Bastiat's "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen": Who Says "Meh"?
By Bryan Caplan
Free-market economists almost always love Frederic Bastiat’s classic essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.” But the central theme of the essay – opportunity cost – is hardly ideological. It seems like all economists, regardless of ideology, would be thrilled by the way that Bastiat brings a dry textbook topic to life.
Recently, though, I persuaded one of my favorite liberal economists to read it. His reaction: “Meh.” Which makes me wonder: How many moderate, liberal, or leftist economists love “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”? How many would love it if they read it?
If you classify yourself as a moderate, liberal, or leftist economist, I’m hoping you’ll enlighten me in the comments. How much do you admire Bastiat’s essay? If you don’t love the essay, how does it fall short?
Ideally you’ll carefully read or re-read the piece before responding, but I’ll take what I can get. 🙂