Who put the ‘Bastiat’ in the Bastiat Society?

Date: 12 May, 2015

“Who put the ‘Bastiat’ in the Bastiat Society?”.


A talk given to the Bastiat Society of Nashville, TN. Text of Lecture HTML – Overhead Images PDF


The extraordinary story of a middle-aged man (44) who comes to Paris from the obscurity of Gascony (SW France) and dazzles the Paris-based group of political economists (the “Guillaumin network”) with his deep knowledge of economics, his ability as a writer, his wit and humour.

In the brief space of 6 years he writes a huge amount (3,000 pages / 6 volumes in the LF edition of his works) of brilliant economic journalism and innovative economic and social theory, and gets deeply involved in several important political “causes” of his day:

  • his economic journalism exposing the folly of tariffs (protectionism), government subsidies to industry, and government regulation in general (the Economic Sophisms (1845–47)
  • his participation in the free trade movement (1845–47) as head of the French Free Trade Association, editor of their journal Libre-Échange, and speaker at their meetings
  • his activity as an elected politician during the 1848 Revolution and Second Republic (as VP of the Finance Committee)
  • his opposition to the rise of socialism (1848–1850) with a series of anti-socialist pamphlets
  • his activity in the anti-war movement (International Friends of Peace Congress in Paris in Aug. 1849 at which FB gave a major speech; Victor Hugo was President)
  • his teaching and writing a treatise on economic theory (1847–50) the Economic Harmonies

He dies before he can complete his tasks, from a severe throat condition (possibly throat cancer) which kills him slowly and painfully at the age of 49.

Bastiat’s ability to combine roles as “thinker/writer” and pro-liberty “activist” makes him unique in the classical liberal/libertarian tradition.