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
Subordinate Labor Council
Second Series, Chapter 4
“What! You have the effrontery to demand for all citizens the right to buy, sell, barter, and exchange, to render and receive service for service, and settle on the price among themselves, on the sole condition that they carry on these transactions honestly and pay their taxes? What are you trying to do—deprive workingmen of their jobs, their wages, and their bread?”
This is what people say to us. I know what to think of it myself, but I wanted to know what the workers themselves think of it.
I had at hand an excellent instrument of inquiry.
It was not one of those
supreme industrial councils, where big landlords who call themselves farmers, influential shipowners who think of themselves as sailors, and wealthy stockholders who pretend to be laborers, practice their well-known form of humanitarianism.
No; it was bona fide workingmen,
real workingmen, as they say today—joiners, carpenters, masons, tailors, shoemakers, dyers, blacksmiths, innkeepers, grocers, etc., etc.—who in my village have established a
I transformed it, by my own personal authority, into a
subordinate labor council, and I obtained from it a report that is worth quite as much as any other, though it is not crammed with figures and inflated to the dimensions of a quarto volume printed at government expense.
My aim was to interrogate these good people in regard to the way in which they are, or think they are, affected by the policy of protectionism. The president pointed out to me that this would violate to some extent the principles on which the
association was founded. For, in France, in this land of freedom, people who
associate give up their right to discuss
politics—that is, to take counsel together concerning their common interests. However, after a great deal of hesitation, he agreed to put the question on the agenda.
The council was divided into as many committees as there were groups representing different trades. Each was given a form to be filled out after fifteen days of discussion.
On the designated day, the venerable president took the chair (we are adopting the official style, for in fact it was nothing more than an ordinary kitchen chair), and took from the table (official style again, for it was a table of poplar wood) about fifteen reports, which he read one after another.
The first one submitted was that of the
tailors. Here is an exact and authentic copy of its text:
|EFFECTS OF PROTECTION—REPORT OF THE TAILORS|
As a result of the policy of protectionism, we are paying more for bread, meat, sugar, wood, needles, thread, etc., which is equivalent in our case to a considerable loss of income.
As a result of the policy of protectionism, our customers also pay more for everything, which leaves them less to spend on clothing. This means less business for us, and therefore smaller profits.
As a result of the policy of protectionism, cloth is expensive, so that people put off buying clothes for a longer time and make do with what they have. This again means less business for us and compels us to offer our services at a lower price.
|* In spite of all our efforts, we found it impossible to discover any respect whatsoever in which the policy of protectionism is of advantage to our business.|
Here is another report:
|EFFECTS OF PROTECTION—REPORT OF THE BLACKSMITHS|
|1. Every time we eat, drink, heat our homes, and buy clothing, the policy of protectionism imposes on us a tax that never reaches the treasury.||None.|
|2. It imposes a similar tax on all our fellow citizens who are not blacksmiths; and since they have that much less money, most of them use wooden pegs for nails and a piece of string for a latch, which deprives us of employment.|
|3. It keeps iron at such a high price that it is not used on farms for plows, gates, or balconies; and our craft, which could provide employment for so many people who need it, does not provide us even with enough for ourselves.|
|4. The revenue that the tax collector fails to realize from duties on foreign goods
that are not imported into the country is added to the tax we pay on salt and postage.
As the same refrain recurs in all the other reports, I spare the reader their perusal. Gardeners, carpenters, shoemakers, clogmakers, boatmen, millers—all gave vent to the same grievances.
I regret that there were no farmers in our association. Their report would certainly have been very instructive.
But alas, in our section—the Landes
16*—the poor farmers,
well protected though they are, do not have a sou, and after they have insured their livestock, they themselves lack the means of joining a
mutual-aid society. The alleged benefits of protection do not prevent them from being the pariahs of our social order. What shall I say of the vineyardists?
What I find particularly noteworthy is the good sense which our villagers showed in perceiving not only the direct injury that the policy of protectionism inflicts on them, but also the indirect injury that, after first affecting their customers, rebounds upon them.
This, I said to myself, is what the economists of the
Moniteur industriel apparently do not understand.
And perhaps those—the farmers in particular—whose eyes are dazzled by a little protection would be willing to give it up if they could see this side of the question.
Perhaps they would say to themselves: “It is better to support oneself by one’s own efforts and have customers who are well off than to be
protected and have customers who are impoverished.”
For to seek to enrich each industry in turn by creating a void around one after another is as futile an endeavor as trying to leap over one’s own shadow.
Economic Sophisms, several chapters of which had been published in the
Journal des économistes and the newspaper,
Le Libre échange, appeared at the end of January 1848.—EDITOR.]
Second Series, Chapter 1
(Economic Harmonies, chap. 18) affecting the harmony of natural laws.—EDITOR.]
Discourse on Inequality by J. J. Rousseau (1712-1778), a French philosopher. Bastiat was so impressed it that he referred to it five times in his
Selected Essays on Political Economy, chap. 5, “The State,” and chap. 2, “The Law,” and
Economic Harmonies, chap. 17, “Private and Public Services.”—EDITOR.]
Economic Harmonies, chap. 5, note 2, accompanying the analysis of Adam Smith’s theory of value.—EDITOR.]
Selected Essays on Political Economy, chap. 5, “The State”; Vol. II (of the French edition), “Disastrous Illusions,” and Vol. VI (of the French edition), the final pages of chap. 4.—EDITOR.]
Second Series, Chapter 2
Familiar Quotations has it: “Had I been present at the Creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.”—TRANSLATOR.]
Tartuffe, or the Impostor, Tartuffe is the scheming hypocrite, and Orgon his well-meaning dupe.—TRANSLATOR.]
Second Series, Chapter 3
Second Series, Chapter 4
Second Series, Chapter 5
Le Libre échange, issue of July 25, 1847.—EDITOR.]
Considérations d’économie politique sur la bienfaisance (1836). He collaborated with Pierre Leroux and others in editing
Le Globe, a political and literary review, served as a cabinet minister under the July monarchy, and was one of the promoters of the tariff reform of 1834.—TRANSLATOR.]
Le Libre échange of August 1, 1847, the author presented an exposition of this topic that we deem worthy of reprinting here.—EDITOR.]
Second Series, Chapter 6