Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Man Who Focused on What Could Not Be Seen

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

I have a new article on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation on, "Economic Ideas: Frederic Bastiat and the Law of Liberty and Free Markets."

There have been few proponents of human liberty and free markets who have been as clear, concise, and convincing as the nineteenth century French classical liberal, Frederic Bastiat. With wit, satire and unrelenting logic, Bastiat had a unique talent for demonstrating the flaws and fallacies in the arguments of socialists, interventionists and the welfare statists of his day.

He is probably best known for his essay, “The Law,” in which he demonstrates the logic of liberty based on the idea of each individual’s natural right to his life, freedom and peacefully acquired property, and why the only moral and economically effective means of human cooperation is that of voluntary association in free exchange.

But he is equally renowned for his famous essay, “What is Seen and What is Not Seen,” in which he tears asunder the error in only focusing on the immediate and seemingly beneficial benefits or gains from various forms of government spending, redistribution or anti-competitive protectionism. The more essential task, Bastiat insists and eloquently explains, is to see the secondary or less immediate consequences that follow from these types of government interferences with the workings of the open, free market.

Bastiat’s writing style and method of reasoning to the fundamental basis of things makes his writings, though written more than 150 years ago, have a relevancy and realism that makes them far more worth reading today than most of what passes for economic reasoning on contemporary policy issues.



  1. Bastiat - Amazing! Of course Hazlitt's interpretation (Economics in one Lesson) is great.
    I used some Bastiat in a discussion with an American non-thinker just two days ago. Being from San Diego (a military town), he praised Trump's promise of more money for the M.I.C. because that would provide more JOBS! I reminded him that the Gummint does NOT create wealth and that any money that went to MORE JOBS had first to be taken from the private economy where it would have provided MANY MORE JOBS.

  2. To repeat a quote, Robert Novak, The Prince of Darkness, "The Reagan Revolution":, p. 367:

    "...[Reagan] also said, "Bastiat has dominated my thinking so much." Bastiat? Rowley and I had to look him up. Claude Frederick Bastiat (1801 - 1850)was a French political economist who preached against protectionism and socialism..."