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Laissez faire, free markets, individual liberty, and peace
Economic Sophisms: Introduction, by Henry Hazlitt

Economic Sophisms: Introduction, by Henry Hazlitt

Frédéric Bastiat was born at Bayonne, France, on June 29, 1801. His father was a wholesale merchant, but Frédéric was orphaned at the age of nine and was brought up by his grandfather and his aunt. He seems to have had a good, though not an extraordinary education, which included languages, music, and literature. He began the study of political economy at nineteen and read principally Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say. Bastiat's early life, however, was not primarily that of a scholar. At the age of seventeen he went to work in his uncle's counting-house and spent about six years there. Then he inherited his grandfather's farm at Mugron and became a farmer. He was locally active politically, becoming a juge de paix in 1831 and a member of the conseil général of the Landes in 1832.

The Soul of Liberty — Public Works

The Soul of Liberty — Public Works

When a government decides to employ more inspectors, more teachers, more drivers, etc., it is generally seen as a net gain for society, as it is said to provide jobs while attempting to meet the demand for much needed services. But in most cases that's where the story ends and the negative consequences of this economic interventionism go unconsidered.

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 16. The Last Word

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 16. The Last Word

Bastiat gets the last word in this debate, giving his version of a recap.   The case is heard and the debate is closed, proclaims M. Proudhon, making himself a judge in his own cause. M. Bastiat is condemned … to death. I condemn him in his intelligence; I condemn him in his attention, in his comparisons, in his memory, and in his judgment; I condemn him in his reason; I condemn him in his logic; I condemn him by induction, by syllogism, by contradiction, by identity, and by antinomy. Oh! monsieur Proudhon, you must have been in quite a temper when you cast upon me this cruel anathema! I am reminded of the formula of excommunication: “Cursed be he in living, in dying, in eating, in drinking. Cursed be he within and without. Cursed be he in his hair and in his brain. Cursed be he in his crown, in his eyes, in his ears, in his arms, etc., etc.; cursed be he in his breast and in his heart, in his reins, in his knees, in his legs, in his feet, and in his nails.” Alas! all churches are alike; when they find themselves in the wrong, they…

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 15. Defense of Paper Money

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 15. Defense of Paper Money

Proudhon gives his version of a recap of the conversation thus far, and proclaims that Bastiat’s critiques of paper money have all been refuted by scientific fact. Translated by Benjamin Tucker.   Monsieur Bastiat, your last letter justifies all my anticipations. I knew so well what it would [contain] that, even before I had received La Voix du Peuple of February 4, I had written three-fourths of the reply which you are now to read, and to which I have only to add the finishing touches. You are sincere, Monsieur Bastiat; on that [point] you leave no room for doubt; I have acknowledged it before, and have no desire to retract my words. But it is very necessary for me to tell you that your intellect slumbers, or rather that it has never seen the light: I shall have the honor to demonstrate this fact to you by summing up our controversy. I hope that the sort of psychological consultation at which you are to be present, and of which your own mind is to be the subject, may be to you the beginning of that intellectual education without which a man, whatever dignity of character may distinguish him and…

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 14. Critique of Paper Money

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 14. Critique of Paper Money

Bastiat equates Proudhon’s plan for free credit as no different than the paper money schemes which had previously destroyed the French economy. Translated by Benjamin Tucker.   Sir, you have rendered a signal service to society. Hitherto Gratuity of Credit has hidden itself within the clouds of philosophy, metaphysics, economy, antinomy, and history. By submitting it to the simple test of the account-book you have driven it down from those vague regions; you have stripped it bare before all eyes; everybody can recognize it: it is Paper Money. To multiply and equalize the wealth of the earth by showering paper money upon its surface, – that is the whole of the mystery. That is the conclusum, the ultimatum, and the disideratum of Socialism. Gratuity of Credit is its last word, its last formula, its last endeavor. You have said so a hundred times, and rightly. Others, it is true, define it differently. “He is a Socialist,” said lately La Democratie Pacifique, “who hopes to do some good.” Surely, though the definition is vague, it is at least comprehensive and unusually discreet. Thus defined, Socialism is imperishable. But a desire no more constitutes a science than do a score of contradictory…

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 13. What is Capital?

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 13. What is Capital?

Proudhon explores the nature of capital and claims that profit is illegitimate, attacking Bastiat’s positions.   Sir, you have not deceived me; of this the spirit of honesty and extreme sincerity which shines through every line of your last letter is sufficient evidence. Therefore it is with the most heartfelt joy that I retract my words. But neither have I deceived you; I have not failed, as you charge, in my duty of hospitality. All your letters, according to my promise, have been religiously inserted in La Voix du Peuple without reserve, without reflection, without comment. For my part, I have made the greatest efforts to advance this discussion by some regular method, to this end using now metaphysics, now history, and at last even custom and routine. You alone – and our readers are my witnesses – have resisted all methods whatsoever. Indeed, as to the general tone of our controversy, you admit that the manner in which I have treated you, a defender of Capital, has been envied by those of my co-religionists who are supporting at this moment, in opposition to me, a cause still more fatal than that of Interest, and who, unfortunately, in championing it,…

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 12. Freedom of Credit

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 12. Freedom of Credit

Bastiat brings the issues of freedom and interest together, arguing that freedom of credit does not mean free/gratuitous credit. Translated by Benjamin Tucker.   Sir, you say I have deceived you; no, I have been deceived. Admitted under your roof, to your fireside, here to discuss, surrounded by your own friends, a weighty question, I was at least entitled to believe that, if my arguments fell before your criticism, my person would be held sacred. You neglect my arguments, and characterize my person. – I have been deceived. Writing in your journal, addressing myself to your readers, it was my duty to confine myself strictly to the subject under discussion. I thought that, appreciating the constraint of my position, you would feel bound to impose upon yourself, under your own roof, the same constraint. – I have been deceived. I said to myself: M. Proudhon has an independent mind. Nothing in the world would induce him to fail in the duties of hospitality. But, M. Louis Blanc having shamed you for your politeness towards an economist, you are in reality ashamed. – I have been deceived. Again, I said to myself: The discussion will be a fair one. Has Capital,…

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 11. How to Abolish Interest

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 11. How to Abolish Interest

Proudhon lays some heavy insults on Bastiat, then lays out in full his scheme for the abolition of interest.

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 10. Free Credit

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 10. Free Credit

Bastiat makes a case that abolishing interest and granting free credit as Proudhon wants is nonsensical. Translated by Benjamin Tucker.   Is Gratuity of Credit possible? Is Gratuity of Credit impossible? It is clear that to answer one of these questions is to answer the other. You accuse me of lacking in charity, because I persist in discussing the second. This is my motive: – An inquiry into the possibility of Gratuity of Credit would have drawn me into a discussion of the Bank of the People, the Tax upon Capital, the National Workshops, the Organization of Labor, and, in short, all of the thousand and one means by which each school hopes to realize this Gratuity; whereas, to show that it is impossible, I had only to analyze the essential nature of Capital; that accomplishes my object, and, as I think, yours also. Fifty arguments were offered against Galileo’s theory of the earth–s rotation. Did he need to refute them all? No; he proved that it turned, and all was said. E pur si muove. As an innovater, [sic] you say, you have a right to an examination. Undoubtedly; but first, society, as the defendant, has a right to…

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 9. Usury!

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 9. Usury!

Proudhon explores the theory of exorbitant interest, and replies to Bastiat's hypothetical situations with his own.

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 8. What’s Wrong with Interest?

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 8. What’s Wrong with Interest?

Bastiat challenges Proudhon's very understanding of credit.

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 7. What’s Wrong with Socialism?

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 7. What’s Wrong with Socialism?

Proudhon's second letter is a challenge to Bastiat. He asks what is wrong with the socialist system he proposes: A democratically run bank that issues interest-free credit, and a single tax on all capital.

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 6. Is Interest on Capital Legitimate?

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 6. Is Interest on Capital Legitimate?

The flame war really heats up as Bastiat retaliates with a rejoinder to Proudhon.

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 5. Proudhon Attacks Bastiat

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 5. Proudhon Attacks Bastiat

Proudhon enters the melee with both fists swinging. Translated by Benjamin Tucker.   The object of the Revolution of February, politically and economically, is the realization of absolute liberty for the man and the citizen. The formula of this Revolution, in the political sphere, is the organization of Universal Suffrage, or the absorption of the State in Society; in the economic sphere it is the organization of circulation and credit, or the absorption of the function of the Capitalist in that of the Laborer. Undoubtedly this formula alone does not convey a complete idea of the movement: it is only its starting-point, its aphorism. But it serves to show us the Revolution as it really is to-day; it authorizes us, consequently, to say that the Revolution is and can be nothing else. Every thing that tends to develop the Revolution thus understood, every thing that favors opportunity, whatever its source, is essentially revolutionary; we call it movement. Every thing that is opposed to the application of this idea, every thing that denies or hinders it, whether it be the product of demagogism or of absolutism, we call resistance. If this resistance originates with the Government, or if it acts by…

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 4. Letter to the Editor

Bastiat Debates Proudhon: 4. Letter to the Editor

Bastiat responds in a letter to the editor of Voix du Pueple. Proudhon writes a short introduction to Bastiat’s response when it is published. The two prize fighters touch gloves for the first time. Translated by Benjamin Tucker.   PROUDHON: We publish to-day a first article by M. Frederic Bastiat, a representative of the people, and one of the most distinguished economists of our country, upon the great question of the day, Interest or Rent of capital. We do for M. Bastiat, we will do for any serious economist who will honor us with his criticisms, a thing hitherto unknown in the annals of journalism. We open our columns to our opponent, we publish his article entire, we make no comment upon it, in order not to influence the judgment of our readers, and to equalize the advantages of the controversy between our antagonist and ourselves. It will not be our fault if the question if Interest, which, in the economic order, constitutes the whole object of the socialistic protest of the nineteenth century, is not discussed seriously before the country and before Europe, and probably ere long decided. When the writer’s pen is able to effect or avert a…

Bastiat’s Debate with Proudhon: 3. Voix du Peuple

Bastiat’s Debate with Proudhon: 3. Voix du Peuple

Chevé, an editor of the magazine Voix du Peuple, responds to Bastiat's direct attack on that magazine's philosophy, beginning a flame war that will later include Proudhon.

Bastiat’s Debate with Proudhon: 2. Cursed Money!

Bastiat’s Debate with Proudhon: 2. Cursed Money!

In his essay "Cursed Money!", Bastiat explores the theory of money. This essay will later be targeted by Proudhon in their debate on interest, and it is essential reading in this debate.

The Soul of Liberty — Theaters and Fine Arts

The Soul of Liberty — Theaters and Fine Arts

When a person decides to attend a concert, play, or some other artistic spectacle, it is by choice; and the artist hosting it understands this and does their utmost to entertain the person in order to keep them coming back for more. Art is built upon industry. Industry generates wealth and the arts thrive on it. The artists are not generally parasitical, as long as their audience isn't made captive through government subsidy. Why then is it the government's job to provide this trade with an "endowment" made up of money that has unseen and unacknowledged origins? Some say, "for the cultural enrichment of our nation!" or, "to help the poor and helpless artists." Whether this is true or not is besides the point.

The Soul of Liberty — Taxes

The Soul of Liberty — Taxes

That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen by Frédéric Bastiat   ∇   Foreword by Josh Holden Proposing a world sans taxation is almost as well received today as it was in Bastiat’s time – and by that I mean, not so well at all. Now, like then, many hold fast to the notion of the “impossibility” of a prosperous, peaceful, and humane society without an uninhibited, unquestioned forced transfer of wealth. And why does this belief persist? It cannot be for some lack of imagination on the part of the masses, for it takes a great deal of inventiveness to concoct these dystopian worlds, which are often assumed to go hand in hand with an unchained invisible hand. Although those who hold this view so close to their hearts may claim to be empirical, the evidence for their outlook remains ever unseen. The demand alone for every industry under the sun is evidence enough that someone will be incentivized to meet it – from the state or otherwise. Must it be said that a world without governments and their taxes is not one without supply and demand? Yet, for every government job, program, or project created,…

The Soul of Liberty — The Demobilization

The Soul of Liberty — The Demobilization

That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen by Frédéric Bastiat   ∇   Foreword by Josh Holden “Defense” spending by the US government exceeds the collective military expenditures of eight other nations, including superpowers like China.The cost to maintain such a force, even when setting aside the price of blowback from the same, is truly staggering. When every consequence is considered–it’s horrifying. But this much is obvious. The hidden costs, however, are incalculable. In the next feature of our series, Bastiat explains why.   The Demobilization A nation is in the same case as a man. When a man wishes to give himself a satisfaction, he has to see whether it is worth what it costs. For a nation, security is the greatest of blessings. If, to acquire it, a hundred thousand men must be mobilized, and a hundred million francs spent, I have nothing to say. It is an enjoyment bought at the price of a sacrifice. Let there be no misunderstanding, then, about the point I wish to make in what I have to say on this subject. A legislator proposes to discharge a hundred thousand men, which will relieve the taxpayers of a hundred…