After the middle-class Revolution of , Bastiat became politically active and was elected justice of the peace in and to the Council General county-level assembly in He was elected to the national legislative assembly after the French Revolution of Bastiat was inspired by and routinely corresponded with Richard Cobden and the English Anti-Corn Law League and worked with free-trade associations in France.
Bastiat wrote sporadically starting in the s, but in he launched his amazing publishing career when an article on the effects of protectionism on the French and English people was published in the Journal des Economistes and was held to critical acclaim. As Murray N. Rothbard noted:. Bastiat was indeed a lucid and superb writer, whose brilliant and witty essays and fables to this day are remarkable and devastating demolitions of protectionism and of all forms of government subsidy and control.
He was a truly scintillating advocate of an untrammeled free market. This book brings together his greatest works and represents the early generation of English translations. These translators were like Bastiat himself, people from the private sector who had a love of knowledge and truth and who altered their careers to vigorously pursue intellectual ventures, scholarly publishing, and advocacy of free trade.
This collection represents some of the best economics ever written. Bastiat was the first, and one of the very few, to be able to convincingly communicate the basic propositions of economics. The vast majority of people who have learned anything about economics have relied on Bastiat or publications that were influenced by his work.
This collection — possibly more than anything ever written about economics — is the antidote for economic illiteracy regarding such things as the inadvisability of tariffs and price controls, and everyone from the novice to the PhD economist will benefit from reading it. The collection consists of three sections, the first of which contains his best-known essays. In "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen," Bastiat equips the reader to become an economist in the first paragraph and then presents the story of the broken window where a hoodlum is thought to create jobs and prosperity by breaking windows.
Bastiat solves the quandary of prosperity via destruction by noting that while the apparent prosperity is seen, what is unseen is that which would have been produced had the windows not been broken. According to Rothbard:. In this way, the "economist," Bastiat's third-level observer, vindicates common sense and refutes the apologia for destruction of the pseudo-sophisticate. Bastiat wrote the work while living in England to advise the shapers of the French Republic on perils to avoid. Economic Sophisms was translated and adapted for an American readership in by the economist and historian of money Alexander del Mar , writing under the pseudonym Emile Walter.
Contained within Economic Sophisms is the satirical parable known as the candlemakers' petition in which candlemakers and tallow producers lobby the Chamber of Deputies of the French July Monarchy — to block out the Sun to prevent its unfair competition with their products. Bastiat's most famous work is The Law ,  originally published as a pamphlet in It defines a just system of laws and then demonstrates how such law facilitates a free society.
In The Law , Bastiat wrote that everyone has a right to protect "his person, his liberty, and his property". The state should be only a "substitution of a common force for individual forces" to defend this right.
According to Bastiat, justice meaning defense of one's life, liberty and property has precise limits, but if government power extends further into philanthropic endeavors, then government becomes so limitless that it can grow endlessly. The resulting statism is "based on this triple hypothesis: the total inertness of mankind, the omnipotence of the law, and the infallibility of the legislator".
The public then becomes socially engineered by the legislator and must bend to the legislators' will "like the clay to the potter", saying:. Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education.
We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality.
And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain. I do not dispute their right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law — by force — and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes. Bastiat posits that the law becomes perverted when it punishes one's right to self-defense of his life, liberty and property in favor of another's right to legalized plunder which he defines as "if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong.
See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime" in which he includes the tax support of "protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, relief and welfare schemes, public education, progressive taxation, free credit, and public works". According to Bastiat, legal plunder can be committed in "an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on.
All these plans as a whole — with their common aim of legal plunder — constitute socialism". Bastiat also made the following humorous point: "If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?
The Bastiat Collection
In his essay "Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas" " What is Seen and What is Unseen " , Bastiat introduced through the parable of the broken window the concept of opportunity cost in all but name. This term was not coined until over sixty years after his death by Friedrich von Wieser in Bastiat also famously engaged in a debate between and with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon about the legitimacy of interest.
You are a man for whom logic does not exist. You do not hear anything, you do not understand anything. You are without philosophy, without science, without humanity. Your ability to reason, like your ability to pay attention and make comparisons is zero.
The Bastiat Collection Paperback-second Edition
Scientifically, Mr. Bastiat, you are a dead man". Bastiat asserted that the sole purpose of government is to protect the right of an individual to life, liberty and property and why it is dangerous and morally wrong for government to interfere with an individual's other personal matters. From this, Bastiat concluded that the law cannot defend life, liberty and property if it promotes legal or legalized plunder which he defined as using government force and laws to take something from one individual and give it to others as opposed to a transfer of property via mutually-agreed contracts without using fraud nor violent threats against the other party which Bastiat considered a legitimate transfer of property.
In The Law , Bastiat explains that if the privileged classes or socialists use the government for legalized plunder, this will encourage the other socioeconomic class to also use legal plunder and that the correct response to the socialists is to cease all legal plunder. Bastiat also explains in The Law why his opinion is that the law cannot defend life, liberty and property if it promotes socialist policies. When used to obtain legalized plunder for any group, he says that the law is perverted against the only things life, liberty and property it is supposed to defend.
Bastiat was a strong supporter of free trade who was inspired by and routinely corresponded with Richard Cobden and the English Anti-Corn Law League and worked with free-trade associations in France. Because of his stress on the role of consumer demand in initiating economic progress a form of demand-side economics , Bastiat has been described by Mark Thornton , Thomas DiLorenzo and other economists as a forerunner of the Austrian School , with Thornton positing that through taking this position on the motivations of human action he demonstrates a pronounced "Austrian flavor".
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We cannot doubt that self-interest is the mainspring of human nature. It must be clearly understood that this word is used here to designate a universal, incontestable fact, resulting from the nature of man, and not an adverse judgment, as would be the word selfishness.
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