29 June 1801
|Died||24 December 1850 (aged 49)|
|Influences||Richard Cobden, Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer|
|Contributions||Parable of the broken window|
Bastiat was born on 29 June 1801 in Bayonne, Aquitaine, a port town in the south of France on the Bay of Biscay. His father, Pierre Bastiat, was a prominent businessman in the town. His mother died in 1808 when Frédéric was seven years old. His father moved inland to the town of Mugron, with Frédéric following soon afterward. The Bastiat estate in Mugron had been acquired during the French Revolution and had previously belonged to the Marquis of Poyanne. Pierre Bastiat died in 1810, leaving Frédéric an orphan. He was fostered by his paternal grandfather and his maiden aunt, Justine Bastiat. He attended a school in Bayonne, but his aunt thought poorly of it and so enrolled him in the school Saint-Sever. At age 17, he left school at Sorèze to work for his uncle in his family's export business. It was the same firm where his father had been a partner.
Bastiat began to develop an intellectual interest as he no longer wished to work with his uncle and desired to go to Paris for formal studies. This hope never came true as his grandfather was in poor health and wished to go to the Mugron estate. Bastiat accompanied him and cared for him. The next year when Bastiat was 24, his grandfather died, leaving him the family estate, thereby providing him with the means to further his theoretical inquiries. Bastiat developed intellectual interests in several areas including philosophy, history, politics, religion, travel, poetry, political economy and biography.
After the middle-class Revolution of 1830, Bastiat became politically active and was elected justice of the peace of Mugron in 1831 and to the Council General (county-level assembly) of Landes in 1832.
His public career as an economist began only in 1844, when his first article was published in the Journal des économistes during October of that year and it was ended by his untimely death in 1850. Bastiat contracted tuberculosis, probably during his tours throughout France to promote his ideas and that illness eventually prevented him from making further speeches (particularly at the legislative assembly to which he was elected in 1848 and 1849) and ended his life. During the autumn of 1850, he was sent to Italy by his doctors and he first traveled to Pisa, then to Rome.
On 24 December 1850, Bastiat called those with him to approach his bed and he murmured twice the words "the truth" before he died.
Bastiat was the author of many works on economics and political economy, generally characterized by their clear organization, forceful argumentation and acerbic wit. Economist Murray Rothbard wrote that "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 unrestricted free market". However, Bastiat himself declared that subsidy should be available, but limited: "Under extraordinary circumstances, for urgent cases, the State should set aside some resources to assist certain unfortunate people, to help them adjust to changing conditions". Among his better known works is Economic Sophisms, a series of essays (originally published in the Journal des économistes) which contain a defence of free trade and many strongly worded attacks on statist policies. 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 1867 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 (1830–1848) to block out the Sun to prevent its unfair competition with their products. Also included in the Sophisms is a facetious petition to the king asking for a law forbidding the usage of everyone's right hand, based on a presumption by some of his contemporaries that more difficulty means more work and more work means more wealth.
In The Law, he 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. "Justice" (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":
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." Thus, Bastiat was against redistribution.
In his 1850 essay "Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas" ("What is Seen and What is Unseen"), through the parable of the broken window, he introduced the concept of opportunity cost in all but name—this term was not coined until over 60 years after his death by Friedrich von Wieser in 1914.
He also famously engaged in a debate between 1849 and 1850 with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon about the legitimacy of interest. As Robert Leroux argued, Bastiat had the conviction that Proudhon's anti-interest doctrine "was the complete antithesis of any serious approach". Proudhon famously lost his temper and declared to Bastiat: "Your intelligence is asleep, or rather it has never been awake. 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. 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 both the socialists and the corporatists 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 also a strong supporter of free trade. He 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. In his Economic Harmonies, Bastiat states:
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.
Thornton posits that Bastiat through taking this position on the motivations of human action demonstrates a pronounced "Austrian flavor".
One of Bastiat's most important contributions to economics was his admonition to the effect that good economic decisions can be made only by taking into account the "full picture". That is, economic truths should be arrived at by observing not only the immediate consequences—that is, benefits or liabilities—of an economic decision, but also by examining the long-term second and third consequences. Additionally, one must examine the decision's effect not only on a single group of people (say candlemakers) or a single industry (say candlemaking), but on all people and all industries in the society as a whole. As Bastiat famously put it, an economist must take into account both "What is Seen and What is Not Seen". Bastiat's "rule" was later expounded and developed by Henry Hazlitt in his work Economics in One Lesson in which Hazlitt borrowed Bastiat's trenchant broken window fallacy and went on to demonstrate how it applies to a wide variety of economic falsehoods.
A famous section of Economic Sophisms concerns the way that tariffs are inherently counterproductive. Bastiat posits a theoretical railway between Spain and France that is built in order to reduce the costs of trade between the two countries. This is achieved by making goods move to and from the two nations faster and more easily. Bastiat demonstrates that this situation benefits both countries' consumers because it reduces the cost of shipping goods and therefore reduces the price at market for those goods.
However, each country's producers begin to criticize their governments because the other country's producers can now provide certain goods to the domestic market at reduced price. Domestic producers of these goods are afraid of being outcompeted by the newly viable industry from the other country, therefore these domestic producers demand that tariffs be enacted to artificially raise the cost of the foreign goods back to their pre-railroad levels so that they can continue to compete.
Bastiat makes two significant statements here:
To further demonstrate his statements, Bastiat suggests—in a classic reductio ad absurdum—that rather than enacting tariffs, the government should simply destroy the railroad anywhere that foreign goods can outcompete local goods. Since this would be just about everywhere, he goes on to suggest that this government should simply build a broken or "negative" railroad right from the start and not waste time with tariffs and rail building.
Bastiat died in Rome and is buried at San Luigi dei Francesi in the center of that city. He declared on his deathbed that his friend Gustave de Molinari (publisher of Bastiat's 1850 book The Law) was his spiritual heir.
A version of The Law written for young children.55 pp. (in English).
Events from the year 1801 in France.1850 in France
Events from the year 1850 in France.1850 in literature
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1850.Bastiat Prize
The Bastiat Prize is a journalism award given annually by the Reason Foundation. In 2011 and before it was given by the International Policy Network. The Bastiat Prize recognizes journalists whose published works "explain, promote and defend the principles of the free society." The award comes with US$15,000.Instituted in 2002, the Prize has been inspired by the 19th-century French philosopher Frédéric Bastiat and his defense of liberty. Bastiat's use of satire and allegory enabled him to relate complex economic issues to a general audience. In keeping with his legacy, Bastiat Prize entries are judged on intellectual content, the persuasiveness of the language used, and the type of publication in which they appear.
Judges have included Margaret Thatcher, James Buchanan, and Milton Friedman.Civil libertarianism
Civil libertarianism is a strain of political thought that supports civil liberties, or which emphasizes the supremacy of individual rights and personal freedoms over and against any kind of authority (such as a state, a corporation, social norms imposed through peer pressure and so on). Civil libertarianism is not a complete ideology—rather, it is a collection of views on the specific issues of civil liberties and civil rights.Essay on the Nature of Trade in General
Essay on the Nature of Trade in General (French: Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général) is a book about economics by Richard Cantillon. Written around 1730, and published in French in 1755. This book was considered by William Stanley Jevons to be the "cradle of political economy".This work remains Cantillon's only surviving contribution to economics. It was written around 1730 and circulated widely in manuscript form, but was not published until 1755. His work was translated into Spanish by Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, probably in the late 1770s, and considered essential reading for political economy. Despite having much influence on the early development of the physiocrat and classical schools of thought, this work was largely forgotten until its rediscovery by Jevons in the late 19th century. Cantillon was influenced by his experiences as a banker, and especially by the speculative bubble of John Law's Mississippi Company. He was also heavily influenced by prior economists, especially William Petty.
This work is considered the first complete treatise on economics, with numerous contributions to the science. These contributions include: his cause and effect methodology, monetary theories, his conception of the entrepreneur as a risk-bearer, and the development of spatial economics. Cantillon's work had significant influence on the early development of political economy, including the works of Adam Smith, Anne Turgot, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frédéric Bastiat and François Quesnay.French Liberal School
The French Liberal School (also called the "Optimist School" or "Orthodox School") is a 19th-century school of economic thought that was centered on the Collège de France and the Institut de France. The Journal des Économistes was instrumental in promulgating the ideas of the School. Key thinkers include Frédéric Bastiat, Jean-Baptiste Say, Antoine Destutt de Tracy, and Gustave de Molinari.
The School voraciously defended free trade and laissez-faire capitalism. They were primary opponents of collectivist, interventionist and protectionist ideas. This made the French School a forerunner of the modern Austrian School.Geolibertarianism
Geolibertarianism is a political and economic ideology that integrates libertarianism with Georgism (alternatively geoism or geonomics), most often associated with left-libertarianism or the radical center.Geolibertarians hold that geographical space and raw natural resources—any assets that qualify as land by economic definition—are rivalrous goods to be considered common property or more accurately unowned, which all individuals share an equal human right to access, not capital wealth to be privatized fully and absolutely. Therefore, landholders must pay compensation according to the rental value decided by the free market, absent any improvements, to the community for the civil right of usufruct (that is, legally recognized exclusive possession with restrictions on property abuse) or otherwise fee simple title with no such restrictions. Ideally, the taxing of a site would be administered only after it has been determined that the privately captured economic rent from the land exceeds the title-holder's equal share of total land value in the jurisdiction. On this proposal, rent is collected not for the mere occupancy or use of land as neither the community nor the state rightfully owns the commons, but rather as an objectively assessed indemnity due for the legal right to exclude others from that land. Some geolibertarians also support Pigovian taxes on pollution and severance taxes to regulate natural resource depletion and compensatory fees with ancillary positive environmental effects on activities which negatively impact land values. They endorse the standard right-libertarian view that each individual is naturally entitled to the fruits of their labor as exclusive private property as opposed to produced goods being owned collectively by society or by the government acting to represent society, and that a person's "labor, wages, and the products of labor" should not be taxed. Along with non-Georgists in the libertarian movement, they also support law of equal liberty, advocating "full civil liberties, with no crimes unless there are victims who have been invaded".Geolibertarians are generally influenced by the Georgist single tax movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, but the ideas behind it pre-date Henry George and can be found in different forms in the writings of John Locke, the English True Levellers or Diggers such as Gerrard Winstanley, the French Physiocrats (particularly Quesnay and Turgot), Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frédéric Bastiat, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer and Thomas Spence. Prominent geolibertarians since George have included Albert Jay Nock, Frank Chodorov and Milton Friedman(on consequentialist grounds). Other libertarians who have expressed support for the land value tax as an incremental reform include John Hospers, Karl Hess and United States Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan.Gustave de Molinari
Gustave de Molinari (French: [də mɔlinari]; 3 March 1819 – 28 January 1912) was a Belgian political economist and classical liberal theorist born in Liège, Wallonia associated with French laissez-faire economists such as Frédéric Bastiat and Hippolyte Castille.Harmonies of Political Economy
Harmonies of Political Economy is an 1850 book by the French classical liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat, in which the author applauds the power and ingenuity of the intricate social mechanism, "every atom of which ... is an animated thinking being, endued with marvelous energy, and with that principle of all morality, all dignity, all progress, the exclusive attribute of man - LIBERTY." While it is regarded as Bastiat's magnum opus, it was incomplete when it was published.In the book, Bastiat writes of "the measureless disproportion" between what each of us contributes to society and what each of us receives in return. The American economist Amasa Walker commented that, "Of all the writers on the subject, no one seems to have been more full and clear in the definition and illustration of value" than Bastiat, in the distinction he draws in Economic Harmonies between value and utility.Bastiat dedicated Harmonies of Political Economy to the youth of France.Hippolyte Castille
Hippolyte Castille (8 November 1820, Montreuil-sur-Mer – 26 September 1886, Luc-sur-Mer) was a French writer and polemicist.
Castille wrote in collaboration with Frédéric Bastiat and Gustave de Molinari. Among his works are the Portraits historiques du dix-neuvième siècle, with portraits of the likes of Chateaubriand, Baroche and Lamartine, among many others. He also wrote about Napoleon III.Journal des économistes
The Journal des Économistes was a nineteenth-century French academic journal on political economy. It was founded in 1841 and published by Gilbert Guillaumin (1801 - 1864). Among its editors were Gustave de Molinari and Yves Guyot. It featured contributions of Léon Walras, Frédéric Bastiat, Charles Renouard and Vilfredo Pareto, among many other eminent economists. The publication of the journal was halted just after the start of the Second World War, in March/April 1940.Legal plunder
Legal plunder, is the act of appropriating, under the laws, the property of others. This was coined by Frédéric Bastiat, most famously in his 1850 book The Law. It has since become a concept in libertarian thought, and has been used similarly by others, including Daniel Lord Smail.Today it is the appropriation of the assets of another person by power groups through rules of public law that violate the principle of equality and the Constitution.
Throughout history there are many examples of legal plunder as the political and economic regimes that have followed: partial legal plunder are the result of tyranny and protectionism or universal legal plunder the result of socialism or communism.List of liberal theorists
Individual contributors to classical liberalism and political liberalism are associated with philosophers of the Enlightenment. Liberalism as a specifically named ideology begins in the late 18th century as a movement towards self-government and away from aristocracy. It included the ideas of self-determination, the primacy of the individual and the nation, as opposed to the state and religion, as being the fundamental units of law, politics and economy.
Since then liberalism has broadened to include a wide range of approaches from Americans Ronald Dworkin, Richard Rorty, John Rawls and Francis Fukuyama as well as the Indian Amartya Sen and the Peruvian Hernando de Soto. Some of these people moved away from liberalism, while others espoused other ideologies before turning to liberalism. There are many different views of what constitutes liberalism, and some liberals would feel that some of the people on this list were not true liberals. It is intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive. Theorists whose ideas were mainly typical for one country should be listed in that country's section of liberalism worldwide. Generally only thinkers are listed, politicians are only listed when they, beside their active political work, also made substantial contributions to liberal theory.Making Our Economy Right
Making Our Economy Right (MOER) is a free market think tank in Bangladesh. Headquartered in Dhaka, the institute was established in 1991 by Nizam Ahmad. MOER is sponsored by the Atlas Foundation in the United States. Deroy Murdock, an American libertarian syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, is an advisory board member of MOER.As a result of dictatorships and Fabian socialism, which was the basis of Bangladesh's economy for more than 50 years, the concept of individual freedom and free markets is at a rudimentary stage in the country. For this reason, Bangladesh's topmost economists, politicians, businesspeople, and journalists who previously encouraged MOER's work gradually became sceptical of the idea of free markets. Consequently, the theory of free markets advocated by MOER is considered extreme in Bangladesh and the institute has not gained widespread support. Its support base is those people who philosophically believe in individual liberty and personal choice. Much of the work of MOER soon after its establishment focused on spreading the idea of individual freedom, which was almost unknown in the nation.The annual budget of MOER is US$3,000 to US$5,000. Staff of the institute publish articles advocating free market and libertarianism in national newspapers. MOER has published books both in Bengali and in English languages for free distribution to libraries with the help of the International Policy Network (IPN) headquartered in London. The think tank has published Bengali translation of classical liberal and libertarian works including The Law by French economist Claude Frédéric Bastiat and publications of libertarian think tanks in the west. MOER also moderates a weekly radio broadcast advocating liberalisation of Bangladesh's economy. In 2002 MOER published the book Clamoring for Free Market Freedom in Bangladesh which is a compilation of essays by its founder Nizam Ahmad. It is the fourth book published by the institute and has a foreword by Milton Friedman, Chicago School economist and recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.Parable of the broken window
The parable of the broken window was introduced by French economist Frédéric Bastiat in his 1850 essay "Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas" ("That Which We See and That Which We Do Not See") to illustrate why destruction, and the money spent to recover from destruction, is not actually a net benefit to society.
The parable seeks to show how opportunity costs, as well as the law of unintended consequences, affect economic activity in ways that are unseen or ignored. The belief that destruction is good for the economy is consequently known as the broken window fallacy or glazier's fallacy.Sisyphism
Sisyphism is a term used by French classical liberal theorist, political economist, and member of the French assembly, Frédéric Bastiat to ridicule those that think that greater productivity causes poverty by increasing unemployment. The term derives form Sisyphus, the mythological king of Ephyra, punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.The Law (book)
The Law (French: La Loi) is an 1850 book by Frédéric Bastiat. It was written at Mugron two years after the third French Revolution and a few months before his death of tuberculosis at age 49. The essay was influenced by John Locke's Second Treatise on Government and in turn influenced Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. It is the work for which Bastiat is most famous along with The candlemaker's petition and the Parable of the broken window.Voluntaryism
Voluntaryism (UK: , US: ; sometimes voluntarism ) is a philosophy which holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary, a term coined in this usage by Auberon Herbert in the 19th century, and gaining renewed use since the late 20th century, especially among libertarians. Its principal beliefs stem from the non-aggression principle.
Austrian School economists