By Frédéric Bastiat
Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist, statesman, and author. He was the leader of the free-trade movement in France from its inception in 1840 until his untimely death in 1850. The first 45 years of his life were spent in preparation for five tremendously productive years writing in favor of freedom. Bastiat was the founder of the weekly newspaper
Le Libre Échange, a contributor to numerous periodicals, and the author of sundry pamphlets and speeches dealing with the pressing issues of his day. Most of his writing was done in the years directly before and after the Revolution of 1848—a time when France was rapidly embracing socialism. As a deputy in the Legislative Assembly, Bastiat fought valiantly for the private property order, but unfortunately the majority of his colleagues chose to ignore him. Frédéric Bastiat remains one of the great champions of freedom whose writings retain their relevance as we continue to confront the old adversary.
Arthur Goddard, trans., trans.
First Pub. Date
Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc.
Introduction by Henry Hazlitt
The text of this edition is under copyright
- About the Author
- Preface to the English-Language Edition, by Arthur Goddard
- Introduction, by Henry Hazlitt
- S.1, Author's Introduction to the French Edition
- S.1, Ch.1, Abundance and Scarcity
- S.1, Ch.2, Obstacle and Cause
- S.1, Ch.3, Effort and Result
- S.1, Ch.4, Equalizing the Conditions of Production
- S.1, Ch.5, Our Products Are Burdened with Taxes
- S.1, Ch.6, The Balance of Trade
- S.1, Ch.7, A Petition
- S.1, Ch.8, Differential Tariffs
- S.1, Ch.9, An Immense Discovery
- S.1, Ch.10, Reciprocity
- S.1, Ch.11, Money Prices
- S.1, Ch.12, Does Protectionism Raise Wage Rates
- S.1, Ch.13, Theory and Practice
- S.1, Ch.14, Conflict of Principles
- S.1, Ch.15, Reciprocity Again
- S.1, Ch.16, Obstructed Rivers as Advocates for the Protectionists
- S.1, Ch.17, A Negative Railroad
- S.1, Ch.18, There Are No Absolute Principles
- S.1, Ch.19, National Independence
- S.1, Ch.20, Human vs. Mechanical Labor and Domestic vs. Foreign Labor
- S.1, Ch.21, Raw Materials
- S.1, Ch.22, Metaphors
- S.1, Ch.23, Conclusion
- S.2, Ch.1, The Physiology of Plunder
- S.2, Ch.2, Two Systems of Ethics
- S.2, Ch.3, The Two Hatchets
- S.2, Ch.4, Subordinate Labor Council
- S.2, Ch.5, High Prices and Low Prices
- S.2, Ch.6, To Artisans and Laborers
- S.2, Ch.7, A Chinese Tale
- S.2, Ch.8, Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
- S.2, Ch.9, Robbery by Subsidy
- S.2, Ch.10, The Tax Collector
- S.2, Ch.11, The Utopian
- S.2, Ch.12, Salt, the Postal Service, and the Tariff
- S.2, Ch.13, Protectionism, or the Three Aldermen
- S.2, Ch.14, Something Else
- S.2, Ch.15, The Little Arsenal of the Freetrader
- S.2, Ch.16, The Right Hand and the Left
- S.2, Ch.17, Domination through Industrial Superiority
by Arthur Goddard
Preface to the
Ever since the advent of representative government placed the ultimate power to direct the administration of public affairs in the hands of the people, the primary instrument by which the few have managed to plunder the many has been the sophistry that persuades the victims that they are being robbed for their own benefit. The public has been despoiled of a great part of its wealth and has been induced to give up more and more of its freedom of choice because it is unable to detect the error in the delusive sophisms by which protectionist demagogues, national socialists, and proponents of government planning exploit its gullibility and its ignorance of economics.
It was with the aim of exposing the most influential and widespread of these economic fallacies that Bastiat began, in 1844, to contribute to the
Journal des économistes the brilliant succession of essays that comprise the present volume. The first series appeared in book form in 1845; and the second series, three years later. Increasingly in the years that have elapsed since their first publication, these essays have come to be recognized as among the most cogent and persuasive refutations of the major fallacies of protectionism—fallacies that are still with us today and that will continue to crop up as long as the public remains uninstructed: “The introduction of machinery means fewer jobs”; “Protective tariffs keep domestic wages high”; “We need laws to equalize the conditions of production”; “Imports must be restricted to restore the balance of trade”; “High prices mean a high standard of living”; “There are no economic laws or absolute principles”; “We need colonies to provide markets for the products of our industry”; “Free trade places us at the mercy of our enemies in case of war”; etc., etc. The great lesson which all these essays teach, in one form or another, is the necessity of always looking at economic questions from the point of view of the consumer, rather than that of the producer.
What gives this work its unique quality and places it among the classics of economic literature is not only the logical rigor with which each fallacy is demolished, but the highly original and striking way in which the author uses wit, irony, satire, dialogue, and apologue to reduce erroneous ideas to patent absurdity, as, for example, in his famous and often separately translated petition of the candlemakers for protection against the competition of the sun.
In preparing the present translation, I have had the opportunity of consulting, and have occasionally availed myself of the wording, of an earlier, unpublished version, as well as of some explanatory notes, produced by a different translator, to whom I should have been glad to give here the credit due him had he not stipulated that his name not be mentioned. The present version is based on a careful comparison with the French texts—
Œuvres complètes, ed. by P. Paillotet (Paris: Guillaumin et Cie., 1854-64), vols. IV and V, and
Mélanges d’économie politique (Brussels: Meline, Cans, et Cie., 1851), I, 1-232. I have sought to make the wording and style of this translation conform, so far as possible, to the terminology used in the two other works of Bastiat,
Selected Essays on Political Economy and
Economic Harmonies, also newly translated for this series, and to the usage customary in books on economics written in the English language. At the same time, every effort has been made to assist the reader to understand the topical and other allusions of the French text by the addition of translator’s notes, wherever it has been at all possible to provide them. So labeled, these have been enclosed in brackets and placed, for convenience, at the bottom of the pages where the items to which they make reference appear. The notes of the French editor, likewise enclosed in brackets, appear at the back of the book, where they are labeled merely “Editor,” together with Bastiat’s own notes, which stand without brackets or label.
* Where the French editor has indicated a cross reference to an essay included in the volume of selected essays being published in this series, or to a chapter or passage in
Economic Harmonies, the original reference to the French edition has been replaced by one directing the reader to the English translation.
* Each footnote is marked in the text by a colored-coded superscript and in this footnote file according to its authorship as follows:
- The author’s original notes, color-coded red in the text, are unbracketed and unlabeled below.
- The French editor’s notes, color-coded purple in the text, are bracketed and labeled “EDITOR” below.
- The translator’s notes, color-coded blue in the text, are bracketed and labeled “TRANSLATOR” below.
Notes to “Introduction,” by Henry Hazlitt.
Notes to “Author’s Introduction to the French Edition.”