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
Second Series, Chapter 8
This is the most common and the most deceptive of all fallacies.
Real suffering is taking place in England.
It comes in the train of two other events:
2. Two bad harvests in succession.
To which of these last two circumstances is the first to be attributed?
The protectionists have not failed to cry out: “It is this accursed free trade that is causing all the trouble. It promised us no end of blessings, we accepted it, and here the factories have closed, and the people are suffering:
Cum hoc, ergo propter hoc.”
Free trade distributes in the most uniform and equitable manner the fruits that Providence grants to the labor of man. If some of these fruits are destroyed by a natural disaster, free trade nonetheless ensures the fair distribution of what remains. Men are, no doubt, less well supplied; but should the blame be laid on free trade, or on the natural disaster?
Free trade acts on the same principle as insurance. When a disaster occurs, insurance spreads over a great number of men and a great many years losses that, in its absence, would have had to be borne by one individual all at one time. Now, is one ever justified in saying that fire is no longer a calamity since the introduction of insurance?
In 1842, 1843, and 1844, England began reducing her tariffs. At the same time, her harvests were very abundant; and it is reasonable to conclude that these two circumstances contributed to the unprecedented prosperity that the country enjoyed during this period.
In 1845, the harvest was poor; in 1846, poorer still. As the price of food rose, the people had to spend more of their available resources just to feed themselves, and had to limit their consumption of other commodities accordingly. Clothing was less in demand, factories were not so busy, and wages showed a tendency to decline.
Fortunately, in that same year, the tariff barriers were lowered again, and an enormous quantity of food was able to enter the English market. Otherwise it is almost certain that a frightful revolution would have broken out in Great Britain at that time.
And yet free trade is blamed for disasters that it forestalled and at least partly redressed!
A poor leper was living in solitude. No one wanted to touch anything he had touched. Reduced to providing entirely for himself, he dragged out a miserable existence. One day a great doctor cured him. Now our recluse was able to enjoy all the benefits of
free trade. What a beautiful future was opening up before him! He entertained himself by imagining the excellent use which, thanks to his relations with other men, he would now be able to make of his physical strength. But then he had the misfortune to break both his arms. Alas! Now his lot was more dreadful. The journalists of this country, witnessing his misery, said, “Look at what free trade has reduced him to! Really, he was less to be pitied when he lived as a recluse.”
“Come now,” replied the doctor, “do you take no account of his two broken arms? Have they nothing to do with his sorry plight? His misfortune comes from having lost the use of his arms, and not at all from being cured of leprosy. He would be much more pitiable if he had the use of but one arm and were leprous into the bargain.”
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc; put no faith in that sophism.
Courier français (September 18, 1846), whose columns were opened to the author so that he could reply to the attacks which had appeared in L’Atelier. It was only two months later that the newspaper
Le Libre échange appeared.—EDITOR.]
Second Series, Chapter 7
Écus, obsolete French coins approximating in size the later silver five-franc piece.—TRANSLATOR.]
Second Series, Chapter 8
Le Libre échange, December 6, 1846.—EDITOR.]
Second Series, Chapter 9
Journal des économistes, January, 1846.—EDITOR.]
Le Misanthrope, in which Alceste, the misanthrope, is trying to tell Oronte, a silly nobleman, that a sonnet of Oronte’s is literarily worthless. The problem arises from the fact that Alceste, an upright man, is severely limited by strict rules on his conduct and speech. He is, however, a personal advocate of frankness, so that after several circumlocutions he bursts out with the last line.—TRANSLATOR.]
L’Avare, Harpagon, the miser, asks this question of Élise, his daughter, regarding “marriage.”—TRANSLATOR.]
protected class. This circumstance should disarm criticism. It shows that, if he does use harsh words, they are directed against the thing itself, and not against anyone’s motives.
The Wealth of Nations, Bk. I, chap. x, Pt. II.—TRANSLATOR.]
surtaxes on goods entering under foreign flags. Our tariff laws, as you know, are generally directed toward this end, and, little by little, the surtax of ten francs, established by the law of April 28, 1816, being often insufficient, is disappearing, to give place to…. a form of protection that is more efficacious and more consonant with the relatively
high cost of our shipping.” (M. Cunin-Gridaine, meeting of December 15, 1845, opening statement.) The expression “…. is disappearing” is really precious!
supra, First Series, chap. 5.—EDITOR.]
real de vellón, a base-silver coin, of which there were twenty to the piaster (peso). The
real de plata was presumably sterling and valued at one-eighth of a piaster, which consequently was a “piece of eight.”—TRANSLATOR.]
The Imaginary Invalid (Le Malade imaginaire). Molière says in macaronic Latin: “I give and grant you / Power and authority to / Practice medicine, / Purge, / Bleed, / Stab, / Hack, / Slash, / and Kill / With impunity / Throughout the whole world.”—TRANSLATOR.]
Laissez passer: “allow to pass,” substantially equivalent to
Second Series, Chapter 10
Second Series, Chapter 11