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Frédéric Bastiat

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Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist, legislator, and writer who championed private property, free markets, and limited government. Perhaps the main underlying theme of Bastiat's writings was that the free market was inherently a source of "economic harmony" among individuals, as long as government was restricted to the function of protecting the lives, liberties, and property of citizens from theft or aggression. To Bastiat, governmental coercion was only legitimate if it served "to guarantee security of person, liberty, and property rights, to cause justice to reign over all."

Bastiat emphasized the plan-coordination function of the free market, a major theme of the Austrian School, because his thinking was influenced by some of Adam Smith's writings and by the great French free-market economists Jean-Baptiste Say, Francois Quesnay, Destutt de Tracy, Charles Comte, Richard Cantillon (who was born in Ireland and emigrated to France), and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot. These French economists were among the precursors to the modern Austrian School, having first developed such concepts as the market as a dynamic, rivalrous process, the free-market evolution of money, subjective value theory, the laws of diminishing marginal utility and marginal returns, the marginal productivity theory of resource pricing, and the futility of price controls in particular and of the government's economic interventionism in general.

According to Rothbard, Bastiat was 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."[1]

Works[edit]

Bastiat was the author of many works on economics and political economy, generally characterized by their clear organization, forceful argumentation, and acerbic wit. Among his better known works is Economic Sophisms,[2] which contains many strongly-worded attacks on statist policies. Bastiat wrote it while living in England to advise the shapers of the French Republic on pitfalls to avoid.

Contained within Economic Sophisms is the famous satirical parable known as the "Candlemakers' petition"[3] which presents itself as a demand from the candlemakers' guild to the French government, asking the government to block out the Sun to prevent its unfair competition with their products. He also facetiously "advocated" the cutting off of everyone's right hand, based on the assumptions that more work means more wealth and more difficulty means more work.[4] Much like Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal or Benjamin Franklin's anti-slavery works, Bastiat's argument cleverly highlights basic flaws in protectionism by demonstrating its absurdity through logical extremes.

He also famously engaged in a debate with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon about the legitimacy of interest between 1849 and 1850.[5]

Bastiat's most famous work, however, is undoubtedly "The Law", originally published as a pamphlet in 1850. It defines, through development, a just system of laws and then demonstrates how such law facilitates a free society.

The broken window fallacy[edit]

Main article: Parable of the broken window

The parable of the broken window was created by Frédéric Bastiat in his 1850 essay Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas ("That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen") to illuminate the notion of hidden costs associated with destroying property of others.

Bastiat uses this story to introduce a concept he calls the broken window fallacy, which is related to the law of unintended consequences, in that both involve an incomplete accounting for the consequences of an action. Economists of the Austrian School frequently cite this fallacy, and Henry Hazlitt devoted to it his book Economics in One Lesson.[6]

References[edit]

  1. Murray N. Rothbard, Classical Economics: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Volume II (1995; Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006), p. 444. Referenced 2011-04-11.
  2. Frédéric Bastiat. "Economic Sophisms", referenced 2009-06-13.
  3. Frédéric Bastiat. "Candlemakers' petition", referenced 2009-06-13.
  4. Frédéric Bastiat. "Economic Sophisms", Series 2, Chapter 14-17, referenced 2009-06-13.
  5. Frédéric Bastiat. "Bastiat-Proudhon Debate on Interest", referenced 2009-06-13.
  6. Henry Hazlitt. "Preface", Economics in One Lesson, online version, referenced 2009-05-15.

Second hand readings[edit]

  • 1851, Prosper Paillottet, "Bastiat", In: Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, Vol. 1, Coquelin and Guillaumin, eds. Paris: Guillaumin, pp145–46
  • 1870, J. E. Cairnes, « Bastiat », Fortnightly Review, 8, pp414 et s.
  • 1878, G. Valbert, « Une correspondance inédite de Frédéric Bastiat », Revue des deux mondes, jan.-fév., p221
  • 1881, Roger de Fontenay, Notice sur la vie et les écrits de Frédéric Bastiat, In: Frédéric Bastiat. OEuvres completes, Paris: Guillaumin, Vol. 1: pp9–52
    • Repris en 1983, In: OEuvres économiques, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, pp25-47
    • Repris en 2001, In: Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas. Choix de Sophismes et de Pamphlets économiques. 2nd ed. Paris: Romillat, pp31–57
  • 1893, H. L. Asser, « Frédéric Bastiat et les néo-économistes autrichiens », Journal des économistes, mars, pp337-346
  • 1901,
    • M. Maurel, « Le centenaire de Frédéric Bastiat », Bulletin de la société d’économie politique, séance du 5 juillet, pp147-148
    • F. Passy, « Le centenaire de Frédéric Bastiat », Bulletin de la société d’économie politique, séance du 5 juillet, p132
  • 1905, G. de Nouvion, Fédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre, ses doctrines. Paris
  • 1906, F. Bidet, F. Bastiat, l’homme, l’économiste. Paris: Giard et Brière
  • 1959, D. Russell, "Frédéric Bastiat and the Free Trade Movement in France and England 1840-1850", Genève, Albert Kundig
  • 1971, George C. Roche, Frédéric Bastiat: A Man Alone, New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House
    • Nouvelle édition en 1977, Hillsdale, Mich.: Hillsdale College Press
    • Nouvelle édition en 1993 avec un nouveau titre, Free Markets, Free Men: Frederic Bastiat, 1801-1850, avec une préface de Dick Armey, Hillsdale, Mich.: Hillsdale College Press et Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education
  • 1987, Robert F. Hébert, “Claude Frédéric Bastiat, New Palgrave Dictionary: A Dictionary of Economics, I. London: Macmillan, and New York: Stockton Press
  • 1988,
    • Pierre Bouyssou, "Frédéric Bastiat : de Sorèze à Sorèze", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • André Cabanis, "Pessimisme et dysharmonies chez Frédéric Bastiat", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Alain Couret, "Défense et illustration de la propriété chez Bastiat", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Jacques Garello, "Intervention", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, "Hommage à Frédéric Bastiat", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Jacques Limouzy, "Bastiat, le parlementaire", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Alain Madelin, "Actualité de Frédéric Bastiat", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Albert Mamy, "Frédéric Bastiat, homme politique", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Henry Sempé, "Actualité ou permanence des réflexions économiques chez Frédéric Bastiat", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
    • Pierre Spiteri, "Justice, fraternité et loi chez Frédéric Bastiat", In: "Un libéral : Frédéric Bastiat", Presses de l’IEP de Toulouse, Rencontres de Sorrèze, 19 et 21 février 1987, ISBN 29038472410
  • 1994, Carlo Lottieri, "Frédéric Bastiat - Gustave de Molinari, Contro lo statalismo", Liberilibri : Macerata, Italie
  • 1997,
    • Detmar Doering, Denker der Freiheit: Frederic Bastiat [Penseur de la liberté : Frédéric Bastiat], St. Augustin
    • Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, Les années de formation de Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1844), Paris: Institut Euro 92
  • 2003, Vincent Valentin, Sur les fondements du libéralisme. Evolutionnisme et droit naturel chez Bastiat et Hayek, Revue française d'histoire des idées politiques, n°17, 1er semestre
  • 2005, Bryan Caplan et Edwin Stringham, « Mises, Bastiat, Public Opinion, and Public Choice », Review of Political Economy, vol 17, n°1, jan., pp79-105
  • 2008, Robert Leroux, Lire Bastiat : Science sociale et libéralisme, Éditions Hermann, 2008, ISBN 2705667156

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