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Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

Go BackFrench Philosopher, Economist, Politician
Philosophy Books Economic Fallacies

Economic Fallacies
by Frederic Bastiat

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Frederic Bastiat, French philosopher, economist and political advocate was born in 1801. His works on the World Wide Web are somewhat extensive. A list can be found at one of the web sites dedicated to Bastiat. He is known for advocating the notion of private property, as did some of his contemporary thinkers. The ontology of private property was being framed by and giving way to the notion that what you could see you could claim for yourself unless someone had claimed it before you. That problematic would be worked out through the dance of the free market. With the expansion of resources, trades, and migrating populations, one initial claim can be divided and sold off as 'development' which will create industries tied to the spontaneous needs thus generated. Even if one were to disapprove of any stage within the action, one could still find work within the bigger project. Bastiat would have us with as few restrictions to what we can do with our land as possible.

From Economic Harmonies; Natural and Artificial Social Order:

Are we really certain that the mechanism of society, like the mechanism of the heavenly bodies or the mechanism of the human body, is subject to general laws? Are we really certain that it is a harmoniously organized whole? Or is it not true that what is most notable in society is the absence of all order? And is it not true that a social order is the very thing that all men of good will and concern for the future are searching for most avidly, the thing most in the minds of all forward-looking commentators on public affairs, and of all the pioneers of the intellectual world? Are we not but a mere confused aggregation of individuals acting disconcertedly in response to the caprices of our anarchical liberty? Are our countless masses, now that they have painfully recovered their liberties one by one, not expecting some great genius to come and arrange them into a harmonious whole? Now that we have torn down, must we not begin to build anew?

From Economic Sophisms; Abundance and Scarcity:

Which is preferable for man and for society, abundance or scarcity? "What!" people may exclaim. "How can there be any question about it? Has anyone ever suggested, or is it possible to maintain, that scarcity is the basis of man's well-being?" Yes, this has been suggested; yes, this has been maintained and is maintained every day, and I do not hesitate to say that the theory of scarcity is by far the most popular of all theories. It is the burden of conversations, newspaper articles, books, and political speeches; and, strange as it may seem, it is certain that political economy will not have a completed its task and performed its practical function until it has popularized and established as indisputable this very simple proposition: "Wealth consists in an abundance of commodities."Do we not hear it said every day: "Foreigners are going to flood us with their products"? Thus, people fear abundance. Has not M. de Saint-Cricq7* said: "There is overproduction"? Thus, he was afraid of abundance. Do not the workers wreck machines? Thus, they are afraid of overproduction, or-in other words-of abundance.

From Selected Essays on Political Economy; The Demobilization:

A nation is in the same case as a man. When a man wishes to give himself a satisfaction, he has to see whether it is worth what it costs. For a nation, security is the greatest of blessings. If, to acquire it, a hundred thousand men must be mobilized, and a hundred million francs spent, I have nothing to say. It is an enjoyment bought at the price of a sacrifice. Let there be no misunderstanding, then, about the point I wish to make in what I have to say on this subject. A legislator proposes to discharge a hundred thousand men, which will relieve the taxpayers of a hundred million francs in taxes. Suppose we confine ourselves to replying to him: "These one hundred thousand men and these one hundred million francs are indispensable to our national security. It is a sacrifice; but without this sacrifice France would be torn by internal factions or invaded from without." I have no objection here to this argument, which may be true or false as the case may be, but which theoretically does not constitute any economic heresy. The heresy begins when the sacrifice itself is represented as an advantage, because it brings profit to someone...

From The Law; A Fatal Tendency of Mankind:

Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing. But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man-in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain.

Frederic Bastiat died in 1850.


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