Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Why Frédéric Bastiat Still Matters


 Some freebies above. 

 Yesterday marked the 214th anniversary of Frédéric Bastiat’s birthday on June 30, 1801, in Bayonne, France. One of the seminal thinkers of the classical liberal tradition, Bastiat made great contributions to the field of political economy, laying many of the foundations for the later school of Austrian economics. Both a politician and a writer, Bastiat penned numerous books and essays on political economy and how its principles could be applied to mid-19th century France, writing with his razor-sharp wit and renowned rhetorical flair. While his works pertain to post-Napoleonic France, they carry important lessons for our nation’s leaders, politicians, and economists.

One of Bastiat’s most important lessons appears in That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, where Bastiat applied his careful method of logical procession to economic questions. In this work, he examines the same topics that are commonly misunderstood by contemporary politicians: military spending, taxes, the economic benefits of saving, and mechanization, among others. In each examination, he demonstrates that the economist or policy maker must look beyond the apparent to understand the true effects of a policy, showing in every case that the arguments for government intervention are inherently flawed. If one were to apply this method to the argument for raising the minimum wage to $15, for example, one would see that the unseen effects, the firing of low-skill workers and increased prices, are damaging. It is this logical method that informed many in the Austrian school of thought and formed the foundation of Henry Hazlitt’s seminal Economics in One Lesson, which is a more thorough investigation of Bastiat’s principle.

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