such as Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon came up with new products and services. (Consumers didn’t know they wanted these things until they were created.) I conclude that business is the catalyst of economic progress, and consumer spending is the effect, not the cause, of prosperity.

Think about it: Twenty years ago consumers didn't clamber for a handheld device that would contain all their music library, contacts and computer files. But once Apple created it and supplied it, everyone demanded it.

I end the lecture by quoting some experts on the subject, including CNBC economist Larry Kudlow, who says, “Though not one in a thousand recognizes it, it is business, not consumers, that is the heart of the economy. When businesses produce profitably, they create income-paying jobs and then consumers spend. Profitable firms also purchase new equipment because they need to modernize and update all of their tools, structures and software.”

I also include in the lecture a discussion of gross output (GO), the new “top line” in national income accounting that demonstrates that business spending is almost twice the size of consumer spending in the economy. (See for more details.)

At the end of the hour, I ask if any of the students have changed their mind. In this case, it was 22-0 in favor of Say.

Teachers can make a difference.

Note: This article appeared last week at

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week about the resurgence of small businesses under the Trump administration.

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You Blew It!
How Not to Handle a Water Shortage

By Jo Ann Skousen

Nothing feels as good as stepping into a hot steamy shower on a cold winter day, especially when you’re experiencing the fever and chills of a cold. Unless you’re living in California, that is. There’s no such thing as a “hot steamy shower” here. Not with all the regulations that govern the distribution and delivery of water.

Now, I’m all in favor of conservation. I know there’s a drought. But I think there are reasonable ways to encourage conservation without ruining the flow of water to my showerhead or mandating the method for heating that water. (Letting water out of the reservoirs when they are less than 60% full, as is the general policy here, is not among those reasonable methods, in my opinion.)

Let’s address the tankless water heater first. It is a great concept: reduce the amount of power consumed to heat household water by not keeping a tank full of hot water at all times. Got it. I kind of like the added bonus of having as much hot water as I want because the tankless water is limitless as well. But the concept reminds me of a coworker at a mountain lodge where I once worked who suggested that we could save money on napkins by using paper towels instead. Yes, we could save money on napkins by not providing them. But our cost for paper towels would have doubled. Unintended consequences can be pretty obvious sometimes.

So, here’s what happens when I want to do the dishes or take a shower or wash the clothes: First, I turn on the hot water tap. Then I clear the table (or make the bed, or gather the laundry.) By the time I’m finished, the water is finally hot. To be sure, two and a half minutes of water have gone down the drain in the meantime, because that’s how long it takes for our tankless water to heat up and reach the faucet. But no power has been wasted keeping a tankful of water warm until I needed it.

Of course, once the water’s hot, the sky’s the limit. With a hot water tank, I’m more efficient, because I’m always aware that the water will soon turn cold. Not so with a tankless heater! Not that I think I should take a 20-minute shower, but when several people in a household are getting ready for the day at the same time, it’s nice if the last one in doesn’t have to endure the shock of cold water. However, when my sons were teens, they would stay in the shower until the hot water was gone. If we had owned a tankless system, they would probably still be there, turning into prunes.

And then there’s my real nemesis: The shower head insert that restricts the flow of water. At my New York home, where the shower restrictor allows a more reasonable flow of water, I am in and out of the shower in five minutes. Here in California, it takes nearly 20 minutes of water flow from the time I start heating the water until I’m finally rinsed and out. And it isn’t even a satisfying 20 minutes. It feels like I’m standing under a soft drizzly rain, not a shower. The water has so little pressure that it barely dampens the top layer of my hair, and it doesn’t penetrate the inner layers at all (and I am not blessed with thick, luxurious hair).

So here’s the process for me to wash my hair in California: I work enough water and shampoo into my hair to lather it, and I rinse as much as I can under the shower. Then I switch from shower to faucet, and sit down in the tub to rinse my hair thoroughly under the tap. Next, I need to apply conditioner, because the water here in California is so mineral rich (or “hard” as my mother used to call it). So, I stand back up, switch the control back to shower to avoid freezing while the conditioner conditions, and then I’m back on the tub floor, rinsing under the spigot.

So far I’ve managed to do all this without slipping, but it’s probably not the safest morning routine. I suppose I could try keeping a bucket in the shower, filling it with warm water, and pouring it over my head instead of using the faucet. But it would probably take five minutes to fill the bucket! So I’ll continue with the yo-yo routine, while I look forward to traveling and enjoying a hot, steamy shower in a hotel.

For more about government regulation and intrusion into our private lives, listen to our panels and debates on regulation, technology, and the environment at FreedomFest, July 19-22, Paris Resort, Las Vegas. Go to or call 855-850-3733 ext. 202.

And read regular FreedomFest speaker Jeffrey Tucker’s article about government control of water here:

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week about the resurgence of small businesses under the Trump administration.
Good Investing, AEIOU,

Mark Skousen

Mark Skousen
Presidential Fellow, Chapman University
Newsletter and trading services
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