The paper assesses Jasay’s monthly articles for Econlib between 2002 and 2014 in the light of the similar efforts by free market economists, especially French ones, to popularize economic ideas over the last 200 years. Beginning with the rather dry “catechism of political economy” developed by J.B. Say (1815), Harriet Martineau’s naive “economic tales” (1832–34), Bastiat’s witty and clever “economic sophisms” (1846–48), and Molinari’s civilised but rather staid “soirées” or conversations (1849 and 1855) in the first half of the 19th century, and then, after a hiatus of nearly 100 years, the columns of Henry Hazlitt in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal in the 1930s and 1940s, and the columns of Milton Friedman in Newsweek (1966–84), we have many examples of the popularization of free market ideas in the pre-blogging age. Jasay very much continues this tradition with his monthly articles for Econlib where, in the great tradition of Bastiat, he writes clever and witty exposés of the economic folly he sees around him. Unlike Friedman or Hazlitt, both of whom adopted a fairly sober and matter of fact prose style, but again like Bastiat, Jasay uses well chosen metaphors and characters to cloak his deep understanding of political economy behind amusing, witty, and often angry and sarcastic tales which are designed to expose economic folly and to thereby enhance the understanding of economics by ordinary readers. The title of this paper refers to some of the great titles chosen by free market economists in their attempt to make free market ideas more interesting and better understood: “Turtle Soup” (Cherbuliez), “Negative Railways” (Bastiat), talking “Pencils” (Leonard Read), and “House owning Dogs” (which was the title of the first column Jasay ever wrote for Econlib and which set the tone of many of his subsequent columns). The paper will examine a selection of Jasay’s “economic tales” in order to demonstrate his great skill and fertile imagination in writing about economics for a popular audience. It concludes that, in spite of their heroic efforts, neither Bastiat nor Jasay have been able to lay to rest the “zombie economics” of protectionism and government interventionism which seems to keep coming back to life no matter how many rhetorical stakes are driven through its heart.
“Anthony de Jasay may be seen in the role of a Frédéric Bastiat of our times.”
- Hartmut Kliemt, “Introduction” to Political Economy, Concisely (2009)
“(F)allacies in political philosophy that, looking plausible and pleasing to most people’s ears are being repeated on every possible occasion with an air of assured conviction. Each time they are declared, more academic parrots take them up and relay them in ever wider circles until they become ineradicable common knowledge that feeds prevailing political thought.”
- Jasay, “Finance in Parrot Talk” (Nov. 2011)
“Teaching aids can be treacherous instruments. Images, metaphors and little tales, addressed to all and by no means only to children, are designed to convey some truth in an easy to grasp and hard to forget. Some of these aids however, also contain half-truths and falsehoods. Worse still, some of them do this by design, deliberately implanting lies in people’s minds. They are easier to plant than to eradicate once they have taken root.”
- Jasay, “Helicopter Money and Stone-age Banking” (July 2013)
“Unfortunately, hardly anyone listens to the economists.”
- Molinari, Les Révolutions et despotism (1852).
What do Negative Railways, Turtle Soup, talking Pencils, and House owning Dogs have in common? The answer is that they are all taken from the titles of provocative, thought provoking, and amusing essays which were written to promote an understanding of how free markets operate and the benefits they provide to ordinary working people. The first is the title of one of Frédéric Bastiat’s brilliant short essays known as the “economic sophisms” in which he attempted to refute the economic fallacies being peddled by the supporters of protectionism and interventionism in France in 1845–48. Here he lampoons the idea that the government can create greater wealth by forcing a railway to make its passengers and cargo trans-ship multiple times in one journey in order to create more work for the porters and hotel owners along the route. The second, “Turtle Soup”, comes from the title of a popular work written by the Swiss economist Antoine Cherbuliez in 1849 as part of the anti-socialist campaign waged by the French economists during the 1848 Revolution. Cherbuliez uses the example of a luxury good such as turtle soup which only the rich could afford to buy and thus criticised as a form of injustice by socialists, but the provision of which on the market can provide much needed work for ordinary workers. The third is the title of Leonard Read’s marvellous essay “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as Told to Leonard E. Read” (1958) about the extraordinary efforts by millions of people all over the world who contribute to bringing a simple object like a lead pencil to the market without the need for any government planning or direction. And the fourth is the title of the very first essay Anthony de Jasay published on Econlib in April 2002 in which he used the figure of the family dog to ask very profound questions about how economic value is distributed among all those who contribute to the creation of a good or service. In this case, since the dog helps defend the home it too has contributed to the home’s value, and hence in some sense “owns your house.”. They are all examples of how economists have used stories and catching metaphors over the past 170 years to help ordinary readers understand some of the complexities of the free market.
Anthony de Jasay, like Cherbuliez, Bastiat, and Read before him, is concerned that popularly held fallacies about the way markets operate are very dangerous and need to be countered by economists. Most do this by writing scholarly books and journal articles but these are not read by the educated public, let alone the “uneducated public” which of course includes most politicians and government bureaucrats. Hence the need felt by many economists to “reach out” by writing more popular pieces which they publish in newspapers or on their blogs, or they make themselves available for radio and TV interviews in the hope that their “sound bites” in favour of the free market will drown out the cacophony of chomping which goes on in favour of government intervention and regulation.
Very occasionally a free market voice rises above the din of interventionist dining either because they are able to capture the popular imagination, at least for a moment, or because of the sheer academic quality of what they have to say and the way they say it. The former is quite rare and the examples we can point to include individuals such as Frédéric Bastiat in the 1840s with his “economic sophisms”, Henry Hazlitt in the 1940s with his journalism at the New York Times, Ayn Rand in the 1960s with her novels and essays, Milton Friedman in the 1960s–80s with his Newsweek column and TV documentaries, and perhaps Ron Paul in the 2010s with his work promoting Austrian economics in his campaign literature. What makes Bastiat stand out in this group of popularizers of economic ideas in his wit and word play, something which Jasay has in common with him, whereas the others use a style of presentation which is matter of fact and serious (such as Hazlitt, Friedman, and Paul), or completely humourless like Rand.
Examples of the latter, are more common but ultimately quite worrying because although there is a considerable amount of excellent academic writing about economics it often does not reach the people who would most benefit from reading it. The work of Anthony de Jasay falls into the latter category. He is an outstanding writer in English, even though it is not his native language (perhaps he is the Hungarian and economic equivalent of the Polish born English novelist Joseph Conrad), who has written some path-breaking works in political economy but who has remained for much of his life outside the academic mainstream. Fortunately for those who are concerned about the prospects for economic liberty he has been given a platform at the Econlib website where, for the past 12 years, he has written a monthly column called “Reflections from Europe” (which earlier this year changed its name to “Thinking Straight”) It is not as well known as it should be because what he has to say is not welcomed by the mainstream.
In this paper I would like to explore the “French Connection” to Jasay’s economic journalism, especially as he relates to Frédéric Bastiat, to examine the special quality of his “rhetoric of liberty”, and to put his work into some kind of historical perspective by examining other attempts by political economists to bring economic ideas “to the people.”
Political economy did not become a separate discipline until the late 17th and early 18th centuries. When significant works of theory did begin to appear, such as François Quesnay’s Tableau économique (1758) or Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776), they were presented to well-educated elites who were knowledgeable about taxation, business, or moral philosophy. Neither Quesnay nor Smith made any attempt to present their ideas in a popular format as they were focused entirely on the educated and political elites of their day. One can point to only a handful of texts from this period the purpose of which was to present economic ideas to an educated but economically uninformed readership, such as Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees (1714) although I am not sure that economic ideas are best suited to poetry as a means of enlightenment. Even so, his understanding of markets was quite limited as he still saw much economic activity as rapacious or the result of “knavish” activity instead of mutually beneficial voluntary exchange. His argument was that, what appeared to be selfish or “knavish” behaviour of “Sharpers, Parasites, Pimps, Players, Pick-pockets, Coiners, Quacks, South-sayers” had the unintended result of making societies better off, as this passage from the poem “The Grumbling Hive: or, Knaves turn’d Honest” (1705) shows:
Vast Numbers throng’d the fruitful Hive;
Yet those vast Numbers made ’em thrive;
Millions endeavouring to supply
Each other’s Lust and Vanity;
While other Millions were employ’d,
To see their Handy-works destroy’d;
They furnish’d half the Universe;
Yet had more Work than Labourers.
Some with vast Stocks, and little Pains,
Jump’d into Business of great Gains;
And some were damn’d to Sythes and Spades,
And all those hard laborious Trades;
Where willing Wretches daily sweat,
And wear out Strength and Limbs to eat:
While others follow’d Mysteries,
To which few Folks bind ’Prentices;
That want no Stock, but that of Brass,
And may set up without a Cross;
As Sharpers, Parasites, Pimps, Players,
Pick-pockets, Coiners, Quacks, South-sayers,
And all those, that in Enmity,
With downright Working, cunningly
Convert to their own Use the Labour
Of their good-natur’d heedless Neighbour.
These were call’d Knaves, but bar the Name,
The grave Industrious were the same:
All Trades and Places knew some Cheat,
No Calling was without Deceit.
The Fables (1668) of Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695) should be mentioned in this context, not because they had an explicit economic content, but because they were so cleverly written and had such universal scope and appeal that they couldn’t help but touch on economic issues at least indirectly as they touched upon human foibles and follies, many of which were economic such as greed, the unintended consequences of one’s actions, and the abuse of political power. This is the reason why they appealed so much to Bastiat who referred to the fables repeatedly in his Economic Sophisms. One of Bastiat’s favourites was the story of the “La Belette entrée dans un grenier” (The Weasel That Got Caught in the Storeroom), about a weasel that was able to squeeze through a small hole in order to get into a grain-storage room. Once inside it ate so much that it got bigger and couldn’t get back out through the same hole in the wall. A rat, on seeing its predicament, says that, after 5 or 6 days of not eating,
you would have then a belly that is much less full. You were thin to get in, you’ll have to be thin to get out. What I’m telling you now, you’ve well heard from others: but let us not confuse, by going too deeply, their business with yours..
Bastiat used this story to illustrate his opposition to the high level of military expenditure by the French state and urged that it go on a diet before the taxpayers and voters got too angry. Another story he quotes is that of “The Milk Maid and the Pail” where a young women Perrette is carrying a pail of milk from the family cow to market in order to sell it. She is daydreaming as she walks along the road about the things she will spend the profits she has has not yet made on the transaction, when she spills the pail of milk and ends up with nothing. The economic lesson of course is that one has to see that production and distribution to one’s customers is completed before one begins to spend one’s profits (if there are any of course). Stories like theses were staples of French children’s literature and bed time reading for 130 years before Bastiat probably came across them as a child.
One might also view the articles on economic matters which were published in Diderot’s Encyclopédie (1751-), such as the one on “Fairs” by Turgot and the general tenor of the articles on agriculture and industry which were sceptical of government regulation, as an early effort to get free market economic ideas into the minds of a broader although admittedly still elite audience. The idea of taking economic ideas to the masses was inconceivable until the more general spread of literacy in the modern era.
In France one can point to Jean-Baptiste Say as one of the first of the modern economists to attempt to reach out to another kind of audience with his Catéchisme d’économie politique, ou Instruction familière (Catechism of Political Economy, or Familiar Lessons) (1815). In contrast we should note that Adam Smith did not make any effort to poularise his economic ideas in any way other than to give lectures on law and science at the University of Glasgow. Say, on the other hand, realised that his highly regarded Treatise (the original edition of 1803, and the revised and expanded editions of 1814, 1817) had had some success among the educated elites but that the events of the Revolution and the interventionism of Napoleon’s Empire and then of the Restoration showed that economic illiteracy was rife. Living in a Catholic society (although not a Catholic himself) Say no doubt thought that the rather heavy handed, top-down approach of a catechism of questions with accompanying sound free market responses would be attractive to his readers but one is not convinced of this approach from reading it today, as the following section on “Exchanges and Markets” shows clearly:
|Original text||My translation|
|Qu’est-ce qu’on entend par un Échange? Un Echange est le troc d’une chose qui appartient à une personne, çontre une autre chose qui appartient à une autre personne.||What is meant by the word “Exchange”? An Exchange is a trade/barter of one thing which belongs to a person for another thing which belongs to another person.|
|Les ventes et les achats sont - ils des échanges?||Are Sales and Purchases Exchanges?|
|La Vente est l’échange que l’on fait de sa marchandise contre une somme de monnaie : l’Achat est l’échange que l’on fait de sa monnaie contre de la marchandise.||A Sale is the exchange that one makes of one’s merchandise for a sum of money: a Purchase is the exchange one makes of one’s money for some merchandise.|
Say tried another tack a couple of years later when he introduced limited conversations between stock characters in a work published to coincide with the revised and expanded 3rd edition of the Traité, called the Petit volume contenant quelques apperçus des hommes et de la société (A Small Book containing Some Insights into Men and Society) (1817). The Petit volume contained “quelques apperçus” or what might be called “pensées” similar to those of Montesquieu, which were rambling musings on economic related matters designed to appeal to the reader who knew nothing about economics and whom Say obviously thought did not really care for economics, with the occasional brief dialogs thrown in for good measure: for example, between “Alceste” and “Philinte” or between “The Architect” and “The Author.” He hoped by doing this he might achieve at least the first goal of persuading a genteel readership that economics, or at least wealth creation and retention, was important and thus worth reading about before moving to the second stage of teaching them correct economic thinking. He is an example of a “Dialog between Alceste and Philinte” which shows how miserably he failed in this endeavour:
|Original text||My translation|
|ALCESTE. Je veux devenir un homme de bonne compagnie. Voyons; que faut-il faire?||ALCESTE. I want to become a person who is welcome in “good society”? Tell me, what do I have to do?|
|PHILINTE. Amuser, ne blesser aucun amour-propre.||PHILINTE. Be amusing and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings/pride.|
|ALCESTE. Que faut-il de plus?||ALCESTE. And what else?|
|PHILINTE. Bien.||PHILINTE. That’s all.|
|ALCESTE. Vous plaisantez.||ALCESTE. You are joking.|
|PHILINTE. Nullement.||PHILINTE. Not at all.|
|ALCESTE. Un homme qui aurait malversé dans ses emplois, qui aurait sacrifié son pays par un vil intérêt, n’est certainement pas admis dans la bonne compagnie.||ALCESTE. A man who did disastrously in his business, who sacrificed his country for a petty personal interest, is certainly not admitted into “good society”.|
|PHILINTE. Pourquoi non, s’il a eu l’adresse d’esquiver le scandale, s’il est riche, s’il a des titres, des plaques et des rubans?…||PHILINTE. Why not, if he was clever enough to avoid any scandal, if he had titles, lots of money and fancy ribbons? …|
|ALCESTE. Puisqu’il en est ainsi, vive la bonne compagnie pour faire le bonheur d’un pays!||ALCESTE. Since things are this way, then long may “good society” bring happiness to the country!|
Say eventually gave up trying to popularize free market ideas in this way, thank goodness as he had no talent for it, and returned to writing a kind of economic textbook aimed at a middle-level audience of readers drawn from the ranks of "statesmen, land owners, capitalists, intellectuals, farmers, manufacturers, traders, and in general all citizens” which was the lengthy subtitle he gave to his next major work the Cours complet (1828–29).
Another much more successful approach was taken in England by a brace of English women authors who were able to make a living, surprisingly for the times, by writing popular “conversations” or “tales” about free market ideas for the new audience of voracious readers which the more widespread literacy in an emerging liberal society like pre-Victorian Britain was creating. Jane Haldimand Marcet (1769–1858) and Harriet Martineau (1802–1876) both wrote multi-volume works defending the free market during the late 1810s through the 1830s which went through many editions, such was their popularity. (One should again note the “French Connection” here, since Marcet’s family was Swiss although she was raised in England, and Martineau although born in Norwich came from a French Huguenot family). Marcet wrote Conversations on Political Economy (1816) which was in its 6th enlarged edition by 1817 and John Hopkins’s Notions on Political Economy (1833) in which political economy was explained through the eyes of honest John Hopkins (an English version of Bastiat’s and Molinari’s “Jacques Bonhomme”), a poor laborer on low wages, who nevertheless saw the benefits of laissez faire economic policies. Harriet Martineau wrote a 9 volume collection called Illustrations of Political Economy (1832–33) where her approach was to use the moralising and sometimes condescending lecture, euphemistically termed a “familiar conversation”, where a well-informed family friend would instruct an eager working class or farming family who had gathered around the kitchen table about the benefits of international free trade and the evils of strikes and machine breaking, and slave-produced sugar from Demerara.
The following comes from the second volume in the series and concerns the morality of owning slaves and the economics of coerced labour. It should be noted that this volume was published on the eve of the emancipation of the slaves in the British colonies (the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833) which took place between 1833 and 1839, so the problem it addresses has more than a passing interest. A discussion is underway between a slave owner on the island of Demerara, Mr. Bruce, and his son Alfred who asks:
“Why, then, has there been slavery in all ages of the world?”
“Because the race, like the individual, is slow in learning by experience: but the race has learned, and goes on to learn notwithstanding; and slavery becomes less extensive with the lapse of centuries. In ancient times, a great part of the population of the most polished states was the property of the rest. Those were the days when the lords of the race lived in barbarous, comfortless splendour, and the bulk of the people in extreme hardship;—the days of Greek and Roman slavery. Then came the bondage and villeinage of the Gothic nations,—far more tolerable than the ancient slavery, because the bondmen lived on their native soil, and had some  sort of mutual interest with their owners; but it was not till they were allowed property that their population increased, and the condition of themselves and their masters improved. The experience of this improvement led to further emancipation; and that comparative freedom again to further improvement, till the state of a boor as to health, comfort, and security of property, is now superior to that of the lord of his forefathers. In the same manner, my dear sir, it might be hoped that the condition of the descendants of your slaves, a thousand years hence, would be happier than yours to-day, if our slaves were the original inhabitants of the soil they till. As it is, I fear that our bad institutions will die out only in the persons of those most injured by them. But that they will die out, the slave-history of Europe is our warrant; and then, and then only, will the laws of England secure the property of Englishmen as fully abroad as at home. It is no reproach upon laws framed to secure righteous property, that they do not guard that which is unrighteous. Consider once more who are the parties to the law, and the case will be clear.
“The government and the holders of the property are the parties to the maintenance of the law. The infringers of the law are the third party, whom it is the mutual interest of the other two to punish. So the matter stands in England, where the law works comparatively well. Here the case is wholly changed by the second and third parties being identical, while the first  treats them as being opposed to each other, The infringer of the law,—that is, the rebellious slave, being the property of—that is, the same party with, his owner, the benefits of the compact are destroyed to all. If the slave is not to be punished, the owner’s property (his plantation) is not safe. If he is punished, the owner’s property (the slave) is injured. No wonder the master complains of the double risk to his property; but such risk is the necessary consequence of holding a subject of the law in property.”
“You put me in mind, son. of old Hodge’s complaint,—you remember Hodge,—about his vicious bull. He thought it very hard that, after all the mischief done to his own stock, he should be compelled by the overseer to kill the bull. Hodge owned a rebellious subject of the law.”
“True; and Hodge was to be pitied, because there was no making a free labourer of his bull. But if he had had the choice whether to hold the animal itself as capital, or only its labour, we should have laid the blame of his double loss upon himself.”
At the end of each volume Martineau provided a helpful “summary of principles in this Volume” to push home the didactic purpose of her writing. The “Summary” at the end of the volume on “Demerara” provides a good example of this, where Martineau reveals that she does not believe in the natural right to property like the French political economists of her day did, but does conclude that slavery is wrong because the slaves did not consent to their enslavement:
The truths illustrated may be arranged as follows.
Property is held by conventional, not natural right.
As the agreement to hold man in property never took place between the parties concerned, i. e., is not conventional, Man has no right to hold Man in property.
Law, i. e., the sanctioned agreement of the parties concerned, secures property.
Where the parties are not agreed, therefore, law does not secure property.
Where one of the parties under the law is held as property by another party, the law injures the one or the other as often as they are opposed. Moreover, its very protection injures the protected party,— as when a rebellious slave is hanged.
Human labour is more valuable than brute labour, only because actuated by reason; for human strength is inferior to brute strength.
The origin of labour, human and brute, is the Will.
The Reason of slaves is not subjected to exercise. nor their will to more than a few weak motives. 
The labour of slaves is therefore less valuable than that of brutes, inasmuch as their strength is inferior; and less valuable than that of free labourers, inasmuch as their Reason and Will are feeble and alienated.
The entire economic educational project was completed at the end of volume nine with a several hundred page summation of economics as a whole in a mini-treatise of her own called “The Moral of Many Fables.” In the introduction, she admits that “all” of her moral fables were “melancholy” in that they showed the harmful effects of government restrictions and interventions in the market, but, she assures the reader “to cure us of our sadness, however, let us review the philosophy of Labour and Capital” - which one would have to admit is surely no cure for melancholia but rather a way of deepening it:
My many fables have all been melancholy. This is the fault which has been more frequently found with them than any other. Instead of disputing the ground of complaint, or defending myself by an appeal to fact, I have always entreated the objectors to wait and see if the moral of my fables be melancholy also. I have been sustained throughout by the conviction that it is not; and I now proceed to exhibit the grounds of my confidence.
Is it not true, however, that in the science under review, as in every other department of moral science, we must enter through tribulation into troth? The discipline of the great family of the earth is strictly analogous with that of the small household which is gathered under the roof of the wise parent. It is only by the experience consequent on the conscious or unconscious transgression of laws that the children of either family can fully ascertain the will of the Ruler, and reach that conformity from which alone can issue permanent harmony and progressive  happiness. What method, then, is so direct for one who would ascertain those laws, as to make a record of the transgressions and their consequences, in order to educe wise principles from foolish practices, permanent good from transient evil? Whatever be the degree of failure, through the unskilfulness of the explorer, the method can scarcely be a faulty one, since it is that by which all attainments of moral truth are made. Could I, by any number of tales of people who have not suffered under an unwise administration of social affairs, have shown that that administration was unwise? In as far as an administration is wise, there is no occasion to write about it; for its true principles are already brought to a practical recognition, and nothing remains to be done. Would that we had more cheering tales of happy societies than we have! They will abound in time; but they will be told for other purposes than that of proving the principles of a new science.
Thus much in defence,—not of any tales, but of the venerable experimental method which is answerable for their being sad.
To cure us of our sadness, however, let us review the philosophy of Labour and Capital;— the one the agent, the other the instrument of PRODUCTION.
Surprisingly to the modern reader, these economic tales were so popular that they went through several editions and were translated immediately into French and had an impact on Gustave de Molinari who used them as a model for his “discussions” in Les Soirées in 1849 and his own “familiar conversations” in 1855.
These efforts must have had some success in spreading free market ideas since, by the time Richard Cobden and John Bright founded the Anti-Corn Law League in 1838, there was already a sizable audience who were receptive to free trade ideas and would vote accordingly after the First Reform Act had been passed into law in 1832. The varied and successful efforts at popularizing free trade ideas used by the Anti-Corn Law League such as public lectures, the distribution of pamphlets, the publication of free trade articles and “op eds” in the press, and the gathering of hundreds of thousands signatures to present to an embarrassed protectionist Parliament is another chapter in the successful popularising of free market ideas at this time. The work of the exotically named Colonel Thomas Perronet Thompson (1783–1869) who was one of the most prolific and talented of the propagandists working for the Anti-Corn Law League should be particularly noted. He turned the “free market catechism” into a clever and witty format with which to ridicule the protectionists in a way which had completely eluded the rather staid J.B. Say 20 years earlier. The first edition of his Catechism on the Corn Laws; With a List of Fallacies and the Answers had appeared in 1827 and by 1834 had gone through 18 editions. Here is an example of his “Q & A” catechism is favour of free trade:
WHAT is meant by Corn Laws? Answer. Laws which enact that the labourer shall not exchange his produce for food, except at certain shops, namely the shops of the land-owners.
For whose benefit are these intended? A. Manifestly, of those who support them,—the landowners
What are the effects of these laws? A. The same in kind, as would arise from limiting the food consumed in the United Empire, to what could be produced in the Isle of Wight.
How would this be brought about? A. First, By a general distress among the manufacturing labourers, arising from employment and wages being reduced to what afforded the smallest pittance of food upon which life could be supported;—as is the case now. Secondly, By a general glut and stagnation of trade, arising from more goods being manufactured than could possibly be sold with a living profit;—as is the case now. Thirdly, By the impossibility of any man’s prospering in any new manufacture, trade, or project;—as is the case now. Fourthly, By the population both of labourers and traders being limited in proportion to the limitation of food, the first by hunger, the second by bankruptcy;-as is the case now.
However, as Bastiat was to demonstrate so cleverly some 10 years later, somber economic refutation of protectionist fallacies could be done with wit and humour. Scattered among Perronet Thompson’s prose are several flashes of Bastiat-like wit such as the following passages comparing the island of England with Noah’s Ark:
(5.) That only a certain quantity of corn is wanted for the world’s consumption; and the question is merely whether it shall be supplied by one people or by another.
A. There is a fraud in the word ‘certain.’ A fixed quantity of corn will no more do for the world now, than it would have done on the day that Noah came out of the ark. The happiness of the existing population depends, not only on having some corn, but on being at liberty to increase the quantity by its own exertions. …
(44.) That people ought not to want to populate so much.
A. If Noah had shut himself up in his ark, and let his family eat nothing but what could be grown upon his decks, he would soon have had an outcry against population, and an emigration committee; and Shem, Ham, and Japhet would have been ‘distressed manufacturers.’ And instead of reading lectures on not multiplying, his remedy would have been to let in foreign corn.
A commercial and manufacturing nation, has or ought to have, like Noah, no limit but the world. What he was to do by digging, it can do by spinning and inducing other men to dig. The steppes of Tartary and the prairies of America, are so many pledges that it need be yet but in the youth of its existence. What is to come next, when the world is filled up, it does not seem necessary to determine in this present parliament. What is clear is, that the felicity of the existing generation depends upon progression, as it did with Noah. It can make no difference, except in the size of the experiment, whether men are confined to the corn of an ark or of an island.
Perronet Thompson also happened to be fluent in French and wrote a very witty satire on the outcome of a French government inquiry into tariff reform in 1834, called Contre-Enquête: par l’Homme aux Quarante Écus (A Counter-Inquiry by a Forty Pound a Year Man) (1834) which has never been translated into English. It riffs off Voltaire’s satirical tale L’Homme aux quarante écus (1768) which is an attack on physiocratic land tax policy and the hounding of a poor farmer by tax collectors.
The Gascon Bastiat learned much from the very English Perronet Thompson and the ACLL although he took the popularisation of economic ideas to an entirely new and higher level with his brilliant refutation of economic fallacies in his essays known as the Economic Sophisms of which he wrote some 78 between 1845 and early 1848. He was joined by a number of other “Économistes” in the late 1840s to make the 1840s in England and France a true “golden age” in the popularization of free market ideas, including the French speaking Swiss economist Antoine-Elisée Cherbuliez (1797–1869), the Pole Louis Wolowski (1810–76) and the Mauritian Alcide Fonteyraud (1822–1849), and the Belgian Gustave de Molinari (1819–1912). The different nationalities of the people involved in this project of economic popularization show how ideas about free market attracted people to Paris from all across Europe into a rich polyglot mixture in which Anthony de Jasay, as a Hungarian born, Australian trained, Oxford educated, resident of France would have well appreciated.
The immediate cause of this outburst of activity in Paris at this time was the push to abolish French tariffs after the French economists had witnessed the success of Richard Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League in abolishing English tariffs in 1846. They attempted to do the same thing in France and so formed their own Free Trade Association in early 1846 which was headed by Bastiat and who wrote most of the articles for its journal Le Libre-Échange. The articles on free trade and protection which Bastiat wrote for this and other journals between 1845 and the beginning of 1848 eventually became the two volume collection which we know today as the Economic Sophisms.
The second cause was the rise of socialist groups during the February 1848 Revolution and the Second Republic which forced the economists to shift gear away from their focus on free trade and protectionism and towards confronting the spread of socialist ideas. Bastiat practically stopped writing in the format of the Economic Sophisms and devoted himself to writing a series of a dozen or more anti-socialist pamphlets between mid–1848 and mid–1850, which included some of his best known work, such as “The State, ”The Law,“ and ”Property and Plunder“.. Only as death was approaching in mid–1850 did he return to the format which had served him so well in the Economic Sophisms, in his final work, What is Seen and What is Not Seen (July 1850) which contained the justly famous ”The Broken Window" parable..
These works mark the high point in what is a ‘golden age’ of popular writing about economics in the period from 1845 to 1855. We will discuss briefly what made Bastiat’s writing so outstanding, before turning to the work of some of his imitators.
In a brief period of time (1845 to early 1848) Bastiat wrote 78 economic sophisms which transformed the way economic journalism was done. He was highly regarded for his work at the time, even by those who were the butt of his often sharply worded satires and parodies. After his death, his work as a theoretical economist was forgotten or ignored and the standard view of him was expressed by the historian of economic thought, Joseph Schumpeter who described him as “the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.” As far as his theoretical contributions Schumpeter was totally dismissive, saying ex cathedra that “I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist.” Schumpeter’s splenetic attack on Bastiat deserves to be quoted at length because it shows the vast distance that existed between Schumpeter’s mid–20th century idea of what scientific economics was and the proto-Austrianism of Bastiat’s work which Schumpeter was unable or unwilling to acknowledge:
Frédéric Bastiat’s (1801–50) case has been given undue prominence by remorseless critics. But it is simply the case of the bather who enjoys himself in the shallows and then goes beyond his depth and drowns. A strong free trader and laissez-faire enthusiast, he rose into prominence by a brilliantly written article, ‘De l’influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l’avenir des deux peuples’ (Journal des économistes, 1844), which was grist to the mill of the small group of Paris free traders who then tried to parallel Cobden’s agitation in England. A series of Sophismes économiques followed, whose pleasant wit—petition of candle-makers and associated industries for protection against the unfair competition of the sun and that sort of thing—that played merrily on the surface of the free-trade argument has ever since been the delight of many. Bastiat ran the French free-trade association, displaying a prodigious activity, and presently turned his light artillery against his socialist compatriots. So far, so good—or at any rate, no concern of ours. Admired by sympathizers, reviled by opponents, his name might have gone down to posterity as the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived. But in the last two years of his life (his hectic career only covers the years 1844–50) he embarked upon work of a different kind, a first volume of which, the Harmonies économiques, was published in 1850. The reader will please understand that Bastiat’s confidence in unconditional laissez faire (his famous ‘optimism’)—or any other aspect of his social philosophy—has nothing whatever to do with the adverse appraisal that seems to me to impose itself, although it motivated most of the criticism he got. Personally, I even think that Bastiat’s exclusive emphasis on the harmony of class interests is, if anything, rather less silly than is exclusive emphasis on the antagonism of class interests. Nor should it be averred that there are no good ideas at all in the book. Nevertheless, its deficiency in reasoning power or, at all events, in power to handle the analytic apparatus of economics, puts it out of court here, I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist. This fact was bound to tell in what was essentially a venture in theory, but does not affect any other merits of his.
Surprisingly, Hayek who should have known better, joins in this “damning by faint praise” of Bastiat in his introduction to the FEE edition of Bastiat’s Selected Essays on Political Economy (1964) in which he practically concedes everything Schumpeter said:
Even those who may question the eminence of Frédéric Bastiat as an economic theorist will grant that he was a publicist of genius. Joseph Schumpeter calls him “the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.” For the purpose of introducing the present volume, which contains some of the most successful of his writings for the general public, we might well leave it at that. One might even grant Schumpeter’s harsh assessment of Bastiat that “he was not a theorist” without seriously diminishing his stature. It is true that when, at the end of his extremely short career as a writer, he attempted to provide a theoretical justification for his general conceptions, he did not satisfy the professionals. It would indeed have been a miracle if a man who, after only five years as a regular writer on public affairs, attempted in a few months, and with a mortal illness rapidly closing in on him, to defend the points on which he differed from established doctrine, had fully succeeded in this too. Yet one may ask whether it was not only his early death at the age of forty-nine that prevented him. His polemical writings, which in consequence are the most important ones he has left, certainly prove that he had an insight into what was significant and a gift for going to the heart of the matter that would have provided him with ample material for real contributions to science.
In the Sophisms Bastiat used a variety of formats (6 in total) which included essays written in informal or more conversational prose (38 - the largest number), essays which were in dialog or constructed conversational form (14), stand alone economic tales or fables (8), fictional letters or petitions to government officials and other documents (8), essays written in more formal or academic prose, and direct appeals to the workers and citizens of France (3).
He used a mixture of satire, irony, wicked humour and barely concealed outrage at the injustices he could see around him, or what he himself referred to as “the sting of ridicule”, to point out the absurdities, contradictions, and blatant self-interest of those who defended tariffs and subsidies to industry at the expence of ordinary taxpayers and consumers. He deliberately chose humour and satire because he believed that economists had to make the presentation of economic ideas less “dull and dry” if they wished to change the way ordinary people thought about economic matters. And in this I think he was extraordinarily successful. A closer examination of his use of humour shows that he was very adept at creating neologisms (M. Lasouche or Mr. Blockhead is the name he gave to a tax official), using parody (such as writing fictitious petitions by manufacturers to the government, such as the candle manufacturers, or by rewriting passages from Molière to attack the behaviour of contemporary tax collectors), making puns (about using or not using one’s right hand or left hand with which to labour), as well as many other plays on words (such as “upper” and “lower” councils).
The basic structure of his “economic sophisms was the following: those who benefited from the power of the State to get special privileges and benefits cloaked their self-interest in a combination of outright economic fallacies (ideas that were patently false) and sophistry (which was a mixture of half right and half wrong ideas). These ideas were presented to the public by manufacturers and farmers and their supporters in the government and the press as being in the national interest, or even in the interests of the very consumers and taxpayers who were paying for it in higher prices, lessened competition, and lower economic productivity. Ordinary people were being ”duped" into believing this was case and as a result were being deprived of their property, directly by means of “la force” (coercion or force) or indirectly by means of “la ruse” (fraud or trickery) or “la duperie” (deception). The point of his economic journalism was to expose how the ordinary people were duped by bad economic arguments and half truths (sophisms) into going along with the transfer of their property to powerful vested interests.
A couple of examples will demonstrate his technique and his cleverness. One of his preferred methods of arguing was to create a dialog between two or more individuals each of whom represented one of the sides in the free trade vs. protectionism debate. These were much shorter and pithier than the “conversations” devised by Martineau or later by Molinari in his “soirées” and much, much funnier and cleverer. As spokesmen for the free market and free trade cause Bastiat used a couple of stock characters such as Jacques Bonhomme“ (a French Mr. Everyman) or Robinson Crusoe (from Dafoe’s novel). In ES2 10 ”The Tax Collector“ Bastiat pits the wily Jacques Bonhomme against a tax collector called M. Lasouche (Mr. Blockhead in Liberty Fund’s new translation) who attempts to persuade Jacques that his tax money is being wisely spent by his responsible political representatives in the Chamber of Deputies. Jacques is very sceptical and the conversation between the two of them is hilarious as Jacques points out all the ways in which the government actually spends money irresponsibly and how the elected Deputies do not in fact represent people like Jacques. Beneath the humour Bastiat has some profound and important things to say about the nature of political representation and the rent-seeking it engenders. In the sophism ”Mr. Blockhead" appears before Jacques Bonhomme to take 6 of the 20 barrels of wine he has produced (this is a tax rate of 30%). Jacques asks him what it is going to be used for and challenges him on every answer he is given. This passage is also interesting because it shows Bastiat’s deep hostility to the military and military expenditure:
Blockhead: One must pay for public services, the civil list, the judges who restore to you the field that your neighbor wants to take possession of, the gendarmes who hunt thieves while you sleep, the road mender who maintains the road that takes you to town, the parish priest who baptizes your children, the teacher who raises them and my good self, none of whom works for nothing.
Bonhomme: That is fair - a service for a service. I have no objection to that. I would rather sort things out directly with my parish priest and schoolteacher, but I will not insist on this. I agree to give another barrel but there is a long way to go to six.
Blockhead: Do you think it is asking too much for two barrels as your contribution to the cost of the army and navy?
Bonhomme: Alas, it is not much in comparison with what they are costing me already, for they have already taken from me two sons that I loved dearly.
Blockhead: We have to maintain the balance of power in Europe.
Bonhomme: My God! The balance would be the same if these forces were reduced everywhere by half or three-quarters. We would preserve both our children and our revenue. All we need to do is agree on this.
Blockhead: Yes, but we do not agree.
Bonhomme: That is what astonishes me. For in the end everyone suffers.
Blockhead: You wanted this, Jacques Bonhomme.
Bonhomme: You are joking, M. Tax Collector. Do I have a say in the matter?
Blockhead: Who have you voted for as your deputy?
Bonhomme: An upright army general who will shortly become a marshal if God gives him a long enough life.
Blockhead: And on what does this good general live?
Bonhomme: On my barrels, I imagine.
Blockhead: And what would happen if he voted for a reduction in the army and your contribution?
Bonhomme: Instead of becoming a marshal, he would be retired.
Blockhead: Do you now understand that you have yourself …
Bonhomme: Let us move on to the fifth barrel, if you please.
Blockhead: That goes to Algeria.
In what may be one of Bastiat’s greatest contributions to the science of economic reasoning, he invents the use of Robinson Crusoe in thought experiments in order to understand the way human beings go about economising their scarce labour and other resources in order to survive. In a lecture in 1831 Richard Whately had dismissed Crusoe stories as useless in explaining economic ideas because to him economics was the study of “exchange” only, and since Crusoe has nobody to exchange with before Friday comes along, there could be no economic activity by definition. What Crusoe does is “a situation of which Political-Economy takes no cognizance”:.
Man might be defined, “An animal that makes Exchanges:” no other, even of those animals which in other points make the nearest approach to rationality, having, to all appearance, the least notion of bartering, or in any way exchanging one thing for another. And it is in this point of view alone that Man is contemplated by Political-Economy. This view does not essentially differ from that of A. Smith; since in this science the term Wealth is limited to exchangeable commodities; and it treats of them so far forth only as they are, or are designed to be, the subjects of exchange. But for this very reason it is perhaps the more convenient to describe Political-Economy as the science of Exchanges, rather than as the science of national Wealth. For, the things themselves of which the science treats, are immediately removed from its province, if we remove the possibility, or the intention, of making them the subjects of exchange; and this, though they may conduce, in the highest degree, to happiness, which is the ultimate object for the sake of which wealth is sought. A man, for instance, in a desert island, like Alex. Selkirke, or the personage his adventures are supposed to have suggested, Robinson Crusoe, is in a situation of which Political-Economy takes no cognizance; though he might figuratively be called rich, if abundantly provided with food, raiment, and various comforts; and though he might have many commodities at hand, which would become exchangeable, and would constitute him, strictly speaking, rich, as soon as fresh settlers should arrive.
However, Bastiat’s great insight was that Crusoe did in fact engage in all sorts of economic activity before Friday appears on the island because Crusoe has to make decisions in order to “economise” on the use of his scarce resources, whether they be his time, his food supply, his shelter, and so on. This was an important “Austrian” insight about the nature of human action which was not appreciated at the time Bastiat wrote. Once Crusoe has made decisions about how to best use the resources he has on his Island of Despair the next stage of the thought experiment is to introduce Friday whose presence make it possible for Crusoe to cooperate with another person, to begin the division of labour (one fishes and the other grows vegetables) and to trade with each other. The third and final step is introduce a third party, a person in a canoe from another island, who then opens up the possibility of international trade. And so it goes on… Thus, Bastiat’s extensive use of “Crusoe economics” between 1847 and 1850 may well be an original contribution to economic reasoning and the logic of human action.
The first time Bastiat used Crusoe was probably in ES2 14 “Something Else” (March 1847)  where he pairs Crusoe with Friday and puts the arguments of the protectionists in the mouth of the supposedly civilised European Crusoe and the arguments of the free traders in the mouth of the supposedly primitive native Friday in a witty reversal of what one might have expected. As a protectionist and proto-Keynesian wanting to “increase the demand for his labour” Crusoe convinces himself that his interests would be best served by pushing back out to sea a plank which had washed ashore (a cheap import). This would increase the demand for labour by making him cut down a tree and trim it with his axe (domestic industry). He would thus be gainfully employed for a couple of days. The free trader Friday points out the opportunity costs of doing this. Crusoe could keep the plank and then use his time doing something else like fishing or gathering vegetables to eat:
“Please explain the mechanism and effects of protection to me.”
“That is not easy. Before moving on to complicated examples, we would have to study it in its simplest form.”
“Take the simplest example you want.”
“Do you remember how Robinson Crusoe set about making a plank when he had no saw?”
“Yes, he felled a tree and, trimming the trunk with his axe first on its left and then on its right side, he reduced it to the thickness of a beam.”
“And did that take him a great deal of work?”
“Two whole weeks.”
“And what did he live on during this time?”
“And what became of the axe?”
“It became very blunt.”
“Very well. But perhaps you did not know this. Just when he was about to give the first stroke of his axe, Robinson Crusoe saw a plank cast up by the waves on the beach.”
“Oh, what a coincidence! Did he run to pick it up?”
"This was his first reaction, but then he stopped for the following reason:
“If I pick up this plank, it will cost me only the fatigue of carrying it and the time to go down the cliff and climb it again.
But if I make a plank with my axe, firstly I will give myself enough work for two weeks, secondly I will wear out my axe, which will give me the opportunity of repairing it, and then I will eat up my provisions, a third source of work, since I will need to replace them. Now, work is wealth. It is clear that I will ruin myself by going to pick up the plank washed up on the beach. It is important for me to protect my personal labor and now that I think of it, I can create further work for myself by going to push this plank back into the sea!”
“But this line of reasoning is absurd!”
“So it is! It is nevertheless the one followed by any nation that protects itself through prohibition. It rejects the plank offered to it for little work in order to give itself more work. There is no work up to and including the work of the Customs Officer in which it does not see advantage. This is illustrated by the trouble taken by Robinson Crusoe to return to the sea the gift it wished to make him. Think of the nation as a collective being and you will find not an atom of difference between its way of reasoning and that of Robinson Crusoe.”
The following sophism is a good example of Bastiat’s use of the “reductio ad absurdum” argument. In ES1 17 “A Negative Railway” (c. 1845) he makes fun of arguments made by politicians in local towns along a railway line who petition the government to make the train stop at their town and force the passengers and goods to trans-ship onto another line in order to increase the work of their porters and railway staff and the business of the local hotels and restaurants. This practice would increase the demand for labour in their towns although it would badly inconvenience the passengers and shipping companies. Bastiat asks the question that if it is good to break the railway line at one point along its route, why not do this an infinite number of times and thereby increase the demand for local labour an infinite amount as well? The end result, Bastiat drily observes, is that a railway which economically moves people and goods from one part of the country to another is going to be broken up into a multitude of “consecutive segments” thus turning a “positive” railway which is enormously productive into a “negative railway” which is the opposite. Here Bastiat rebuts in his sarcastic and withering style a proposal by a local Bordeaux politician) to force the new railway between Paris and Bayonne (Bastiat’s birth place) to stop in Bordeaux (the place where Bastiat and his friends founded the French Free Trade Association):
Should the Paris to Spain railway be offered to Bordeaux with a complete fracture in the line?
He answered it in the positive with a host of reasons that it is not my place to examine but which include the following:
The railway between Paris and Bayonne should be completely broken in two at Bordeaux so that goods and passengers forced to stop in the town would contribute revenue to boatmen, packmen, commission agents, shippers, hoteliers, etc.
It is clear that this is once again a case of the interest of producers being put ahead of the interest of consumers.
But if Bordeaux can be allowed to profit from this break in the line, and if this is in keeping with the public interest, Angoulême, Poitiers, Tours, Orleans, and more, all intermediary points, Ruffec, Châtellerault, etc., etc., must also demand breaks in the line in the general interest, that is of course in the interest of national production, since the more breaks there are, the more consignments, commissions, and transshipping there will be all along the line. With this system, we will have created a railway made up of consecutive segments, a negative railway.
Whether the protectionists want this or not, it is no less certain that the principle of trade restriction is the same as the principle of breaks in the line: the sacrifice of the consumer to the producer and of the end to the means.
Jasay’s favourite Bastiat sophism is the parable of “The Broken Window” which is important for two reasons. Firstly, Jasay correctly argues that one of Bastiat’s greatest inventions as an economist was the idea of opportunity cost which he demonstrates brilliantly in the story of Jacque Bonhomme’s hooligan son (he is unnamed but perhaps we should call him “Thomas” after Thomas Piketty) who breaks one of Jacques’ shop windows. The second reason is that it is in a form which Bastiat liked to use, namely the creation of a small play within the story to illustrate his points. In some of his sophisms the play can become quite elaborate, as in “Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates” [no date given] which contains four scenes with 5 main characters and several supporting characters, or they can be quite simple as in “The Broken Window”. The nub of the tale is that Bastiat wants to refute the idea that there can be a silver lining in the destruction of an economic good, that the breaking of Jacques’s window is a boon for the window making industry (which it is) and that this might make society better off in the long run (which it doesn’t). Bastiat introduces the key idea of opportunity cost by showing that as a result of the broken window (any destroyed capital good) 1. Jacques has lost something of value (his capital stock in the form of a window), 2. he is forced to dip into his savings to buy a new window or not make some other purchase he intended to make, and 3. the shop keeper from whom Jacques might have bought a new pair of shoes but can’t because he spends the money on a new window, does not make a sale he might have expected to make. In Bastiat’s view (borrowing terminology from Perronet Thompson) there is “a double incidence of loss” (in fact it is a “triple incidence” since Bastiat does not count the initial loss of capital in the form of the window) which is not a net gain to society. Here is a sample of Bastiat’s reasoning which also includes an early version of the Keynesian multiplier effect:
But if, by way of deduction, as is often the case, the conclusion is reached that it is a good thing to break windows, that this causes money to circulate and therefore industry in general is stimulated, I am obliged to cry: “Stop!” Your theory has stopped at what is seen and takes no account of what is not seen.
What is not seen is that since our bourgeois has spent six francs on one thing, he can no longer spend them on another What is not seen is that if he had not had a window to replace, he might have replaced his down-at-heel shoes or added a book to his library. In short, he would have used his six francs for a purpose that he will no longer be able to.
Let us therefore draw up the accounts of industry in general.
As the window was broken, the glazing industry is stimulated to the tune of six francs; this is what is seen.
If the window had not been broken, the shoemaking industry (or any other) would have been stimulated to the tune of six francs; this is what is not seen.
And if we took into consideration what is not seen, because it is a negative fact, as well as what is seen, because it is a positive fact, we would understand that it makes no difference to national output and employment, taken as a whole, whether window panes are broken or not.
Let us now draw up Jacques Bonhomme’s account. …
Leonard Read is justly famous for his delightful essay “I, Pencil” which was first published in 1958 and has remained in print ever since. In it Read makes a very profond economic point in a format which is short (2,258 words) and easy to read and understand. He imagines a talking pencil who (which?) comes to him secretly, perhaps in the middle of the night, to reveal how he came to be. It is a creation story of sorts but with a twist. Most creation stories involve a celestial central planner who has total knowledge of all aspects of the universe and who, in the absence of private property and free market prices of any kind, is able to construct an entire functioning world for human beings to inhabit. The point of the story of “Mongol 482 of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company" is the exact opposite, namely, to show how it is impossible for any one individual to have sufficient knowledge, skill, and resources to make something as simple as a lead pencil, and that only the free market with its widely dispersed knowledge, its system of free pricing, and the incentives provided by profit opportunities, is capable of producing them in such quantities and at such a high level of quality.
Milton Friedman recognized Read’s achievement and gave him much deserved praise in the Introduction he wrote for a book version of the story, noting that they quoted it at length in the documentary “Free to Choose”:
Leonard Read’s delightful story, “I, Pencil,” has become a classic, and deservedly so. I know of no other piece of literature that so succinctly, persuasively, and effectively illustrates the meaning of both Adam Smith’s invisible hand—the possibility of cooperation without coercion—and Friedrich Hayek’s emphasis on the importance of dispersed knowledge and the role of the price system in communicating information that “will make the individuals do the desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do.”
We used Leonard’s story in our television show, “Free to Choose,” and in the accompanying book of the same title to illustrate “the power of the market” (the title of both the first segment of the TV show and of chapter one of the book).
By giving such high praise to Leonard Read for one witty and clever economic story surely Friedman should also have given praise to Bastiat for his dozens of such stories, but unfortunately he did not.
One hundred and eight years previously Bastiat told a similar story about a simple village carpenter in his Economic Harmonies. Whereas Read (or the Pencil) focusses on one product, Bastiat examines everything with which the carpenter comes into contact during his workday, such as food, clothes, the road he walks on, and so on, not just his tools and the wood he uses to make furniture and cabinets. In addition, whereas Read concentrates on the spatial dimensions of a world-wide supply chain which sees lead coming from Ceylon and wood coming from Oregon with only passing references to other crucial economic components, Bastiat also is very conscious of the factor of time and the long structures of production which have been built up over generations and which make economic activity possible in the present. All of this is done in just under 600 words. Here is his story of the carpenter in its entirety:
First of all, each day when he gets up he dresses, and he has not personally made any of the many items of his outfit. However, for these garments, however simple, to be at his disposal, an enormous amount of work, production, transport and ingenious invention needs to have been accomplished. Americans need to have produced cotton, Indians indigo, Frenchmen wool and linen and Brazilians leather. All these materials need to have been transported to a variety of towns, worked, spun, woven, dyed, etc.
He then has breakfast. In order for the bread he eats to arrive each morning, land had to be cleared, fenced, ploughed, fertilized and sown. Harvests had to be stored and protected from pillage. A degree of security had to reign in the context of an immense multitude of souls. Wheat had to be harvested, ground, kneaded and prepared. Iron, steel, wood and stone had to be changed by human labor into tools. Some men had to make use of the strength of animals, others the weight of a waterfall, etc.; all things each of which, taken singly, implies an incalculable mass of labor put to work , not only in space but also in time.
This man will not spend his day without using a little sugar, a little oil or a few utensils.
He will send his son to school to receive instruction, which although limited, nonetheless implies research, previous studies and knowledge such as to affright the imagination.
He goes out and finds a road that is paved and lit.
His ownership of a piece of property is contested; he will find lawyers to defend his rights, judges to maintain them, officers of the court to carry out the judgment, all of which once again imply acquired knowledge and consequently understanding and proper means of subsistence.
He goes to church; it is a prodigious monument and the book he carries is a monument to human intelligence perhaps more prodigious still. He is taught morality, his mind is enlightened, his soul elevated, and in order for all this to happen, another man had to be able to go to libraries and seminaries and draw on all the sources of human tradition; he had to have been able to live without taking direct care of his bodily needs.
If our craftsman sets out on a journey, he finds that, to save him time and increase his comfort, other men have flattened and leveled the ground, filled in the valleys, lowered the mountains, joined the banks of rivers, increased the smooth passage on the route, set wheeled vehicles on paving stones or iron rails, and mastered the use of horses, steam, etc.
It is impossible not to be struck by the truly immeasurable disproportion that exists between the satisfactions drawn by this man from society and those he would be able to provide for himself if he were to be limited to his own resources. I make so bold as to say that in a single day, he consumes things he would not be able to produce by himself in ten centuries.
Since Leonard Read’s Foundation for Economic Education was busy in the late 1950s and early 1960s translating Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms and Economic Harmonies it is most likely that he knew about these passages and that they were the inspiration for his own story about “I, Pencil”. Similarly, Bastiat too had been inspired by an earlier source for his parable of the carpenter. The original version of all these stories was most likely the great Free Trade orator William Johnson Fox (1786–1864) who was a journalist and a renowned orator who became one of the most popular speakers of the Anti-Corn Law League. He later served in Parliament from 1847 to 1863. Bastiat came across a speech Fox had given at the Covent Garden Theatre on 25 January 1844 where Fox points out the hypocrisy of the protectionists who literally covered themselves from head to toe with products imported from the four corners of the globe. Bastiat was so taken with this speech that he translated it in his book on Cobden and the League which appeared in 1845. Molinari then quoted Bastiat’s translation at some length in Soirée no. 7. While Fox was content merely to list the many foreign and imported things the aristocratic protectionists used every day of their lives as part of his public invective against protectionists, Bastiat had the idea of turning it into a witty economic tale, as did Leonard Read. Here is Fox’s original acerbic remarks:
It is a favourite theme, this independence of foreigners. One would imagine that the patriotism of the landlord’s breast must be most intense. Yet he seems to forget that he is employing guano to manure his fields; that he is spreading a foreign surface over his English soil, through which every atom of corn is to grow; becoming thereby polluted with the dependence upon foreigners which he professes to abjure.
To what is he left, this disclaimer against foreigners and advocate of dependence upon home? Trace him through his career. This was very admirably done by an honourable gentleman, who just now addressed you, at the Salisbury contest. His opponent urged this plea, and Mr. Bouverie stripped him, as it were, from head to foot, that he had not an article of dress upon him which did not render him in some degree dependent upon foreigners. We will pursue this subject, and trace his whole life. What is the career of the man whose possessions are in broad acres? Why, a French cook dresses his dinner for him, and a Swiss valet dresses him for dinner; he hands down his lady, decked with pearls that never grew in the shell of a British oyster; and her waving plume of ostrich-feathers certainly never formed the tail of a barn-door fowl. The viands of his table are from all the countries of the world; his wines are from the banks of the Rhine and the Rhone. In his conservatory, he regales his sight with the blossoms of South-American flowers. In his smoking room, he gratifies his scent with the weed of North America. His favourite horse is of Arabian blood; his pet dog of the St. Bernard’s breed. His gallery is rich with pictures from the Flemish school, and his statues from Greece. For his amusements, he goes to hear Italian singers warble German music, followed by a French ballet. If he rises to judicial honours, the ermine which decorates his shoulders is a production that was never before on the back of a British beast. His very mind is not English in its attainments; it is a mere pic-nic of foreign contributions. His poems and philosophy are from Greece and Rome; his geometry is from Alexandria; his arithmetic is from Arabia; and his religion from Palestine. In his cradle, in his infancy, he rubbed his gums with coral from Oriental oceans; and when he dies, his monument will be sculptured in marble from the quarries of Carrara.
And yet this is the man who says: “Oh! let us be independent of foreigners! Let us submit to taxation; let there be privation and want; let there be struggles and disappointments; let there be starvation itself; only let us be independent of foreigners!” I quarrel not with him for enjoying the luxuries of other lands, the results of arts which make it life to live. I wish that not only he and his order may have all the good that any climate or region can bear for them - it is their right, if they have wherewithal to exchange for it; what I complain of is, the sophistry, the hypocrisy, and the iniquity of talking of independence of foreigners in the article of food, while there is dependence in all these materials of daily enjoyment and recreation. Food is the article the foreigner most wants to sell; food is that which thousands of our operatives most want to buy; and it is not for him - the mere creature of foreign agency from head to foot - to interpose and say: “You shall be independent; I alone will be the very essence and quintessence of dependence.” We compromise not this question with parties such as these; no, nor with the legislature.
There are many other examples of Bastiat’s skill as an economic story teller and satirist of economic fallacies which one could mention but these are sufficient for our purposes here.
Following the success of Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms, at least in terms of sales and his reputation if not in immediate ideological impact, other economists tried to replicate his work in the late 1840s and early 1850s. The work of Cherbuliz, Wolowski, Fonteyraud, and even Molinari pale into insignificance when compared to the stylistic and conceptual brilliance of Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms. Molinari might have been conceptually brilliant and innovative at times but stylistically he was staid and conventional. One could never say that about Bastiat.
The following is a brief discussion of some of the French economists who immediately followed the example Bastiat had set.
The French speaking Swiss economist Antoine-Elisée Cherbuliez wrote two popular books during 1848–49 as part of a well orchestrated anti-socialist campaign organised by the Guillaumin publishing firm. His second book on “Turtle Soup” was prompted by an encounter he had with a workman he had employed to renovate his house. The builder seems to have been influenced by the revolutionary socialist ideas of the day and Cherbuliez felt obliged to argue with him about the economic benefits to the ordinary working person of expenditure by the wealthy on so-called luxury goods such as “turtle soup”. This was a poor attempt to explain the “trickle down effect” because a similar argument had been used by elites, whether in the political or economic aristocracy who benefitted from tax-payer or consumer funded subsidies, to justify their expenditure on lavish dinners and expensive horses and coachmen because their wealth inevitably “trickled down” to the working class whom they employed. A better strategy would have been to argue that expensive goods produced in a free market which could only be afforded by the very wealthy when they first appeared on the market would eventually, by a process of vigorous price competition and innovation, become cheap enough for less well off consumers to purchase, before they ultimately became mass produced and hence cheap consumer goods. Although this was a missed opportunity by Cherbuliez at explaining the benefits of free competition for ordinary consumers, it has provided us with one of the more unusual and amusing titles in the economic literature.
The discussion between the Professor of Economics (Le Professeur) and the Worker (L’ouvrier) who is fixing his house begins with a comment by the Worker on what he saw when coming to work that morning:
|Original text||My translation|
|L’ouvrier. Monsieur le professeur, en traversant le Palais-National, j’ai vu dans l’étalage d’un restaurant des tortues vivantes. Est-ce que par hasard on les mange, ces animaux-là?||Worker. Professor, when I was crossing the Palais-National I saw in the window of a restaurant some live turtles. By any chance, do people eat those animals?|
|Le Professeur. Sans contredit. On en fait un potage qui est très recherché des gourmands.||Professor. Without any doubt. They make them into soup which is much sought after by gourmands.|
|L’Ouv. Elle doit être joliment chère, cette soupe!||Worker. It must be pretty expensive, this soup!|
|Le Prof. Je n’en connais pas le prix; mais je pense, en effet, qu’un tel mets doit être coûteux, car les tortues viennent de loin.||Professor. I don’t know what the price is, but I imagine that such a dish must be costly because turtles come from far away.|
|L’Ouv. Sans compter qu’il faut se donner pas mal de peine pour les attraper. Et dire, qu’il y a des gens capables de lâcher peut-être une pièce de cent sous pour une assiette de soupe?||Worker. Not counting that it must take a fair bit of effort to catch them. Tell me, are there really people who will drop a hundred sous coin for a bowl of soup?|
|Le Prof. Pourquoi non, s’ils en ont les moyens? C’est une jouissance qui ne fait de tort à personne.||Professor. Why not, if they have the means do do so? It is a pleasure which does no harm to anybody.|
|L’Ouv. Je ne dis pas. Cependant, avec ça on nourrirait plus de dix ouvriers comme moi, et j’en connais assez qui n’ont pas de quoi manger à leur faim. C’est-il juste qu’un homme qui ne fait rien consomme à lui seul la nourriture de dix travailleurs? …||Worker: You don’t say. But, with that money you could feed more than ten workers like me, and I know quite a few who have nothing to eat to ease their hunger. It is it right for a man to think nothing of eating by himself enough for ten workers?|
After a lengthy and rather complex to and fro between the two parties the Professor of economics is able to prove to the Worker that banning the sale of luxury goods like turtle soup and giving the money to poor or unemployed workers will do nothing to increase the total amount of goods produced or the market for labour in general. Thus the ban on the consumption turtle soup will do nothing to benefit the workers, although it might be of benefit to the poor turtles:
|Original text||My translation|
|L’Ouv. Et les ouvriers nécessiteux, en faveur desquels je vous ai demandé la réforme des tortues, ne sont-ils pas ajoutés au nombre des consommateurs? Autrefois, ils se passaient de viande et souvent de pain; maintenant, ils auront à suffisance de l’une et de l’autre.||Worker. And the needy workers on whose behalf I asked you to reform (the laws on selling) turtles, haven’t they now been added to the number of consumers? Previously, they had to give up meat and sometimes even bread; now they will have enough of each.|
|Le Prof. Oui; pendant que les ouvriers qui travaillaient pour fournir à l’homme riche ses jouissances de luxe, ne gagneront plus de quoi se procurer de la viande, ni peut-être du pain. Ce que le riche prélève sur ses dépenses, pour le donner gratuitement à qui que ce soit, est autant de pris sur la somme totale qui sert chaque jour à payer les produits du travail, à rembourser, par conséquent, les avances des producteurs, et à mettre les ouvriers en état de consommer les vivres et les autres choses dont ils ont besoin. Vous voyez donc, que de toute manière, le travail destiné à produire les nécessités de la vie n’augmentera pas.||Professor. Yes. While the workers laboured to supply the rich man with his luxuries they will no longer be earning enough to provide themselves with meat or perhaps even bread. Whatever the rich save on their expenses (on luxuries) in order to give it away to whomever, as much is taken away from the total amount which is used each day to pay for the products of labour, to thereby reimburse the advances made by the producers, and to put the workers in a position to consume the food and other things which they need. Anyway, so you see that the labour needed to produce the necessities of life will not increase.|
|L’Ouv. Oui, oui ; je vois bien que les choses doivent se passer à peu près comme vous le dites, et qu’il vaut mieux laisser les amateurs de soupe à la tortue diner comme bon leur semble. Il n’y a que les tortues qui auraient sujet de s’en plaindre; mais je ne pense pas que leur vie soit plus précieuse que celle des bœufs, des veaux et des moutons qui tombent chaque jour sous le couteau du boucher.||Worker. Yes, yes. I can see that things must happen the way you say, and that it is worth more to let the connoisseurs of turtle soup dine according to their taste. Only the turtles will have any grounds for complaint, but I don’t think that their lives are any more precious than those of the cattle, calves, and sheep who fall every day under the knife of the butcher.|
These “conversations” continue over 150 pages and cover 15 separate topics which were particularly pressing for the economists in 1849 after the attempts in early and mid–1848 to create a welfare state in France. Their strategy in works like Cherbuliez’s and Molinari’s Soirées (also 1849) was to refute the commonly held ideas about the need for the common ownership of property, the right to a job, government “organisation of labour” like the National Workshops scheme, and increased taxation of the wealthy.
The Pole Louis Wolowski and the Mauritian Alcide Fonteyraud threw themselves vigorously into anti-socialist activities as soon as the Revolution broke out in February 1848. Fonteyraud helped found a “political club” or debating society in March 1848 called “Le Club de la liberté du travail” (The Club for the Freedom of Working) in order to debate socialists before the public on the merits of a government guaranteed “right to a job.” This was an important issue in early 1848 as the Provisional Government had set up the National Workshops which were the first attempt to create a welfare state in France which used taxpayers’ money to fund unemployment relief by means of government guaranteed jobs, and the socialist politicians in the Constituent Assembly were attempting to get a clause to this effect inserted into the new constitution which was being debated during the summer of 1848. Fonteyraud was a gifted pubic speaker who was able to mix quotations from French literature with quotations from Adam Smith and J.B. Say in a very entertaining and persuasive manner to counter the socialists in the debating clubs. Wolowski used his position as a member of the Constituent Assembly to organise speakers in the Chamber to argue against the “right to work” clause. These speeches were published by Guillaumin later in the year and included important contributions by Wolowski, Bastiat, as well as Alexis de Tocqueville. The culmination of Wolowski and Fonteyraud’s activities was the joint writing of an essay on the basic principles of political economy for a popular encyclopedia which was designed to reduce essential knowledge “for the People” to only 100 short tracts. It was cheaply produced and widely circulated among the public. After 16 densely printed double-columned text on the basic principles of political economy Wolowski and Fonteyraud concluded with a rousing statement about the compatibility of liberal political economy and the ideals of democracy and republicanism which had swept the country since February 1848:
|Original text||My translation|
|Du tout ce qui précède, ne pouvons-nous pas conclure que la doctrine économique est la doctrine du progrès, la confirmation du principes démocratiques, Elle respire dans la liberté, elle repose sur le travail, elle glorifie, récompense le génie, et garantit le bien-être du travailleur. On peut même dire qu’ayant constamment réclamé et conseillé la liberté des banques, l’association volontaire des forces productives, la réforme des impôts, du régime hypothécaire, la vie à bon marché et l’élévation du salaire, elle a fourni au socialisme les seules grandes et fortes conceptions qu’on y rencontre. Mais, pour que ces grandes vérités gagnent du terrain, il faut que l’éducation du pays se fasse dans tous les sens, - en haut et en bas; - car l’économie politique est décidée à ne flatter jamais ni tromper le peuple, à ne point faire luire à ses yeux de ces perspectives menteuses avec lesquelles s’achète la popularité. Ell a aussi des merveilles à offrir dans le présent et dans l’avenir, mais ell sait que le travail et la justice peuvent seule y conduire. Elle le sait, et, un moment méconnue du peuple égaré, elle l’attend.||Based upon all that has come before, can’t we conclude that economic principles are the principles of progress and the confirmation of democratic principles? It breaths the air of liberty, it depends upon labour, it glorifies and rewards genius/the spirit, and guarantees the well-being of the worker. One can even say that by constantly demanding and recommending free banking, the voluntary association of productive forces, reform of taxes and loans, and life at low prices and the raising of wages, it has supplied socialism the only grand and strong vision that one has encountered. But in order that these grand truths gain ground, it is necessary that the education of the country be undertaken in all its forms - from above and from below - because political economy has decided neither to ever flatter nor deceive the people, nor to dazzle their eyes with lying visions in order to buy their popularity. It also has marvels to offer them now in the present and in the future, but it knows that labour and justice can be the only guides. It knows this and, (after) a little known moment of a mislead people (has passed?), expects/is waiting for it.|
|Sûre de l’avenir, sûre de la vérité, elle ne fait pas appel aux actionnaires de bonne volonté, ni aux budgets. Elle se dit, en variant le noble cri de l’Italie: Il mondo fara da se.||Certain of the future and of the truth, it does not call upon shareholders of good will, or for budgets. It says to itself in a variation of the noble call for Italy: The world does it itself|
The Belgian born economist Gustave de Molinari turned his hand to popularizing economics with a series of books which used the conversational form extensively to present economic arguments. His first effort involved a collection of 12 lengthy conversations between a representative of each of the three main political and economic groups who were contending for control of government policy in 1848–49, namely a Socialist, a Conservative, and an Economist (who was obviously the mouthpiece for Molinari). These three-way conversations or discussions took place over a series of nights or “soirées” which were held in a large home on Saint Lazarus street in Paris. The book is remarkable for a number of reasons. One is the degree to which Molinari pushed the idea of “markets in everything” including the private provision of all public goods including that of protection (i.e. police and even national defense) and the need for “entrepreneurs for every market” (including entrepreneurs in the education business and entrepreneurs in the prostitution business). The second is that the book as a whole is perhaps the first one volume, comprehensive statement of the classical liberal political and economic worldview designed to appeal to an educated reader rather than a specialist, ever written. It prefigures later works such as Ludwig von Mises’s Liberalism (1929), Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty (1974). There are many problems with the “conversations” Molinari constructs for his 3 protagonists. Of course, the Socialist and the Conservative often too readily concede the argument in favour of the Economist; Molinari puts into the mouth of the Economist some of his personal ideas which were not held by other economists (such as the private provision of security and his total opposition to the compulsory acquisition of private property by the state for the building of public works); and the conversation become a bit boring after a couple of hundred pages since he does not have the literary skill of a Bastiat to sustain the reader’s interest for this long. Nevertheless, it was a courageous attempt to make a large body of economic knowledge better known to the general public and in many ways it still stands as a coherent and radical defence of the free market.
Here is an example from the opening lines of the “Eleventh Soirée” where Molinari broaches the idea of competing governments which offer security services in a free market: (LF’s new translation)
THE CONSERVATIVE. Under your system of absolute property rights and of full economic freedom, what is the function of government? [p. 304]
THE ECONOMIST. The function of the government consists solely in assuring everyone of the security of his property.
THE SOCIALIST. Right, this is the “State-as-Policeman” of Jean-Baptiste Say. But I in turn have a question to put to you: There are in the world today two kinds of government: the former trace their origin to an alleged divine right…..
THE CONSERVATIVE. Alleged? Alleged? Meaning what?
THE SOCIALIST. The others spring from popular sovereignty. Which of them do you prefer?
THE ECONOMIST. I want neither one nor the other. The former are monopoly governments and the latter are communist governments. In the name of the principle of property, in the name of the right I possess to provide myself with security, or to buy it from whomever seems appropriate to me, I demand free governments. [p. 305]
THE CONSERVATIVE. Which means?
THE ECONOMIST. It means governments whose services I may accept or refuse according to my own free will.
THE CONSERVATIVE. Are you serious?
The main weakness of Molinari’s conversational format is that the Economist’s opponents give in too easily to his arguments and as some of Molinari’s colleagues noted, the Economist espoused very radical free market ideas which were not shared by them. However, this would not be the last attempt by Molinari to undertake something like this. He returned to the conversational format twice more, once in 1855 and again in 1886. In both these works he focussed his conversations much more closely around the topic of free trade and protection instead of offering the much broader perspective he had attempted in Les Soirées.
Unfortunately, none of these four economists (Cherbuliez, Wolowski, Fonteyraud, or Molinari) rose to the heights Bastiat had reached although they valiantly tried to do so. They seemed to give up the attempt after Molinari wrote his second collection of “familiar conversations” in a book published in 1855 which was devoted entirely to free trade and protection now that the social threat of 1848–49 had passed. Their efforts were pedestrian and rather clumsy compared to Bastiat’s and I think they knew it. Thus they decided to devote their time to other forms of writing about economics.
During the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th there was a precipitous decline in interest in free market ideas and a corresponding decline in efforts to promote them, partly as a result of the increasing age and tiredness of its proponents and partly the inevitable consequence of the rise of democratic politics which attempted to put into practice the very “fiction” which Bastiat warned about in 1848, namely the effort of everybody to live at the expense of every one else by voting themselves state, or rather taxpayer funded benefits. In England the Cobden Club (founded in 1866) attempted to keep the ideas of its namesake alive with the publication of its Cobden Club Essays which were cheaply made pamphlets drawn from the speakers which it invited to address its regular meetings. Unlike the heyday of the Anti-Corn Law League the Cobden Club with its headquarters in a London gentleman’s club now spoke only to the educated elite who subscribed to its pamphlet series. There was no longer any attempt to speak to the masses with lectures held in public halls, numbered membership cards, and petition and signature drives to put pressure on parliamentarians as the Cobdenites once did. When it did make the occasional effort to reach out to ordinary readers, as it did in 1882, its solution was to reprint Bastiat with only slight modifications to the content to make it more relevant to British conditions. This strongly suggests that it no longer had members with the imagination or flair to write their own material. Instead they chose to recycle material written by a dead white Frenchman.
In France Molinari made a final attempt to appeal to ordinary workers and consumers with his third set of “Conversations” which appeared in 1886. By this time Molinari had become very pessimistic about the future possibilities for liberal reform. The focus in these conversations is still confined to the protection of agriculture but there is now more discussion of the political reasons behind protectionist policies and why there is such resistance to free market ideas. There are only three “Conversations” which take place in three different bars which are “themed” in very blackly humorous and bizarre ways. The first Conversation takes place in a bar called the “Prison Colony Tavern” where people are dressed like prisoners in a penal colony; the second takes place in the “Black Cat” bar which is guarded by a Swiss Guard, where people are dressed like poets and musicians, and cats meow at the moon; and the last Conversation takes place in “The Dead Rat” café which is decorated in the classical style and where members of the bourgeoisie and would-be politicians and artists mingle. The last 12 pages are quite sad and rather hopeless about the future. The aging and greying Economist (Molinari was 67 when he wrote this) is confronted by the Collectivist who says that he rejects the ideas of the free market completely. The Protectionist, as an elected politician, admits that it would be electoral and political suicide to admit the error of their views and embrace free trade even if it were true. The protectionist politician tells Molinari that if he became a free trader he could not be re-elected, he would be ostracised by his party thus ending his career, he would not be able to get his relatives jobs in the government bureaucracy, and so on. Although the Protectionist Politician admits that he has no answer to Molinari’s economic arguments in favour of free trade he points out in the following passage the public choice reality he faces in a democratic political system:
|Original text||My translation|
|LE PROTECTIONNISTE. N’allons pas si vite. Vous m’avez impressionné, voilà tout, et c’est bien assez. Si vous m’aviez converti, cela me gênerait beaucoup et cela ne vous servirait pas à grand’chose.||The Protectionist. Not so fast. You have made an impression on me, that is all, and it is quite enough. If you had converted me that would have embarrassed me considerably and it would not have got you much in return.|
|L’ÉCONOMISTE. Que voulez-vous dire? Je ne comprends pas.||The Economist. What do you mean? I do not understand.|
|LE PROTECTIONNISTE. Malgré votre science, il y a bien des choses, mon respectable ami, que vous ne comprenez pas. Vous ne vous rendez pas compte dé la situation d’un député et des devoirs particuliers qu’elle lui impose. Pourquoi les électeurs nous donnent-ils leurs voix? Parce qu’ils ont confiance en nous; parce qu’ils supposent que nous défendrons leurs intérêts, ou, si vous voulez — c’est une concession que je vous fais — ce qu’ils croient être leurs intérêts.||The Protectionist. In spite of your science, there are quite a few things my dear friend that you do not understand. You do not appreciate the situation a Deputy finds himself in and the particular obligations which this position places on him. Why do the voters give us their votes? It is because they have confidence in us; because they believe that we will defend their interests, or if you wish - and it is a concession I will grant you - what they believe to be their interests.|
|Il est possible qu’ils se trompent. C’est leur affaire, ce n’est pas la nôtre. Mes électeurs sont protectionnistes. Ils m’ont envoyé à la Chambre pour défendre la protection, et voter une augmentation des droits sur les céréales et le bétail. Si je me laissais convertir à vos doctrines — qui me paraissent certainement respectables et même vraies, c’est encore une concession que je vous fais— si je passais dans le camp du libre-échange, si je votais contre l’augmentation des droits, quelle serait ma situation vis-à-vis de mes électeurs? N’auraient-ils pas le droit de m’accuser d’avoir trompé leur confiance? Ne commettrais-je pas un acte d’indélicatesse, je dirai plus, de félonie politique? Vous me direz, peut-être que je pourrais donner ma démission. C’est vrai; mais si je donnais ma démission sur une question qu’ils considèrent comme capitale, je ne serais pas réélu. Vous me direz encore que le malheur ne serait pas grand. C’est possible! Mais mon avenir n’en serait pas moins compromis d’une manière irrémédiable. Ma carrière politique serait brisée. Sans doute, je possède quelque fortune et je puis me passer, Dieu merci! de mon indemnité parlementaire. Tous mes collègues n’en sont pas là. Mais j’ai le goût de la politique et, sans me flatter, je crois avoir les aptitudes nécessaires pour y réussir. Ne commettrais-je pas un acte d’insanité, presque un acte coupable; ne manquerais-je pas à tous mes devoirs envers moi-même, si je brisais ma carrière au début? Ne serait-ce pas commettre un véritable suicide? Que dirait ma famille, que diraient mes amis? Ma famille! N’ai-je pas aussi des devoirs à remplir envers elle? Elle est nombreuse, ma famille, et tous mes parents ne sont pas riches. Je suis leur providence. J’ai déjà obtenu une recette pour mon oncle et placé trois de mes cousins dans les bureaux. Il m’en resté encore quatre à pourvoir, et il m’en arrive tous les jours dé nouveaux. S’ils apprenaient que j’ai donné ma démission, pour un motif incompréhensible — car certes ils ne le comprendraient pas, et personne ne le comprendrait, excepté vous! — ne me traiteraient-ils pas de mauvais parent? Ne doit-on pas faire quelques sacrifices à sa famille, surtout à une époque comme la nôtre, où l’esprit de famille s’en va? Et mes électeurs, puis-je les laisser à la merci de mon concurrent, un intrigant de la plus vile espèce, un ambitieux sans principes et sans talent, qui exploitera sa position pour refaire sa fortune endommagée par le krack, qui fera beaucoup de promesses et qui n’en tiendra aucune? On dit que le niveau de la représentation du pays va s’abaissant tous lès jours. Il faut l’empêcher de s’abaisser davantage, en ne fournissant pas à de pareils hommes l’occasion d’y entrer. C’est un devoir patriotique. Voilà pourquoi je ne puis pas, je ne dois pas donner ma démission, et pourquoi aussi je dois m’abstenir de tout ce qui pourrait m’obliger, en conscience, à la donner. C’est une règle de conduite dont un bon député ne doit pas se départir. Je ne dis pas que ce soit toujours facile. Quand on étudie une question sous toutes ses faces, comme nous venons de le faire, on peut être tenté de changer d’opinion. Il faut avoir le courage de résister à la tentation. Il faut savoir faire abnégation de sa propre pensée, de ses propres convictions, et c’est quelquefois un sacrifice bien pénible, j’en conviens. Seulement, quand on sait se conduire, quand on est un homme à la fois consciencieux et pratique comme je me flatte de l’être, on évite de se placer dans cette alternative désagréable. On n’a pas d’opinions préconçues et on s’abstient d’approfondir les questions. On consulte ses électeurs, on sait ce qu’ils pensent, ce qu’ils veulent, et on vote! Comme cela, on n’a pas de scrupule à se faire, et on est réélu.||It is possible that they (my voters) are fooling themselves. That is their business, it is not ours. My voters are protectionists. They have sent me to the Chamber to defend Protectionism and to vote for an increase in the duties on (imported) cereals and cattle/meat. If I let myself be converted to your views - which appear to me to be certainly respectable and perhaps even true, and this is another concession I am willing to make to you - if I were to move into the free trade camp, if I voted against the increase in duties, what would be the situation vis-à-vis my electorate? Wouldn’t they have the right to accuse me of having betrayed their confidence in me? Wouldn’t I have committed an act of tactlessness, and let me go even further, a political felony/crime? You will say perhaps that I could resign. That is true, but if I hand in my resignation over an issue which they regard as essential, I would not be re-elected. You will say to me further that the harm would not be that great. That is possible! But my future would not be any less irreversibly compromised. My political career would be smashed. Of course, I have some money and I can get by, thank God, on my parliamentary pension. All my colleagues are not in this position. But I have a taste for politics and, without flattering myself, I believe I have the necessary aptitude to succeed at it. Wouldn’t I be committing an act of insanity, almost a punishable act; wouldn’t I be be failing in all my duties to myself if I destroyed my career at its very beginning? Wouldn’t this be committing veritable suicide? My family! Don’t I have obligations I have to fill towards them? My family is numerous and my parents are not rich. I am their provider. I have already got my uncle a job in the tax office and have placed three of my cousins in the civil service. There still remains 4 more to look after and more come to me every day. If they learned that I had handed in my resignation for an incomprehensible reason - because they would not understand it and nobody except you would understand it - wouldn’t they treat me like a bad parent? Shouldn’t you make sacrifices for your family, especially in a time like ours when family values are disappearing?And my electorate, can I leave them at the mercy of my opponent, an intriguer of the worst kind, an ambitious man without principles or talent, who will exploit his position in order to rebuild his fortune which was damaged in (the last) recession, who will make many promises and keep none of them? They say that the level of representation is dropping every day. We must stop this from now on by not providing men like these any opportunity to get into politics. It is our patriotic duty. That is why I cannot and ought not hand in my resignation. It is also why I ought to refrain from doing anything which might oblige me in all conscience to give it. It is a rule of conduct from which a good Deputy should never depart. I do not say that this will always be easy. When one studies a question from all sides, as we have just done, one can be tempted to change one’s opinion. It is necessary to have the courage to resist the temptation. It is necessary to know how to give up one’s own thoughts, one’s own convictions, and it is sometimes a quite painful sacrifice I will admit. Only when one knows how to conduct oneself, when one is a man at once conscientious and practical as I flatter myself to be, will one avoid putting oneself in this unpleasant position. One shouldn’t have preconceived ideas and one should refrain from going too deeply into these questions. One should consult the voters, know what they think, what they want, and then one votes! This being the case, one has no scruples about doing what needs to be done, and one gets re-elected.|
In these concluding pages Molinari subjects himself to some harsh criticism by putting in his opponents’ mouths accusations that his life has been wasted writing books no one read and whose ideas no one believed. This probably reflected the doubts and fears he was experiencing in the early 1880s as tariffs were being reintroduced into France after a period of relative free trade following the Cobden-Chevalier trade treaty of 1860.
The only other free market economist who was still trying to speak to a popular audience in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was Yves Guyot (1843–1928). During the Third Republic he was elected to the Paris Municipal Council and in 1885 to the national Chamber of Deputies. In 1889 he was appointed Minister of Public Works and when the aging Molinari finally retired as editor of the Journal des Économistes in 1909 Guyot took over that position. He also wrote several books which attempted to reach a more popular audience such as La Tyrannie Socialiste (The Tyranny of Socialism) (1893), La Comédie Socialiste (The Socialist Comedy) (1897), Sophismes Socialistes et Faits Économiques (Socialist Sophisms and Socialist Facts/Deeds) (1908), and L’ABC du Libre-échange (The ABC of Free Trade) (1913). Two of these works have titles which might suggest an approach in the manner of Bastiat, The Socialist Comedy (1897) and Socialist Sophisms and Socialist Facts/Deeds (1908). The former was intended to poke fun at the follies of the socialists but it is heavy handed and poorly written, while the latter lacked the lightness of touch, wit, and cleverness of Bastiat. Guyot’s sophisms were more in the plodding and didactic style of Jeremy Bentham who is in fact credited in the Preface as the source of Guyot’s “inspiration.”  The impact of these late 19th and early 20th century efforts on the public’s attitudes about free market ideas was minimal to say the least.
The popularization of free market economic ideas died with the collapse of liberal institutions and ideas in the wake of World War One. There was now virtually no interest in free market economic theory at the academic level and there were very few free market defenders among business people and intellectuals who were willing or even able to revive interest in free market ideas at the popular level. The exceptions were the small group of old liberals in Europe who formed the Mont Pèlerin Society in 1947, two businessmen in Los Angeles, R.C. Hoiles and Leonard Read, and the émigré Austrian Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises who settled in New York and ran a seminar at NYU.
This paper is not the place to go into this early period of post-war revival except to mention the following brief points concerning the continuing influence of the “French Connection”. Hoiles and Read rediscovered Bastiat’s ideas on the West Coast and began republishing old 19th century translations of his work in 1944. Read began the Foundation for Economic Education and moved his headquarters to New York where he began an ambitious translation and publication program in the 1950s and 1960s which brought Bastiat’s ideas to American readers. Bastiat’s ideas influenced the thinking of the journalist Henry Hazlitt who wrote columns for the New York Times and then a popular work Economics in One Lesson (1946) using the subtitle of Bastiat’s booklet What is Seen and What is Not Seen from 1850, thus acknowledging his debt to him. Read in 1958 wrote his own very successful version of a Bastiat-like economic tale “I, Pencil.”
Other important figures who brought free market economic ideas to ordinary people somewhat later were Ayn Rand with her novels and non-fiction essays, and the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman with his journalism for Newsweek and his book and TV documentary Free to Choose (1980). Neither of them seemed to have heard of Bastiat and did not use his “rhetoric of liberty” in making their case for the free market - Rand was essentially humourless and not well read in economic facts or history; and Friedman was engaging but did not use witty rhetorical devices in his writing or speaking, although when the series was rebroadcast in 1990 the use of Arnold Schwarzenegger to introduce the episode on “The Power of the Market” might have been an example of unintentional humour.
The true heir to the Bastiat tradition of economic popularization only came in 2002 when Jasay burst onto the scene with his article “Your Dog Owns Your House” (Apr 22, 2002) for the relatively new website Econlib (founded 1999). The rest of this paper will explore his approach to the popularization of free market ideas, his debt to Bastiat, and the similarities and differences which exist between the two writers.
Of the more than 140 articles which Jasay has written for Econlib between 2002 and now, I have found just over 20 (18%) which I believe show striking similarities to the style and method of Bastiat’s economic sophisms. Jasay is definitely not a clone of Bastiat as he is a professionally trained economist and political philosopher who has a long track record of academic publishing and engagement with fellow professionals. Bastiat is not. What they do share, and this has been made explicit by Jasay in a couple of his articles, is a common purpose to their journalism (to expose economic fallacies) and a certain temperament and methodology. The temperament is a shared outrage at how easily people can be fooled by false economic arguments and a fierce desire to show the the economic truth. The common methodology is to use their skill with words to select apt and colorful metaphors to make their economic arguments more understandable to the intelligent reader who is not an expert in economics.
In what follows I want to discuss how both writers were driven to economic journalism as a result of the economic and political crises through which they lived; how they used animal imagery in making difficult economic ideas more understandable by the general public, their use of the absurd and the “reductio ad absurdum” argument to mock their adversaries, and their general use of colourful images, metaphors and economic tales. I will conclude with a discussion of the differences which do exist between them and then the general problem they both faced when they realised that their efforts have been only partially successful and that “zombie economics” keeps coming back to life.
In his Introduction to a 2009 collection of Jasay’s writings Political Economy, Concisely the editor Hartmut Kliemt notes of Jasay:
Anthony de Jasay may be seen in the role of a Frédéric Bastiat of our times. Like Bastiat, whom he admires (and credits with the discovery of opportunity cost, a cornerstone of economics), Jasay himself is a philosopher-economist with hard-won, practical experience. He displays an affinity for British classical liberalism, particularly for David Hume, but keeps his distance from the Utilitarians. A longtime resident of France, Jasay shares Bastiat’s encounters with the perversities of the centralized state. Like his great French forerunner, he took (and still takes) to the pen to express his criticism. However, unlike Bastiat, who was a Frenchman, Jasay came to France from Hungary, his native country, with stops in Austria, Australia, and finally Oxford, where he taught economics.
I would make a slight correction to Kliemt’s passage by noting that although technically Bastiat was a Frenchman he came from the southwest province of Gascony which made him somewhat of an outsider when he went to Paris because of the strong regional accent and his country-style of dress which amused the Parisian economists very much. As the historian Gérard Minart has noted about Bastiat, Molinari, and others, there was a group of radical and innovative economists who came to Paris from the provinces, who thought quite differently from the parisian mainstream, and thus pushed French political economy in dramatically new directions in the 1840s. Minart called them “The Four Musketeers” of French political economy because, like D’Artagnan, Bastiat came from Gascony. By my calculations there were in fact 7 who fall into this category, thus making Bastiat a member of “The Seven Musketeers.” Thus in my view, Jasay is even more like Bastiat than Kliemt thinks, being an outsider and a polyglot to boot. As a result they both see the word in which they inhabit quite differently from others.
Jasay referred to Bastiat explicitly at least 6 times in his Econlib columns but his ideas and style of writing are present in many more. In “Thirty-five Hours” (July 15, 2002), the second article he wrote for Econlib, Jasay laments the fact that France has ignored two of its greatest economists, J.B. Say and Frédéric Bastiat, whom he describes as “shamefully neglected and underestimated”. He specifically mentions Bastiat’s “most brilliant essay” “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen” and credits Bastiat for having anticipated the concept of opportunity cost and states that he was “to my knowledge, the first economist ever to use and explain it.” He also credits Bastiat with having discovered a number of other important economic ideas such as rent-seeking in essays like “The State” (1848) well ahead of the Public Choice school, and the notion of negative factor productivity in “The Negative Railway.”
I would go even further than Jasay and say that there are other important insights which Bastiat was the first to develop and for which he has never received due recognition. At the head of these is his invention of “Crusoe Economics” which he used to explore the logic of human action in the abstract well before the Austrian school began doing the same thing. Bastiat uses the fictional figure of Robinson Crusoe who has been shipwrecked on his Island of Despair in his thought experiments to show the obstacles which need to be overcome in order for Crusoe to achieve some level of prosperity, the opportunity costs of using one’s time on one task rather than another, the need to deprive himself of some comforts in order to accumulate some savings, and (when Friday and visitors from other islands appear on the scene) the benefits of the division of labor and the nature of comparative advantage in trade. In his typical amusing way Bastiat uses the figure of the European Crusoe to argue for tariffs and the native Friday to argue for the free trade position in an interesting reversal of colonial stereotypes (the “uncivilised” protectionist European vs. the rational and forwarding thinking free trade native).
I would also mention his precocious but not fully developed ideas about the subjectivity of value which got him into so much trouble with his fellow economists in the Society of Political Economy but which have attracted the attention of the modern Austrians such as Murray Rothbard and others at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Jasay’s explanation for the neglect of Bastiat by the academy is a cynical one, though not untrue because of that. In an early article “The Seen and the Unseen. Part I. On the Economics of Protecting Employment” (Dec 06, 2004) he comments upon Bastiat’s brilliant writing style and attributes this to his neglect by modern economists and historians of economic thought (like Schumpeter) who assumed that because he could write so well he could not be a proper economic theorist:
The misfortune of Bastiat was that he never spouted endless pages of obscure prose. He wrote with such impeccable, jargon-free clarity that his readers thought he was simply stating the obvious that they knew anyway. He was, and still is, widely taken for a mere vulgarizer, clever with his pen but not a great thinker. In his own country, where obscure and high-flown writing is often prized above simplicity, Bastiat is as good as unknown. Yet it is there that heeding his words would do the most good.
The two authors also have something in common regarding the reasons why they became economic journalists or popularisers of economic thought in the first place. There were two external stimuli which provoked Bastiat into becoming an economic journalist: firstly, his opposition to protectionism and the inspiration provided by Richard Cobden and the English ACLL in 1844–46; and secondly, the rise of socialism in the early months of the February Revolution in Paris in 1848. Both these sets of stimuli made Bastiat rethink how he did his economic journalism, whether or not to take a serious approach or use satire and amusing stories to make his ideas interesting to ordinary readers; whether or not to pull his punches and use matter of fact technical economic language in analyzing problems, or to use “harsh” language, to call a spade a spade, and theft “theft” and thus run the risk of alienating his readers. He oscillated between the various approaches as he couldn’t decide on the best method at any given time. It was unsettling for him but marvellous for the modern reader as it reveals Bastiat’s great talent in a range of styles and provides a large store of very clever and amusing articles which we can still appreciate today.
Jasay also experienced some external stimuli which motivated him to turn his hand to journalism: the dot.com crash of 1999–2001 and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. His first article for Econlib appeared in April 2002 and is a classic example of the Bastiat style, “Your Dog Owns Your House”, as is one of his most recent columns “The Python That Eats Itself By The Tail” in July 2014. He notes in the Preface to his collection of Econlib articles from 2008–2012 that the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 had transformed the “Washington consensus” into a panic of neo-Keynesianism which he was valiantly trying to counter in his columns:
Those five years (2008–12) were something of a shambles in most of the Western economies, and their intellectual climate was not really pleasant. My five dozen essays, grouped roughly by subject, are contending with this climate and seek to defend what I believe is valid economics and the liberal thought which such economics supports. It is odd that it should require a defense. Prior to 2007, it was the accepted orthodoxy, the Washington consensus of reasonably free markets, free trade, flexible exchange rates, and decreasing regulation. In the changed climate of the past five years, this orthodoxy has been partly or wholly rejected. Whose fault is it?
In our era of fast technological change, transport and communications technologies advance fastest of all. Modern transport technology brought us globalization by transforming a vast range of products that used to move only a few miles into tradeable goods moving with ease from one continent to another. This long-distance trade lifted a billion or so of the Asian poor out of abject misery and was mostly a good thing in other respects. The same is hardly true of communications technology. Ideas that used to move fairly slowly from place to place, being filtered and tested a bit on the way, now are perceived with the speed of light all over the world, where the internet and the so-called social networks hold sway. This is far from always being a good thing. It is the enabling condition of what I call, with unconcealed ill will, parrot talk. It is my chosen adversary in this book. It rises when some authority launches an idea, a departure from the old, which is easily plausible and responds to an anxiety or a need for putting the blame on some scapegoat for things not going as they should. The idea is picked up by the media and, deplorably enough, by the lesser lights in our universities and is repeated, parrotlike, until it becomes the generally accepted new orthodoxy.
In what follows I will briefly examine some of the similarities and differences which exist between Jasay and Bastiat as potent and effective debunkers of economic myths, fallacies, and sophisms.
Bastiat liked to quote the fables of La Fontaine in order to make his economic arguments better understood by ordinary people who had been brought up on his stories. Many of these involved animals whose behaviour mimicked that of humans and whose mistakes and errors were useful foils to make moral or economic arguments for people who would not listen to or perhaps could not understand formal economic logic. One particularly clever and amusing example is Bastiat’s use of the story about “The Weasel and the Granary” to argue for a reduction in military expenditure. In La Fontaine’s fable a weasel decides to break into a famers granary to eat his grain. He sneaks through a crack in the wall and gorges himself on the food supplies. A rat warns him that the farmer will be angry if he finds him here and will kill him. Since the weasel has grown fatter after weeks of eating the farmer’s grain he cannot escape through the same crack in the wall through which he came. The weasel will thus have to go on a strict diet if he hopes to get thinner and escape the wrath of the farmer. This is a simple moral lesson to learn, that stealing will have consequences and that one must change one’s behaviour if one wishes to escape those consequences. Bastiat turns it to his advantage by comparing profligate military expenditure by the French state to theft which will anger the taxpayers who will seek their revenge through the Parliament by cutting the military budget. If the reader understands the La Fontaine fable then it is quite likely they will also see the analogy of large military budgets and heavy rates of taxation.
Jasay also likes to use animal imagery for much the same purpose. There is no longer a stock of universally known children’s stories involving moral lessons like La Fontaine’s but Jasay nevertheless is able to cleverly use animals in his articles as the following examples will show:
We have already mentioned “the house owning dog” example of taking a simple story about a dog and turning it into an analysis of a complex economic idea about how various contributors to the value of a piece of property are paid for their services. The analogy is readily understood by the average reader, it is amusing, and it is clever in getting to the heart of the issue. Shortcuts to the heart and mind of the reader are the key to understanding the power of good writing for a popular audience. However, I am inclined to see Jasay’s relationship to his dog in another way, namely his dog is actually a Molinarian private provider of security services who is paid for his/its services by room, board, and affection from the Jasay family. It is a happy, voluntary, and purely private contractual arrangement which takes place beyond the reach of the crushing hand of the French state. If I had written this article I might have stressed more the mutually beneficial nature of this non-state arrangement and the more immediate response to threats provided by a local police official who does periodic patrols of the perimeter of the property. I would also make the point that both parties, the Jasay family and their dog, could end their relationship at any time simply by walking away. To complete the story, all we need is a Bastiat to give appropriate names to the parties involved, the local state police constable who has lost the Jasay security contract, and the name of the dog which won it. My suggestion would be “M. Bonaparte le benjamin” for the local gendarme, and “Gustave” for the dog. Perhaps Jasay could tell us what the actual name of his dog was when he wrote this article.
Another example is the use of the image of the metamorphosis of a common animal such as a tadpole which, as every child knows, eventually grows into a frog (“A Tadpole Constitution” (Dec 01, 2003)). What does not at first look like a frog becomes, through a series of necessary steps imposed by millions of years of evolutionary biology, a very different looking and much larger animal - a frog. By analogy, Jasay argues that the federal structure of Europe, or even the U.S., may start off as a modest tadpole but will inevitably turn into a frog of a state through a process of public choice incentives for politicians and bureaucrats who run the system. The comparison is simple and clever and it is an excellent example of how Jasay introduces complex political and economic ideas into his material.
In “Finance in Parrot Talk” (Nov. 2011 and Jan. 2012) he uses a strategy which Bastiat frequently used in his Economic Sophisms, namely the identification of a “sophism” (which could be both an economic “fallacy” or falsehood, or a piece of “sophistry” or an argument used deliberately to deceive the reader in order to befit a particular vested interest). This sophism is identified in order to reveal to the “dupes” (another favourite expression of Bastiat) that they are being deceived and taken for a ride. In the first article the fallacies Jasay identifies are “that risk is a bad thing and ought to be purged from the economy as far as possible” and that “Capitalism is immoral because it promotes immoral or at best amoral conduct in pursuit of a morally worthless objective, profit.” He defines “parrot talk” in the following manner:
I call “parrot talk” the loud and relentless repetition of some plausible fallacy that is first launched as an original and debatable notion by some minor authority or small group, often with an axe to grind, and then, by a mysterious process of perverse selection, is taken up and hammered home by public intellectuals and the media, triumphantly becoming a firmly established truth. When used as prophecy or forecast it is liable to be self-fulfilling. When used as explanation and diagnosis, it dictates the remedy. In either case, it is capable of causing deep and lasting damage in political thought and the public policy the thought tends to shape.
This of course is pure Bastiat at work, cloaked in the amusing metaphor of a parrot mindlessly repeating what it has heard its master say without understanding what the words mean. In Jasay’s view the entire body of “public intellectuals and the media” constitute a flock of rowdy and mindless parrots when it comes to understanding how capitalism really works.
Two very recent uses by Jasay of animal imagery are his articles on “Two Horses, Four Grooms” (Apr 07, 2014) and “The Python That Eats Itself by the Tail: A Self-Contradictory Theory of Capitalism” (July 7, 2014). The charming and witty story about “The Two Horses and the Four Grooms” is pure La Fontaine in its absurdity and its cleverness in getting the the core of the problem at hand. Here Jasay compares the massive French bureaucracy to a pair of grooms who are needed to “make the horses walk” and pull their masters carriage. They assume that without their assistance the horses would not be able to put one foot in front of the other. The horses are likened to the French people who have forgotten how to walk because they haven’t done this on their own for centuries as generation after generation of interventionist monarchs, emperors, and presidents have controlled nearly every aspect their walking.
Jasay concludes with the following sardonic observation about the state of France:
The allegory of the horses and the grooms is, of course, just made of sardonic humour. Its parallel about peoples and their governments is much to be regretted reality. It is reality of the clumsy, absurd and invasive kind. It seems as if it were getting clumsier and more invasive in our own lifetime, and this impression does have some objective ground in the year-to-year march of economic and social statistics.
He asks further, why France, which claims to be “the greatest lover of liberty”, has “the highest and most expensive team of “grooms” of any country in Europe? One answer he gives is the historically large role the state has always played in France throughout its history which has result in the sorry situation where ”(i)t is beginning to look as if the horses, aided by the grooms, have unlearnt how to trot and canter unaided".
The article “The Python That Eats Itself by the Tail” (July 7, 2014) is less La Fontaine’s Fables than Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories (1902). This is Jasay’s devastating demolition of Thomas Piketty’s thesis of the inexorable growth of the Capital of the 1 percent. By likening capital to a python which attempts to eat everything it comes across because of its voracious appetite in order to keep growing, Jasay makes a very clever point that there must be a limit to the growth of capital otherwise the python will have to start eating its own tail. As he describes the “self-destruction” of Piketty’s theory of capitalism:
By the end of year 60, total output will have grown to 2.44 and capital to 56.11. To grow at its predetermined rate of 4.5% in year 61, capital would need to grow by 2.52 but, in that year output would only be 2.48. The whole of the year’s output would have been swallowed up by capital. There would be less than nothing left for consumption and the few workers who have held out so far would finally give up and die of hunger. In a sense, the python will have swallowed itself up. The half-way house to this result will have been reached in year 37, with half of output left over for consumption and part of the work force still surviving on meagre rations. All this is, of course, preposterous and lays bare the logical deformity of the model.
The Piketty article also shows Jasay’s use of “harsh language” in sweeping aside a particularly foolish set of false economic arguments. Like Bastiat, Jasay does reach the end of his tether (another animal image) now and again and his frustration with his intellectual opponents reveals itself. But this is part of his charm and it is the combination of clear thinking, witty language, and passion for economic truth which keeps this reader, and I’m sure others as well, coming back for more.
Bastiat was a master in using the “reductio ad absurdum” (taking an argument to its logical but ultimately impossible conclusion) as his famous “Petition of the makers of Candles” and “The Negative Railway” demonstrate clearly. In “The Petition” Bastiat invents a fictional petition to Parliament by a manufacturing group asking for taxpayer assistance to help them cope with competition from a cheaper competitor. He uses the same arguments which had been used by contemporary vested interests groups such as French farmers and steel manufacturers over the previous 40 years, namely that it was important for the nation to have an XYZ industry because it meant employment for French workers and taxes for the government, and that their foreign competitors had an “unfair advantage” over French producers which meant they could supply their goods at lower prices. The absurd kicker which is only revealed at the very end is that the foreign competitor which had the unfair advantage was none other than the sun. It is a brilliant piece of writing which is very funny and very clever and very effective. The story of “The Negative Railway” with an infinite number of stops to stimulate local industry around each railway station but which never gets to its ultimately destination is another superb example of this method.
Jasay also uses this method of arguing as the following examples indicate:
In an article from November 2007 Jasay compares various activities of the state, such as compulsory education, to the practice of “force-feeding.”. Although he does not mention specifically the practice of force-feeding geese in order to enlarge their liver to make better pâté de foie gras (perhaps living in France has hardened him to this practice), he does discuss the custom of Mauritanian families of fattening up their daughters in order to make them more attractive to potential marriage partners. Whether it be geese or Mauritanian girls, Jasay has chosen a very colourful way to write about the practice of compulsory education which in his view is a form of “forced-learning” which had not produced the outcomes which were intended (namely, universal literacy and a critical and informed electorate). What is has produced in all countries which have adopted it is a massive tax-payer funded bureaucracy which demands an ever increasing budget to solve problems which seem insoluble and which the bureaucracy itself may have created or made worse. It is a pity Jasay did not choose the force-feeding of geese as his analogy over that of the Mauritanian girls (which he admits is somewhat “forced”) because he could have used it to make the further comparison of geese being prepared for slaughter and being eaten by connoisseurs of pâte with teenagers being groomed by state bureaucrats to be obedient citizens, willing taxpayers, and perhaps ultimately dutiful soldiers who are prepared to fight senseless wars voted for by the politicians. Towards the end of the article he introduces another animal analogy, that of young elephants who are subjected to what he calls “compulsory social re-grouping” whereby they are separated from their broader family and sent away to live together. The unintended result of this “forced-separation” (analogous to children of the same age being forced to attend school together) is that the young elephants go on killing rampages against rhinoceroses, perhaps out of boredom or a form of animal gang warfare. What seems at first to the reader to be an absurd comparison raises a very disturbing concern about the long term impact that compulsion has on large numbers of young individuals who are dependent upon adults for guidance.
Another good example of Jasay’s skill at choosing the right metaphor to explain and simplify a complex economic argument are his articles about “Society as a Great Big Credit Card” (May 2010) and “Society as a Great Big Insurance Company” (July 2010). In the former series of articles he takes on the question of time preference and how interest rate charges on credit can be explained by using this theoretical concept. Jasay is not opposed to credit cards. In fact, he describes them as (next to the contraceptive pill) “the mightiest agent of social change in our age.” What he does object to is the way the modern welfare state has come to be regarded by many people as “a great big collective credit card which allows them to have public goods, social services, subventions and tax breaks simply by voting for them.” Given the fact that the modern welfare state never pays back the loans it takes out on the international bond market, the credit card bill never arrives for the present generation of users who leave that concern to future generations. This article also provides Jasay with one of the few opportunities in his body of work to directly mention Bastiat who is otherwise a largely invisible but powerful presence which hangs over much of his writing. Here Jasay acknowledges Bastiat’s recognition of the problem of rent-seeking and free-riders 100 years before the public choice school:
Though the national accounts balance in the aggregate, the accounts of particular individuals need not; some end up as suckers, others as free riders. Well over a century before “public choice” or “rent-seeking” have become passwords among the initiated, Frederic Bastiat described the state as the instrument by which everybody is trying to live at everybody else’s expense. All cannot succeed to ride free, but many will. Political economy and political science analyse these sub-surface goings-on as the product of rational opportunism, the calculating exploitation of voting strength, the sale of souls to the highest bidder and so forth. All that is valid enough, but tells only half the story. The other half, perhaps the more important one, is about the un-calculating, unconscious and unwary manner in which the majority of people regard and handle the collective credit card. It is as if they sincerely believed, without consciously believing it, that the state is sitting by a vast reservoir of good things and useful deeds, rivulets and avalanches of which are regularly released. The stock has perhaps all been paid for beforehand, or need never be paid for—the question does not arise.
This leads to another rather rare occurrence in Jasay’s writings where he ponders the idea which was very much part of Bastiat’s theory of class and plunder that society might be divided between a productive, net tax-paying class and a “parasitic” (his term) class who live at the expense of the former:
If the public can have a split personality, this is one of them. The other is conscious, calculating and even crafty. Each of its sub-groups benefits disproportionally from some good or service, some subsidy or other privilege that the collective credit card can procure and that will be collectively paid for at future dates. Clearly, each of these sub-groups can only be a successful parasite if it steals a march on the others. If half of the sub-groups—say, the railwaymen, the teachers and the fruit growers—successfully claim favours and the others do not, it is the former who will be parasitic on the latter. Hence it is a matter of elementary self-defence for the latter—say, the dairy farmers, the policemen and the pensioners—also to agitate and make strong claims of their own. In fact, pre-emptive attack may be the only effective defence they have.
This insight and its application to the analysis of French society just before and during the Revolution of 1848 was very important to Bastiat and the group of radical classical liberal economists who were his friends and colleagues (especially Gustave de Molinari). Jasay has much the same insight but does not take it any further.
Related to the “Society is a Big Credit Card” article is the “Society is a Big Insurance Company” article. Here Jasay takes on the topic of the origin of the state and why people acquiesce in its rule over us and again uses an apt analogy which makes it much easier for the general reader to understand his arguments. How states have arisen is one of the most profound political and historical problems there is to solve. One tradition within the liberal tradition is the “conquest theory of the state” which had an articulate defender in David Hume. Another tradition is the “contractarian” theory espoused by Buchanan and Tulloch (and also John Rawls on the left). Jasay accepts the “wisdom” of Hume but does not pursue his argument any further. However, he does discuss in more detail the “contractarian fairy story” that people agree to be a member of the state in the belief that among the several good things it will provide is insurance against risk, hence the title of his article “The State is One Big Insurance Company”. Jasay rejects the social contract theory as nothing more than “a bedside fairy tale for wide-eyed children” but admits that it does reveal a disturbing factor in contemporary society, namely the desire for the government to provide its citizens with a “safety first” culture. He sees this tendency as having accelerated since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon where a frightened even panicked public seek security from a government very willing to expand its powers in order to provide the appearance of greater security and “insurance” against future harm which might result from another such attack.
The difference between a private insurance company offering insurance policies in a competitive market and the government is that the government does not have to make a profit, or at least cover its payouts for damages with carefully calculated premiums which its customers pay. The actuarial calculation of risk is a well developed branch of applied mathematics which allows insurance companies to know with a considerable degree of statistical probability what their liabilities might be for a huge range of risky or dangerous activities and accidents. The government does not have to do this since it has at its disposal a “giant credit card” which future generations may have to pay back (or not). The government does not charge premiums for a specific risky activity, other than general taxation, and it has no incentive to attract customers by charging the lowest premiums it can. As events since 9/11 have shown the government can and does impose very costly restrictions on its citizens such as inspections of passengers as they board plans, tapping their phones and emails, and invading and bombing foreign countries which were suspected of “harboring terrorists”. Compliant citizens have put up with these extraordinary inconveniences and costs because they demand from the government an impossible to achieve “risk free” world. So, with this one apt analogy Jasay is able to make some profound observations about different theories about the origin of the state and to puncture some important myths about the government’s ability to insure its citizens against risk in the post-September 11 world.
Another clever absurd story should be mentioned briefly before closing this section. It involves the German raconteur nobleman Baron von Münchhausen (1720–97) who was famous for telling tall tales at dinner parties (“The Speculator’s Bootstrap and the Efficient Market” (Jan 07, 2013)). One such tale concerned his efforts to get out of a swamp into which he had fallen. One version of the tale had him pull himself up and out of the swamp by pulling his own hair; another version had him pull himself up by his own bootstraps, which is how the story is best known today. Jasay uses this absurd story to show that at least two economic fallacies are perpetuated by common belief in “the bootstrap principle” - the first being the story that Henry Ford “overpaid” his workers so that they could afford to buy his cars; and the second being the notion that speculators can make profits by driving the market up and then taking their profits, and then drive it down again and buy the stock back at lower prices, and then do it all over again.
In the following passage Jasay draws his essay to a conclusion with a surreal combination of the absurdity of the Münchhausen story with some serious economic analysis of the process of speculation worthy of the more serious-minded economic journalism of a Milton Friedman which left this reader somewhat reeling:
The almost trivial insight that successful speculation is the result of the correct anticipation of future asset prices, including the asset prices that would prevail if speculators did not correctly anticipate them and by so doing did not smooth them out, does not spare much mercy for the bootstrap theory. It does not altogether wipe it out, though. If asset price expectations have strongly positive elasticity Munchausen could generate a buying spree for the asset by buying it and cause an uptick in its price, or a selling spree by selling it and provoking a downtick. With the elasticity of expectations strongly positive, an uptick would cause the public to revise its price expectation strongly upward, and doing the reverse when seeing a downtick. The crowd behaves like a flock of sheep or perhaps a stampeding herd of cattle, magnifying the boom or bust of the price. Munchausen could then profit from the price movement he brought about for that purpose. Very elastic asset price expectations could be partly responsible for such events as the forced abandonment of the European exchange rate mechanism by the British pound in 1992, the near-crash of Spanish government security prices in 2012, more generally, asset price “bubbles” and stock market crashes. However, no such spectacular movements can plausibly be ascribed to expectations generated by some initial price move alone, any more than the trigger can make the gun shoot unless the explosive charge is ready for it.
In the economic tale “The Right Hand and the Left Hand” (December 1846) Bastiat uses his standard play on words, absurdity, and wit to make serious economic points about the nature and purpose of labour and how wealth is produced. In the story a foolish King, who wants to increase the well being of his people, decides that they need “more work” to do, thinking that work is what they lack rather than lacking the things that work produces. He commands his people to tie their right hands behind their backs and only work with their more inefficient left hands, thus increasing the amount of work they have to do to produce a given output rather than increasing the amount of output for any given labour input. This of course is a direct analogy to the demands of protectionists who wish to increase the amount of “national labor” in France by preventing people from buying more easily produced and cheaper foreign goods. The way he phrases the story provides Bastiat with many opportunities to make amusing plays on words which make more sense in the original French, such as references to the “sinister” interest of the protectionists (“sinistre” means harm in French; “sénestre” means the left side), and the “gaucherie” or clumsiness of the workers (“gauche” means left).
Like Bastiat Jasay has a great talent for choosing the apt and colourful image which makes the point of his article much more understandable to the reader. In “A War of White Hats and Black Hats” (March 2005) he chooses to frame his article using the language of the American Western movie where the good guys (“the White Hats”) do battle with the forces of evil (“The Black Hats”), or as he puts it:
The international economic scene, like a good Western, is populated by white hats and black hats and is enlivened by tests of strength and endurance between them. The white hats are fighting for the prosperity of the ranch and they have nature and economic realities as their ally. The black hats try to get control of the ranch as a means of realising political dreams, and are backed by mass short sightedness and gullibility.
He then proceeds to identify the politicians in Europe who are struggling to save the ranch and those who are intent on destroying it for their own gain.
In “Ned Ludd, Handloom Weaving, and Franco-German Moral Banking” (Jan. 4, 2010) Jasay weaves a story about Ned Ludd and his group of machine breakers in the early 19th century who attacked the early steam-powered looms which were making the hand-loom weavers redundant but who did not see how drastically lower prices for cloth would make millions of the working class better off. He likens the Luddites then to the “banker-bashers” of today who blame the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 on “the moral depravity (of bankers), the devilish complication (of the industry), and the unregulated excesses of the modern financial services”. In neither case, Jasay argues, do the “bashers” understand how the economy works or whom they should be blaming for their hardships. The clever point he is making, is that by associating the two kinds of machine breakers together, he plants in the mind of the reader the idea that their inclination to blame the bankers might be as misguided and fruitless as the loom-breakers of 1812.
The class war between labour and capital is the topic of “Class War by Judo” (May 07, 2012). In Europe the conflict has traditionally been a head to head wrestling match between union and factory owners in which workers try to divert a larger share of the profits from the bosses into their own pockets. Little do the European workers realise that by reducing the pool of capital there is over time less capital invested in machinery which would increase the value of their labour and hence their wages. Jasay contrasted this with the judo style wrestling matches which took place between workers and factory owners in Japan and Korea in the post-war period. There the workers were savvy enough to
(yield) in judo fashion to the force of the adversary, and allowed unfettered capital accumulation to curb the return on capital and lift the income of the labour it seeks to use. The unconsciously judo-like tactics of the South Koreans and of course the Japanese who started the practice by working merrily on while they were officially on strike, achieved in two generations a level well above the highest ambitions of the average European wage earner.
In a clever contrast of culture and sporting metaphors Jasay is pithily able to explain why economic growth has been so rapid in Japan and Korea and so anaemic in Europe (at least until the Keynesian induced stalling of the Japanese economy over the past 2 decades).
Because he, like Bastiat, uses colourful metaphors and analogies to achieve clarity of understanding and insight into how the economy really works, he is also very aware of how these same “teaching aids” or “little tales” (or what Bastiat called “economic sophisms”) can also be used to achieve the opposite effect, namely to cloud or hide economic truth. In “Helicopter Money and Stone-Age Banking” (July 1, 2013) he makes this statement about how they might be used to good or ill effect:
Teaching aids can be treacherous instruments. Images, metaphors and little tales, addressed to all and by no means only to children, are designed to convey some truth in an easy to grasp and hard to forget. Some of these aids however, also contain half-truths and falsehoods. Worse still, some of them do this by design, deliberately implanting lies in people’s minds. They are easier to plant than to eradicate once they have taken root.
Specific examples of these which he discusses in this article are “the representation of the national product as society’s “cake”” which can be cut up and divided at will by politicians, the idea of “Helicopter money” by which the government can solve all manner of economic problems by “print(ing) a few hundred tons of banknotes, load them into helicopters and have then fly up and down the country, letting the money pour down like blissful rain in a drought”, and the idea of the “velocity of circulation of money” which if becomes too fast can lead to depressions and bank runs. Another example which will irritate economists of the Austrian school is Jasay’s inclusion of the idea of a 100% reserve requirement for bank money as one of his “silly beliefs fostered by false teaching aids”. In fact, he dismissively calls it “stone-age banking” which is not suitable for the modern age.
Although there are many similarities of style and purpose between Bastiat and Jasay there are also some significant differences which must be acknowledged. For example, Bastiat began as a self-taught economist who first applied his talents to building a free trade movement in France mostly by means of pieces of journalism which he published in the movement’s journal Libre-Échange, the Journal des Économistes and in other publications. Only later, once he had established his reputation as a brilliant economic journalist, did he think he might have some new and interesting things to say about economic theory. He only had 3 short years to work on his treatise before he died at the age of 49 from a serious throat condition (possibly cancer). Jasay has done the opposite. Although very early in his career he worked for a brief period in Hungary as a journalist, he was trained as an economist and wrote several important books in the field of political theory and political economy before he turned to journalism in a more serious fashion. He was 75 when he first began writing his Econlib monthly column and he is now approaching 90.
Bastiat used a number of stock characters in his work in order to elaborate his economic views and his cleverness in creating little plays and conversations between his characters is part of the charm of his writing. Some of the recurring characters in his tales are Robinson Crusoe and Jacques Bonhomme (the French everyman). His younger colleague Gustave de Molinari also used a small set of stock characters in his popular writings, such as The Economist, The Socialist, The Conservative in Les Soirées (1849) but he never displayed the same wit or cleverness as Bastiat and was not nearly so successful as a result. Jasay does not resort to this device of using characters in constructed dialogs, but he does use Bastiat’s method of using animal figures extensively in his articles, the “reductio ad absurdum” argument, and many colourful images and metaphors.
Bastiat came to the conclusion that the use of polite language was not having the effect he wanted in persuading his readers that protectionism was both immoral and economically inefficient, so he decided to use what he called “harsh language”, in other words “appeler un chat un chat” (to call a spade a spade). In the case of protectionism he denounced it as “spoliation” (plunder, exploitation) and “le vol” (theft) by a powerful politically well-connected class at the expense of ordinary taxpayers and consumers. This made his writings quite lively and challenging and some of his more conservative colleagues thought it was inappropriate as a general rule but necessary in the circumstances of 1847–48. Jasay also has a tendency to use harsh language in a similar way to Bastiat, especially when it comes to describing the oligarchs who control so much of the Russian economy. As one of his editors at Econlib I know firsthand that we have tempered some of his harsher language in order to make it more like the cooler academic prose which is used at the website. This is a pity because Jasay is usually right in his choice of words to describe their behaviour. It may well be that, if given complete freedom to write what he pleased, Jasay may well have developed more along the lines that Bastiat pioneered but he was restrained by the editorial policy of Econlib.
Bastiat was a strong believer in the principle of natural law and believed that individuals had a natural right to life, liberty and property which could not be taken way by any individual or group of individuals (most notably not by one calling itself the government). He and Molinari (who developed these ideas further than Bastiat) believed that political economy was also a form of “moral economy” which had to be based upon just property titles which owners could exchange with one another voluntarily in the market. Anything else was not truly a market but a system based upon coercion and confiscated goods, like the systems of slave labour in the French colonies and in the Americas. Jasay on the other hand will have nothing to do with talk of “rights” and has explicitly denounced such language in a number of articles. Jasay’s political views are a form of contractarianism which is anarchistic in its conclusions. He is definitely not an anarcho-capitalist in the Rothbardian mold. Interestingly, Bastiat’s good friend and colleague Molinari was such an anarcho-capitalist “avant la lettre.”
In spite of these differences there are however a number of shared aspects to their writing which need to be acknowledged, such as their skill in choosing apt words and metaphors to make their economic arguments more understandable by the general reader; in exposing the economic fallacies which are commonly believed by politicians, the press, and even by other economists; in their passion to see sound economic ideas be taken more seriously; and in their barely concealed anger and frustration at the persistence of false economic thinking which seems almost impossible to eradicate. As I hope I have shown in this paper there is a strong “French Connection” in content, style, and motivation which links Jasay with the liberal political economists of Bastiat’s generation and immediately after.
By the time Molinari wrote his third attempt at popularizing economics using a dialog form in 1886 he had reached a point of despair. He admitted to himself (or rather via one of his characters in his conversations) that he had wasted his life writing books nobody read, or if they did, they rejected his ideas about the free market. He complained that it didn’t seem to matter what he said, people believed in the virtues of government regulation and subsidization of the grain market. Whether in times of shortage in 1847 or 1855 when the price of food was high, or in times of plenty in 1886 when the price of food was low, people wanted the government to impose tariffs. Furthermore, with the rise of democratic party politics in the late 19th century public choice factors came into play where elected politicians openly admitted that promoting free trade policies was electoral suicide and that if they wanted to be reelected or be promoted in their party or to get their children jobs in the public service they had to support the interventionist policies of the government. And so they did in spite of accepting a lot of what the economists had to say about the harm such intervention caused. As the 19th century wore on Molinari became increasingly pessimistic in the short term but remained optimistic in the long term about the prospects for liberty. By the time he came to write his assessment of the achievements and failures of the 19th century in January 1901 he believed a war which would destroy the free market system was inevitable, that following the war there would be 50 year period of economic dark ages when massive government spending and debt would cripple the economic system, until later in the 20th century when there would be a rediscovery of free market and classical liberal ideas. His prognosis was remarkably accurate.. What he underestimated was the the fact that, even after the rebirth of free market ideas in post-war (WW2) America and Europe people still overwhelmingly believe in most of the same economic sophisms which he and Bastiat had fought against in the mid–19th century.
Which brings us back to Jasay in the first decade of the 21st century when he began writing his articles for Econlib debunking the economic follies of the new century. Whereas Bastiat and Molinari were spurred into journalistic activity by two economic crises of their own day - the crop failures of 1846–47 and the refusal of the political elites to countenance free trade to relieve the crisis and to prevent future ones; and the attempt by socialists in the first half of 1848 to implement the first primitive welfare state in Europe - Jasay was spurred into action by the emerging crises of the advanced welfare states in Europe at the time of the bursting of the “dot.com” bubble between 1999–2001 and the Great Financial Crisis which started in 2007–8 and continues to the present. His and other free market voices are being drowned out by the cacophony of noise emanating from the resurgence of neo-Keynesianism since 2008. I for one think I can see moments of despair (certainly frustration) in Jasay’s most recent writings as he too comes to realise that “no one listens to the economists” (in Molinari’s apt words from 1852) and that he may have written all those words for Econlib in vain.
There are two interrelated problems - first, the general problem of the “mature” or “late” welfare state (compare the Marxist notion of “late capitalism”) with its high levels of taxation, rigid labour markets, and a large percentage of the labour force (voters) dependent upon government administered and taxpayer funded transfer payments; second, the response of European governments to the GFC and the banking crisis with massive Keynesian-style infusions of credit to prop up an increasingly insolvent banking sector.
Jasay must feel some sympathy with his liberal French forebears on this matter. It seems that some economic ideas and policies are a form of “zombie economics” which cannot be killed no matter how many times an economist drives an ideological stake through its heart. It might be the idea that tariff protection and subsidies for “national industry” can make an economy better off (the largest stake was driven into its heart by Adam Smith in 1776), or the idea that natural disasters like an earthquake, tsunami, or hurricane can have a “silver lining” in the rebuilding of a destroyed city (Bastiat drove a sizable strake through its heart with his broken window fable in 1850), or that the government is like one “giant credit card” where people in the present can happily live at the expense of future taxpayers (Bastiat, not knowing about credit cards, called this fantasy “the great fiction” and drove another stake though the hearts of the socialists in 1848), and so on. Just when one might feel that one is making headway against economic fallacies and sophisms up pops a Piketty (another French connection) who writes a run away best seller on the self-regenerating and perpetual motion capital machine which can only be controlled by confiscatory taxation and ever vigilant government regulation. One can feel Jasay’s frustration as he writes his devastating refutation of Piketty’s ideas and perhaps also a sense of weariness that it might have to be done all over again when the next Piketty rises up from the Keynesian and neo-Marxist swamplands of academia.
Which leaves us with the question of why we keep needing a Bastiat or a Jasay to mow the interventionist weeds which keep popping up the same economic meadows every few generations? Why do socialist and interventionist fallacies keep sprouting like weeds no matter how many times the economists scythe them down? Here are some possibilities to consider, that:
I don’t know what motivates Jasay to keep doing what he has been doing. It is probably a mixture of moral outrage that a few can live at the expense of the many, anger at the waste of resources caused by foolish economic policies, frustration that people cannot or will not see economic reason as he sees it, and just plain habit. It is what he has done for most of his life and he sees no reason to change now that he is approaching his 90th year. I hope he continues to write for Econlib as long as he can. We still need people like him and he is in very good company. Bastiat would approve.
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Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, 2 vols. With a Commentary Critical, Historical, and Explanatory by F.B. Kaye (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1863.
Jane Haldimand Marcet, Conversations on Political Economy; in which the elements of that science are familiarly explained, (1816) 6th edition revised and enlarged (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1827). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2048.
Jane Haldimand Marcet, Pamphlet Essays: Under the Superintendence of the Society for the Improvement of the Working Population in the County of Glamorgan, vol. 8–11 (Cardiff: W. Bird, Duke-Street, 1831). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/309.
Jane Haldimand Marcet, John Hopkins’s Notions on Political Economy (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1833). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/310.
Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1873.
Harriet Martineau, Contes de Miss Harriet Martineau sur l’économie politique, trans. Barthélémy Maurice (Paris: G. Vervloet, 1834).
Molinari, [CR] “Contes sur l’économie politique, par miss Harriet Martineau,” JDE, N° 97. 15 avril 1849, pp. 77–82.
Gustave de Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare; entretiens sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849).
Gustave de Molinari, Les Révolutions et le despotisme envisagés au point de vue des intérêts matériel (Brussels: Meline, 1852).
Gustave de Molinari, Conservations familières sur le commerce des grains (Paris: Guillaumin, 1855).
Gustave de Molinari, Conversations sur le commerce des grains et la protection de l’agriculture (Paris: Guillaumin, 1886).
Gustave de Molinari, “1899”, Journal des Économistes, janvier 1900, pp. 5–11.
Gustave de Molinari, “La Décadence de l’Angleterre”, Journal des Économistes, Mai 1900, pp. 179–83.
Gustave de Molinari, “Le XIXe siècle”, Journal des Économistes, janvier 1901, pp. 5–19.
Gustave de Molinari, “Le XXe siècle”, Journal des Économistes, janvier 1902, pp. 5–14.
Gustave de Molinari, Les Problèmes du XXe siècle (Paris: Guillaumin, 1901).
Jean-Baptiste Say, Catéchisme d’économie politique, ou Instruction familière qui montre de quelle façon les richesses sont produites, distribuées et consommées dans la société (Paris : impr. de Crapelet, 1815).
Jean-Baptiste Say, Catechism of political economy: or, Familiar conversations on the manner in which wealth is produced, distributed, and consumed in society, trans. John Richter (London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1816).
Jean Baptiste Say, Petit volume contenant quelques apperçus des hommes et de la société (Paris: Deterville, 1817).
Say, Jean-Baptise, Cours complet d’économie politique pratique; ouvrage destiné à mettre sous les yeux des hommes d’état, des propriétaires fonciers et les capitalistes, des savans, des agriculteurs, des manufacturiers, des négocians, et en général de tous les citoyens, l’économie des sociétés (Paris: Rapilly, 1828–9), 6 vols.
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, edited with an Introduction, Notes, Marginal Summary and an Enlarged Index by Edwin Cannan (London: Methuen, 1904). 2 vols. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/171.
Thomas Perronet Thompson, Catechism on the Corn Laws; With a List of Fallacies and the Answers. Eighteenth Edition (London: Robert Heward for the Westminster Review, 1834). 1st edition 1827.
Thomas Perronet Thompson, Contre-enquête par l’homme aux quarante écus: examen de l’enquête commerciale de 1834 (Association belge pour la réforme douanière, 1835).
Turgot, “Foire,” in L’Encyclopédie or Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers. Textes choisis. Nouvelle édition revue, augmentée et annotée. Présentation par Albert Soboul. Nouvelle introduction et notes par Philippe Goujard (Paris: Messidor, 1984), pp. 199–207.
Richard Whately, Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, delivered in Easter Term 1831 (London: B. Fellowes, 2nd and enlarged ed. 1832). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1377.
[Wolowski and Fonteyraud] Instruction pour le People: Cents traités sur les connaissance les plus indispensables; ouvrage entièrement neuf, avec des gravures intercalées dans le text. Tome second. Traités 51 à 100. (Paris: Paulin et Lechevalier, 1850). Louis Wolowski and Alcide Fonteyraud, No. 92, “Principes d’économie politique,” 2913–3976.
Molinari, Les Révolutions et le despotisme envisagés au point de vue des intérêts matériel (Brussels: Meline, 1852), p. 151. ↩
Frédéric Bastiat (1801–51) was a provincial landowner and justice of the peace from Gascony who came to Paris when he was 44 to become the leading advocate of free trade in France. He also was active in the February Revolution in 1848 when he was elected twice to the National Assembly and became involved in a pamphlet war against the leading socialists of the day, such as Proudhon. He died before he could complete his treatise on economic theory, Economic Harmonies (1850, 1851). See also, Frédéric Bastiat, ES1 17 “A Negative Railway” (c. late 1845) FEE edition. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_041. ↩
Antoine-Elisée Cherbuliez (1797–1869) was a Swiss lawyer, judge, and professor of law and political economy at the Académie de Genève. He moved to Paris in 1848 and became active in the Economists’ circle, writing for the Journal des Économistes and participating in the pamphlet war of 1848–49 against socialism. He wrote Le potage à la tortue: entretiens populaires sur les questions sociales (Turtle Soup: Popular Conversations about Social Questions) (Paris: Joel Cherbuliez, Guillaumin, 1849). ↩
Leonard Read (1898–1983) was a businessman, head of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and then the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), which he headed from its founding in 1946 until his death in 1986. Leonard Read, “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as Told to Leonard E. Read,” The Freeman (December 1958). On the FEE website it is described as an economic “parable.” http://fee.org/library/detail/i-pencil-audio-pdf-and-html. See also Leonard E. Read, I Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Reed (Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., 1999). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/112. ↩
Jasay, “Your Dog Owns Your House” (Apr 22, 2002) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/Jasaydog.html. ↩
See Gerard Radnitzky, “Tribute: Anthony de Jasay. A Life in the Service of Liberty,” The Independent Review, v. IX, n. 1, Summer 2004, pp. 99– 103. And Aschwin de Wolf, “Interview with Anthony de Jasay,” The Independent Review, v. 16, n. 2, Fall 2011, pp. 271–278. A list of his main works is provided in the Bibliography. ↩
On Quesnay see Ronald L. Meek, The Economics of Physiocracy: Essays and Translations (1962) (Fairfield, New Jersey: Augustus M. Kelley, 1993). On Smith see An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, edited with an Introduction, Notes, Marginal Summary and an Enlarged Index by Edwin Cannan (London: Methuen, 1904). 2 vols. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/171. ↩
Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, 2 vols. With a Commentary Critical, Historical, and Explanatory by F.B. Kaye (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1863. ↩
Mandeville, “The Grumbling Hive: or, Knaves turn’d Honest” in The Fable of the Bees, Vol. 1. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/846#Mandeville_0014-01_2266. ↩
Fables de la Fontaine. Illustrées par J.J. Granville. Nouvelle édition. (Paris: H. Fournier ainé, 1838). On the economics in La Fontaine’s Fables see Gustave Boissonade, La Fontaine, économiste: conférence publique et gratuite faire à la Faculté de Droit de Paris, le dimanche 11 février 1872 (Paris: Guillaumin, 1872). ↩
Turgot, “Foire,” in L’Encyclopédie or Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers. Textes choisis. Nouvelle édition revue, augmentée et annotée. Présentation par Albert Soboul. Nouvelle introduction et notes par Philippe Goujard (Paris: Messidor, 1984), pp. 199–207. ↩
Chap. XI. “Des Échanges et des Débouchés” in Jean-Baptiste Say, Catéchisme d’économie politique, ou Instruction familière qui montre de quelle façon les richesses sont produites, distribuées et consommées dans la société (Paris : impr. de Crapelet, 1815). This was quickly translated into English, Catechism of political economy: or, Familiar conversations on the manner in which wealth is produced, distributed, and consumed in society, trans. John Richter (London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1816). ↩
Jean Baptiste Say, Petit volume contenant quelques apperçus des hommes et de la société (Paris: Deterville, 1817), pp. 23–25. ↩
Say, Jean-Baptise, Cours complet d’économie politique pratique; ouvrage destiné à mettre sous les yeux des hommes d’état, des propriétaires fonciers et les capitalistes, des savans, des agriculteurs, des manufacturiers, des négocians, et en général de tous les citoyens, l’économie des sociétés (Paris: Rapilly, 1828–9), 6 vols. ↩
Jane Haldimand Marcet, Conversations on Political Economy; in which the elements of that science are familiarly explained, (1816) 6th edition revised and enlarged (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1827). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2048; Pamphlet Essays: Under the Superintendence of the Society for the Improvement of the Working Population in the County of Glamorgan, vol. 8–11 (Cardiff: W. Bird, Duke-Street, 1831) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/309; and John Hopkins’s Notions on Political Economy (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1833). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/310. ↩
Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 2. Demerara: A Tale. Chapter II. “Law endangers Property in Demerara” http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1690#Martineau_1299-02_85. ↩
Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, Vol. 2. Demerara: A Tale. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1690#lf1299-02_head_015 ↩
Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 9. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1697#lf1299-09_front_003. ↩
Translated as Harriet Martineau, Contes de Miss Harriet Martineau sur l’économie politique, trans. Barthélémy Maurice (Paris: G. Vervloet, 1834). Molinari reviewed Martineau’s book for the Journal des Économistes in April 1849 just as he began working on his own collection of conversations on economic topics. See, Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare; entretiens sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849), and Conservations familières sur le commerce des grains (Paris: Guillaumin, 1855), and Conversations sur le commerce des grains et la protection de l’agriculture (Paris: Guillaumin, 1886). Molinari’s review: Molinari, [CR] “Contes sur l’économie politique, par miss Harriet Martineau,” JDE, N° 97. 15 avril 1849, pp. 77–82. ↩
Thomas Perronet Thompson, Catechism on the Corn Laws; With a List of Fallacies and the Answers. Eighteenth Edition (London: Robert Heward for the Westminster Review, 1834). 1st edition 1827. Quote from p.13. ↩
Thompson, Catechism, pp. 28 and 38. ↩
Thomas Perronet Thompson, Contre-enquête par l’homme aux quarante écus: examen de l’enquête commerciale de 1834 (Association belge pour la réforme douanière, 1835). ↩
Frédéric Bastiat, Sophismes économiques (Paris: Guillaumin, 1846) and Sophismes économiques. 2e série (Paris: Guillaumin, 1848). ↩
The Guillaumin publishing firm marketed Bastiat’s anti-socialist pamphlets as a set under the title of “Petits pamphlets” (Small Pamphlets) and it included the following: Property and Law (May 1848) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_134; Justice and Fraternity (June 1848) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_153; Individualism and Fraternity (June 1848) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_171; Property and Plunder (July 1848) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_218; Protectionism and Communism (January 1849) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_308; Capital and Rent (February 1849) (not available online yet); Peace and Freedom, or the Republican Budget (February 1849) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_361; Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest (March 1849) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_433; Damn Money! (April 1849) (not yet available online); The State (June 1848 and September 1848) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_183; Free Credit (October 1849 - February 1850) (not yet available online); Baccalaureate and Socialism (early 1850) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_246; Plunder and Law (May 1850) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_331: The Law (July 1850) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_197; What is Seen and What is not Seen (July 1850) http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/956#lf0181_label_033. ↩
Bastiat, Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas, ou l’Économie politique en une leçon. Par M. F. Bastiat, Représentant du peuple à l’Assemblée nationale, Membre correspondant de l’Institut (Paris: Guillaumin, 1850). English trans. “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, or Political Economy in One Lesson” in Selected Essays on Political Economy, translated from the French by Seymour Cain. Edited by George B. de Huszar (Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: The Foundation for Economic Education, 1968) (1st edition D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. 1964. Copyright William Volker Fund), pp. 1–50 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/956. ↩
Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis. Edited from Manuscript by Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974). 1st ed. 1954. Quote from p. 500–01. ↩
Hayek’s “Introduction” to Frédéric Bastiat, Selected Essays on Political Economy, trans. Seymour Cain, ed. George B. de Huszar, introduction by F.A. Hayek (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1995). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/956#Bastiat_0181_14. ↩
For a more detailed discussion of Bastiat’s economic sophisms see my introduction to vol. 3 of Liberty Fund’s Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat (forthcoming). Also David M. Hart, “Opposing Economic Fallacies, Legal Plunder, and the State: Frédéric Bastiat’s Rhetoric of Liberty in the Economic Sophisms (1846–1850)” (2011) http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Papers/Bastiat/Hart_BastiatsSophismsAug2011.html. ↩
The phrase is “de sécheresse et de prosaïsme,” from Bastiat, ES2 2, “Two Moral Philosophies” (Two Systems of Ethics) FEE edition. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_058. ↩
Bastiat, ES2 10 “The Tax Collector” (c. 1847), FEE edition. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_074. The translation used here is the new LF translation which will appear soon. ↩
Whately, Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, Lecture I. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1377#Whately_0208_28. ↩
Bastiat, ES2 14 “Something Else” (March 1847), FEE edition. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_082. Bastiat returned to using “Crusoe economics” several times in his writing but the significance of this has been overlooked by scholars. See also ES3 14 “Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill” [c. 1847]; the discussion of how a negotiation might have taken place between Robinson and Friday about exchanging game and fish in “Property and Plunder” (July 1848), CW2, p. 155; and there are 16 references to “Robinson” in the Economic Harmonies, especially in Chapter 4 “Exchange.” ↩
Bastiat, ES2 14 “Autre chose” (Something Else) [Le Libre-Échange, 21 March 1847]. LF’s new translation. FEE edition http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_082. ↩
Bastiat, ES1 17 “A Negative Railway,” (c. 1845) FEE edition. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_041. Translation is LF’s new one. ↩
Jasay wrote a two part article called “The Seen and the Unseen” which appeared in December 2004 and January 2005 where he applies Bastiat idea and borrows the name for his own title. See http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2004/Jasayunseen.html. He makes explicit reference to the greatness of Bastiat as an economist in the second article he wrote for Econlib, “Thirty-five Hours” [July 15, 2002] http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/Jasaywork.html and credits him for inventing the idea of “opportunity cost”: “he anticipated the concept of opportunity cost and was, to my knowledge, the first economist ever to use and explain it.” ↩
Bastiat, “The Broken Window”, What is Seen and What is Not Seen in Frédéric Bastiat, Selected Essays on Political Economy, trans. Seymour Cain, ed. George B. de Huszar, introduction by F.A. Hayek (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1995). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/956#lf0181_head_005. ↩
ES2 13 “Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates” [no date given]: A mini play in four scenes where three magistrates, Pierre, Paul, and Jean, scheme to get the Council and the people of Paris to agree to adopt tariffs and trade prohibitions in order to benefit themselves by excluding out of town competition. Twenty years later Jacques’ father is tired of the poverty that protectionism has brought to Paris and Jacques is determined to right the wrong. Jacques and Pierre urge the people to either support free trade (Jacques) or protectionism (Pierre) but the people are fickle and keep changing their minds. ↩
The translation is LF’s new one. The FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/956#Bastiat_0181_28. ↩
Leonard Read, “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as Told to Leonard E. Read,” The Freeman (December 1958). http://fee.org/library/detail/i-pencil-audio-pdf-and-html. It is also published as a booklet with an Introduction by Milton Friedman and an Afterword by Donald Boudreaux: I Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read (Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., 1999). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/112. ↩
Frédéric Bastiat, Economic Harmonies, trans by W. Hayden Boyers, ed. George B. de Huszar, introduction by Dean Russell (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1996). “1: Natural and Artificial Social Order” http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/79#Bastiat_0187_150. ↩
William Johnson Fox, speech given at the Covent Garden Theatre on January 25, 1844, in Memorial Edition of the Collected Works of W.J. Fox (London: Charles Fox and Trübner & Co., 1866). Vol. IV: Anti-Corn Law Speeches, chiefly Reprinted from the “League” Newspaper; and Occasional Speeches, pp. 62–63. See also Bastiat, Cobden et la ligue, ou l’Agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845). ↩
Antoine-Elisée Cherbuliez, Simples Notions de l’ordre social à l’usage de tout le monde (Paris: Guillaumin, 1848), and Le potage à la tortue: entretiens populaires sur les questions sociales (Paris: Joel Cherbuliez, Guillaumin, 1849). ↩
Cherbuliez, Le potage à la tortue, p. 3. ↩
Cherbuliez, Le potage à la tortue, p. 9. ↩
Le droit au travail à l’Assemblée nationale. Recueil complet de tous les discours prononcés dans cette mémorable discussion et une introduction et des notes par M. Joseph Garnier* (Paris : Guillaumin, 1848). ↩
Instruction pour le People: Cents traités sur les connaissance les plus indispensables; ouvrage entièrement neuf, avec des gravures intercalées dans le text. Tome second. Traités 51 à 100. (Paris: Paulin et Lechevalier, 1850). Louis Wolowski and Alcide Fonteyraud, No. 92, “Principes d’économie politique,” 2913–3976. Quote comes at the end of Part 1, column 2944. ↩
Molinari, Gustave de, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare; entretiens sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849). ↩
This was loosely based on the private soirées held at the home of Molinari’s friend and fellow journalist Hippolyte Castille who lived on Saint Lazarus street and which met between 1843 and early 1848. ↩
Ludwig von Mises, Liberalismus (Jena: Gustave Fischer, 1927). Translated into English by Ralph Raico in 1962. Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: The Classical Tradition, trans. Ralph Raico, ed. Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1463. Milton Friedman (with the assistance of Rose D. Friedman), Capitalism and Freedom (University of Chicago, 1962); Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovitch, 1980; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980). Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty (New York: Macmillan, 1973). ↩
Gustave de Molinari, Conservations familières sur le commerce des grains (Paris: Guillaumin, 1855) and Conversations sur le commerce des grains et la protection de l’agriculture (Paris: Guillaumin, 1886). ↩
Bastiat, “The State” (Sept. 1848), in The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, Jacques de Guenin, General Editor. Translated from the French by Jane Willems and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Pascal Salin. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation Editor Dennis O’Keeffe. Academic Editor, David M. Hart (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_183. ↩
For example see, Cobden Club Essays, second series, 1871–2 (London, New York, Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1872). The essays were “On the causes of war, by E. de Laveleye.–The law and custom of primogeniture, by G.C. Brodrick.–The present aspect of the land question, by W. Fowler.–Financial reform, by T.E.C. Leslie.–A new commercial treaty between Great Britain and Germany, by J. Faucher.–The English coinage question, by J.P. Smith.–Trade-unions and the relations of capital and labor, by Joseph Gostick.–The colonial question, by J.E.T. Rogers.–The recent financial, industrial and commercial experience of the United States, by D.A. Wells.–Appendix: Commercial policy of France.” ↩
Popular fallacies regarding trade and foreign duties: being the “Sophismes économiques” of Frédéric Bastiat ; adapted to the present time by Edward Robert Pearce Edgcumbe, (London: Cassell, Petter Galpin for the Cobden Club, 1882). ↩
Gustave de Molinari, Conversations sur le commerce des grains et la protection de l’agriculture (Paris: Guillaumin, 1886). ↩
Molinari, Conversations sur le commerce des grains (1886), pp. 303–5. ↩
Yves Guyot, Sophismes socialistes et faits économiques (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1908). ↩
This is discussed in my unpublished paper “Seeing the ‘Unseen’ Bastiat, or the changing Optics of Bastiat Studies” presented at Mario Rizzo’s “Market Institutions” colloquium at NYU, Monday, December 1, 2014. ↩
Anthony de Jasay, Political Economy, Concisely: Essays on Policy that does not work and Markets that do. Edited and with an Introduction by Hartmut Kliemt (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2455#deJasay_1535_23. ↩
Gérard Minart, Gustave de Molinari (1819–1912), pour un gouvernement à bon marché dans un milieu libre (Paris: Institut Charles Coquelin, 2012), p. 381. ↩
I don’t know how many languages Jasay speaks, but being a Hungarian he probably speaks German as well as French, English (both the Oxford and the Australian versions), and obviously his native tongue. Bastiat spoke the regional dialect of Gascony, Basque, Spanish, Italian, and English. ↩
“Thirty-five Hours” (July 15, 2002) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/Jasaywork.html. Jasay repeats this claim in “Weeding Out the ”Socially Not Useful"" (Feb 1, 2010) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2010/Jasayweedingout.html. ↩
On rent seeking: “Well over a century before ”public choice“ or ”rent-seeking“ have become passwords among the initiated, Frederic Bastiat described the state as the instrument by which everybody is trying to live at everybody else’s expense” in “Is Society a Great Big Credit Card? Part I” (May 03, 2010) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2010/Jasaycreditcard.html; on negative factor productivity: “Putting things in absurdly comic terms may highlight their truth more than serious argument ever could. Frédéric Bastiat’s mock advocacy of a ”negative railway“ made the idea of protecting horse drawn transport from the advance of technology unforgettably laughable. The notion of a ”negative factor productivity,“ applied to the state as a supposed factor of production, could be similarly enlightening, though far less funny.” in “Two Cheers For Fiscal Austerity: Part I.” (Aug 02, 2010) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2010/Jasayausterity.html ↩
References to Robinson Crusoe can be found in ES3 14 “Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill” [c. 1847] and ES2 14 “Something Else” [March 21, 1847]. In addition, there is a discussion of how a negotiation might have taken place between Robinson and Friday about exchanging game and fish in “Property and Plunder” (July 1848), CW2, p. 155; and there are 16 references to “Robinson” in the Economic Harmonies, especially in Chapter 4 “Exchange.” ↩
“The Seen and the Unseen. Part I. On the Economics of Protecting Employment” (Dec 06, 2004) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2004/Jasayunseen.html ↩
“Preface,” p. xi, in Economic Sense and Nonsense: Reflections from Europe, 2008–2012. Edited by Hartmunt Klimt (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2014). ↩
See Fontaine’s fable “La Belette entrée dans un grenier” (The Weasel That Got Caught in the Storeroom), in Fables de La Fontaine. Nouvelle edition, revue et accompagnée de notes par C.A. Walkenaer (Paris: Nepveu, 1826), Bk. 3, Fable 17, p. 150–51. ↩
“Two Horses, Four Grooms” (Apr 07, 2014) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2014/Jasayhorses.html. ↩
Rudyard Kipling, Just so stories for little children. Volume 20 of The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Charles Scribner’s sons, 1903). ↩
“The Python That Eats Itself by the Tail: A Self-Contradictory Theory of Capitalism” (July 7, 2014) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2014/Jasaypython.html. ↩
Bastiat, ES1 7 “A Petition, From the Manufacturers of Candles” FEE edition. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_020; and ES1 17 “A Negative Railway” (c. 1845) FEE edition. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_041. ↩
“The Political Economy of Force-Feeding” (Nov 05, 2007) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2007/Jasayforce.html ↩
“Is Society a Great Big Credit Card? Part I” (May 03, 2010) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2010/Jasaycreditcard.html; “Is Society a Great Big Credit Card? Part II” (Jun 07, 2010) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2010/Jasaydebtcard.html; “Is Society a Great Big Insurance Company?” (Jul 05, 2010) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2010/Jasayinsurance.html. ↩
David Hume, “Essay V: Of the Origin of Government”, in Essays Moral, Political, Literary, edited and with a Foreword, Notes, and Glossary by Eugene F. Miller, with an appendix of variant readings from the 1889 edition by T.H. Green and T.H. Grose, revised edition (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1987). Also available at the OLL http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/704#lf0059_label_134. ↩
The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 3., The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock. Foreword by Robert D. Tollison (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Also available at the OLL http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1063. ↩
“The Speculator’s Bootstrap and the Efficient Market” (Jan 07, 2013) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2013/Jasayspeculator.html. ↩
Bastiat, "The Right Hand and the Left Hand [13 December 1846] ES2 XVI. ↩
See “Property or Property “Rights”?” (January 2014) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2014/Jasayrights.html and “Double-Counting: Stop It, please!” (September 1914) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2014/Jasaydoublecounting.html for his most recent attack on this idea. Also the trilogy of articles on “Property and its Enemies” (August-September, 2003) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2003/Jasayenemy.html; and “Property or ”Property Rights“?” (December, 2006) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2006/Jasaypropertyrights.html. ↩
Gustave de Molinari, “1899”, Journal des Économistes, janvier 1900, pp. 5–11; “La Décadence de l’Angleterre”, Journal des Économistes, Mai 1900, pp. 179–83; “Le XIXe siècle”, Journal des Économistes, janvier 1901, pp. 5–19; “Le XXe siècle”, Journal des Économistes, janvier 1902, pp. 5–14; Les Problèmes du XXe siècle (Paris: Guillaumin, 1901). And also David M. Hart, “Gustave de Molinari and the Future of Liberty: “Fin de siècle, fin de la liberté?”” (unpublished paper, April 2013). ↩
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Harvard University, Belknap Press, 2014). ↩
One of Jasay’s most recent columns: “The Python That Eats Itself by the Tail: A Self-Contradictory Theory of Capitalism” (July 7, 2014) http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2014/Jasaypython.html ↩
Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies choose bad Policies (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2007). ↩