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Editor's Introduction to "What Price Pride? On the Hidden Costs of Economic Illiteracy" : David M. Hart
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This month Anthony de Jasay reflects upon the way in which the stubborn pride of farmers and the economic illiteracy of consumers add to the hidden cost of food in Europe. It reminds me of the similar arguments made by the great 19th century free trade advocate, Frédéric Bastiat, in his subtle essay "What is Seen and What is Not Seen" over 150 years ago. What is "seen" is the massive subsidies to European farmers which results in the continued population of the European countryside, the psychological well-being this brings many people who fear the effects of urbanization, and the sense of security of knowing that Europe is "self-sufficient" in food. What is "not seen" is the misallocation of resources and the "missing" economic output which would have resulted had these resources been invested elsewhere than in agriculture. Bastiat was an excellent popularizer of economic ideas and his book Economic Harmonies (1851) and Selected Essays in Political Economy are still worth reading.

 

Frédéric Bastiat, "What is Seen and What is Not Seen" online at Econlib at http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/BasEss1.html

 

Frédéric Bastiat, Economic Harmonies (1851) - online at Econlib at http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/basHar.html

 

Frédéric Bastiat, Selected Essays in Political Economy - online at Econlib at http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/basEss.html

 

Sheldon Richman, "Frederic Bastiat: An Annotated Bibliography" - http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/BastiatBib.html