Association of Private Enterprise Education
International Conference (April 12–14, 2015)
Session T4.5 on “Economics in High (and Low) Culture” (Tues 14 April, 2:55–4:10 PM): “Bastiat’s use of French Literature in Defense of Free Markets”
An online version of this paper is available
Draft: 21 March, 2015
Revised: 25 March, 2015
Word length: 24,000 words
Author: Dr. David M. Hart.
David Hart was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. He did his undergraduate work in modern European history and wrote an honours thesis on the radical Belgian/French free market economist Gustave de Molinari, whose book Evenings on Saint Lazarus Street (1849) he is currently editing for Liberty Fund. This was followed by a year studying at the University of Mainz studying German Imperialism, the origins of the First World War, and German classical liberal thought. Postgraduate degrees were completed in Modern European history at Stanford University (M.A.) where he also worked for the Institute for Humane Studies (when it was located at Menlo Park, California) and was founding editor of the Humane Studies Review: A Research and Study Guide; and a Ph.D. in history from King’s College, Cambridge on the work of two early 19th century French classical liberals , Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer. He then taught for 15 years in the Department of History at the University of Adelaide in South Australia where he was awarded the University teaching prize.
Since 2001 he has been the Director of the Online Library of Liberty Project at Liberty Fund in Indianapolis. The OLL has won several awards including a “Best of the Humanities on the Web” Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was chosen by the Library of Congress for its Minerva website archival project. He is currently the Academic Editor of Liberty Fund’s translation project of the Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat (in 6 vols.) and is also editing a translation of Molinari’s Evenings on Saint Lazarus Street: Discussions on Economic Laws and the Defence of Property (1849).
David is also the co-editor of two collections of 19th century French classical liberal thought (with Robert Leroux of the University of Ottawa), one in English published by Routledge: French Liberalism in the 19th Century: An Anthology (Routledge studies in the history of economics, May 2012), and another in French called L’Âge d’or du libéralisme français. Anthologie XIXe siècle (The Golden Age of French Liberalism: A 19th Century Anthology) (Paris: Editions Ellipses, 2014).
In this paper I will show how one economist used literature in creative and amusing ways to assist him in defending free trade and free markets from their intellectual and political opponents in France during the 1840s. The economic journalism which Frédéric Bastiat produced at this time is some of the best ever written and is still a model for economists today. His knowledge of both high and low French culture and literature was extensive, drawing upon the plays of Molière and the fables of La Fontaine at one end of the spectrum, as well as the political drinking songs and poems of Béranger at the other. These are all examples of Bastiat’s use of “literature in economics”.
In addition to being able to draw upon literature to illustrate his economic argument, Bastiat also had considerable skill in creating new formats with which to popularise economic ideas, such as dialogs, mini-plays, fake letters and petitions to government officials, economic tales or fables, parodies of classic works, utopian and dystopian stories of the future, and satirical poems. When mixed with his sharp humor, his puns, and sense of the absurd Bastiat created a unique “rhetoric of liberty” in order to fight his ideological battles against protectionism, socialism, and state privileges which enabled some favoured groups to benefit from their plundering of the tax-payers.
Two of Bastiat’s contributions will be noted in particular. Firstly, his use of the folk character Jacques Bonhomme, or the French everyman, who became an important character in many of his stories where he defended economic liberty as only a wiley French peasant or artisan could do, and who then became Bastiat’s virtual alter ego during the most violent and revolutionary phase of the 1848 Revolution. And secondly, Bastiat’s use of Robinson Crusoe from Defoe’s novel to invent an entirely knew way of doing economics - “Crusoe economics” - which was a major innovation in the way economists think about how individuals make economic decisions and which later became the foundation of “praxeology” in the Austrian school of economic theory.
In both of these areas, his new ways of popularizing economics and his invention of “Crusoe economics”, Bastiat has shown us how we might view “economics as literature.”
The work of the mid–19th century French economic journalist and theorist Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1850) provides an important case study of the sometimes close relationship between economics and literature. In his case it is particularly strong as he was well “versed” in the classics of French literature, such as the fable writer Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695), the playwright “Molière” or Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622- 1673), and the playwright Pierre-Augustin, baron de Beaumarchais (1732–99); as well as more popular writers, such as the poet Évariste Désiré de Forges, comte de Parny (1753–1814), the poet and playwright François Andrieux (1759–1833), the poet and political song writer Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857), the novelist and satirist Louis Reybaud (1798–1879), and the radical republican playwright Étienne Vincent Arago (1802–1892). Bastiat also mixed in liberal circles in the late 1840s in which such notable authors as the poet and liberal statesman Alphonse Marie Louis de Lamartine (1790–1869) and the poet and playwright Victor Hugo (1802–1885) also moved.
Bastiat was also familiar with many English authors (he spoke and read four languages - Italian, Spanish, English, French, and also some Basque) whom he also quoted or borrowed from in his own writings. These English authors included Daniel Dafoe (most notably the novel Robinson Crusoe), the “free-trade rhymer” Ebenezer Elliot (1781–1849) who wrote awful poetry for the Anti-Corn Law League, and two women popularisers of free market ideas who wrote little stories or tales for a popular audience, Jane Haldimand Marcet (1769–1858) and Harriet Martineau (1802–1876).
Finally, we should also note that Bastiat referred to Cervantes’ Don Quixote on at least two occasions and devoted an entire story, “Barataria”, (unpublished but written possibly in 1848) based upon a disagreement Don Quixote and Sancho had about how to rule an island. In some ways Bastiat also thought of himself rather sardonically as the economist equivalent of Don Quixote mounting his free market steed to enter into battle once again to fight for the principles that “when something is scare, its price rises; prices rise when and because things are scarce”. With similar success as Quixote had one might add. 
Bastiat’s use of literature was twofold, he regularly quotes from French and English literature in order to illustrate his economic points (which I will describe at greater length below) but he also goes one step further which makes him stand out among economists - he adopts several literary forms in order to write about economics. These forms include dialogues and mini-plays, fables, fake petitions, satirical poems, and even short utopian stories. He even goes so far at one point as to adopt the persona of one his fictional characters, the French everyman Jacques Bonhomme, so he can speak directly to the people of Paris as one of them during the 1848 Revolution.
I think Bastiat’s use of literature in these ways make him unique in the history of economic thought. It helped him become one of, perhaps even, the greatest economic journalist and populariser who has ever lived, by providing him with the trappings to make his journalism clever, funny, appealing, and understandable to a non-expert audience, namely by his use of the apt quote, the amusing reference to a literary figure, or the amusing pun. It also led him, perhaps unintentionally, to a new “literary” way of doing economics, by not just quoting the work of others but by writing his own poems and plays in which he would couch his economic arguments.
One of his most significant innovations was to use literature to create an entirely new way of thinking about economics, what we know today as “praxeology” or the science of human action which is central to the Austrian school of economic thought. Bastiat began by taking the characters Robinson Crusoe and Friday from Defoe’s story in order to illustrate some of the principles of free trade and protection in several short dialogues in his Economic Sophisms and then later extending this into a much more abstract theory about how individuals make economic decisions in his unfinished treatise Economic Harmonies (1850, 1851). Bastiat thus is the inventor of what one might call “Crusoe economics” which was later taken up by Austrian economists like Böhm-Bawerk in the 1880s and Murray N. Rothbard in the 1960s and 1970s and incorporated into the theoretical foundations of Austrian economics at a very deep level. This achievement thus makes Bastiat an important forebear of the Austrian School of economic thought. This will be discussed in more detail below and in the second part of this paper on “Literature IN Economics, and Economics AS Literature II: The Economics of Robinson Crusoe and Robinson Crusoe in Praxeology”.
Our study of Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms and some of his other works reveals a very well-read man who was not only familiar with the classics of political economy in four languages - French, Spanish, Italian, and English - and government economic reports, budget papers, and inquiries, but also with classic French literature, contemporary songs and poems, popular and satirical literature, plays, as well as opera. The sheer number and range of material which Bastiat was able to draw upon in his writings is very impressive. His constant references to literature, often only in passing, made it quite difficult at times for the editor (i.e. me) who felt obliged to track them down and cite them in footnotes for the benefit of the modern reader. Bastiat had a prodigious memory and had memorized a large number of poems and parts of plays which he used in his writing. Unfortunately his memory sometimes let him down and he would slightly misquote his sources. Or, he would replace the names of people in Molière’s plays with the names of contemporary politicians or advocates of protectionism in order to mock them. In addition, Bastiat was an incurable punster who peppered his writings with plays on words and puns which also had to be explained to the modern English reader. All of this had to be tracked down and explained in the footnotes and glossaries which made the editing of the Sophisms very enjoyable but considerable work.
Some of the authors and types of literary works Bastiat used in his economic writing include the following:
I will discuss a number of specific examples in order to show how Bastiat used his literary sources to make important economic points.
Political Weasels: La Fontaine’s fable, “The Weasel that got caught in the Storeroom”
Bastiat liked the fables of La Fontaine (1621–1695) because they contained poignant moral lessons which could be turned into “economic tales” accessible to everybody. They were especially powerful in France where every child from a literate family had had La Fontaine’s fables read to them. All Bastiat had to do is refer to them in passing and his readers would immediately know what he was referring to. A good example is the fable “La Belette entrée dans un grenier” (The Weasel That Got Caught in the Storeroom) which Bastiat referred to in an early essay written for the Journal des économistes in July 1845, ES1 5 “Nos produits sont grevés de taxes” (Our Products are weighed down with Taxes) (July 1845). The article was an attack on the high level of taxation, especially those needed to fund France’s large and bloated army and navy. In the late 1840s France had about 400,000 men in the army which cost close to Fr 400 million per annum which was about 30% of the entire budget. Bastiat thought it was imperative to cut drastically the size of the armed forces by at least 100,000 possibly 200,000 men and to pass these savings directly onto the people by cutting taxes on food and clothing.
The La Fontaine fable is quoted in the context of Bastiat’s discussion of how to cut military taxation and expenditure and “the weasel” is an obvious reference to pro-military politicians, the officer corps, and the vested interests which supply the military, and the “grain” to the taxes paid by ordinary people to the state. The story concerns a greedy weasel who plans to sneak into a farmer’s granary to steal his harvest. When he plans the theft the weasel is skinny enough to squeeze through a gap in the wall. After gorging himself on the product of the farmer’s hard work, the weasel has put on too much weight to escape through the same hole. A wise and smaller rat points out his folly and suggests 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.” The implication of the story is that once the tax-payers get wise to how much the fat weasels of the military have taken from them they will be angry and come after them with a very sharp farming implement to seek revenge. To avoid this unpleasantness, the military might have to go on a strict diet in order to lose weight, which is what Bastiat tried to do when he was Vice-President of the Chamber’s Finance Committee in 1848–49.
Molière and “calling a spade a spade” or “un chat un chat” (a cat a cat)
Bastiat’s favourite author to quote was the playwright Molière. The plays he frequently quoted from were Tartuffe, or the Imposter (1664), The Misanthrope (1666), L’Avare (The Miser) (1668), Le Bourgeois gentihomme (The Would-Be Gentleman) (1670), and Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) (1673). Two references are particularly interesting. Both involve Bastiat’s concern that, before radical reforms could be made in French government policies, the problems facing France had to be accurately identified, and to do this they had to be accurately named. Bastiat came to believe that economists had danced about verbally and had not accurately described what protection was really about, namely the “theft” of one person’s property by the state for the benefit of another person. Economists had to call “a spade a spade” (or in French “appeler un chat un chat”) and should thus refer to subsidies to industry and tariff protection as so much theft and plunder of the people. This problem with accurate language came to a head with the Revolution of February and the rise of socialist groups who wished to implement a socialist program of government (tax-payer) funded jobs and unemployment relief known as the National Workshops.
Bastiat began this program to be more explicit in the language one used to describe government policies in early 1846 with an essay called ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy) in the Journal des Économistes and then in a series of essays on his theory of “spoliation” (plunder) in late 1847. He liked to think of himself as being in the same position as the misanthropic Alceste, in Molière’s play The Misanthrope (1666), who eschewed all forms of social “politeness” but still had to explain to Oronte how bad his poetry was - so bad in fact fact that it needed to be flushed down the toilet. But instead of telling someone their poetry was terrible and didn’t rhyme properly, Bastiat was telling the King and the political elite who ruled France that their economic policies were not “in harmony” with the facts of economic theory. Bastiat chose to quote a well-known passage from the play but changed the words to bring its message up to date. He replaced the reference to King Henry with one to King Louis Philippe, and the reference to Paris with “portfolio” (or office), and the word “”colifichets” (trinkets or baubles) with “transactions,” and the word “Passion” with “honesty”, thus making the passage read:
“And if you found that they (the principles of justice and utility) were not in harmony?”
“I (the Utopian Minister) would say to King Philip:
Take back your portfolio.
The rhyme is not rich and the style outdated.
But do you not see that that is much better
Than the transactions whose common sense is just a murmur,
And that honesty speaks these in its purest form?”
Another clever way Bastiat used quotations from Molière was to parody them. Here is an example from the last play Molière wrote “Le malade imaginaire” (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) (1673) where Bastiat takes a scene mocking the quackery of 17th century French doctors with jokes and puns in two languages (French and Latin) and turns it into his own mockery of tax collectors. In “Le malade imaginaire” Molière wrote a long Appendix in dog Latin where he parodies the granting of a degree of doctor of medicine to a neophyte doctor and his induction into the professional fraternity. Molière hated doctors and thought they were quacks, charlatans, and possibly even murderers of their patients. He was to drop dead from tuberculosis shortly after performing in his last play, succumbing to a disease 17th century doctors were unable to cure, so he had personal experience of what they did to patients in the name of medicine. In the Appendix to the play he has a very witty parody of doctors welcoming a neophyte into their fraternity. Part of the induction ceremony involves the head doctor, Praeses, asking the would-be doctor, Bachelierus, what he would do to cure certain maladies. He keeps repeating the same mantra of “purging”, “bleeding”, “stabbing” and other unpleasant and unscientific remedies, much to the acclaim of the fraternity of doctors, who then welcome him as one of them.
The original Latin and the excellent translation made by the FEE translator is as follows:
Ego, cum isto boneto
Venerabili et doctor,
Don tibi et concedo (I give and grant you)
Virtutem et puissanciam (Power and authority)
Medicandi, (to Practice medicine,)
Perçandi, (Stab, )
Et occidendi (and Kill)
Impune per total terram. (With impunity throughout the whole world.)
In his article ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy) (January 1846) Bastiat takes Molière’s Latin and writes his own pseudo-Latin, this time with the purpose of mocking French tax collectors whom he hated with as much passion as Molière hated doctors. In his parody Bastiat is suggesting that government officials, tax collectors, and customs officials were thieves who did more harm to the economy than good, so Bastiat writes a mock “swearing in” oath which he thinks they should use to induct new officials into government service:
Dono tibi et concedo (I give to you and I grant)
Virtutem et puissantiam (virtue and power)
Volandi (to steal)
Pillandi (to plunder)
Derobandi (to filch)
Filoutandi (to swindle)
Et escroquandi (to defraud)
Impune per totam istam (At will, along this whole)
These examples of Bastiat’s use of well-known classic French literature show not only Bastiat’s deep knowledge and love of literature, and his skill in using certain passages and scenes in order to illustrate his economic arguments (or “literature in economics”), but also his emerging skill and creativity in using literary forms (such as poems and parodies) to write or do his economic arguing (or “economics as literature”.
Speaking Truth to Power: Andrieux’s “The Miller of Sans-Souci” (1797)
Bastiat was also adept at using more popular forms of literature in his writings. He quoted the revolutionary poet and playwright François Andrieux (1759–1833) in one of his anti-socialist pamphlets written in July 1848 at the height of the Revolution - “Propriété et spoliation” (Property and Plunder) (July 1848). Andrieux had been a member of the liberal Girondin group during the Revolution before taking up a number of academic positions under Napoléon. Bastiat was particularly interested in Andrieux’s tale “The Miller of Sans-Souci,” which was read at a public meeting of the Institute on 15 Germinal an 5 (4 April 1797). The story is about a German who had the courage to speak the truth to power, namely, Frederick the Great. One might say that Bastiat thought of himself as one of the few Frenchman of his day who had the courage to speak some unpalatable truths to power, in his case the socialists and interventionists who had come to power during the revolution of 1848. Bastiat refers to this tale several times in his writings, and it is not hard to see why it became one of his favorite anecdotes.
The liberal republican Andrieux depicts an entrepreneurial mill owner who is determined to keep his property when ordered to hand it over to the state in order to satisfy the whim of Frederick the Great in expanding the size of his palace. Not only does Frederick take the name of the mill, “Sans-Souci,” as the name for his palace, but he also wants to tear down the mill and its large rotating blades in order to have a clear view of the countryside. The mill owner refuses, saying that he does not want to sell the mill to anybody, that his father is buried there, that his son was born there, and that the mill is as valuable to him as Potsdam is to the Prussian emperor. Frederick slyly replies that if he wanted to he could seize the miller’s property, as he was the “master.” The resolute and fearless miller says to Frederick’s face, “You? Take my mill? Yes, (you might) if we didn’t have judges in Berlin.” Frederick smiles at the thought that his subjects really believed that impartial justice existed under his reign and tells his courtiers to leave the miller alone.
Andrieux concludes his tale with a reflection on the nature of the power of emperors, reminding his readers that the warrior Frederick had seized Silesia and put Europe to the torch: “These are the games princes play. They respect a miller but steal a province.”
On Fooling one’s Rulers in Order to Survive: Charles Perrault’s fairy tale “Donkeyskin” (1694)
The behaviour of kings to take what they like when they like from their subjects is another theme which attracted Bastiat for obvious reasons. In Charles Perrault’s fairy tale “Donkeyskin” (1694) the morale of the story is that sometimes ordinary people have to go to considerable lengths to prevent a king from exercising his arbitrary power. Perrault worked as an administrator serving under Jean-Baptiste Colbert during the reign of Louis XIV. After Colbert’s death in 1683 he lost his position and turned to writing children’s stories. The fairy tale “Donkeyskin” is about a princess who was desired by her own father, the king, to be his next wife after his first wife, the princess’ mother, died. The princess’ fairy godmother told her to wear the skin of a donkey as a disguise in order to deceive her father and thus avoid his unwelcome attention.
Bastiat no doubt enjoyed the story because it showed how those who were without power could deceive and outwit those who wielded absolute and irresponsible power. He mentions the fairy story in the ES3 16 “Le maire d’Énios” (The Mayor of Énios]) (February 1848) who was a dictatorial mayor of a small town on the banks of a river. Bastiat describes the mayor as “a pasha” and an arch Napoleonist who used conscript labour supplied by the local inhabitants to carry out public works and who eventually became corrupted by his extreme political powers. After reading protectionist ideas in Le Moniteur the mayor decided to impose high tariffs on the only bridge across the river in order to “increase communal wealth” even if it meant disrupting trade in the greater Département and impoverishing the town’s inhabitants. The fairy godmother in Bastiat’s tale was the local Prefect who believed in free trade within the country but not internationally. He therefore refused to allow a tyrannical local mayor to have his way, thus allowing the local people to return to the normal trading relationships they had enjoyed with the region before the mayor abused his powers. Bastiat’s point of course is that the local mayor was only using the same logic as the national protectionists like the Prefect. If restricting trade locally was harmful, then so too was restricting trade internationally - and for exactly the same economic reasons.
Ridiculing the King and Singing the Praises of Smugglers: Béranger’s “King Yvetot” (1813) and “The Smugglers” (n.d.)
Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857) was a liberal poet and songwriter who rose to prominence during the Restoration period with his funny and clever criticisms of the monarchy and the church. His antics got him into trouble with the censors, who imprisoned him for brief periods in the 1820s. His material was much in demand in the “goguettes” or bars where men gathered illicitly to sing political songs and which sprang up during the Restoration and the July Monarchy as a way of circumventing the censorship laws and the bans on political parties.
After the appearance of his second volume of songs, in 1821, Béranger was tried, convicted, and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment in Sainte-Pélagie jail, where he wrote the poem “La Liberté” (Liberty) in January 1822 in which he mocked his jailors and their attempts to crush his liberal spirit. The first two verses go:
I. Since I’ve the odour smelt
Most spitefully I’ve felt
Tow’rds Madam Liberty.
Shame, shame on Liberty!
Down, down with Liberty!
II. Marchangy’s (his jailer) taken pains
(A kindly sage is he)
To beat into my brains
The good of slavery.
Shame, shame on Liberty!
Down, down with Liberty!
Another bout of imprisonment (this time nine months in La Force) followed in 1828, when his fourth volume was published. Many of the figures who came to power after the July Revolution of 1830 were friends or acquaintances of Béranger’s, and it was assumed he would be granted a sinecure in recognition of his critiques of the old monarchy. However, he refused all government appointments in a stinging poem that he wrote in late 1830 called “Le Refus” (The Refusal). In April 1848, at the age of sixty-eight, Béranger was overwhelmingly elected to the Constituent Assembly, in which he sat for a brief period before resigning. Béranger mixed in liberal circles in the 1840s in Paris, when he joined Bastiat’s Free Trade Society and the Political Economy Society. He was invited to attend the welcome dinner held by the latter to honor Bastiat’s arrival in Paris in May 1845 but was unable to attend. Bastiat knew him and was known to have sung his drinking songs on occasion. In a letter to his friend Felix Coudroy (Bayonne 5 August 1830) Bastiat relates his activities in the 1830 Revolution (27–29 July) when the garrison in Bayonne was split over whether or not to side with the revolution or the sitting monarch Charles X. Bastiat visited the garrison in order to speak to some of the officers in order to swing them over the revolutionary cause. In a midnight addition to his letter Bastiat relates how some good wine and the songs of Béranger helped him persuade the officers that night:
The 5th at midnight
I was expecting blood but it was only wine that was spilt. The citadel has displayed the tricolor flag. The military containment of the Midi and Toulouse has decided that of Bayonne; the regiments down there have displayed the flag. The traitor J……… thus saw that the plan had failed, especially as the troops were defecting on all sides; he then decided to hand over the orders he had had in his pocket for three days. Thus, it is all over. I plan to leave immediately. I will embrace you tomorrow.
This evening we fraternized with the garrison officers. Punch, wine, liqueurs and above all, Béranger contributed largely to the festivities. Perfect cordiality reigned in this truly patriotic gathering. The officers were warmer than we were, in the same way as horses which have escaped are more joyful than those that are free.
Béranger made a name for himself by mocking Emperor Napoleon and then all the monarchs of the Restoration period, as well as any other government official who set himself up above the people. One of his most notorious poems (actually a drinking song for the “goguettes”) is “Le Roi d’Yvetot” (The King of Yvetot) (May 1813) which Bastiat quoted in ES2 13 “La protection ou les trois Échevins” (Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates) (c. 1847). A regional Seigneur Yvetot behaved as if he were a king and tormented the local populace by taxing them and taking their daughters. One verse in particular might have caught Bastiat’s eye as it deals with taxation:
III. No costly regal tastes had he,
Save thirstiness alone;
But ere a people blest can be,
We must support the throne!
So from each cask new tapp’d he got,
(His own tax-gath’rer), on the spot,
Ha! ha! ha! ha! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!
A kingdom match with Yvetot!
IV. So well he pleased the damsels all,
The folks could understand
A hundred reasons him to call
The Father of his Land.
His troops levied in his park
But twice a year - to hit a mark,
Ha! ha! ha! ha! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!
A kingdom match with Yvetot!
Having grown up in Bayonne in Gascony near the Franco-Spanish border Bastiat would have been very aware of the extent of smuggling which took place by Basques and Spaniards who were avoiding Napoléon’s Continental Blockade designed to keep British goods out of France and then the high level of protection introduced by the restored French monarchy after 1815. He also knew Béranger well and persuaded him to join the French Trade Association when it was launched in 1847. Béranger of course wrote a poem extolling the virtues of the smugglers and the services they provided for the poor people of the borderlands:
Hang the excisemen! let us get hold
Of pleasures in plenty, and heaps of gold!
We have the people on our side;
They’re all our friends at heart:
Yes, lads, the people far and wide,
The people take our part.
What! ’tis their will, that where one tongue is spoken
Where the same laws long time have been obeyed,
Because some treaty may such bonds have broken,
Two hostile nations should, forsooth, be made!
Man might his barter have convenient made,
But taxes blocking up the roads abound;
Then forward, comrades, forward !—such is trade,
That in our hands its balance must be found.
Taxes—the which on bloodshed they will spend—
Are levied there:
We—leaping o’er the barriers they defend—
Little we care.
Béranger was elected along with Bastiat to the Constituent Assembly on April 23, 1848 where they formed part of a small contingent of classical liberal and free trade deputies who faced the socialists and protectionists in the Chamber. I would like to think that after a hard day’s work in the Chamber Bastiat, Béranger, and some other like-minded friends might have gone to a bar to sing some of Béranger’s political and satirical songs.
Before concluding this section I should mention some literature which Bastiat did not use in his writing, namely references to classical Greek and Roman authors, to the Bible, and to William Shakespeare. Lack of references to Shakespeare’s plays might be a result of the disfavour Shakespeare had fallen into in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The revival of interest in his work in England did not take place until later in the century so, even though Bastiat read English well, he may not have come across many references to Shakespeare. This is a pity, as we would now think that Shakespeare had more interesting things to say about economic matters than Molière on whom Bastiat leaned very heavily.
It is somewhat surprising that Bastiat does not use the two literary sources which were most commonly used by his contemporaries, namely classical Greek and Roman authors and the Bible. Although most educated Frenchmen had a classical background which they acquired during their earliest school days Bastiat did not. He had attended an experimental school near his home town at the College of Saint-Sever and then the Benedictine École de Sorèze (1814–1818) which taught modern languages and music. This provided Bastiat with the tools he needed to read widely in economic thought (in four languages) and to pursue a love of music. Bastiat played the cello throughout his life and when he lived in Paris attended concerts and the opera on a regular basis (which he refers to in his correspondence).
It is interesting to note that, in an age when the study of the Greek and Roman classics still held a powerful sway over European culture, Bastiat explicitly rejected it as unsuitable for an emerging commercial and liberal age. He held ancient Greek and Roman authors in contempt as their writings were infused with the moral and political values of slave-owners, warriors, and political dictators. In this he shared a view similar to that of Benjamin Constant who wrote a famous essay contrasting “The Liberty of the Ancients and the Moderns” (1819) in which the virtues of “ancient” notions of political liberty for a small group came out very poorly when compared to “modern”, i.e. post-Napoleonic, notions of political, economic, and social liberty. We have one letter Bastiat wrote (March 1850) to Louise, the daughter of a close friend Madame Cheuvreux, advising her about what to read where he bemoans the lack of literature which shows women in a positive light. He explicitly denounces ancient authors for their treatment of women as slaves and concubines:
I am sending Mlle Louise a few verses on women, which I liked. They are, however, by a poet who is an economist since he has been nicknamed the free trade rhymer. If I had the strength I would do a free translation of this piece in thirty pages of prose; this would do well in Guillaumin’s journal. Your sweet little tease (I do not forget that she possesses the art of teasing to a high degree, not only without wounding but almost caressing) does not greatly believe in poetry of production and she is perfectly right. It is what I ought to have called Social Poetry, which henceforth, I hope, will no longer take for the subject of its songs the destructive qualities of man, the exploits of war, carnage, the violation of divine laws, and the degradation of moral dignity, but the good and evil in real life, the conflicts of thought, all forms of intellectual, productive, political, and religious combinations and affinities, and all the feelings that raise, improve, and glorify the human race. In this new epic, women will occupy a place worthy of them and not the one given to them in the ancient Iliad genre. Was their role really to be included in the booty?
In the initial phases of humanity, when force was the dominant social principle, the action of woman was wiped out. She had been successively beast of burden, slave, servant, and mere instrument of pleasure. When the principle of force gave way to that of public opinion and customs, she recovered her right to equality, influence, and power, and this is what the last line of the small item of verse I am sending Mlle Louise expresses very well.
Because of this contempt for the ancient world, Bastiat never quotes any ancient literary sources directly in his writings. The exception is Bastiat’s quoting of a French poet LeBrun who wrote an imitation of one of Horace’s Odes (1834) in which the author claims his poetry will outlast the memory of the tyrants of his day, in a work which recalls to mind Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” (1818):
Thanks to the Muse who inspires me, this monument is finished which neither sword nor flood will ever destroy. Even the sky, armed with lightning, will not be able to reduce it to ashes: The centuries will also try in vain. It will defy the grasping tyrants, hardier than the pyramids and more lasting than bronze.
Bastiat’s ignoring of the Bible is harder to explain as there are so many references of an economic nature to be found there. I have found only one explicit reference to a bible story which is from John 2: 1–11 about Jesus’ first public miracle where he turns water into wine at a wedding party. Bastiat refers to it in ES3 19 “Soulagement immédiat du peuple” (The Immediate Relief of the People) (March 1848) when he reminded the workers of Paris in the February Revolution that “the tax collector’s coffers are not the wine pitcher of Cana”. We know Bastiat went through a crisis in his religious faith at an early age and that he was most likely a Deist of some kind after that. There is no reference to him attending Church services in his correspondence, or any reference to doctrinal matters other than a general belief in an after-life and some platitudinous remarks about the moral philosophy espoused by Jesus. He did take communion at his death bed from a relative who was priest but the reasons for this are not clear. For most of his life he was very hostile to the Church because he viewed it as one of the main pillars of political privilege and plunder which had been such a scourge for ordinary people over the centuries. In the sketches he wrote for a proposed book on the ”History of “Plunder” one of the most detailed sections had to do with the nature of “theocratic plunder” and the way in which the Church had “duped” the people into paying for religious services which were spurious at best and probably completely fake at worst. Given these ideas about the role of the Church in history it is not surprising that Bastiat was not well disposed towards the Bible and did not refer to it very often in his writing.
Bastiat is best known for his marvelous collections of Economic Sophisms which appeared between 1846 and 1848 in which he cleverly and amusingly debunks erroneous or deliberately misleading economic thinking about the benefits of tariffs, government regulations, and subsidies to favoured industries. In Liberty Fund’s collection of Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms (Collected Works vol. 3 (forthcoming)) we include some seventy two individual essays (or seventy four if one includes some of the slighter pieces written for Jacques Bonhomme as separate essays) which might fall into the category of refutations of popularly held economic fallacies designed for a general audience. They were written over a period of five years stretching from 1846 (when the free trade newspaper Le Libre-Échange was founded) to 1850 (the year in which What is Seen and What is Not Seen was published a few months before Bastiat’s death). In writing these essays Bastiat used a variety of formats which are listed below according to how frequently they occur in the collection:
i. Essays written in Informal or more Conversational Prose
These essays are the dominant type in the collection and make up 50% of the total. Not surprisingly they read like they were originally written for popular newspapers and are quite conversational in tone. Bastiat often quotes from the speeches or writings of his protectionist opponents before attempting to refute their arguments. He also often makes conversational asides to his readers (e.g. the exclamation “What!” or other comments) which gives the impression that Bastiat is sitting next to the reader in a bar or hall and having a vigorous conversation. It is quite possible that the style of these essays is a result of a version of them having been given as speeches in public meetings of the French Free Trade Association before being printed in the Association’s journal Le Libre-Échange. Some of these essays contain stories about made up characters with snippets of their dialog as Bastiat goes about making his points; others contain brief references to one of Bastiat’s favourite characters, Jacque Bonhomme, the French everyman. Because the dialog or conversation is only a small part of the essay they have been included in this category and not the next.
Some typical examples in this format include the following:
ii. Essays written in Dialog or Constructed Conversational Form
The second most common format for the Sophisms were the essays written expressly in dialogue or conversational form (18% of the total). Some conversations were introduced with a section of prose before the conversation took center stage; others were entirely devoted to the conversation. Bastiat created stock characters to represent different sides in a debate which unfolded over several pages with the inevitable result that the free market advocate won the contest. Bastiat was quite inventive and often amusing in creating names for his characters, such as a “Mister Blockhead” (who was a Tax Collector), “The Utopian” (who was a Minister in the government who fantasized about introducing a radical free market reform program), and “Mister Prohibitionist” and “The Law Factory” (the Chamber of Deputies). His other characters were often fairly prosaic in their names, such as his favourite “Jacques Bonhomme” (the French everyman), John Bull (the British everyman who is used here to advocate postal reform), various “Petitioners” to government officials, “Ironmasters” and “Woodcutters”, and the “Economist” and the “Artisan”. In some cases the character “Jacques Bonhomme” was described as a “wine producer” which, given the fact that Bastiat was a gentleman farmer who came from a wine producing region, strongly suggests that sometimes the free trade arguments he was placing in Jacques mouth got a bit personal.
Some typical examples in this format include the following:
The Sophisms were not the only place where Bastiat used the constructed dialog form. On one occasion he used it in an article he published in his home town newspaper Mémorial bordelais (February 1846) on “Théorie du bénéfice” (The Theory of Profit) where he creates a conversation between the Mayor of Bordeaux and a Lobbyist who wants a new city toll to be imposed on all iron goods coming into the city so that his higher cost foundry will be profitable. On two occasions in June 1848 he wrote short pieces for his revolutionary magazine Jacques Bonhomme where the French everyman Jacques Bonhomme has discussions with, first the Minister of Finance in a foreign country by the name of “Lord Budget”, and secondly with a profligate spendthrift named Old Man Mathurin. In “Une mystification” (Trickery and Deceit or A Hoax) Jacques visits another country and describes a meeting he had with a Minister by the name of “Lord Budget” (in English) who describes how he uses indirect taxation to fool the people by giving back only some of the taxes they pay the state in the form of services and assistance and keeping the rest for himself and his friends - hence “the Hoax”. In “Funeste gradation” (A Dreadful Escalation) Jacques tells a story about visiting Old Man Mathurin who told him he had solved his debt problems by borrowing more money to pay off his creditors. Jacques scoffs at him and tells him that the only way to pay off his debts is to spend less and earn more.
A quite innovative dialog form which Bastiat had much to do with inventing was the use of the characters “Robinson Crusoe” and “Friday” to create what might be called “thought experiments” in economic thinking. In these special dialogs Bastiat would simplify quite complex economic arguments often putting interventionist and protectionist arguments into the mouth of the European Crusoe and the more liberal free market ideas into the mouth of Friday.
See in particular:
iii. Stand alone Economic Tales or Fables
Given Bastiat’s love of literature and his penchant for the fairy tales and fables of La Fontaine and Perrault, it is not surprising that he would turn his hand to writing his own “economic tales” or fables. Another model might have been Voltaire’s “philosophic tales” such as Candide (1759) although Bastiat does not quote him as he does Fontaine and Perrault. These “economic tales” are coherent stories or tales designed to make an important economic point in a light hearted manner. They are self-contained, usually have no introduction by a narrator (such as Bastiat), and are often very funny and poignant. Bastiat wrote eight of them as Sophisms and they are spread out quite evenly over the various collections he had published, suggesting that he regarded them as an essential part of the genre. These “economic tales” are probably Bastiat’s best work in making the study of economics less “dry and dull” (as he lamented) and it is a pity he did not write more of them as he seemed to have quite a talent for it.
Some of the more noteworthy tales are the following:
iv. Fictional Letters or Petitions to Government Officials and Other Documents
On a par with his “economic tales”, at least in terms of the number written (8 or 11% of the total) and their originality and creativity, are the fictional letters or petitions to government officials which Bastiat wrote. In most cases they were quite satirical and very funny. These fake letters and petitions were written to members of the Chamber of Deputies, various Cabinet Ministers, the Council of Ministers, and even to the King, usually with requests for preposterous solutions to their economic problems. Bastiat uses the “reductio ad absurdum” method to argue his point, taking a conventional argument used by protectionists, such as a request to keep cheap foreign imports out of the country because it hurts domestic producers, and pushing it to an absurd extreme, the best example being his ES1 7 “Pétition des fabricants de chandelles, etc.” (Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles, etc.) (October 1845). In this case, a straight-faced group of petitioners who make artificial light (such as candles and lamps) ask the Chamber of Deputies to pass a law forcing all consumers to block out the natural light of the sun during daylight hours in order to boost demand for their products. The ridiculousness of their demand and the logical similarity with the demands of the protectionists is the point Bastiat was trying to make in this clever and witty manner.
Bastiat also invented a spurious historical document, the ES3 18 “Monita secreta” (February 1848), which was based upon a seventeenth century forgery of a manual which purported to show how the Jesuits secretly went about recruiting members to their cause and lobbying governments to get the legislation they wanted. Here, Bastiat “discovers” a secret manual or guide book written to assist the protectionists in their political and intellectual struggle against the free traders. By “exposing” this secret and conspiratorial document for the first time to the French public, Bastiat has a field day.
See the following examples:
v. Essays written in more Formal or Academic Prose
There are only four instances of this type of essay in the collection. They are longer pieces and are written in a more academic style in which quite sophisticated and complex theoretical and history ideas are discussed. The first two examples are the opening two essays in Economic Sophisms Series II (1848) on ES2 1 “Physiologie de la Spoliation” (The Physiology of Plunder) and ES2 2 “Deux morales” (Two Moral Philosophies). There is no information on any previous publication of these pieces so it is possible that they were written especially for the second series of Economic Sophisms. The other two essays were written for the more academic and sophisticated Journal des Économistes. ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy) appeared in the January 1846 issue and is notable for Bastiat’s testy reaction to reviews of Economic Sophisms Series I for being “too theoretical, scientific, and metaphysical”, the defence of his strategy for “calling a spade a spade” in his writings (such as describing government taxation and tariffs as a form of “theft”), and for the appearance of one the wittiest pieces he ever wrote, a parody of Molière’s parody, where Bastiat writes (in Latin) an “Oath of Office” for aspiring government officials. The second essay ES3 22 “Funestes illusions. Les citoyens font vivre l’État. L’État ne peut faire vivre les citoyens.” (Disastrous Illusions) appeared in the March 1848 issue of the Journal des Économistes and is interesting because it was published at the very beginning of the 1848 Revolution and shows the growing alarm felt by the political economists at the rise of socialist and interventionist ideas among the revolutionaries.
vi. Direct Appeals to the Workers and Citizens of France
This type of essay is the one most infrequently used by Bastiat. The first occurs in ES1 12 “La protection élève-t-elle le taux des salaires?” (Does Protection increase the Rate of Pay?) (c. 1847) and is a direct appeal to the Workers, perhaps modelled on a real speech Bastiat gave on the hustings as he campaigned for the French Free Trade Association. We do not have any information about its original date or place of publication. The other two occurrences are flyers or wall posters which originally appeared in Bastiat’s and Molinari’s revolutionary paper Jacques Bonhomme in March 1848. They were designed to appeal to the workers and citizens of Paris at the beginning of the 1848 Revolution. The idea was to post them on walls in the streets of Paris so the passers by could read them. In ES3 20 “Funeste remède” (A Disastrous Remedy) (12 March 1848) Bastiat likens the state once again to a quack doctor who tries to cure the patient (the taxpayers of France) by giving him a blood transfusion by taking blood out of one arm and pumping it into the other arm [his parody of Molière appeared that same month in the Journal des Économistes]. In ES3 19 “Soulagement immédiat du peuple” (The Immediate Relief of the People) (12 March 1848) he argues that the state is not like Christ and cannot turn water into wine, or in this case give out more in subsidies than it takes in in taxes. Both were short, emotional appeals to the Parisian crowd to spurn the seductive socialist policies of the new Provisional Government.
The style and the rhetorical devices Bastiat used in the individual Sophisms show considerable variety and skill in their construction. Bastiat has been justly recognized for his excellent style by economists such as Friedrich Hayek and the historian of economic thought Joseph Schumpeter, but this has not been studied in any detail. Schumpeter described Bastiat in very mixed terms as a brilliant economic journalist but as “no theorist” at all:
Admired by sympathizers, reviled by opponents, his name might have gone down to posterity as the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived… I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist.
A fuller list of the rhetorical devices used by Bastiat in the Sophisms shows the breadth and complexity of what one might call his “rhetoric of liberty” which he formulated to expose the follies of the policies of the ruling elite and their system of “legal plunder,” and to undermine their authority and legitimacy with “the sting of ridicule”:
If a pattern emerges from the examples cited above it is that Bastiat likes to use literary references to show his readers that economic issues need not be “dull and dry” and to help him expose the nature of politicians and the political and economic power they wield. Thus in a witty and clever way he induces the reader to see things the way they are and to share his disdain for those who misuse their power and to encourage them to no longer think like “dupes”.
The Sophisms also reveal a man who has a very good sense of humour and an understanding of how humour can be used for political purposes as well as to make political economy less “dry and dull” for average readers. Sprinkled throughout the Sophisms are Bastiat’s own jokes, plays on words, and puns. For example, in ES2 10 “Le percepteur” (The Tax Collector) (c.1847) Bastiat creates a dialogue between Jacques Bonhomme (a wine producer like Bastiat himself) and a Tax Collector, a M. “Lasouche”. Lasouche is a made up name which Bastiat creates to poke fun at his adversaries. The FEE translator translated “M. Lasouche” as “Mr. Clodpate.” Since “la souche” means a tree stump, log, or plant stock, we thought “Mr. Blockhead” might be appropriate in our new translation.
The following play on words requires some knowledge of Latin. In ES1 10 “Réciprocité” (Reciprocity) (October 1845) Bastiat creates two fictitious towns which he calls “Stulta” and “Puera” as part of a fable about how towns create artificial obstacles to trade in order to boost their own local economies. The names of the towns “Stulta” and “Puera” are plays on the Latin words “stultus” for foolish, and “puer/puera” for young boy or girl; thus one might translate them as “Stupidville” and “Childishtown”. There are also puns on French words such as “haut” (high or tall) and “gauche” (left). In ES2 5 “Cherté, bon marché” (High Prices and Low Prices) (July, 1847) Bastiat discusses how protectionists usually prefer “high prices” while free traders prefer “low prices”. In the course of his argument he makes a play on the word “haut” (high) in the passage “Would it not be amusing to see low prices becoming the watchword in Rue Hauteville (“Highville”) and high ones lauded in the Rue Choiseul.” The joke is that the Rue Hauteville was the headquarters of the Odier Committee and the Association for the Defense of National Work (a protectionist organization) and the Rue Choiseul was the headquarters of the Association for Free Trade which Bastiat lead at one time. In ES2 16 “La main droite et la main gauche” (The Right Hand and the Left Hand) (December 1846) Bastiat continues his strategy of making reductio ad absurdum arguments in order to ridicule his opponents. In this case he is showing that by rejecting free trade, the protectionists are just making extra work for themselves by making it harder to buy goods more cheaply elsewhere. In this Sophism Bastiat suggests that in order to make more work for themselves they should think about passing a law to make everybody tie their right hand behind their back and only use their left (gauche) hand to work with. He wittily refers to this practice as a form of “gaucherie” or clumsiness.
Sometimes Bastiat is able to laugh at himself as well at as his adversaries. In ES3 13 “La peur d’un mot” (The Fear of a Word) (c.1847) a discussion takes place between an Economist and an Artisan and the conversation comes to the problem of the meaning of words and how some people fear the words more than they do their meaning. It probably happened on occasion to Bastiat when he was campaigning for the Free Trade Association that discussion would get bogged down in the different meanings of key phrases such as “free trade” (libre-échange) and “freedom to trade” (échange libre). The phrase “free trade” was frightening to the Artisan because of its politically charged meaning in the free trade movement both in France and in Britain. The Artisan however is more comfortable with the less threatening phrase “freedom to trade”. The Economist points out to him that although the two phrases have a different word order in French they in fact mean exactly the same thing. In the Sophism the Artisan says literally, “So free trade and trade free is the same as white bonnet and bonnet white” and both sides laugh at the silliness of it all.
Another example of his self-deprecating humour is in ES3 15 “Le petit manuel du consommateur ou de tout le monde” (A Little Manual for Consumers, in other words, for everyone) (c.1847) where Bastiat makes fun of the problems he and others faced in coming to terms with technical economic expressions, in this case “to consume,” “the consumer”, and “consumption.” Here Bastiat likens these difficult and ugly words to so many barflies that one cannot get rid of, perhaps expressing some frustration at the difficult task he had set himself in trying to make them understandable to the general public. No doubt he had to “consume” a few glasses in the course of his agitation for free trade and, coming from a wine producing region like Les Landes, Bastiat probably knew what he was talking about here:
Consume – Consumer – Consumption; these are ugly words that represent people as so many barflies, constantly with a coffee cup or a wine glass in front of them. But political economy is obliged to use them. (I am referring to the three words, not the wine glass.)
It is interesting to speculate whether the strategy of using irony, sarcasm, parody, mockery, puns, and other forms of humour in his writing was an explicit and deliberate one, or one that just naturally arose out of his jovial personality. A clue comes from an article he wrote in early 1846 soon after the appearance of ES1. In an article in the Journal des Économistes of January 1846, ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy), he opens with the following testy remarks:
People find my small volume of Sophisms too theoretical, scientific and metaphysical. So be it. Let us try a superficial, banal and, if necessary, brutal style. Since I am convinced that the general public are easily taken in as far as protection is concerned, I wanted to prove it to them. They prefer to be shouted at. So let us shout:
Midas, King Midas has ass’s ears!
An explosion of plain speaking often has more effect than the politest circumlocutions. Do you remember Oronte and the difficulty that the Misanthropist, as misanthropic as he is, has in convincing him of his folly?
It is seems that he was stung by some critical reviews of Economic Sophisms Series I for being “too theoretical, scientific and metaphysical” and thus failing to achieve his major aim, which was to appeal to a broader popular audience. As a result he may well have decided deliberately to use more sarcasm, humour, and parody in future Sophisms.
On two occasions Bastiat allowed himself the luxury of imagining what a free market utopia might look like. We also have several examples of the opposite, of interventionist dystopias where the protectionists have run wild, and a couple of absurdist dystopias where interventionist policies are ridiculed by means of “reductio ad absurdum” arguments taken to their logical and unpleasant conclusion.
It is fitting that Bastiat would write his own liberal utopian vision as it was in vogue among contemporary socialists like Saint-Simon, Étienne Cabet, and Charles Fourier who wrote unintentionally absurd and amusing visions of a socialist society where people lived communally in “phalanxes” and birth control was a natural consequence of socialist labour, with which Bastiat was quite familiar and which were mocked by the political caricaturist Amédée de Noé in a cartoon “‘New’ Socialist Ideas in 1848”. In ES2 11 “L’utopiste" (The Utopian) (January 1847) Bastiat envisages a radical classical liberal politician who dreams of being able to form a new government with the power and authority to enact his dream slate of policies in order to reform France. It is structured as a conversation between an unknown interlocutor and the politician, and Bastiat runs wild imagining what he would do if he were given such power. The policies he proposes are really quite radical in their scope (and some were in fact enacted in the first year of the Revolutionary government which came to power in early 1848), as the following proposals indicate (it should be noted that the French government at this time got most of its revenue from indirect taxes of various kinds and tariffs):
In the end, the Utopian politician resigns because he realises that his reforms are literally “utopian” since they would have to be imposed upon a population which did not share his political and moral values and that reform from above would prove to be counter-productive in the long run. For economic reforms to work, Bastiat thought, they had to be supported overwhelmingly by public opinion which was the raison d’être for his economic journalism and pamphleteering in favour of free trade and deregulation.
His second utopian vision is more like a dystopia which is only narrowly averted by a liberal-minded ruler at the last moment. Interestingly it uses two characters from Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, is the only significant reference to Cervantes in Bastiat’s writings, and was never published in Bastiat’s lifetime. The story is a series of letters written between Sancho, who has been appointed dictator of the island of Barataria, and Don Quixote, who has been advising him about the best way to rule the island, like a typical socialist might in 1848. Like Robinson Crusoe (as will be discussed below), Bastiat makes Don Quixote the advocate of interventionist and protectionist policies, while Pancho/Friday is the free trader and non-interventionist. Don Quixote urges Sancho to use his powers to treat the island and its inhabitants like a machine whose parts can be ordered at will by the “mechanic” or ruler. He wants him to re-instate slavery for 95% of the popular and force them to labour for the benefit of the ruling 5%. This ruling class would devote themselves to martial activities and the pursuit of “virtue” much like the Romans whom Bastiat despised so much. Don Quixote tells Sancho that the people will willingly obey him if he can persuade them that he has supernatural powers and can intimidate and fool them into obedience. Sancho on the other hand rejects Don Quixote’s advice because he observes that neither the people nor the society they have created works like a machine which can be regulated by single ruler. He tells the people to “Do as you please”, work in the fields, and trade their goods with each other. Sancho’s view of the role of the state is the “nightwatchman” state as this speech he gave to the Baratarian Grand Assembly shows:
God has given you land. Cultivate it and produce crops from it. Exchange these with one another. Let some plough , others spin, still others teach, plead in court or cure illness; let each person work as he wishes.
For my part, my duty is to guarantee to all two things: freedom to act and the freedom to dispose the fruit of his work. For my part, my duty is to guarantee two things for each person: the freedom to act and the freedom to dispose of the fruits of their work.
I will constantly endeavor to repress your disastrous inclination to rob each other, wherever this is evident. I will give all of you total security. The rest is up to you.
Is it not absurd for you to ask anything more from me? What do these piles of petitions mean? If I took them seriously, everyone would steal from everyone else in Barataria, and with my connivance! On the contrary, I believe that my mission is to prevent anyone from stealing from anyone else.
Baratarians, there is a great difference between these two systems. If in your view I am to be the instrument by means of which everyone steals from everyone else, it is as though you were saying that all of your property belongs to me, and that I can dispose of it as well as your freedom. You will no longer be men, but brutes.
In the story “Barataria” it is not clear whether Sancho resigns from office as “The Utopian” did or the other Sancho did in Cervantes’ novel because Bastiat left it unfinished.
Whereas Bastiat had only one published essay on a liberal utopia he published several about interventionist dystopias. One of the more notable ones was ES2 13 “La protection ou les trois Échevins” (Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates) (c.1847) which was in the form of a long play in four acts about an over-regulated Paris and its subsequent economic decline. Three magistrates in Paris decide that if protectionism is good for the country as a whole then protectionism for the industries of Paris would also be a good thing. They persuade the citizens of Paris to support their plans and they impose comprehensive tariffs on all imported goods into the city. Bastiat makes an excellent joke with word-play by comparing the importation of cheap butter from “perfidious Normandy” with the importation into France as a whole of cheap textiles from “perfidious Albion or England”. Jacques Bonhomme and his son are forced to leave Paris as its industries go into decline and Jacques predicts a popular uprising in the near future as a result of the growing economic crisis (this was quite perceptive of Bastiat in 1847 as revolution did break out in February 1848 partly as a result of poor harvests in 1846–47). Some time later, Jacques returns to Paris to try to get support for his radical and revolutionary free trade ideas but is spurned by the people and threatened with hanging for his agitation against the municipal government. The “staged argument in four scenes” (as Bastiat calls his play) ends ambiguously with the people opposing hanging for Jacques but unsure about the policies he espouses.
A trope Bastiat commonly used in his writings was the “reductio ad absurdum” argument, where he took a typical argument in favour of protectionism, universalised it, thus pushing it to its absurd conclusion, and in the process creating a kind of absurdist economic dystopia. Good examples of this method are ES1 17 “Un chemin de fer négatif” (A Negative Railway) (c. 1845) and ES2 16 “La main droite et la main gauche” (The Right Hand and the Left Hand) (December 1846). In the very short but perceptive essay “A Negative Railway” Bastiat takes the argument in favour of forcing railway companies to make stops at certain towns in order to stimulate the local trans-shipping and hotel industries, universalises the principle into the idea that the railway should be forced to stop at every town along its path for the same reason, thus resulting in a railway journey that will never get to its final destination, but which will supposedly enrich everybody along the way. It is like “Groundhog Day” for the passengers, forever getting on and off the train and never being able to complete their journey.
In the essay “The Right Hand and the Left Hand” Bastiat takes the interventionist’s idea that the true wealth of a nation can be measured by the amount of labour its people undertake (in our day, the number of “jobs” in the economy). It follows from this that, if a government wants to increase national prosperity, it should increase the amount of labour people have to do (increase the number of jobs). In the tale, an unnamed official presents a report to the King designed to counter the criticisms of protection being mounted by the free traders in the magazine Le Libre-Échange (which was edited and largely written by Bastiat). He urges the King to ban the use of his subjects’ right hand in all economic activity in order to increase the amount of work which has to be done, and thus make the nation richer. This absurdity is quite consistent with the economic theory of the protectionists (or Keynesians in our own day, such as the government paying people to dig holes, then to fill them in again, or to build bridges to nowhere) and the story provides Bastiat with a number of opportunities to make amusing plays on words about how “gauche” the new system would be (“gauche” also means left), and how French society would eventually be divided into two opposing groups - the sinistrists (those who favour left-handed work, i.e. the protectionists) and the libres-d’extéristes (free right-handers, i.e. the free traders). If, after 20 years of being forced to use their left hands, the people become just as “dexterous” as they were before the ban on using their right hands, the King’s advisor reassures the King that the state could invent further measures to increase the amount of labour required to produce things, such as banning the use of both hands and forcing the people to make things with their feet. The people are thus locked into an economic dystopia in which the government constantly thinks up new ways to make labour more onerous and difficult, all in the name of creating more national wealth by making people work more. Bastiat concludes the story with the cynical observation made by the advisor to the King, that such absurd interventionism in the economy which caused so much hardship for ordinary people was ultimately less important to the King than the fact that it and all other measures like it, increased his power.
Bastiat’s dystopian vision has a number of similarities with Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction story “Harrison Bergeron” (October 1961) in which the government penalises clever people in the name of the equality of intellectual abilities by implanting a device in their heads which makes it difficult for them to think clearly. They are thus forced to live and act just like their less intellectually gifted fellows.
“Jacques Bonhomme” (literally Jack Goodfellow) is the name used by the French to refer to “everyman,” sometimes with the connotation that he is the archetype of the wily and stubborn but clever French peasant, and sometimes with the connotation that he was violent and unpredictable, like a “wild dog”, who could rise up at a moment’s notice and slaughter his social and political betters. The origins of the first name “Jacques” lay in the peasant uprisings which occurred during the 100 Years War (1337–1453) between France and England for control of northern France. Some peasants (“les Jacques”) rebelled in May 1358 in a peasant uprising (jacquerie) and killed many nobles and their supporters. Bastiat would have been attracted to it as it was partly in reaction to the hardships caused by war such as taxes, requisitioning of food supplies for the armies, and the spread of disease. The source for the second name was the result of the popularity of the writings of Benjamin Franklin who was much admired in France in the late 18th century, especially his Poor Richard’s Almanack which appeared annually between 1732 and 1758. It was translated into French as La science du bonhomme Richard (The Science of Poor Richard). The French economists were very interested in the ideas of Franklin and included a translation of a selection of his work in an anthology of other 18th century economic writings which were edited by Bastiat’s younger friend and colleague Gustave de Molinari in 1847.
In England at this time the phrase used to refer to the average Englishman was “John Bull”; in the late 19th and early 20th century English judges used to refer to “the man on the Clapham Omnibus” to refer to the average British citizen with common sense; a more colloquial contemporary American expression for the average man would be the typical consumer who lives in Peoria, IL. or “Joe Six Pack” the typical basketball or football fan. The opposite of the clever Jacques Bonhomme (Jack Goodfellow) figure was the stupid and slow learning Gros-Jean (Big or Fat John). Gros-Jean is quite stupid and does not learn from his mistakes. He was popularized by La Fontaine and quoted by Bastiat in ES2 1 “Physiologie de la Spoliation” (The Physiology of Plunder). After daydreaming about how she will spend the money she has not yet earned at the markets, Perrette spills her pail of milk and ends up with nothing. She concludes the story by saying “I am Gros-Jean just like before.”
It is possible that Bastiat thought to use the figure of Jacques Bonhomme as a character in his economic essays as a result of conversations with Molinari as he was engaged in editorial work on the anthology of 18th century economic writing (including Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac) during 1846 (the volume was published sometime in 1847). Bastiat used the character of Jacques Bonhomme for the first time in dialogues in 4 essays in the second series of Economic Sophisms (published Jan. 1848 but some of which were written as early as mid–1846) as a foil to criticise protectionists and advocates of government regulation. In other words, Bastiat took this stock character of French popular culture and eventually turned him into a spokesman for his own free market views. The first dated instance was in ES2 12 “Le sel, la poste et la douane” (Salt, the Mail, and the Customs Service) which appeared in the Journal des Économistes (May 1846). Here Bastiat reports a conversation between Jacques Bonhomme and his English counterpart John Bull on postal reform. A radical reform of the British postal system had been introduced in 1841 with the Universal Penny Post. Jacques Bonhomme is at first sceptical about how it would work in France but John Bull convinces him sufficiently to induce Jacques Bonhomme to write a letter to the Deputy who chaired the Chamber Committee looking into postal reform offering to take over the French Postal System, introduce English style reforms and still make a profit for the French state.
Jacques Bonhomme makes an appearance in three other sophisms which are undated but probably written sometime in late 1846 or 1847 before they were published in ES2 (Jan. 1848). They were ES2 3 “Les deux haches” (The Two Axes), ES2 10 “Le percepteur” (The Tax Collector), and ES2 13 “La protection ou les trois Échevins” (Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates). In “The Two Axes” Jacques Bonhomme, who describes himself as “a carpenter like Jesus”, writes to the protectionist Minister of Trade, Mr. Cunin-Gridaine, asking him for protection for his industry like the textile manufacturers get for theirs. His solution is to get the Minister to pass a law requiring all carpentry work in France be done with blunt axes in order to increase the amount of labour needed to do any job. In content and style it is very similar to Bastiat’s absurdist story of the ES2 16 “La main droite et la main gauche” (The Right Hand and the Left Hand) (December 1846) which is discussed in more detail below.
A much more elaborate and clever use of Jacques Bonhomme is made in “Le percepteur” (The Tax Collector) where Bastiat creates a two-part dialogue between Jacques Bonhomme who is a wine producer and Mr. Blockhead who is a tax collector. The name of the Tax Collector is a typical example of Bastiat’s mocking word play. The man’s name in French is “M. Lasouche” and since “la souche” means a tree stump, log, or stock we thought “Mr. Blockhead” might be an appropriate translation to use here. What follows is a clever and quite sophisticated discussion of the nature of political representation and the legitimacy of those political “representatives” to tax people. Jacques Bonhomme asks such clever questions that it ties Mr. Blockhead up in knots and he finds it hard to explain in a coherent way why he does what he does. In the course of the conversation Bastiat also has Jacques Bonhomme introduce a key component of the radically new economic theory he was working on which would appear in Economic Harmonies, namely the idea of exchange as “a service for a service”. Jacques Bonhomme is suggesting to the tax collector that very little, if anything at all (even the military), provided by the state in return for the taxes they are paid is a “service”. The radically anti-statist implications of this idea are obvious.
The fourth example of Bastiat’s use of Jacques Bonhomme before the outbreak of the 1848 Revolution is “La protection ou les trois Échevins” (Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates). This story is the most elaborate play which Bastiat wrote and included 4 separate acts with dialog and action on the part of many characters, or what Bastiat termed “a staged argument in four scenes.” After the economic health of Paris has been destroyed by 3 protectionist magistrates thus forcing Jacques Bonhomme to flee to find work elsewhere, Jacques Bonhomme returns to inspire the people of Paris to force the politicians to abolish protectionism and to reintroduce economic liberty. Jacques Bonhomme has now become a revolutionary free market advocate who engages the three protectionist magistrates in debates but is ultimately unable to persuade them or the people of Paris to abandon protectionism.
These four stories involving Jacques Bonhomme were published in ES2 which appeared sometime in January 1848, just before the February Revolution of 1848 overthrew the July Monarchy and began the Second Republic. During the course of 1848 it seems that Bastiat increasingly assumed the identity of Jacques Bonhomme in his popular writing. Instead of inserting pieces of dialog between Bastiat and other characters in a story which was clearly framed by an external author (i.e. Bastiat the economic journalist) the stories gradually became complete articles written by “Jacques Bonhomme” and addressed directly to “the people” who were engaged in the revolutionary struggle in the streets of Paris. We see this briefly in a couple of very short articles by “Jacques Bonhomme” in Bastiat’s free trade journal Le Libre-Échange just before it closed down for good in the face of the revolution. They were described as “petites fiches de Jacques Bonhomme” which could mean flyers which could be handed out in the streets to passers-by or posters which were designed to be plastered on the walls of Paris. They were written and handed out on the streets of Paris on or just before March 12, 1848, only two weeks after the fall of the Monarchy and the proclamation of the Second Republic and when key policies of the new state were being discussed by the Provisional Government.
In “The Immediate Relief of the People”, Bastiat speaks directly to “the People” using the familiar “tu” form but inserts an aside where he speaks as Jacques Bonhomme:
You are being told: “You have not enough to live on; let the State add what is missing.” Who would not wish for this if it were possible?
But alas, the tax collector’s coffers are not the wine pitcher of Cana.
When Our Lord put one liter of wine in this pitcher, two came out, but when you put one hundred sous in the coffers of the tax collector, ten francs do not emerge; not even one hundred sous come out, since the collector keeps a few for himself.
How then does this procedure increase your work or your wages?
The advice being given to you can be summed up as follows: You will give the State five francs in return for nothing and the State will give you four francs in return for your work. An exchange for dupes.
People, how can the State keep you alive, since it is you who are keeping the State alive?
Here are the mechanics of charity workshops presented systematically … (aside: Jacques Bonhomme does not mean to criticize emergency measures.)
In “A Disastrous Remedy” Bastiat as Jacques Bonhomme again speaks to the people warning them that they are being duped by socialist promises that the workers can be made better off by paying them subsidies out of the taxes they are paying. In a very clear reference to Molière’s hatred of quack doctors and bleeding patients Bastiat through his alter ego Jacques states (I quote the speech in full):
When our brother suffers we must come to his aid.
However, it is not the goodness of the intention that makes the goodness of the medicine. A mortal remedy can be given in all charity.
A poor worker was ill. The doctor arrived, took his pulse, made him stick out his tongue and said to him: “Good man, you are undernourished.” “I think so too,” said the dying man, “however, I did have an old doctor who was very skilled. He gave me three-quarters of a loaf of bread each evening. It is true that he took the whole loaf from me each morning and kept a quarter of it as his fee. I turned him away when I saw that this regime was not curing me.” “My friend and colleague was an ignorant man who thought only of his own interest. He did not see that your blood was anemic. This has to be reorganized. I am going to transfuse some new blood in your left arm and to do this I have to take it out of your right arm. But provided that you take no account either of the blood that comes out of your right arm or the blood that will be lost during the operation, you will find my remedy admirable.”
This is the position we are in. The State tells the people: “You do not have enough bread; I will give you some. But since I do not make any, I will begin by taking it from you and when I have satisfied my appetite, which is not small, I will make you earn the rest.”
Or else: “Your earnings are not high enough, pay me more tax. I will distribute part to my agents and with the surplus, I will set you to work.”
And if the people have eyes only for the bread being given to them and lose sight of the bread being taken away from them; if they can see the small wage which taxes provide but don’t see the large part of their wage which taxes take away, then we can predict that their illness will become more serious.
It is clear that Bastiat here in March was already thinking along the lines of his theory of the “The State” which would appear again in a draft form in June when Jacques Bonhomme the man would offer his readers a money prize for the best definition of the State.
After the closure of his free trade journal Le Libre-Échange and his street magazine La République française Bastiat got distracted campaigning for election and then taking his seat in the new Constituent Assembly where he served as Vice-President of the Chamber’s Finance Committee where he struggled to cut taxes and government spending. Jacques Bonhomme disappeared until June when he was resurrected not just as a character or voice for Bastiat’s free market ideas but as his own revolutionary street magazine, appropriately named Jacques Bonhomme. In the four issues which were published the articles are written as if Jacques Bonhomme was an eyewitness who was reporting on what he had seen on the streets, and commenting on political events as if he were a worker like all the other “Jacques Bonhommes” who were marching, protesting, and rioting against the troops.
The articles which appear in the four issues of the street magazine Jacques Bonhomme are written from a rather strange perspective; they are partly in the first person of “Jacques” and partly in the third person where it is reported what Jacques thinks, has seen, or has done. Sometimes an unidentified third party asks Jacques what he thinks and it is reported what he says as if he were being directly quoted. Jacques appears to be a living person who is an eyewitness to the events of February and March 1848, but also seems to be the personification of the French people as he relates his experiences of suffering under various governments throughout history and his participation in several previous French Revolutions. Here is the opening article in the first issue where he relates his history and gives an account of his origins:
Histoire de Jacques Bonhomme.
Comment est venue à Jacques Bonhomme l’idée écrire un journal.
Et d’abord Jacques Bonhomme vous dira qui il est et pourquoi on l’a baptisé du nom de Jacques Bonhomme … (p. 13)
As in the past, Jacques is under a great pressure from his friends to take up arms to fight against the ruling elites again, but he is reluctant to pick up his rifle because he realises the great costs of using violence to change the world. This time he urges his friends to inform themselves about the principles of political economy so they can understand the debates which are going on in the Assembly over taxes and the budget. The introduction to Jacques Bonhomme concludes with the speaker (Bastiat presumably) urging the readers to listen to what Jacques “un démocrate de la vieille souche” (a democrat of the old school (from the original branch or stock)) has to say about economics:
Ayant fait ces réflexions, Jacques Bonhomme se mit à étudier le budget de la république et à lire des livres d’économie politique ; de tout cela, il retira grand fruit ; il commença à voir jour dans les affaires, et voulant que tout le monde y pût voir comme lui, il se mit à raconter ce qu’il avait appris.
Maintenant, mes chers amis, prêtez attention, je vous prie, aux discours de Jacques Bonhomme. C’est un homme de bonne humeur et de bon esprit, un démocrate de la vieille souche, et, grands et petits, vous aurez tous profit à l’écouter. (p. 18)
What follows are short pieces by Jacques in the first person on “La Liberté” and “Laissez-faire” which is followed by a series of questions put to “Maître Jacques” about the activities of the National Assembly, and the first draft of Bastiat’s essay on “The State” (pp. 23–25).
In “La Liberté” (Freedom) Jacques in the first person states:
I have lived a long time, seen a great deal, observed much, compared and examined many things, and I have reached the following conclusion:
Our fathers were right to wish to be free, and we should also wish this.
It is not that freedom has no disadvantages, since everything has these. To use these disadvantages in argument against it is to say to a man trapped in the mire: Do not get out, as you cannot do this without some effort…
A people has two ways of procuring something. The first is to make it; the second is to make something else and trade it. It is certainly better to have the option than not to have it. Let us therefore demand the freedom to trade.
I am throwing myself into public debate; I am trying to get through to the crowd to preach all the freedoms, the total of which make up liberty.
In “Laissez-faire”, again speaking in the first person, Jacques provides a brief definition of what it is and why socialists object to it:
Laissez-faire! I will begin by saying, in order to avoid any ambiguity, that laissez-faire is used here for honest things, with the state instituted precisely to prevent dishonest things.
This having been said, and with regard to things that are innocent in themselves, such as work, trade, teaching, association, banking, etc., a choice must be made. It is necessary for the state to let things be done or prevent them from being done.
If it lets things be done, we will be free and optimally administered most economically, since nothing costs less than laissez-faire.
If it prevents things from being done, woe to our freedom and our purse. Woe to our freedom, since to prevent things is to tie our hands; woe to our purse, since to prevent things requires agents and to employ agents takes money.
In reply to this, socialists say: “Laissez-faire! What a disaster!” Why, if you please? “Because, when you leave men to act, they do wrong and act against their interests. It is right for the state to direct them.”
This is simply absurd. Do you seriously have such faith in human wisdom that you want universal suffrage and government of all by all and then you proclaim these very men whom you consider fit to govern others unfit to govern themselves?
In “L’État” an unidentified person (but probably Jacques) lists all the things which the people now want the State to do in the new Republic and notes that all these things have to be paid for by taxes, and wonders where the taxes are going to come from. He does not answer but says that the magazine Jacques Bonhomme is offering a prize of Fr. 50,000 for the best definition of the STATE his readers can come up with:
Jacques Bonhomme fonde un prix de cinquante mille francs à décerner à celui qui donnera une bonne définition de ce mot, l’ÉTAT ; car celui-là sera le sauveur des finances, de l’industrie, du commerce et du travail. (p. 25)
Jacques Bonhomme is sponsoring a prize of fifty thousand francs to be given to anyone who provides a good definition of the word state, for that person will be the savior of finance, industry, trade, and work.
In the second issue 15–18 June, Jacques the person declares that he is so impatient with the Assembly for taking so long to agree upon a new constitution for the Republic that he threatens to stand outside the building where they are meeting and shout his protests as loud as he can (the French also suggests that he would stick up his posters on the walls surrounding the building):
Jacques Bonhomme attend la Constitution avec impatience.
Si Jacques Bonhomme n’avait pas peur de passer pour factieux, il irait se poster sur une des bornes qui avoisinent la chambre où l’Assemblée nationale tient ses séances, et là, il ferait chorus à lui tout seul, il crierait de manière à être entendu des Représentants : La Constitution ! la Constitution ! faites-nous bien vite la Constitution !(p. 46)
Also in the second issue Jacques (again speaking in the first person) complains that the people are like Molière’s quack doctors in Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) (1673) who always call for the same false cures for any ailment. Now the French people are calling for yet more government spending and regulation to cure their problems and will face the same disappointment as they have always had in the past:
Non vult se guarire,
Quid illi facere ?
— Purgare, saignare, clysterisare,
Repurgare, resaignare, reclysterisare. (p. 51)
The original passage from the play can be roughly translated as:
Fifth Doctor: But of the illness, in your opinion, is not cured? What would you do?
The student doctor Bachelierus: Give an injection, then bleed him, afterwards purge him. Then bleed him again, purge him again, and inject him again.
So it appears that for the 4 or 5 weeks of the magazine’s existence in June 1848 Bastiat had become the fictional character “Jacques Bonhomme” and that fiction had come to life, or at least temporarily.
Jacques Bonhomme, both the character in Bastiat’s stories and the magazine, then disappears again for two years as Bastiat engages fully in his parliamentary work and his anti-socialist pamphleteering until he re-emerges in the last work Bastiat was to publish before his death in December 1850, the extended pamphlet What is Seen and What is Not Seen (July 1850). Jacques Bonhomme appears in 5 of the 12 essays but has a starring role in his most famous appearance in chapter 1 “The Broken Window” where Bastiat, using the voice of Jacques Bonhomme, gives a masterly demonstration of one of his key theoretical innovations, the idea of opportunity cost. But Jacques Bonhomme has returned to his former role as the smart French “everyman” who acts a foil for Bastiat in his withering critiques of protectionism and other forms of intervention.
Given Bastiat’s taste for literature and his knowledge of English it is quite possible that Bastiat read Defoe’s novel The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Marriner (1719) in the original early in his career. He would also have had access to one of the several translations into French – one in 1817, one in 1827, one in 1836, and one in 1837. The translation which appeared in 1836 was by the romantic writer Pétrus Borel who wrote under the nom de plume of “Wolfman” several stories of whose were published in the journal Le Commerce, which may have brought him to Bastiat’s attention. The translation of 1837 was by the poet Mme Amable Tastu (1798–1885) and included a glowing essay on Dafoe by the economist Louis Reybaud who was known to Bastiat. Reybaud did not directly discuss the economic aspects of the Crusoe story but instead focused on the political and moral aspects of Dafoe’s interesting and varied life. This makes Bastiat’s use of the economic predicament of Robinson Crusoe as an aid to thinking about economic decision making even more remarkable for its originality.
I think Bastiat originally may well have thought of using references to Robinson Crusoe just as he had done with references to Molière or Béranger, as simple but amusing ways to illustrate his economic arguments. His first reference to Crusoe is in the sophism ES2 14 “Something Else” (March 21, 1847) and a second one written later in the year (but not specifically dated) ES3 14 “Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill” (c. 1847). This was the time when Bastiat began thinking he had something interesting to say about economic theory and began giving lectures on economics at the Athénée sometime in the late summer of fall of that year. These lectures were to form the basis of his unfinished treatise on economics Economic Harmonies (1850, 1851). I suspect that as he was working on his theoretical treatise he came to see the power that the Crusoe/Friday story provided for gaining insights into the nature of economic reasoning itself and not just as a way to illustrate it cleverly. Bastiat therefore made the intellectual leap to invent a more abstract way of thinking about economic decision making, what we might call “Crusoe economics” which was based upon a literary and possibly fictional character.
This intellectual leap by Bastiat would not be recognized until 110 years after his death when the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard used “Crusoe economics” as the foundation for his treatise on economics, Man, Economy and State (1962) and duly recognized Bastiat’s pioneering contributions. In the Preface Rothbard makes the thought experiment of “Crusoe economics” the foundation upon which he places his entire economic edifice:
The present work deduces the entire corpus of economics from a few simple and apodictically true axioms: the Fundamental Axiom of action—that men employ means to achieve ends, and two subsidiary postulates: that there is a variety of human and natural resources, and that leisure is a consumers’ good. Chapter 1 begins with the action axiom and deduces its immediate implications; and these conclusions are applied to “Crusoe economics”—that much maligned but highly useful analysis that sets individual man starkly against Nature and analyzes his resulting actions. Chapter 2 introduces other men and, consequently, social relations.
Thus one might conclude that once Bastiat had started going down the path of Crusoe economics he was already essentially an economist of the Austrian school. In addition, some twenty years later in The Ethics of Liberty (1982) Rothbard also made Crusoe the foundation of his ethical theory for liberty in which
“the condition and actions of Crusoe are here analyzed not in order to establish economic concepts, but rather those of natural-rights morality-in particular, of the natural sphere of property and ownership, the foundation of liberty. The Crusoe model enables one to analyze the action of man vis-à-vis the external world around him, before the complications of interpersonal relations are considered.”
Thus, according to Rothbard at least, Bastiat’s discovery of “Crusoe economics” not only helped found a key aspect of the modern Austrian school of economics, namely “praxeology”, but also helped him (Rothbard) more clearly work out the moral and political ideas which lay behind his theory of anarcho-capitalism.
Modern readers of economics do not find it strange when an economist uses “thought experiments” to help simplify and clarify complex economic arguments. Members of the Austrian school resort to this process as a matter of course because it helps them establish the logic of “human action” which every economic actor must face when making decisions about what to produce or what to exchange. Bastiat, too, found it helpful to make use of the fictional figure of Robinson Crusoe 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.
The relative simplicity of the choices Crusoe had to make (first just one person and then two with the arrival of Friday) makes this a useful device for economists to use when making “thought experiments” to illustrate basic economic principles and Bastiat is one of the first (perhaps even the first) economist to make extensive use of “Crusoe economics” to do so. In a search of the economic works on the Online Library of Liberty for references to “Robinson Crusoe” in works written before Bastiat’s first use of it in 1847 we find that there are no references at all in the works of Adam Smith, in J.B. Say’s Treatise on Political Economy, or the works of David Ricardo. There are only single references scattered across the writings of economists who were writing in the 1810s, 1820s and 1830s, such as Jeremy Bentham, Jane Marcet, Thomas Babbington Macaulay, Richard Whately, and Thomas Hodgskin and none of them uses the Robinson Crusoe analogy to express serious economic ideas. In the case of Richard Whately (1831), he firmly rejected the use of Crusoe in any discussion of the nature of political economy because in his view the study of economics was the study of “exchanges” and, since Crusoe did not engage in any exchanges (at least until Friday came along), he was “in a situation of which Political-Economy takes no cognizance.” Thus, Bastiat’s extensive use of “Crusoe economics” between 1847 and 1850 may well be an original contribution to economic reasoning.
There are several essays in the Economic Sophisms and multiple references in Economic Harmonies where Bastiat uses Crusoe to make his points. In an unpublished outline or sketch written sometime in 1847, ES3 14 “Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill”, Bastiat uses Robinson Crusoe for the first time to simplify the economic arguments for free trade and provides an excellent statement of his methodology:
Let us run off to the island to see the poor shipwrecked sailor. Let us see him in action. Let us examine the motives, the purpose, and the consequences of his actions. We will not learn everything there, in particular not those things that relate to the distribution of wealth in a society of many people, but we will glimpse the basic facts. We will observe general laws in their simplest form of action, and political economy is there in essence.
Let us apply this method to just a few problems…(my emphasis)
This explanation shows some of the benefits using of “Crusoe economics” to explain economic ideas. It is useful for simplifying an examination of an individual’s motives and purposes in taking certain actions, and then in assessing the consequences of those actions. By abstracting the single individual economic actor away from the crowd the observer can begin to figure out “general laws in their simplest form of action, and political economy is there in essence,” which the Austrian methodology in a nutshell. Once this thought process has taken place and the method applied to just enough simple problems so the principles can be understood, they then can be applied to more complex economic arrangements where many people are involved.
Bastiat begins his discussion of Crusoe by looking at his attempts to catch fish, grow vegetables, and clothe himself alone on the island. Being a good European he expands his production by making a net (a tool) which he does successfully by sacrificing his leisure time. A prohibitionist who is also part of the discussion fears that if visitors come to the island wanting to trade clothes Crusoe would be made worse off. In the Crusoe “thought experiment” the visitors take the place of “the English” who were permitted to trade their cheaper clothing in the Portuguese market under the Treaty of Methuen. Bastiat outlines Crusoe’s thinking in agreeing to trade his vegetables for “foreign” clothes:
“Would we also be able to study the Treaty of Methuen on the Island of Despair?”
"Why not? Let us take a walk there… Do you see, Robinson Crusoe is busy making clothes to protect himself from the rain and cold. He is regretting the time he has to spend on this as he also needs to eat and his garden takes up all his time. But here is a canoe that has come to the island. The stranger that disembarks shows Robinson Crusoe some warm clothes, offers to trade them to him for a few vegetables and offers to continue this exchange in the future. Robinson Crusoe first looks to see whether the stranger is armed. Seeing that he has neither arrows nor a tomahawk, he says to himself: “After all, he cannot lay claim to anything that I do not agree to; let us have a look.” He examines the clothes, calculates the number of hours he would spend making them himself and compares this with the number of hours he would have to add to his gardening work to satisfy the stranger. If he finds that the trade, while leaving him just as well fed and clothed, makes a few extra hours of his time available, he will accept, knowing full well that these hours saved are a net gain, whether he devotes them to work or leisure. If, on the other hand, he thinks that the bargain is not advantageous, he will refuse it. What need is there in this case for an external force to forbid it to him? He is able to refuse it himself.
After several pages of going back and forth the free trader armed with his Crusoe arguments is not able to fully convince the protectionist of his position and the discussion ends unsatisfactorily. This lack of resolution perhaps explains why Bastiat never finished the essay and never published it in his usual journals.
The second occasion for Bastiat’s use of Robinson Crusoe can be found in ES2 14 “Something Else”, which originally appeared in Le Libre-Échange on March 21, 1847. In “Something Else,” Bastiat, as he often does, has created a conversation between two intellectual opponents (in this case a Protectionist and a Free Trader) where the Protectionist asks the Free Trader to explain the effects of protectionism. The Free Trader replies “(t)hat is not so easy. Before considering the more complicated cases, one should study the simpler ones,” before launching into a discussion of how Crusoe made a plank of wood without a saw. After two weeks of intense labor chipping away at a log with an axe Crusoe finally has his plank (and a very blunt axe). He then sees that the tide has washed ashore a proper saw-cut plank and wonders what he should do next (the new plank is an obvious reference to a cheaper overseas import which the protectionists believed would harm the national French economy). Bastiat puts some protectionist notions in Crusoe’s head and Crusoe now concludes that he can make more labor for himself (and therefore be better off according to the protectionists’ theory) if he pushed the plank back out to sea. The Free Trader exposes this economic sophism by saying that there is something that is “not seen” by the Protectionist at first glance, namely “Did he not see that he could devote the time he could have saved to making something else?” Which is of course the key insight behind the idea of opportunity costs.
Bastiat then raises the level of complexity in his economic arguments by introducing a second and then a third person on Crusoe’s island. By introducing a second person, Friday, Crusoe now has someone with whom he can cooperate and trade. They can pool their resources, plan their economic activities, develop a simple form of the division of labor, and even trade with each other. When a third person arrives from another island and proposes a trading relationship whereby Crusoe and Friday trade their vegetables for the visitor’s game Bastiat now can explore the benefits of international comparative advantage in trade. Bastiat uses this three way conversation to make his points: interestingly, he gives the European Crusoe the protectionist arguments; and the native islander Friday is given the domestic free trade arguments, and the visitor becomes an advocate of international free trade. This is course is a clever reversal of the “colonialist” position that claims the European colonists are more advanced than the primitive and backward natives.
Another example can be found in the essay “Property and Plunder” [July 1848]. The context was a debate in the National Assembly on the question of “the right to work” legislation which Bastiat and the free market liberals strenuously opposed. The socialist supporters of the legislation believed that the state should provide work and wages for those who could not get any on the free market. Furthermore, wages should be raised if the state felt that workers were not being paid their “just” wage. Here Bastiat again introduces Crusoe and Friday to help explain why voluntary exchanges between individuals are both just and more productive than “exchanges” brought about by state imposed controls. On their island Crusoe hunts birds and Friday fishes in the sea. Their division of labor means that they can both benefit from exchanging with each other. In this essay Bastiat gives socialist arguments to Crusoe who believes the value of his birds are intrinsically worth more than the value of Friday’s fish and that Friday should be forced to give him more fish than he would have if a free bargain had been made between them. Bastiat argues that in a freely made bargain there is an exchange of “service for service” which leaves both parties better off. Friday tells Crusoe that if he insists on being paid a premium for his birds then he, Friday, will take up his own hunting when he needs a bird to eat, and that no trading will take place, thus leaving them both worse off compared to what would have happened if they had engaged in free trade.
By the time he came to write the Economic Harmonies Bastiat had made Crusoe a central part of his elaboration of the basic principles of economic action in the chapters on “Capital” (Chap. 7), “Private Property and Common Wealth” (Chap. 8), and most importantly on the very nature of “Exchange” (Chap. 4) itself (there are a total of 16 references to “Robinson in the book). However, a fuller discussion of Bastiat’s ”Crusoe economics" as he developed it in Economic Harmonies is beyond the scope of this paper.
In this paper I have attempted to show how one economist used literature in creative and amusing ways to assist him in defending free trade and free markets from their intellectual and political opponents in France during the 1840s. The economic journalism which Frédéric Bastiat produced at this time is some of the best ever written and is still a model for economists today. His knowledge of both high and low French culture and literature was extensive, drawing upon the plays of Molière and the fables of La Fontaine at one end of the spectrum, as well as the political drinking songs and poems of Béranger at the other. These are all examples of Bastiat’s use of “literature in economics”.
In addition to being able to draw upon literature to illustrate his economic argument, Bastiat also had considerable skill in creating new formats with which to popularise economic ideas, such as dialogs, mini-plays, fake letters and petitions to government officials, economic tales or fables, parodies of classic works, utopian and dystopian stories of the future, and satirical poems. When mixed with his sharp humor, his puns, and sense of the absurd Bastiat created a unique “rhetoric of liberty” in order to fight his ideological battles against protectionism, socialism, and state privileges which enabled some favoured groups to benefit from their plundering of the tax-payers.
Two of Bastiat’s contributions were noted in particular. Firstly, his use of the folk character Jacques Bonhomme, or the French everyman, who became an important character in many of his stories where he defended economic liberty as only a wiley French peasant or artisan could do, and who then became Bastiat’s virtual alter ego during the most violent and revolutionary phase of the 1848 Revolution. And secondly, Bastiat’s use of Robinson Crusoe from Defoe’s novel to invent an entirely knew way of doing economics - “Crusoe economics” - which was a major innovation in the way economists think about how individuals make economic decisions and which later became the foundation of “praxeology” in the Austrian school of economic theory.
In both of these areas, his new ways of popularizing economics and his invention of “Crusoe economics”, Bastiat has shown us how we might view “economics as literature.”
David M. Hart, “The Liberal Roots of American Conservatism: Bastiat and the French Connection.” A paper given to the Philadelphia Society meeting March 27–29, 2015 on “The Roots of American Conservatism - and its Future”.
David M. Hart, “Seeing the ‘Unseen’ Bastiat: the changing Optics of Bastiat Studies. Or, what the Liberty Fund’s Translation Project is teaching us about Bastiat.” A paper presented to the “Colloquium on Market Institutions & Economic Processes” at NYU, Monday, December 1, 2014. http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Papers/DMH_Bastiat-SeenAndUnseen15Nov2014.html.
David M. Hart, “Negative Railways, Turtle Soup, talking Pencils, and House owning Dogs”: “The French Connection” and the Popularization of Economics from Say to Jasay" (Sept. 2014) http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Papers/Bastiat/BastiatAndJasay.html.
David M. Hart, “On Ricochets, Hidden Channels, and Negative Multipliers: Bastiat on Calculating the Economic Costs of ‘The Unseen’.” A Paper given at the History of Thought Session of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, Southern Economic Association 83rd Annual Meeting, 24 Nov. 2013. http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Teaching/2013/SEA/DMH-BastiatRicochet_24Nov2013.pdf.
Robert Leroux, “Bastiat and Political Economy” (July 1, 2013), with response essays by Donald J. Boudreaux, Michael C. Munger, and David M. Hart. http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/bastiat-and-political-economy
David M. Hart, “The World of French Political Economy” http://davidmhart.com/liberty/FrenchClassicalLiberals/Bastiat/Glossary.html.
David M. Hart, “Bastiat’s Political Writings: Anecdotes and Reflections” in CW2 (2012), pp. 401–15. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_head_060.
David M. Hart, “Frédéric Bastiat’s Distinction between Legal and Illegal Plunder” - A Paper given at the Molinari Society Session “Explorations in Philosophical Anarchy” at the Pacific Meeting of the American Philosophical Society, Seattle WA, 7 April, 2012. http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Papers/Bastiat/Bastiat_LegalPlunder.html
David M. Hart, “Cato Institute Book Forum, 14 October, 2011: The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, vol. 1” http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Teaching/2011/CatoBookForum/CBF-6Oct2011.html
David M. Hart, “Opposing Economic Fallacies, Legal Plunder, and the State: Frédéric Bastiat’s Rhetoric of Liberty in the Economic Sophisms (1846–1850)”. A paper given at the July 2011 annual meeting of the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA) at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Papers/Bastiat/Hart_BastiatsSophismsAug2011.html.
Liberty Fund’s Online Library of Liberty:
David Hart’s personal website (mainly in French) http://davidmhart.com/liberty/FrenchClassicalLiberals/Bastiat
Liberty Fund’s new translation of Bastiat’s Collected Works in 6 vols The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, Jacques de Guenin, General Editor (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011-).
The first new modern French edition of his works in over 100 years:
The standard 1960s editions by FEE:
Essays which appeared in ES1 (December 1845/Jan 1846):
Essays which appeared in ES2 (Jan. 1848):
Essays from ES3 (Forthcoming in CW, vol. 3):
WSWNS 1 “The Broken Window” (July 1850). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/956#lf0181_head_005.
Essays from CW, vol. 1 (LF 2011)
4 Fables in CW4 (LF forthcoming):
Articles from Jacques Bonhomme:
1st issue 11–15 June 1848:
second issue 15–18 June:
François Andrieux, Contes et opuscules en vers et en prose (Paris: Renouard, 1800).
François Andrieux, Œuvres de François-Guillaume-Jean-Stanislas Andrieux, (Paris: Chez Nepveu, Librairie, 1818).
Pierre-Jean de Béranger, Béranger’s Songs of the Empire, the Peace, and the Restoration, trans. Robert B. Brough (London: Addey and Co., 1854).
Pierre-Jean de Béranger, Chansons nouvelles et dernière de P.J. de Béranger, dédiées à M. Lucien Bonaparte (Paris: Perrotin, 1833).
Étienne Cabet, Voyage et aventures de lord William Carisdall en Icarie (Paris: H. Souverain, 1840).
Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients and the Moderns” (1819) in Leroux and Hart, pp. 68–82.
(Daire and Molinari), Collection des Principaux Économistes. T. XIV. Mélanges d’économie politique I. D. Hume, Essais sur le commerce, le luxe, l’argent, l’intérêt de l’argent, les impots, le crédit public, etc. Forbonnais, Principes économiques. Condillac, Le commerce et le gouvernement. Condorcet, Mélanges d’économie politique. Lavoisier et Lagrange, De la richesse territoriale du royaume de France. Essai d’arithmétique politique. B. Franklin, La science du bonhomme Richard, et autres opuscules. Précédés de notices historiques sur chaque auteur, et accompagnés de commentaires et de notes explicatives par MM. Eugène Daire et G. de Molinari (Paris: Guillaumin, 1847).
Daniel Defoe, The Works of Daniel Defoe in Sixteen Volumes, edited by G.H. Maynadier (Boston: Old Corner Bookstore, 1903, The University Press).
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoé, par Daniel de Foë. Traduction de Pétrus Borel (Paris: Francisque Borel et Alexandre Varenne, 1836), 2 vols.
Daniel Defoe, Aventures de Robinson Crusoé, par Daniel de Foé, traduites par Mme A. Tastu, suivi d’une Notice sur Foé et sur le matelot Selkirk, par Louis Reyabud, et ornées de 50 gravures sur acier, d’après les dessins de M. de Sainson (Paris: Didier, 1837).
Elliot, Ebenezer. Corn Law Rhymes. Sheffield Mechanics’ Anti-Bread Tax Society. Sheffield: Platt and Todd, 1830.
Elliot, Ebenezer. The Splendid Village; Corn Law Rhymes, and Other Poems. London: B. Steill, 1844.
La Fontaine, Fables de La Fontaine, illustrées par J. J. Grandeville. Nouvelle edition. (Paris: H. Fournier ainé, 1838).
Charles Fourier, Le Nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire ou invention du procédé d’industrie attrayante et naturelle, distribuée en séries passionnées (Paris: Bossange père, 1829).
David M. Hart, “‘New’ Socialist Ideas in 1848: An Anti-Socialist Cartoon by Amédée de Noé” http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/new-socialist-ideas-in-1848.
(Leroux and Hart), French Liberalism in the 19th Century: An Anthology (Routledge studies in the history of economics, May 2012).
(Leroux and Hart), L’Âge d’or du libéralisme français. Anthologie XIXe siècle (The Golden Age of French Liberalism: A 19th Century Anthology) (Paris: Editions Ellipses, 2014).
Leroux, Robert. Political Economy and Liberalism in France: The Contributions of Frédéric Bastiat (London: Routledge, 2011).
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.
Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1873
Gérard Minart, Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1850). Le croisé de libre-échange (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2004).
Molière, Théâtre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1882).
Charles Perrault, Oeuvres choisies de Ch. Perrault, de l’Académie française, avec les mémoires de l’auteur, et des recherches sur les contes des fees, par M. Collin de Plancy (Paris: Brissot-Thivars, 1826).
Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State: A Treatise on Economic Principles, with Power and Market: Government and the Economy. Second Edition. Scholar’s Edition (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009).
Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982).
Dean Russell, Frédéric Bastiat: Ideas and Influence (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1969). 1st edition 1965.
Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, edited from a manuscript by Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974).
Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron” (October 1961) originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Richard Whately, Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, delivered in Easter Term 1831 (London: B. Fellowes, 2nd and enlarged ed. 1832).
A note on abbreviations used in this paper: ES1 refers to Economic Sophisms Series I (1846); ES2 refers to Economic Sophisms Series II (1848); ES3 refers to a third series which the Liberty Fund editors have constructed from Bastiat’s Oeuvres complètes; WSWNS refers to What is Seen and What is Not Seen (1850); OC refers to Bastiat’s Oeuvres complètes (Complete Works), ed. Prosper Paillottet (1855, 1864); CW refers to Liberty Fund’s edition of Bastiat’s Collected Works (2011, 2012, and forthcoming); FEE refers to the translations of Bastiat’s works published by the Foundation for Economic Freedom in the mid–1960s. All the quotations in this paper are from the LF edition of Bastiat’s Collected Works unless otherwise indicated. ↩
For accounts of Bastiat’s life see the Introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean in CW, vol. 1 The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics (Liberty Fund, 2011); the “Liberty Matters” online discussion led by Robert Leroux, “Bastiat and Political Economy” (July 1, 2013), with response essays by Donald J. Boudreaux, Michael C. Munger, and David M. Hart. http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/bastiat-and-political-economy ; and Leroux, Robert. Political Economy and Liberalism in France: The Contributions of Frédéric Bastiat (London: Routledge, 2011). Also, Gérard Minart, Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1850). Le croisé de libre-échange (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2004), and Dean Russell, Frédéric Bastiat: Ideas and Influence (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1969). 1st edition 1965. ↩
Bastiat’s use of these authors in his writing is explored more fully in the editorial material in the Collected Works of Bastiat, vol. 3 (LF forthcoming). ↩
See 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; and Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1873; Elliot, Ebenezer. Corn Law Rhymes. Sheffield Mechanics’ Anti-Bread Tax Society. Sheffield: Platt and Todd, 1830; and The Splendid Village; Corn Law Rhymes, and Other Poems. London: B. Steill, 1844. ↩
“Barataria” (Barataria) (c. 1848) [an unpublished fragment of what was intended as a short pamphlet.][OC7.77, pp. 343-51], also CW, vol. 4 (LF forthcoming); and ES3 12 “L’indiscret” (The Man who asked Embarrassing Questions), Libre-échange, 12 December 1847 [OC2.65, pp. 435–46][CW vol. 3 (LF forthcoming)]. ↩
ES1 5 “Nos produits sont grevés de taxes” (Our Products are weighed down with Taxes), JDE, July 1845, T. 11, p. 356–60; FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#Bastiat_0182_219. ↩
From La Fontaine, Fables de La Fontaine, illustrées par J. J. Grandeville. Nouvelle edition. (Paris: H. Fournier ainé, 1838), Bk. 3, Fable 17, p. 121. ↩
ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy) Journal des Économistes, January 1846, T. XIII, pp. 115–120. FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_072. ↩
ES2 1 “Physiologie de la Spoliation” (The Physiology of Plunder) EE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_056 and ES2 2 “Deux morales” (Two Moral Philosophies) FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_058. These were followed by several anti-socialist pamphlets in 1848–49 on various aspects of plunder. ↩
Quoted in ES2 11 “L’utopiste (The Utopian) (January 1847) from Théâtre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 4 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1882), p. 86. ↩
See Théâtre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 8 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1883), Third Interlude, p. 286. FEE translation http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_footnote_nt127. ↩
Bastiat’s parody is in ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy) (January 1846) which was first published in Journal des Économistes, January 1846, T. XIII, pp. 115–120. FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_072. ↩
“Property and Plunder,” “Third Letter” in CW vol. 2, http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_218. Originally published as “Propriété et spoliation”, Le Journal des débats, 24 July 1848 . ↩
“The Miller and Sans-Souci” first appeared in Contes et opuscules en vers et en prose (Paris: Renouard, 1800) and was reprinted in Œuvres de François-Guillaume-Jean-Stanislas Andrieux, (Paris: Chez Nepveu, Librairie, 1818), vol. 3, pp. 205–8. ↩
See Oeuvres choisies de Ch. Perrault, de l’Académie française, avec les mémoires de l’auteur, et des recherches sur les contes des fees, par M. Collin de Plancy (Paris: Brissot-Thivars, 1826). ↩
ES3 16 “Le maire d’Énios” (The Mayor of Énios) (6 February 1848, Libre-Échange) [OC, vol. 2, pp. 418–29]. CW, vol. 3 (LF forthcoming). ↩
Béranger’s Songs of the Empire, the Peace, and the Restoration, trans. Robert B. Brough (London: Addey and Co., 1854), pp. 109–111. Also in Leroux and Hart, French Liberalism in the 19th Century: An Anthology. Edited by Robert Leroux and David M. Hart (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 142–43. ↩
CW Vol. 1, Letter 18. Letter to Félix Coudroy (Bayonne 5 August 1830), p. 30. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2393#lf1573-01_head_044. ↩
Béranger’s Songs of the Empire, the Peace, and the Restoration, trans. Robert B. Brough (London: Addey and Co., 1854), pp. 21–24. See also Leroux and Hart, pp. 137–38. Poem quoted in ES2 13 “La protection ou les trois Échevins” (Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates) (c.1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_080. ↩
“Les Contrebandiers” (The Smugglers) in Chansons nouvelles et dernière de P.J. de Béranger, dédiées à M. Lucien Bonaparte (Paris: Perrotin, 1833), vol. 3, pp. 135–40. See also Leroux and Hart, pp. 147–49. ↩
Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients and the Moderns” (1819) in Leroux and Hart, pp. 68–82. ↩
Letter to Mlle Louise Cheuvreux in CW vol. 1, 163. Letter to Mme Cheuvreux, Paris, March 1850 </titles/2393#lf1573–01_label_555>. ↩
It is quoted in ES1 5 “Nos produits sont grevés de taxes” (Our Products are weighed down with Taxes) (July 1845). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#Bastiat_0182_219. See the Fables de La Fontaine, illustréees par J.J. Grandeville. Nouvelle edition, Tome 1 (Paris: H. Fournier ainé, 1838), Book III, Fable XVII, p. 121. ↩
On “plunder by theocratic fraud” see “Commentary” in ES2 1 “Physiologie de la Spoliation” (The Physiology of Plunder). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_056. ↩
The number of Sophisms include the following: 22 for ES1 (published in January 1846; 17 for ES2 (published in January 1848); the 12 chapters of WSWNS (published in July 1850); and the 21 or 23 (depending on how one counts the smaller pieces which appeared in Jacques Bonhomme) which were written and published at various times but which first appeared in Paillottet’s edition of his Oeuvres complètes in 1854. For statistical purposes in this paper we use the figure of 72 separate Sophisms. ↩
The essays written in informal or conversational prose (38) can be found in ES1 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22; ES2 4, 5, 6, 8, 17; ES3 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 17; WSWNS 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. ↩
Essays in dialog form (14) can be found in ES1 13, 16, 21; ES2 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15; ES3 2, 13, 15, 16 ; WSWNS 7. ↩
“Théorie du bénéfice” (The Theory of Profit), Mémorial bordelais, 26 February 1846] [OC7.11, p. 50–53]. CW, vol. 4 (LF forthcoming). ↩
“Une mystification” (Trickery and Deceit or A Hoax) Jacques Bonhomme, n° 2, 15 to 18 June 1848, p. 2, [OC7.61, pp. 242–44], also in CW vol 4 (LF forthcoming); and “Funeste gradation” (A Dreadful Escalation), Jacques Bonhomme, n° 3, 20 to 23 June 1848, p. 1, left and central columns] [OC7.62, pp. 244–46], also in CW vol 4 (LF forthcoming). ↩
See below for a discussion of Bastiat’s references to Robinson Crusoe. ↩
Bastiat’s economic tales (8) can be found in ES1 8, 10; ES2 7, 13; ES3 10, 12, 18; WSWNS 1. Five of these eight also have substantial dialogs as well. ↩
Bastiat’s invented letters and petitions (8) can be found in ES1 7; ES2 3, 16; ES3 1, 9, 19, 20, 23. ↩
See, ES2 1 “Physiologie de la Spoliation” (The Physiology of Plunder). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_056; ES2 2 “Deux morales” (Two Moral Philosophies). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_058; ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy) (January 1846). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_072; ES3 22 “Funestes illusions. Les citoyens font vivre l’État. L’État ne peut faire vivre les citoyens.” (Disastrous Illusions) (March 1848); as well as an essay which is one of Bastiat’s “political” as opposed to “economic” sophisms: “Anglomania, Anglophobia”, CW, vol. 1 http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2393#lf1573-01_label_691. ↩
Direct appeals to the workers and citizens of France (3) can be found in a “Speech to the Workers” in ES1 12 “La protection élève-t-elle le taux des salaires?” (Does Protection increase the Rate of Pay?) (c. 1847) FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_031; and the “affiches” or wall posters in ES3 19 “Soulagement immédiat du peuple” (The Immediate Relief of the People) (12 March 1848) and ES3 20 “Funeste remède” (A Disastrous Remedy) (12 March 1848). ↩
Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, edited from a manuscript by Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 500. ↩
ES2 9 “Le vol à la prime” (Theft by Subsidy) (January 1846). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_072. Quote http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#Bastiat_0182_1076. ↩
See for example, Charles Fourier, Le Nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire ou invention du procédé d’industrie attrayante et naturelle, distribuée en séries passionnées (Paris: Bossange père, 1829); Étienne Cabet, Voyage et aventures de lord William Carisdall en Icarie (Paris: H. Souverain, 1840); and “‘New’ Socialist Ideas in 1848: An Anti-Socialist Cartoon by Amédée de Noé” http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/new-socialist-ideas-in-1848. ↩
ES2 11 “L’utopiste (The Utopian) (January 1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_076. ↩
The free traders in England and France agreed that 5% was the upper limit for a “revenue raising” tariff, whereas anything over 5% should be regarded as “protectionist.” ↩
“Barataria” (Barataria) (c. 1848) [an unpublished fragment of what was intended as a short pamphlet.] [OC7.77, pp. 343–51, CW, vol. 4 (LF forthcoming). ↩
ES2 13 “La protection ou les trois Échevins” (Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates) (c.1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_080. ↩
ES1 17 “Un chemin de fer négatif” (A Negative Railway) (c. 1845). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_041. ↩
ES2 16 “La main droite et la main gauche” (The Right Hand and the Left Hand) (December 1846). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_086. ↩
Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron” (October 1961) originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. More modern collection ?? ↩
Collection des Principaux Économistes. T. XIV. Mélanges d’économie politique I. D. Hume, Essais sur le commerce, le luxe, l’argent, l’intérêt de l’argent, les impôts, le crédit public, etc. Forbonnais, Principes économiques. Condillac, Le commerce et le gouvernement. Condorcet, Mélanges d’économie politique. Lavoisier et Lagrange, De la richesse territoriale du royaume de France. Essai d’arithmétique politique. B. Franklin, La science du bonhomme Richard, et autres opuscules. Précédés de notices historiques sur chaque auteur, et accompagnés de commentaires et de notes explicatives par MM. Eugène Daire et G. de Molinari (Paris: Guillaumin, 1847). ↩
ES2 1 “Physiologie de la Spoliation” (The Physiology of Plunder) (c. 1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_056. The reference to Gros-Jean is not in the FEE translation as the translator did not notice it.. ↩
ES2 12 “Le sel, la poste et la douane” (Salt, the Mail, and the Customs Service) Journal des Économistes, May 1846, T. XIV, pp. 142–152. FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_078. ↩
ES2 3 “Les deux haches” (The Two Axes) (c.1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_060.; ES2 10 “Le percepteur” (The Tax Collector) (n.d. c.1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_074.; and ES2 13 “La protection ou les trois Échevins” (Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates) (c.1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#lf0182_head_080; ↩
“Variétés. Petites affiches de Jacques Bonhomme. I. Soulagement immédiat de peuple” (The Immediate Relief of the People) and “II. Funeste remède” (A Disastrous Remedy), in Le Libre-Échange, 12 March 1848, 2nd Year, no. 17, p. 84. These were also reprinted on the same day in Bastiat’s short-lived street magazine La République française which he and some friends handed out on the streets of Paris in late February and March (“Funeste remède” in La République française, mardi 14 mars 1848, p. 1, signed “F. Bastiat”). They will be included in Liberty Fund’s edition of ES3 (forthcoming in vol. 3). ↩
Jacques Bonhomme. Editor J. Lobet. Founded by Bastiat with Gustave de Molinari, Charles Coquelin, Alcide Fonteyraud, and Joseph Garnier. It appeared approximately weekly with 4 issues between 11 June to 13 July; with a break between 24 June and 9 July because of the rioting during the June Days uprising. The first issue was a single page only on “papier rose” designed to be posted on the wall. Online at http://davidmhart.com/liberty/FrenchClassicalLiberals/Molinari/JB/index.html. ↩
The magazine has been transcribed and reprinted in its entirety by the Institut Coppet: Jacques Bonhomme. L’éphémère journal de Frédéric Bastiat and Gustave de Molinari (11 juin - 13 juillet 1848). Receuil de tous les articles, augmenté d’une introduction, par Benoît Malbranque (Paris: Institut Coppet, octobre 2014). ↩
“L’État” (The State (draft)), Jacques Bonhomme, 11–15 June 1848. [OC7.59, p. 238][CW2] It was later expanded and published in the JDD which is the form which we know today. ↩
“Prendre cinq et rendre quatre ce n’est pas donner” (Taking Five and Returning Four is not Giving) [2nd issue of Jacques Bonhomme, 15–18 June 1848.] It will appear in CW, vol. 4 (LF forthcoming). ↩
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). CW vol. 3 (LF forthcoming). FEE ed. ??? ↩
It is not well known that Defoe wrote a trilogy of novels about Robinson Crusoe. See, The Works of Daniel Defoe in Sixteen Volumes, edited by G.H. Maynadier (Boston: Old Corner Bookstore, 1903, The University Press). Volume One. The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Complete in Three Parts. Part I. With the Author’s Preface and, and an Introduction by G.H. Maynadier; Volume Two. The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Complete in Three Parts. Part II. Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe; Volume Three. Part III. Serious reflections during the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe with his Vision of the Angelic World (1903). ↩
Robinson Crusoé, par Daniel de Foë. Traduction de Pétrus Borel (Paris: Francisque Borel et Alexandre Varenne, 1836), 2 vols. ↩
Aventures de Robinson Crusoé, par Daniel de Foé, traduites par Mme A. Tastu, suivi d’une Notice sur Foé et sur le matelot Selkirk, par Louis Reyabud, et ornées de 50 gravures sur acier, d’après les dessins de M. de Sainson (Paris: Didier, 1837). Reybaud’s essay, Vol. 2, pp. 371–384. ↩
Preface to Man, Economy and State, p. lvi in Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State: A Treatise on Economic Principles, with Power and Market: Government and the Economy. Second Edition. Scholar’s Edition (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009). ↩
Preface, p. vi, to Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982). Also see the chapter “A Crusoe Social Philosophy.” ↩
Richard Whately, Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, delivered in Easter Term 1831 (London: B. Fellowes, 2nd and enlarged ed. 1832). Chapter: Lecture I. “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 “. http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1377/35830/1403616. ↩
ES3 14 “Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill” (c. 1847), CW, vol. 3 (LF forthcoming). ↩
ES3 14 “Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill” (c. 1847), CW, vol. 3 (LF forthcoming). For Bastiat the freedom to refuse to enter into a trade was just as important as the freedom to negotiate one. ↩
ES2 14 “Autre chose” (Something Else) (March 1847). FEE ed. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/276#Bastiat_0182_1642. ↩
Essay 10 “Property and Plunder” “Second Letter”, in CW, vol. 2 “The Law,” “The State,” and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2450#Bastiat_1573-02_1095. ↩