Greetings everyone. I have a tiny Christmas present for you folks. It comes in the form of an e-book about the law and economics. It’s a small pamphlet written during the time of the French Revolution about the evils of authoritarian state control or more specifically – socialism. The link to the e-book is at the bottom of this post.
Claude Frédéric Bastiat (June 30, 1801 – December 24, 1850) was a French classical liberal theorist, political economist, and member of the French assembly. He is buried at San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome
Bastiat can be said to be of the “Harmonic” school of libertarians, who consider utilitarian and natural law arguments as two complementary aspects of a same world. Bastiat did not take part in the anarchist–minarchist debate (arguably, he died too early for that); he seems to have considered the State as something inevitable as far as immediate practical matter — something that ought to be taken into account as long as it existed. However, like all classical liberals, Bastiat maintained a deep distrust of all government, in any form, and worked all his life to demonstrate that government control of private individuals and regulation of private industry was inefficient, economically damaging, and morally wrong. Bastiat asserted that the only purpose of government is to defend the right of an individual to life, liberty, and property. From this definition, Bastiat concluded that the law cannot defend life, liberty and property if it promotes socialist policies inherently opposed to these very things. In this way, he says, the law is perverted and turned against the thing it is supposed to defend
Because of his stress on the role of consumer demand in initiating economic progress, 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 that,
- 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 the field of economics was his admonition to the effect that good economic decisions can only be made 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 consequences. Additionally, one must examine the decision’s effect not only on a single group of people (say candlemakers) or a single industry (say candles), 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.