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
The Tax Collector
Second Series, Chapter 10
CLODPATE, a Tax Collector.
CLODPATE: You have laid in twenty tuns of wine?
JAMES GOODFELLOW: Yes, by dint of much toil and sweat.
C.: Be so kind as to give me six of the best.
J.G.: Six tuns out of twenty! Good heavens! You’re trying to ruin me. And, if you please, what do you intend to do with them?
C.: The first will be given to the creditors of the state. When one has debts, the very least one can do is to pay the interest on them.
J.G.: And what has become of the principal?
C.: That would take too long to tell. A part of it was once invested in cartridges, which produced the most beautiful smoke in the world. Another part went to pay those who became crippled in foreign lands that they had laid waste. Then, when these expenditures of ours led to an invasion of our land by our good friends, the enemy, they were unwilling to leave without taking away some money, which we had to borrow.
J.G.: And what benefit do I derive from it today?
C.: The satisfaction of saying:
How proud I am to be a Frenchman
When I behold the triumphal column!
J.G.: And the humiliation of leaving to my heirs an estate burdened with a rent that they will have to pay for all time to come. Still, one really must pay one’s debts, however foolishly the money may have been spent. So much for one tun. But what about the other five?
C.: One is required to pay for government services, the civil list, the judges who see to it that you get back the bit of land your neighbor tries to appropriate for himself, the policemen who drive away robbers while you are asleep, the road mender who maintains the highway leading to the city, the parish priest who baptizes your children, the teacher who educates them, and your humble servant, who does not work for nothing either.
J.G.: That’s fair enough. Service for service. I have nothing to say against that. I’d just as soon make my own arrangements directly with my parish priest and my schoolmaster; but I do not insist on it. So much for the second tun. That’s still a long way from six.
C.: Do you feel that two tuns are too much for your contribution toward the expenses of the army and the navy?
J.G.: Alas, that’s very little, considering what they have cost me already; for they have taken from me two sons, whom I loved dearly.
C.: It is absolutely essential to maintain the balance of power in Europe.
J.G.: Good heavens! The balance of power would be quite as well maintained if the armed forces of every country were reduced by one-half or three-fourths. We should then be able to keep our children and the fruits of our labor. It would take no more than mutual understanding.
C.: Yes; but that is precisely what is lacking.
J.G.: That is what astonishes me. After all, everybody suffers from it.
C.: You have only yourself to blame, James Goodfellow.
J.G.: You are joking, Mr. Tax Collector. Do I have any voice in the matter?
C.: Whom did you support for deputy?
J.G.: A gallant army general who will soon be a marshal if God spares him.
C.: And what does this gallant general live on?
J.G.: My tuns, I presume.
C.: And what would happen to him if he voted for a reduction in the army and in your share of the tax?
J.G.: Instead of being made a marshal, he would be obliged to retire.
C.: So you understand now why you have only yourself….
J.G.: Let’s go on to the fifth tun, if you please.
C.: That one goes off to Algeria.
J.G.: To Algeria? And yet we are assured that all Moslems are averse to wine-drinking, the savages! I have often wondered whether they know nothing of Médoc because they are infidels, or whether, as is more likely, they are infidels because they know nothing of Médoc. Besides, what services do they perform for me in exchange for this nectar that has cost me so much labor?
C.: None; but, then, it is not intended for Moslems, but for some good Christians who spend all their time in Barbary.
J.G.: And what do they do there that could be useful to me?
C.: They carry out raids, and are attacked in their turn by raiders; they kill and are killed; they catch dysentery, and come home to be cured; they dredge harbors, open up roads, build villages and people them with Maltese, Italians, Spaniards, and Swiss, who will live off your tun and many another that I’ll come back to ask you for.
J.G.: Heaven help me! This is too much. I flatly refuse to give you my tun. Any vineyardist who would be guilty of such folly would be sent to Bicêtre.
48* Open up roads through the Atlas Mountains—good God! When I cannot leave my own farm for lack of a road! Dredge harbors in Barbary, when the Garonne is silting up all the time! Deprive me of my beloved children and send them to harass the Kabyles!
49* Make me pay for houses, seed, and horses to be handed over to the Greeks and the Maltese, when there are so many poor people right here at home!
C.: The poor! That’s just it; we are relieving the country of this
J.G.: To be sure, by sending after them to Algeria the funds that would support them here!
C.: And then you are laying the foundations of a
great empire; you are bringing
civilization to Africa; you are crowning your fatherland with immortal glory.
J.G.: You are a poet, Mr. Tax Collector; but I am just a vineyardist, and I refuse.
C.: Just think that in a few thousand years you will get back your investment a hundredfold. That is what those who have charge of the enterprise are saying.
J.G.: Meanwhile, they first asked for only a puncheon of wine to defray the expenses, then two, then three, and here I am being taxed a whole tun!
50* I persist in my refusal.
C.: It is too late for that. Your
legislative representative has agreed that your share of the tax shall be one tun or four full puncheons.
J.G.: That is but too true. What confounded weakness on my part! It seemed foolish to me, too, to choose him to represent me, for what can there be in common between an army general and a poor vineyardist?
C.: You see very well that you do have something in common, were it only the wine that you are laying in and that he is voting himself in your name.
J.G.: You may well laugh at me, Mr. Tax Collector; I deserve it. But be reasonable. Leave me at least the sixth tun. The interest on the national debt has been paid, the civil list provided for, the government services assured, and the war in Africa extended into perpetuity. What more do you want?
C.: You won’t get anywhere haggling with me. You should have told the general your desires. Now he has disposed of your vintage.
J.G.: Damned Bonapartist relic! But what do you expect to do with this poor tun, the best of my stock? Come, just taste this wine. How mellow it is, how rich, how full-bodied, how smooth, how choice!
C.: Excellent! Delicious! It will be just to the taste of M. D…. , the textile manufacturer.
J.G.: Of M. D…., the manufacturer? What do you mean?
C.: That he’ll make good use of it.
J.G.: In what way? What are you talking about? Devil take me if I understand you!
C.: Don’t you know that M. D…. has started a splendid establishment which, though highly useful to the country, still incurs a considerable financial loss every year?
J.G.: My heart bleeds for him. But what can I do about it?
C.: The Chamber has come to the conclusion that if things go on like this, M. D….will either have to operate more efficiently or close his mill.
J.G.: But what do the ill-advised and unprofitable business ventures of M. D….have to do with my tun of wine?
C.: The Chamber thought that if it turned over to M. D…. a little wine from your cellar, a few hectoliters of wheat from your neighbors, and one or two sous cut from the workers’ wages, his losses might be converted into profits.
J.G.: The recipe is as infallible as it is ingenious. But confound it! It is terribly unfair. What! Is M. D…. to recoup his losses by taking my wine from me?
C.: Not exactly the wine, but its price. This is what we call an
incentive subsidy, or bounty. But you look so amazed! Do you not see what a great service you are rendering to your fatherland?
J.G.: You mean to M. D….?
C.: To the fatherland. M. D….assures us that, thanks to this arrangement, his business is flourishing; and this, he says, is how the country is enriched. That is what he has been saying recently in the Chamber, of which he is a member.
J.G.: It’s an outright fraud! What! Some incompetent goes into a foolish enterprise and dissipates his capital; and if he can extort enough wine or wheat from me to make good his losses and even to leave him a profit besides, this is regarded as a gain for the whole country!
C.: Since your
representative has come to that conclusion, you have no choice but to hand over to me the six tuns of wine and sell the fourteen tuns that I leave you for as good a price as you can get.
J.G.: That is my business.
C.: The thing is, you see, that it would be most regrettable if you did not get a high price for them.
J.G.: I shall see to that.
C.: For there are many things that this price must take care of.
J.G.: I know, sir. I am aware of that.
C.: In the first place, if you buy iron to make new spades and plows, a law decrees that you shall pay the ironmaster twice what it is worth.
J.G.: But is not this precisely what happens in the Black Forest?
C.: Then, if you need oil, meat, cloth, coal, wool or sugar, each by law will cost you twice what it is worth.
J.G.: But this is horrible, frightful, abominable!
C.: What good are these complaints? You yourself, through your
legally authorized representative . . . .
J.G.: Leave my representative out of this. I have made a strange choice, it is true. But I will not be imposed upon again, and I shall be represented by some good, honest peasant.
C.: Bah! You’ll re-elect the gallant general.
J.G.: I re-elect the general, to have my wine distributed among Africans and manufacturers?
C.: You will re-elect him, I tell you.
J.G.: That’s going a little too far. I will not re-elect him if I do not want to.
C.: But you will want to, and you will re-elect him.
J.G.: Just let him come here and try for election. He will soon see whom he has to deal with.
C.: Well, we shall see. Farewell. I am taking your six tuns and am going to distribute them as the general has decided.
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