This morning, a colleague and I are conducting a seminar on Frederic Bastiat for homeschooled students. We’re discussing “What is Seen and What is Not Seen,” “A Petition,” “The State,” and “The Law.” In re-reading these essays, I’m struck yet again with the depth of Bastiat’s analysis, the range of his command of economics and legal/moral theory, and his ability to distill complex subjects into easy-to-understand examples.

As I wrote a while ago, I agree with co-blogger Bryan Caplan that “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” is “the pinnacle of economic profundity.”

Yes, the world is a very complex place, and yes, there might be exceptions to some of Bastiat’s insights, but we live in a world in which the median voter has trouble believing that resources are scarce and have alternative uses. Witness the popularity of stadium subsidies, which I’ve addressed here and here for EconLog as well as the claim that popular view that war is good for the economy. As Thomas Sowell put it,

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.

Bastiat is just the corrective we need if we’re going to change the first rule of politics.