An Introduction to the Paris School of Political Economy

(E)n général on gouverne trop … (mais) comment s’y prendre pour simplifier une machine administrative compliquée où les intérêts privés ont gagné du terrain sur l’intérêt public, comme une gangrène qui s’avance dans un corps humain lorsqu’elle n’est pas repoussée par le principe de vie qui tend à le conserver ?. Pour guérir cette maladie il faut observer comment s’étend la gangrène administrative. Tout homme qui exerce un emploi tend à augmenter l’importance de ses fonctions, soit pour faire preuve d’un zèle qui lui procure de l’avancement, soit pour rendre son emploi plus nécessaire et mieux payé, soit pour exercer plus de pouvoir, augmenter le nombre des personnes obligées d’avoir recours à lui et de solliciter sa bienveillance. Le remède doit suivre une marche contraire et tendre à diminuer les attributions. In general we are governed too much … (but) how do we go about reducing the size of a complicated administrative machine where private interests have gained ground over the public interest, like a gangrene which advances in a human body if it is not rejected by the life force which tends to protect it? To cure this disease we have to observe how the administrative gangrene is spread. Every person who is employed (by the state) tends to exaggerate the importance of his functions, whether this is to prove his zeal which will get him promoted, or to make his job (seem) more necessary and (thus) get paid more, or to exercise more power and (thus) increase the number of people who are obliged to come to him to sollicite his goodwill. The cure has to follow an opposite path and has to tend towards reducing the number of (their) duties.

[J.B. Say “Cours à l’Athénée” (1819), 4th Séance, “Suite des consommations publiques,” Oeuvres, vol. IV, p. 117.]

Note: See also the following:

  • my blog posts on “A Publishing History of the Guillaumin Firm (1837-1910)” (5 Aug. 2022) here and “The Guillaumin Network and the Paris School of Political Economy” (7 Aug. 2022) here
  • my summary webpage on The Paris School
  • a brief description of the Guillaumin firm and my list of their publications: “Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801-64) and the Guillaumin Publishing Firm (1837-1910)” here

[This post is an excerpt from my longer paper on the Paris School. See this for the full references of works cited.]

Naming the Paris School

The uniqueness and importance of the “Paris School” of political economy has only recently (2006) got the attention it deserves. The late Michel Leter[1] has meticulously reconstructed the membership of its three generations who were active during the nineteenth century.[2] It was a coherent school of thought with a dense network of personal relationships which were mediated through several institutions and organisations based in Paris and which exerted considerable influence in the mid- and late-nineteenth century. This paper will discuss the emergence of the Paris School in the early years of the nineteenth century and its consolidation over three generations of thinkers into a coherent school of economic and social thought some 50 years later. The beginning and end points for the discussion are 1803, when Jean-Baptiste Say published the first edition of his Traité d’économe politique and the appearance of Guillaumin’s Dictionaire de l’économie politique (1852-53) some fifty years later.

Before Leter, the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard in his history of economic thought (1995) gave due recognition to what he called “the French Smithians” led by J.B. Say which gradually evolved into “the French laissez-faire school” with Frédéric Bastiat as “the central figure.”[3] At the time, the Parisian economists were content to call themselves simply “les Économistes” just as the Physiocrats had done the previous century. Hence, the title of their journal founded in 1841 by Guillaumin, “Journal des économistes” (Journal of THE Economists). It only gradually occurred to some of them to call themselves a particular school of thought as the 1840s wore on, when a number of them came to appreciate the “Frenchness” of their way of looking at economics, as opposed to the English classical school founded by Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo, and their followers in France. This was at first implied with the inclusion of a preponderance of French authors in the 15 volume Collection des Principaux Économistes edited by Eugène Daire beginning in 1840 (of the 15 volumes 10 were by French authors and 5 by the Anglo-Scottish authors Smith, Malthus, Ricardo). In his introductory essay to the volume with works by the late 17th century economist Boisguilbert (1843) Daire claimed that the economists of his day were the most recent “links in the chain of knowledge” which began with Boisguilbert and then moved on to Quesnay, Smith, JBS, Malthus, Ricardo, and finally Rossi. Making French economists like Boisguilbert, Quesnay, J.-B. Say, and Rossi coequals of Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo is a claim no member of the English classical school would ever have made.[4]

The realisation that the Paris economists were not just an offshoot of the Anglo-Scottish school, but something sui generis, became explicit when a small group began to break away from English orthodox thinking on the role of the state (Molinari), central banking (Coquelin), Smithian labour theory of value (Bastiat), Ricardian rent theory (Bastiat), and Malthusian population theory (Bastiat and Fontenay). Bastiat, for instance, came to realise he owed more of his intellectual development to another school of thought, “cette école éminemment française” (this eminently French school), of Say, Destutt de Tracy, Charles Comte, and especially Charles Dunoyer (whom he had read as a youth) than to “l’école de Malthus et de Ricardo” (the school of Malthus and Ricardo), or what his friend Roger de Fontenay rather dismissively called “cette école anglaise” (this English school).[5]

Although Bastiat did not go on to form a school of his own, as Fontenay had hoped, he was recognised by later members of the Paris School as one of its leading members for his contributions to both economic reform and theory. When one of the members of the third generation of the Paris School, Frédéric Passy (1822-1912), was asked by the Swiss Christian Society of Social Economy in 1890 to give a lecture on what they called “L’École de la Liberté” (the School of Liberty) as part of a month long program of lectures reviewing the state of political economy in the French speaking world at the end of the nineteenth century[6] what he gave was, in effect, a kind of requiem for the “Paris School” which he defended before a hostile audience of socialists and other interventionists. Passy acknowledged the importance of Bastiat in his conclusion by calling him “the most brilliant and purest representative of the doctrine of liberty.”

Various Streams of Economic Thought and their History

The Paris School was by no means monolithic in its thinking and had to contend with several sub-currents which flowed within it, as well as countering criticism of its ideas from competing schools outside. Within, it was based upon two different intellectual foundations. The older, home-grown thread which came from the Franco-Physiocratic school or what might be termed “the precursors” of Pierre de Boisguilbert (1646-1714),[7] Richard Cantillon (1680-1734),[8] François Quesnay (1694-1774),[9] Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (1714-80),[10] and Turgot (1727-81).[11] Equally important was the Anglo-Scottish thread of Adam Smith (1723-1790), Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), Thomas Malthus (1766-1858), and David Ricardo (1772-1823).[12]

Members of the Paris School, with the financial backing of Guillaumin, spent a lot of time rediscovering and promoting their diverse intellectual roots as the work of Adolphe Blanqui (1798–1854) and Eugène Daire (1798–1847) in our period reveal. And it would be done again fifty years later by Maurice Block.[13] One of the first three books ever published by the Guillaumin firm when it opened in 1837 was Blanqui’s Histoire d’économie politique en Europe (1837) which was part history of economic thought and part economic history of Europe which went back to the ancient Greeks. It remained in print as long as Guillaumin lived, going through four editions. Guillaumin must have also invested heavily in one of the most ambitious publishing projects of the firm which saw in only its fourth year of operation the publication of the first volume of what would become 16 very large volumes called the Collection des Principaux Économistes under the editorship of Daire. It brought together in print the two threads mentioned above in a dramatic and striking visual way – 16 large volumes, with a total of 11,000 pages of classic texts and new notes by the editors, which could be purchased as a hardcover set for 200 fr. Guillaumin would do the same in its next big publishing project, the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (1852) which would also have the history of economic thought as a core component.

It is interesting to speculate why they placed so much importance on their intellectual heritage. Several reasons come to mind: they might want to show that free market ideas were not an “English import” but had deep roots in France going back to the 17th century; that there was a long tradition of thinking about economic theory and that this body of thought was a “science” like any other; and that their intellectual forebears had overcome political and other obstacles (the persecution of Boisguilbert by Louis XIV comes to mind) just as they were trying to do in their own time. However, I believe the major reason is that they wanted to show, as Daire eloquently put it in his remark about the “links in the chain of knowledge” that this French tradition continued up to their own day. Yet, how these two intellectual foundations could be reconciled with each other was a constant source of debate during our period. The thread of Boisguilbert-Turgot-Condillac-Say sometimes clashed with the so-called “classical” thread of Smith-Malthus-Ricardo, especially the latter’s notions of value, rent, and population, as the revisionist work of Bastiat in the mid-1840s would show.

Upon these foundations the early members of the Paris School such as Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832), Destutt de Tracy (1734-1836), and Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862), began doing their own innovative work on the entrepreneur, the nature of markets, and the new “industrialist” society which was emerging before their eyes. By the 1840s the school had matured into a well-organised group with its own journals, associations, a publishing firm, and contacts which extended well into the broader political and intellectual life of Paris. The main figures at this time were the publisher Gilbert Guillaumin (1801-1864) whose firm provided a locus for the school’s activities, Adolphe Blanqui (1798-1854), Eugène Daire (1798-1847), Charles Coquelin (1802-1852), and Michel Chevalier (1806-1879). Its main focus was on ending the policy of trade protection and then countering the rise of socialism in the 1848 Revolution.

The school was also developing its own smaller group of “young Turks” (not all of whom were young in age) within it who began pushing the boundaries of the school into new and more radical directions until the outbreak of the February Revolution 1848 forced the entire school to change direction. This latter group of radicals and anti-statists consisted of Charles Coquelin (1802-1852), Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), and Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850), but their work was cut short through a combination of premature deaths and self-imposed exile from Paris following the rise to power of Louis Napoléon, soon to declare himself Napoléon III.

Outside the Paris School there were several schools of thought which were very hostile to their ideas and the policies based upon those ideas. This included an “Imperialist or Nationalist school” which supported protectionism and state support for favoured industries (Saint-Chamans, Ferrier, Lebastier, Lestisboudois); a “Social Reformist school”, also known as the “Sentimentalist” school, which wanted the state to take a more active role in addressing “the social problem” of poverty and poor living conditions in the factories – this had a religious Catholic version (social Catholicism) (Villeneuve-Bargemont and later Le Play), a Sismondian version (Sismondi), and a liberal version (Lammenais, Montalembert); a “Socialist school” which had various diverse elements within it (Fourier, Blanc, Considerant, Proudhon); and a “Saint-Simonian school” which sought technocratic, state directed reforms and public works – with a free trade version (Chevalier) and a Napoleonic version (Louis Napoléon).

It should also be noted that, at the very end of our period, another school of thought began to emerge which had its roots partly at least in Paris, namely the thought of Karl Marx. He spent time in Paris in the mid and late 1840s, which was the heyday of the Paris School, where he met Friedrich Engels, researched and wrote The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), and distributed the first copies of “The Communist Manifesto” (1848). Marx had minimal contact with members of the Paris School (discussed below) and his ideas were not known to the latter at this time.

What the Paris School believed in and what they opposed

In spite of differences between individual members of the Paris School there were some things they all by and large agreed upon. These included in general philosophical terms, a belief in individual liberty in both its political and economic dimensions, the right to self ownership and the right to own the things that the self was able to create or produce, and the right to trade one’s justly owned property and services with others both domestically and internationally (free trade).

More specifically, when it came to political liberty they believed in freedom speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, representative government and a broader franchise, and the rule of law. Concerning economic liberty, they believed in private property, free markets, free trade, sound money, and low and more equally distributed taxes.

They also largely agreed on what they opposed. These included the following: protectionism and subsidies to industry, a state monopoly in education, state funding of churches, censorship, slavery, colonialism, conscription for the standing army, war, and socialism.

In spite of considerable agreement on many fundamental economic and political ideas, the school was divided over several key issues which they were never able to resolve, namely, republicanism vs. a constitutional monarchy, the number of public goods the government should provide, free banking, the cause of business cycles, and the extent of “tutelage” the government should provide for the poor and the ignorant and uneducated.

The Three Generations of the Paris School

We can identify three generations of individuals who made up the Paris School, grouped according to when they were born and when they were most active.[14] The first generation of 13 individuals were born under the Old Regime and were active in the Empire (1803-1815) and the Restoration (1815-1830) when the first indications that a coherent school of thought began to emerge. It was in this early stage that we can see the first important productive period between 1815 and 1825 when a number of important books were published and innovative ideas were first introduced. The second generation of 26 individuals were born during the French Revolution and the First Empire and were active during the July Monarchy (1830-1848) and Second Republic (1848-1852). The 1830s was a difficult time for the school as it tried to rebuild itself after a number of deaths depleted their ranks, by working within the newly reconstituted Institute (1832) and creating their own organisations from scratch like the Guillaumin publishing form (1837). The third generation of 23 individuals were born during the Restoration period and were active in the late July Monarchy and later in the century. The period from 1842 to 1852 saw the flowering or “take-off” of the school into a well organised, active, and productive group of very like-minded individuals. This decade was the second important period for the number of important books and new ideas which appeared by members of the school, culminating with the publication of the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (1852-53). The “flowering” of the Paris school lasted until 1877 when a restructuring of the state university system erected serious impediments to the further expansion of the school, after which it went into a decline which lasted until the death of one of its last major figures, Yves Guyot (1843-1928).

  1. The term “Paris School” was coined by Michel Leter in his pioneering essay “Éléments pour une étude de l’École de Paris (1803-1852)” (2006). He included a total of 62 individual authors, politicians, and activists in his lists. See the Appendix “The Three Generations of the Paris School” below for details. See also the survey in Alain Béraud and Philippe Steiner, “France, economics in (before 1870)” and “France, economics in (after 1870)” in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2008).  ↩
  2. Two recent surveys of nineteenth century French liberal thought have noted the important contributions made by the Paris School: Robert Leroux and David Hart eds. French Liberalism in the 19th Century: An Anthology (2012) and L’âge d`or du libéralisme français. Anthologie. XIXe siècle (2014).  ↩
  3. Rothbard, Classical Economics (2006), Chapter 1 “J.B. Say: the French tradition in Smithian clothing,” pp. 1-45, and “Bastiat and the French laissez-faire tradition,” pp. 444 ff.  ↩
  4. “Boisguillebert est le premier anneau de cette chaine savante qui est formée successivement, jusqu’à nos jours, par les noms illustres de Quesnay, de Smith, de J.-B. Say, de Malthus, de Ricardo et de Rossi.” Daire, “Notice historique sur la vie et les travaux de Boisguillebert”, in CPE T. I. Économistes financiers du XVIIIe siècle (1843), p. 151.  ↩
  5. Fontenay, Du Revenu foncière (1854), Préface,” pp. i-iii.  ↩
  6. Quatre écoles d’économie sociale (1890), p. 229. The speeches are discussed in David M. Hart, “For Whom the Bell Tolls: The School of Liberty and the Rise of Interventionism in French Political Economy in the Late 19thC” (2017).  ↩
  7. Pierre de Boisguilbert, Le Détail de la France sous le régime présent (1697), Factotum de la France (1707), Traité de la nature, culture, commerce et intérêt des grains (1707), Cause de la rareté de l’argent (1707), and Dissertation sur la nature des richesses, de l’argent et les tributs (no date).  ↩
  8. Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la nature du commerce en général (1755).  ↩
  9. Quesnay wrote the articles on “Fermiers” and “Grains” for Diderot’s Encyclopédie (1756), Le Tableau économique (1762), and Physiocratie, ou constitution naturelle de gouvernement le plus avantageux au genre humain (1768).  ↩
  10. Condillac, Le Commerce et le gouvernement considérés relativement l’un a l’autre (1798).  ↩
  11. Turgot, Eloge de Gournay (1759), Réflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses (1766), and Lettres sur la liberté du commerce des grains (1770).  ↩
  12. Their key works were translated and published in volumes V and VI (Smith), volumes VII and VIII (Malthus), volume XIII (Ricardo), and volume XV (Bentham).  ↩
  13. Maurice Block, Les progrès de la science économique depuis Adam Smith (1890).  ↩
  14. We have modified Leter’s division of the generations slightly. He calls “precursors” what I prefer to call the first generation. I believe the Physiocrats are the true “precursors” of the Paris School. See the “Appendix: The Three Generations of the Paris School” for details.  ↩

The Guillaumin Network and the Paris School of Political Economy

[The Molière Fountain on the rue de Richelieu (down the left). The Guillaumin firm was located at no. 14 rue de Richelieu.]

Note: See also the following:

  • my blog post on “A Publishing History of the Guillaumin Firm (1837-1910)” (5 Aug. 2022) here
  • my summary webpage on The Paris School
  • a brief description of the Guillaumin firm and my list of their publications: “Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801-64) and the Guillaumin Publishing Firm (1837-1910)” here

[This post is an excerpt from my longer paper on the Paris School. See this for the full references of works cited.]

One of the most important innovations for the consolidation of the Paris School as a serious, organised, and influential intellectual movement came from the entrepreneurial activities of Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801–1864) who founded the publishing firm which bore his name in 1837.[1] He had become active in politics in the 1820s when he joined the radical democratic and republican Carbonari movement. This may explain his later support for some of the more radical members of the Paris School whose work the firm would later publish, such as Charles Coquelin, Frédéric Bastiat, and Gustave de Molinari, in spite of the objections of many of the more mainstream members of the school. The Guillaumin firm would become the focal point for the Paris School for the next 74 years, channelling money which he helped raise from wealthy benefactors (such as the merchant Horace Say (son of Jean-Baptiste) and the industrialist Casimir Cheuvreux) into the pockets of several generations of liberal political economists. The historian Gérard Minart correctly calls this “le réseau Guillaumin” (the Guillaumin network) given the number of individuals, groups, associations, and activities Guillaumin founded, financed, or put in touch with each other.[2]

The firm commissioned books on economics (publishing a total of 2,356 titles between 1837 and 1910 at an average rate of 31.8 titles per year),[3] began the Journal des Économistes in December 1841 (it lasted nearly 100 years until the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 forced it to close),[4] and the Société d’économie politique in 1842 which became the main organization which brought classical liberals,[5] sympathisers in the intellectual and political elites of France, and foreign visitors together for discussion and debate at their monthly dinner meetings, presided over by the Society’s permanent president Charles Dunoyer.

The publishing strategy of the Guillaumin firm was a sophisticated one which proved to be very successful over many decades. It was designed to attract a broad range of authors as well as readers from different ideological perspectives, not just the hard core of radical laissez-faire advocates. It attracted businessmen with its first commercial success, an Encyclopédie du commerçant. Dictionnaire du commerce et des marchandises (A Dictionary of Commerce and Goods) (1837, 1839, 1841)[6] and other titles dealing with how to buy shares on the stock exchange, bankruptcy law, and trade marks. Its staple was the monthly Journal des Économistes[7] and the annual compendium of statistics and economic data Annuaire de l’économie politique et de la statistique (founded 1844) edited by Guillaumin and Joseph Garnier.[8]

On more theoretical matters, it published in book form the lectures given by Pellegrino Rossi, Michel Chevalier, and Joseph Garnier at the universities and colleges in order to give them a far greater audience. It published dozens of books on economic and financial history, especially on tax, government finance, and pubic credit. It published a steady stream of books dealing with poverty and the social question. A very large academic project it undertook in 1840 was to publish a large collection in 15 volumes of key works in the history of economic thought which was edited by a former tax collector turned editor Eugène Daire (1798–1847) which began by republishing the main works of J.B Say before turning to works on eighteenth-century finance, the physiocrats, Turgot, Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Hume, and Bentham. This project was notably also for its use of the young generation of rising economists like Alcide Fonteyraud and Gustave de Molinari as editors of some of the volumes, thus giving them much needed income as well as helping them make a name for themselves as scholars.[9]

Finally, they were also keen to demonstrate the new directions in which the Paris School was moving by publishing innovative works by some of the more radical members of the Guillaumin network, such as Coquelin, Du Crédit et des Banques (1848) on free banking, Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (1849) on free market alternatives to public goods provided by the state, Bastiat, Harmonies économiques (1850, 1851), which was his controversial and in part proto-Austrian theoretical treatise,[10] and Ce que l’on voit et ce que l’on ne voit pas ou l’économie politique en une leçon (1850) which was a pioneering work using the idea of opportunity cost to argue against many forms of government expenditure and regulation.

In addition to the publishing firm there were several other groups and organisations which were part of the broader “Guillaumin network” of economists and their friends and allies. These included the French Free Trade Association,[11] the Congrès des Économistes,[12] the Friends of Peace Congress,[13] and the private Paris salons held by Anne Say (née Cheuvreux, the wife of the businessman Horace Say) and Hortense Cheuvreux (the wife the the wealthy textile manufacturer Casimir Cheuvreux).[14]

However, the pinnacle of the Paris School’s achievement in this period was their compendium of “irrefutable” arguments and economic data which would answer all their protectionist, interventionist, and socialist critics – the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (1852–53).[15] The DEP is a two volume, 1,854 page, double-columned encyclopedia of political economy and is unquestionably one of the most important publishing events in the history of 19th century French classical liberal thought and is unequalled in its scope and comprehensiveness. The aim was to assemble a compendium of the state of knowledge of liberal political economy with articles written by leading economists on key topics, biographies of important historical figures, annotated bibliographies of the most important books in the field, and tables of economic and political statistics. The Economists believed that the events of the 1848 Revolution had shown how poorly understood the principles of economics were among the French public, especially its political and intellectual elites. One of the tasks of the DEP was to rectify this situation with an easily accessible summary of the entire discipline. The major contributors were the editor Charles Coquelin (with 70 major articles), Gustave de Molinari (29), Horace Say (29), Joseph Garnier (28), Ambroise Clément (22), Courcelle-Seneuil (21), and Maurice Block wrote most of the biographical entries. The intellectual ghost floating over the entire project was the recently deceased Frédéric Bastiat. If his health had not been failing rapidly he might have been expected to have played a major role in its production. The editor Coquelin paid homage to him by using large chunks of Bastiat’s essays for two of the key entries in the DEP on “The State” and “The Law.”

Sadly, as the century was coming to a close and as classical liberal ideas were becoming less and less influential, the Guillaumin firm tried to repeat the exercise with an updated version of the DEP in 1891, interestingly edited by Jean-Baptiste Say’s grandson Léon, but with little obvious success in halting the tide of opinion.[16]


  1. It should be noted that the Swiss-born land surveyor and translator Théodore Fix (1800–1846) made a false start in creating a journal dedicated to political economy. He and Adolphe Blanqui founded the Revue mensuelle d’économie politique (1833–36) which was initially influenced by Sismondi’s paternalistic interventionism concerning support for the poor and working class but gradually turned in a more free market direction under the influence of Rossi and Blanqui. It was an important precursor to JDE but failed because it lacked the financial backing Guillaumin would be able to provide later. His only book was on the social question Observations sur l’état des classes ouvrières (1846).  ↩
  2. Minart, Gustave de Molinari, p. 56. The economist Henri Baudrillart called it “le centre et le lien de notre école” (the centre and connecting point of our school of thought). Henri Baudrillart is quoted in Joseph Garnier, “Guillaumin. Ses funérailes, – sa vie et son oeuvre” (JDE, 1865). Quote comes from p. 111. Lucette Levan-Lemesle, “Guillaumin, Éditeur d’Économie politique 1801–1864” (1985).  ↩
  3. The Guillaumin firm published 2,356 titles between its founding in 1837 and its take-over by Félix Alcan in 1906 at an average rate of 31.8 titles per year. In the last years of the July Monarchy 1837–1847 it published 156 books and pamphlets at a rate of 14 p.a.; during the Second Republic 1848–52 it published 204 titles at a rate of 41 p.a. Its peak year was 1848, the year of Revolution, during which it published 67 titles. See the list of publications compiled by Benoît Malbranque, “Liste complète des titres publiés par Guillaumin (1837–1910)” (2017).  ↩
  4. Michel Lutfalla, “Aux Origines du liberalisme economique en France: le Journal des Économistes; Analyse du contenu de la premiere serie, 1841–53” (1974).  ↩
  5. Breton, Yves. “The Société d’économie politique of Paris (1842–1914)” (2001).  ↩
  6. It was inspired by the success of J.R. McCulloch’s A Dictionary, Practical, Theoretical and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation (1832) and was designed to serve the specific needs of French businessmen and traders.  ↩
  7. The Journal des économistes was launched in December 1841 and appeared of the 15th of every month. The editors in our period were Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (December 1841), Adolphe Blanqui (1842–43), Hippolyte Dussard (1843–45), and Joseph Garnier (1845–55). It contained a combination of theoretical articles, analysis of current economic policy, book reviews, reports of debates in the Chamber of Deputies, and minutes of meetings of the Political Economy Society.  ↩
  8. The Annuaire appeared for 56 years until it ended in 1899.  ↩
  9. Fonteyraud edited the volume on Ricardo, translating some of his work for the first time into French and writing a very detailed introduction and notes. Molinari did the two last volumes in the series on Hume, Franklin, Bentham, and other 18th century authors.  ↩
  10. Rothbard coined the term “proto-Austrian” to describe J.B. Say but it also applies equally well to Bastiat. Rothbard, Classical Economics, p. 21.  ↩
  11. The French Free Trade Association was founded on 23 February 1846 in Bordeaux and then a National Association followed on 10 May based in Paris. Bastiat was the secretary of the Board, which was presided over by François d’Harcourt and having among its members Michel Chevalier, Auguste Blanqui, Joseph Garnier, Gustave de Molinari, and Horace Say. The journal of the Association was called Le Libre-Échange and was edited and largely written by Bastiat. The first issue appeared on 29 November 1846 and it closed on 16 April 1848 after 72 issues, when the economists decided to focus their attention on fighting the rise of socialism.  ↩
  12. The Congrès des Économistes was founded by the Belgian Free Trade Association and organised by Le Hardy de Beaulieu and Charles de Brouckère. A European-wide congress was held in Brussels in September 1847 which was attended by 170 people who were a “who’s who” of the leading advocates of liberal political economy in Europe. It was attended by a large contingent from France, including Horace Say, Charles Dunoyer, Guillaumin, Joseph Garnier, Alcide Fonteyraud, the Duke d’Harcourt, Adolphe Blanqui, Louis Wolowski, and Gustave de Molinari. The Congress was also attended by Karl Marx but it is not known if he met any of the French political economists. See, Congrès des Économistes réunis à Bruxelles (1847). Attendee list pp. 5–9. The speech Marx intended to give at the Congress, but was not allowed to, can be found in Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works, vol. 6 (2010),; Frederick Engels, “The Economic Congress”, pp. 274–78, Karl Marx, “The Protectionists, the Free Traders and the Working Class,” pp. 279–81, Frederick Engels, “The Free Trade Congress at Brussels,” pp. 282–90.  ↩
  13. The third Friends of Congress was held in Paris in August 1849 (22–24th) chaired by the novelist Victor Hugo and where Bastiat gave an important speech “Disarmament, Taxes, and the Influence of Political Economy on the Peace Movement.” Molinari and Coquelin formally represented the Political Economy Society at the Congress, Molinari wrote a detailed report on its proceedings for the JDE, and Joseph Garnier edited the proceedings which were published by Guillaumin. Garnier, Joseph. Congrès des amis de la paix universelle (1850). Molinari, “Le Congrès de la paix, à Paris” (JDE, 1849).  ↩
  14. Mme Hortense Cheuvreux (née Girard) (1808–93) was married to the wealthy textile manufacturer Pierre-Casimir Cheuvreux (1797–1881) who was a major funder of the economists’s activities. Their luxurious home in Paris was where Mme Cheuvreux’s salons were held. Bastiat with his “Rabelaisian” wit, prodigious memory for literature, and musical skills (he played the cello) was a star attraction, along with the scientist Ampère, the priest Gratry, and Alexis de Tocqueville. Twenty seven years after his death Hortense Cheuvreux published a volume of Bastiat’s letters to her in which some of these events are described, Bastiat, Lettres d’un habitant des Landes (1877).  ↩
  15. Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, Coquelin and Guillaumin, eds. (1852–53).  ↩
  16. Nouveau Dictionnaire d’Économie Politique, eds. Léon Say and Joseph Chailley (1891–92).  ↩

A Publishing History of the Guillaumin Firm (1837-1910)

Source of Data

Benoît Malbranque, “Liste complète des titres publiés par Guillaumin (1837-1910)”, Institut Coppet (janvier 2, 2017) here.

David M. Hart, “Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801-64) and the Guillaumin Publishing Firm (1837-1910)” with my list of their titles. It also contains many links to individual Guillaumin book catalogs which were often appended to the books they published. I have plucked them out as I was editing the books to go online. Here.

See also my essay on “The Paris School of Political Economy 1803-1853” here and my main page on “The Paris School of Political Economy” on my website.

Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801-64)

The book publisher and classical liberal activist Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801-64). Guillaumin was a mid-19th century French classical liberal publisher who founded a publishing dynasty which lasted from 1835 to around 1910 and became the focal point for the classical liberal movement in France.

Guillaumin was orphaned at the age of five and was brought up by his uncle. He came to Paris in 1819 and worked in a bookstore before eventually founding his own b bookshop and publishing firm in 1835. He became active in liberal politics during the July Monarchy after the revolution of 1830 and made contact with a number of free market economists. He became a publisher in 1835 in order to popularize and promote classical liberal economic ideas, and the firm of Guillaumin eventually became the major publishing house for classical liberal ideas in 19th century France. Guillaumin helped found the Journal des économistes in 1841 and the following year he helped found the Société d’économie politique which became the main organization which brought like-minded classical liberals together for discussion and debate.

The business was located in the Rue Richelieu, no. 14, in a very central part of Paris not far from the River Seine, the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre Museum, the Palais Royal, the Comédie Française theatre, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The above picture postcard shows the Molière fountain at the intersection of the Rue Richelieu (left) and the Rue Moliére (right) near the Théâtre du Palais Royal. The fountain was built in 1844 opposite the building, 40 Rue Richelieu, where Molière had once lived. The office which housed the Librairie de Guillaumin et Cie would have been about half way down the Rue Richelieu from the fountain.

His firm “Guillaumin” published hundreds of books on economic issues, making its catalog a virtual who’s who of the liberal movement in France. Their 1866 catalog listed 166 separate book titles, not counting journals and other periodicals. For example, he published the works of Jean-Baptiste Say, Charles Dunoyer, Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari and many others, including translations of works by Hugo Grotius, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Charles Darwin.

By the mid-1840s Guillaumin’s home and business had become the focal point of the classical liberal lobby in Paris which debated and published material opposed to a number of causes which they believed threatened liberty in France: statism, protectionism, socialism, militarism, and colonialism. The historian Gérard Minart coined the term “le réseau Guillaumin” (the Guillaumin network) to describe the interconnected commercial, intellectual, political, and personal links which existed between the various liberal groups which met in or around the firm’s headquarters in Paris for several decades.

After his death in 1864 the firm’s activities were continued by his oldest daughter Félicité, and after her death it was handed over to his youngest daughter Pauline. The firm of Guillaumin continued in one form or another from 1835 to 1910 when it was merged with the publisher Félix Alcan.

Key Texts published between 1837 and 1852

During the period I am most interested in (1837-1852 – 16 years) the firm published 360 titles at an average rate of 22.5 p.a. Some of the more important and innovative of those texts are listed below. They include texts which were in fact published as well as those which must have been in production during that time and appeared very shortly afterwards. Who decided what titles to commission and publish and what criteria they used to choose them are not known. One can only infer that Gilbert Guillaumin as owner and founder of the firm had a strong say in this editorial policy.

  1. Encyclopédie du commerçant. Dictionnaire du commerce et des marchandises, 2 vols. (1837-39)
  2. Adolphe Blanqui, Histoire de l’économie politique en Europe depuis les anciens jusqu’à nos jours (1837)
  3. Louis Reybaud, Études sur les réformateurs contemporains ou socialistes modernes (1840)
  4. Journal des économistes, (1841-). Editors: Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (December 1841), Adolphe Blanqui (1842-43), Hippolyte Dussard (1843-45), Joseph Garnier (1845-55).
  5. Collection des principaux économistes, ed. Daire et al. (1840-48), 15 vols. Works by Say (1840, 1841), Boisguillebert (1843), Adam Smith (1843), Turgot (1844), Quesnay (1846), Condillac, Condorcet (1847) and translations of Malthus (1845, 1846), Ricardo (1847), Hume (1847-48), Franklin (1847-48), Bentham (1847-48).
  6. Annuaire de l’économie politique et de la statistique, 56 vols. (1844-1899)
  7. Dunoyer, De la Liberté du travail, 3 vols. (1845)
  8. Bastiat, Cobden et la ligue, ou l’Agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce, (1845)
  9. P.-J. Proudhon, Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère (1846)
  10. Bastiat, Sophismes économiques (1st series 1846, 2nd 1848)
  11. Molinari , Histoire du tarif (1847)
  12. Coquelin, Du Crédit et des Banques (1848)
  13. Garnier, Le droit au travail à l’Assemblée nationale : recueil complet de tous les discours prononcés (1848)
  14. Molinari, “De la Production de la sécurité,* (extrait du Journal des économistes) (1849)
  15. Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (1849)
  16. Bastiat, Harmonies économiques (1850, 1851)
  17. Bastiat, La Loi (1850)
  18. Garnier, Congrès des amis de la paix universelle réuni à Paris en 1849 (1850)
  19. Bastiat, Ce que l’on voit et ce que l’on ne voit pas ou l’économie politique en une leçon (1850)
  20. Gratuité du crédit, discussion entre M. Fr. Bastiat et M. Proudhon (version augmentée éditée par F. Bastiat) (1850)
  21. Bastiat, Harmonies économiques, 2ème édition augmentée (1851)
  22. MacCulloch , Principes d’économie politique (1851)
  23. Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, ed. Coquelin et Guillaumin, 2 vols. (1852-53)
  24. Fonteyraud, Mélanges d’économie politique (1853)
  25. Œuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, 6 vol. (1854-1855)

I think the “jewell in the crown” of the Guillaumin firm in the early period was the monumental, 2 volume Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (1852-53) which was edited by Coquelin et Guillaumin himself. The DEP is a two volume, 1,854 page, double-columned encyclopedia of political economy and is unquestionably one of the most important publishing events in the history of 19th century French classical liberal thought and is unequalled in its scope and comprehensiveness. The aim was to assemble a compendium of the state of knowledge of liberal political economy with articles written by leading economists on key topics, biographies of important historical figures, annotated bibliographies of the most important books in the field, and tables of economic and political statistics.

The Economists believed that the events of the 1848 Revolution had shown how poorly understood the principles of economics were among the French public, especially its political and intellectual elites. One of the tasks of the DEP was to rectify this situation with an easily accessible summary of the entire discipline. The major contributors were the editor Charles Coquelin (with 70 major articles), Gustave de Molinari (29), Horace Say (29), Joseph Garnier (28), Ambroise Clément (22), Courcelle-Seneuil (21), and Maurice Block wrote most of the biographical entries.

Analysis of the Yearly Publication of Titles

Using the publishing data from Malbranque and my own lists of titles I have determined that:

  • between 1837 and 1910 (74 years) the Guillaumin firm published 2,356 titles at an average of 31.8 titles p.a.
  • during the period we are interested in (1837-1852 – 16 years) the firm published 360 titles at an average of 22.5 p.a.
  • during the July Monarchy (1837-1847) 156 titles were published at an average of 14 p.a.
  • during the Second Republic (1848-1852) 204 titles were published at an average of 41 p.a.
  • during the Second Empire (1853-1870) 704 titles were published at an average of 39 p.a.
  • there were 5 years when 60 or more titles were published: 848 (67), 1867 (67), 1872 (66), 1868 (61), 1874 (60)
  • there were 5 years when 50-59 titles were published: 1875 (56), 1873 (52), 1891 (52), 1862 (50), 1889 (50)
  • we can see three periods when their activity spiked: 1848-49; 1867-68; 1873-75
  • and three periods when there were troughs: 1852-55; 1869-71; 1879-80;
  • and a general falling off of activity after 1899

Graph of Books Published by Year

See a larger version of this image (1470×360 px).

Data Summary

Some Thoughts on Editing, Translating, and Displaying online the Work of the French “Économistes”

The Trials and Tribulations of an Editor and Translator

[Note: See this page for a list of my writings on the Paris School of Political Economy.]

Inevitably there are a number of editorial and translation issues which arise when one attempts to translate, in the case of Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850), 1 million words of a sometimes highly specialized nature (economic theory) written over 170 years ago. The plan was to publish Bastiat’s Collected Works in six large volumes with the appropriate scholarly apparatus of introductions, footnotes, glossaries, essays, data tables, and appendices.

This task was complicated by the fact that the original editor and translator died along the way, creating a problem like “the curse of the mummy” for those who were left behind.

As I worked on the project I had in mind some models of what I thought were outstanding examples of editorial work of important and complex scholarly texts. These included the following (in chronological order of publication):

  1. The Glasgow Edition of the Works of Adam Smith in 6 or 7 volumes. (Oxford University Press 1976; Liberty Fund 1981-1987). Edited and with Introductions by D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, R H. Campbell, A.S. Skinner, W.P.D. Wightman, J.C. Bryce, R.L. Meek, P. G. Stein, E. C. Mossner and I. S. Ross.
  2. John Robson’s edition of the Collected Works of J.S. Mill in 33 volumes: Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. J.M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963-1991), 33 vols. Edited and with Introductions by Lord Robbins, V.W. Bladen, Joseph Hamburger, R.F. McRae, Alan Ryan, F.E.L. Priestley, F.E. Sparshott, F.A. Hayek, Francis E. Mineka, Dwight N. Lindley, Alexander Brady, John C. Cairns, Stefan Collini, Ann P. Robson, John M. Robson, Bruce L. Kinzer, Martin Moir, and Marion Filipiuk.
  3. the Complete Works of J.B. Say under André Tiran’s direction which began in 2003: Jean-Baptiste Say, Œuvres Complètes. André Tiran et al. (Paris: Economica, 2003-). 10 volumes.

Editorial Issues and Problems

Identifying and Planning the Arrangement of the Content

An important first stage in the project, which was not achieved or even attempted, should have been to make a complete list of all Bastiat’s known works in chronological order and to give them a unique ID number, to provide full bibliographic information including the place and date of first publication, and its location (where applicable) in the two Oeuvres complètes editions of his work edited by his friends Paillottet and Fontenay in the 1850s and 1860s. This I did somewhat later when I came to realize how important this was (although I could not convince my colleagues of the importance of doing this).[1]

Then a search should have been made for other works by Bastiat which were not included in the original Oeuvres Complètes (1854-55 and 1862-64)[2] which formed the basis of the new translation. I did this once the project was underway and found additional letters and speeches in the Chamber of Deputies, along with different versions of journal and encyclopedia articles which Bastiat had revised for republication in other places.

This same mistake has not been made with the massive and very ambitious Collected Works of Molinari which Benoît Malbranque is currently doing for the Institut Coppet. [3]

My preference, as an historian, is for the works to be organised in chronological order in order to show how his interests and opinions changed over time. The original editor of the Liberty Fund edition of Bastiat’s Collected Works wanted to arrange the material by “theme” which was a very poor choice in my view as much of what Bastiat wrote cut across disciplines, which one might have expected given the fact that he was a “political economist” who also was a pioneer in liberal sociological analysis of the state and its ruling class. So for Bastiat where does “politics” end and “economics” begin, I wonder? There were also very clear breaks in Bastiat’s career which caused him to focus on very different matters at different times in his life, for example his writings done his home town and province before he moved to Paris, his early years working purely on free trade matters, then his career as an elected politician during and after the 1848 Revolution, his shift to opposing the rise of socialism, and all the while he was also working on a theoretical economic treatise which he never lived long enough to complete.

Putting the Content into its Theoretical and Historical Context

Some of the noteworthy aspects of the editions of Smith, Mill, and Say mentioned above which I wanted to replicate in the Bastiat edition were the following:

  • the lengthy and informative introductions written by experts;
  • the extensive footnotes which identified changes made to the text in different versions, for example a chapter in his treatise might have started out as an article in the Journal des économistes, reprinted as a pamphlet, and then used again in his book with slight changes made for each format
  • the source of the ideas the author was arguing for or against, especially in the form of quotations of other texts
  • the identity and intellectual viewpoint of the many individuals mentioned by the author (whether politicians of the day, historical figures, other theorists, or personal friends),
  • the historical events and institutions referred to (often in passing) which might be unfamiliar to modern day readers,
  • and in the case of Bastiat the economic journalist, the source of the economic data he referred to and the accuracy of the economic data he used to make his points
  • for key concepts and terms, some of which were invented by Bastiat and hence unique to him, one needed to identify when they were first used, how they may have changed over time, and the connections which existed between it and other related terms and expressions (what I called “vocabulary clusters”)
  • with the hundred or so letters by Bastiat which we have, to identify the people, organisations, and “networks” in which he moved, and the nature of his personal relationships
  • given his literary bent, his sense of humor and wicked wit, and his penchant for satire and puns, to identify the source of his quotations from, say Molière, to note any changes he made to Molière’s quote which he would sometimes make to serve his own political purposes (such as changing the names of historical political figures to more contemporary ones), or creating his own poems which parodied a classic version.

Here I will give two more detailed examples of what I thought needed to be done as an editor and translator:

  1. checking Bastiat’s accuracy as an economic journalist and his many critiques of government spending and taxation, especially concerning tariffs and the military budget; which led to me reconstruct the French government budget for 1848-49 (in CW vol. 3) based upon official French government documents
  2. identifying and mapping out the connections between some of the key terms and concepts Bastiat used in his economic and social theory; which led to me creating a visual way to illustrate the cluster of terms he used in what is commonly called a “concept or mind map”

Assessing Bastiat’s Accuracy as an Economic Journalist

Here is one page from Appendix 4 “French Government’s Budgets for Fiscal Years 1848 and 1849” in CW3 (pp. 509-16) OLL online version which contains my reconstruction of the French government’s budget for the years 1848 and 1849, which was the time he served in the Chamber of Deputies and was appointed Vice-President of the Finance Committee which advised the Chamber on economic matters.

What surprised me was how accurate Bastiat was in his writing about economic matters. I could only find one example of Bastiat asserting that the government had spent a certain amount on something (in this case subsidizing the colony in Algeria) which I could not independently verify.

Translation Issues and Problems


A difficulty with a large project like the translation of the Collected Works of Bastiat which is large in size (over 1 million words organised into six large volumes) as well as being conducted over more than a decade, is to ensure consistency. Another problem is the fact that an economist like Bastiat used a very specific technical vocabulary which only a translator trained in economics or the history of economic thought would appreciate. Other translators who might be proficient as business or commercial translators might not appreciate the specific historical context in which Bastiat was writing and the vocabulary which was current at the time. Other translators who specialized in political thought might not appreciate the uniqueness and specialized nature of economic terminology and the necessity to translate the same term the same way each time. Too often, the need to avoid “repetition” for stylistic reasons would result in the use of a “synonym” and therefore interfere with the technical precision the author was trying to maintain.

Hence the need to draw up a “vocabulary list” of key terms and expressions in order to be able to translate the same word or term the same way each time they occurred in the text. This was not done at the very beginning and so left the door open to serious problems later in the project. The lack of consistency in word choice became a problem for the Liberty Fund project as to date there have been four translators used over a period of two decades, with different practices adopted at various times.

An example of the “vocabulary list”:

I might also mention the problem English speakers face, given the close historical connection between the French and English languages (I refer here to the “Norman Conquest” of course), to resort to using English cognates of French words. This is an example of linguistic laziness which would sometimes result in significant misunderstandings.

When making a new translation of a work which has been translated before there is a need for the editor to flag any changes or new terms used and to explain why the change was made. In the case of some of Bastiat’s works, such as his treatise Economic Harmonies, readers would be familiar with the translation made by Stirling in the 1860s and 1870s[4] and that by FEE in the 1960s[5], and so might resist any changes made in a new translation unless an adequate reason was provided. This was done in numerous footnotes in the new Liberty Fund translation.

Four good examples of changes in terminology which I thought were necessary were “la spoliation” (plunder), “la classe” (class), “la déplacement” (displacement or misallocation), and “par ricochet” (the ricochet effect). For each term Bastiat had a very specific meaning in mind, and each was crucial to his sophisticated and sometimes complex social and economic theory. In order to clarify these matters I wrote a number of small essays to explain the origin and significance of these key terms which I included in an Appendix.

  1. Stirling and other 19th century translators were quite happy to translate “la spoliation” with the antiquated English word “spoliation” or sometimes “exploitation”.
  2. Bastiat’s theory of class and his class analysis of society was not appreciated by any of the previous translators of his work and the nuances of his theory were largely ignored. On both “class” and “plunder” see “Bastiat’s Theory of Class: The Plunderers vs. the Plundered” (CW3, pp. 473-85); and also “History of Plunder” (CW5).
  3. In order to understand how government intervention in the economy caused problems, Bastiat developed the idea of “la déplacement” (displacement or the Austrian notion of misallocation), especially of labour and capital. By this he meant the distortions or misallocation of resources into economically unviable areas which would sooner or later have to be allocated elsewhere or lost. Previous translators did not understand this and thus did not translate the term properly. See “Theory of Displacement” (CW5); also see the related terms “Disturbing and Restorative Factors” (CW4).
  4. The term “ricochet” was also largely ignored by earlier translators who would sometimes use the English word “indirect” (FEE) or nothing at all, to describe an important concept in Bastiat’t emory of how parts of an economy are interlinked with each other, often through price signals. See “The Sophism Bastiat never wrote: The Sophism of the Ricochet Effect” (CW3, pp. 457-61)

Concept Maps and Vocabulary Clusters

After spending some years on the project I noticed a ‘“clustering” of terms around certain key concepts like “class” and “plunder”. Having his entire body of work in French and in electric form made it easy to explore the interconnections between related concepts, the common pairing of terms (such as “natural” and “artificial”), his use of synonyms, and when he began using these terms.

In order to “map” his use of these terms I created a number of diagrams to illustrate these “vocabulary clusters”. I identified about a dozen of these “clusters” and have created “maps” for six of them so far (in bold). These maps can be found in the Appendix below, and also here:

  1. theory of plunder
  2. theory of class
  3. human action
  4. harmony vs. disharmony
  5. disturbing vs restorative factors
  6. the seen and the unseen
  7. the ricochet effect and the transmission if information through prices: metaphor of water, hydraulics, electricity
  8. social mechanism and the driving force of society
  9. apparatus of exchange
  10. service for service
  11. sophism, fraud, and dupes

To illustrate in detail what these word “clusters” involve, here is the image followed in text form the key terms and related words and expressions for the cluster on “La Spoliation” (Plunder):

(See a larger version (3,000px) of the image here.)


  • la spoliation
  • le monopole
  • le pillage
  • le vol
  • l’exploitation
  • le parasite/parasitisme
  • spolier
  • dérober
  • voler
  • dépouiller
  • piller
  • raviser
  • filouter

Class [see related word cluster “La Classe”]:

  • “la classe spoliatrice” or “les spoliateurs” (the plundering class or the plunderers)
  • les hommes de spoliation (men who plunder)
  • les classes spoliées (the plundered classes)


  • la spoliation partielle (partial plunder)
  • la spoliation réciproque (mutual or reciprocal plunder)
  • la spoliation universelle (universal plunder)
  • l’absence de spoliation (no plunder)


  • la spoliation transitoire (transitory plunder)
  • la spoliation permanente (permanent plunder)


  • la spoliation extra-légale (extra-legal plunder)
  • la spoliation légale (legal plunder)
  • le parasite extra-légal vs.le parasite légal
  • la spoliation organisée (organised plunder)
  • la spoliation gouvernementale (plunder by government)
  • le régime de la spoliation
  • la spoliation par l’impôt (plunder by taxation)
  • se spolier législativement (to be plundered by means of law)
  • la spoliation, réduite en système de gouvernement
  • la spoliation militaire (military plunder)
  • l’exploitation des théocraties sacerdotales (the exploitation by priestly theocracies)
  • spoliateurs de tous costumes et de toutes dénominations (plunderers (who wear) all kinds of robes and (who come from) all kinds of denominations)


  • “la spoliation au dedans” or “la spoliation intérieure”(plunder within a country) e.g. taxation, govt. jobs, monopolies, protection
  • “la spoliation au dehors” or “la spoliation extérieure”(plunder outside the country) e.g. war, conquest, colonies


  • Internal market limits to plunder
  • economic inefficiency of slavery vs. free wage labour results in growing economic losses for Plunderers
  • Malthusian law of growth limits ability of state to plunder indefinitely beyond its “means of existence”

The Challenges for the Translator created by the “Rhetoric of Liberty “ used by Bastiat

Over a period of three years (1845-1847) Bastiat developed his unique rhetorical style in the course of writing articles for a more popular audience in which he used humor and satire to make economics less “dry and boring”, a very provocative vocabulary of “theft” and other acts of violence in order to expose the follies and crimes 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”. He also cleverly and wittily adopted the practice of telling stories to explain economic concepts. He would quote from the plays of Molière and the fables of La Fontaine which nearly every French school kid would have known, make up his own stories in a similar vein (such as his stories about the French “everyman” Jacques Bonhomme), or more complex and sophisticated thought experiments involving Robinson Crusoe and Friday on their “island of despair.” These more popular writings were published as two volumes of Economic Sophisms which appeared in 1846 and 1848.[6]

The pinnacle of his use of stories to illustrate economic matters occurred in his magnum opus Economic Harmonies (1850,1851) in which I identified 55 “economic stories” (34 in EH1 (1850) and 18 in EH2 (1851), and 3 in the Taranne Hall lecture).

A list of the rhetorical devices used by Bastiat in the Economic Sophisms and the Economic Harmonies shows the breadth and complexity of what one might call his “rhetoric of liberty.”[7] These literary and rhetorical devices pose a special problem for the translator in capturing the spirit and humor of the original language, tracking down the original literary reference or quote which Bastiat often changed to suit his own time and circumstances, and his penchant for punning. The latter placed the translator in the difficult position of having to explain his joke in a footnote, which would tend to make it less funny for the reader. The devices Bastiat used includes the following: [8]

  1. A standard prose format which one would normally encounter in
    a newspaper.
  2. The single authorial voice in the form of a personal conversation
    with the reader.
  3. A serious, constructed dialogue between stock figures who represented
    different viewpoints (in this Bastiat was influenced by
    Jane Marcet and Harriet Martineau; Gustave de Molinari continued
    Bastiat’s format in some of his writings in the late 1840s and
  4. Satirical “official” letters or petitions to government officials or
    ministers, and other fabricated documents written by Bastiat (in
    these Bastiat would usually use a reductio ad absurdum argument
    to mock his opponents’ arguments).
  5. The use of Robinson Crusoe “thought experiments” to make serious
    economic points or arguments in a more easily understandable
  6. “Economic tales” modeled on the works of classic French authors,
    such as La Fontaine’s fables and Andrieux’s short stories
  7. Parodies of well-known scenes from French literature, such as
    Molière’s plays.
  8. Quoting scenes of plays where the playwright mocks the pretensions
    of aspiring bourgeois who want to act like the nobles who
    disdain commerce (e.g., Molière, Beaumarchais).
  9. Quoting poems with political content, such as Horace’s ode on
    the transience of tyrants.
  10. Quoting satirical songs about the foolish or criminal behavior of
    kings or emperors (such as Napoléon). Bastiat seems to be familiar
    with the world of the “goguettiers” (political song writers, especially
    Béranger) and their interesting sociological world of drinking and
    singing clubs.
  11. The use of jokes and puns (such as the names he gave to characters
    in his dialogues (“Mr. Blockhead”), or place names [“Stulta” and
    “Puera”), and puns on words such as “Highville” and “gaucherie”).

A good example of Bastiat’s parodying famous works of French literature (in fact Bastiat makes a parody of Molière’s parody) is his creation of an oath which recently appointed customs officials would have to make, modeled on the oath newly qualified doctors had to make in Molière’s play “The Hypochondriac”.

Here is Molière’s original version (in “dog Latin”) along with FEE’s excellent translation, which is followed by Bastiat’s amusing parody (which is actually a parody of Molière’s parody):

Ego, cum isto boneto
Venerabili et doctor,
Don tibi et concedo
Virtutem et puissanciam
Et occidendi
Impune per total terram.

I give and grant you
Power and authority to Practice medicine,
and Kill
With impunity
Throughout the whole world

And Bastiat’s parody of Molière from “Theft by Subsidy” (ES2 9):

Dono tibi et concendo
Virtutem et puissantiam
Et escroquandi,
Impunè per totam istam Viam.
I give to you and I grant
virtue and power
to steal
to plunder
to filch
to swindle
and to defraud
At will, along this whole road

Some Other Technical Issues


The Bastiat translation project began in 2001 as a result of a conference held in Mugron (the village where Bastiat lived in the south of France) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. Unfortunately the first editor was not well acquainted with the internet and the digitization of texts and so the project was not fully digital from the very beginning, as it should have been, although one of its end products was to have been an online version.

Digital technology made it possible to do some very interesting things with the underlying text, but it also posed certain challenges for the editors and translators, which I will discuss below.

Using Gallica and Google Books to find copies of the texts

I have made considerable use of the ambitious digitization programs of two bodies, the digital collection “Gallica” of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (began in October 1997)[9] and Google Books (began December 2004)[10]. I was able to use them to find copies of the first editions of Bastiat’s works, as well as later editions which sometimes were different from the first editions. The early versions of the texts were often poorly scanned with blurry or missing pages, and sometimes the operators of the scanning machines accidentally scanned their hands and fingers in the process. Over the years I have made a sizable collection of images of what I call “Google fingers”.

The different strengths and weaknesses of Gallica vs. Google Books meant that I had to use both for different purposes: the Google Books search function (especially across multiple texts) was better than Gallica’s, but the bibliographical information available for each text was far better at Gallica than for Google Books (which is in fact appalling).

The better search function of Google Books meant that it was possible to search for a string of text, say a line from a play by Molière, and find an edition of the text Bastiat may well have used, which is the one I would then cite in a footnote.

Creating a searchable electronic version of the Texts

The next step after finding suitable PDF versions of the texts was to create a searchable text version (an Apple Pages file). In the early days OCR technology was fairly primitive and created lots of errors. Eventually I was able to create one single and very large file of the seven volume 1864 edition of Bastiat’s Oeuvres complètes and several other texts which were not included in that edition (another volume of letters, some speeches in the Chamber, and some other shorter pieces). I then organised the texts into chronological order. This file contained just over 1 million words (in French) and was 8.1 MB in size.

The creation of this file made it possible to do word searches over the entire body of his work to identify things like the “cluster” of terms he used for each of his main key concepts (such as “plunder” and “class” and “human action”), as well as his first use of terms which was required to track the evolution of his thinking over time. For example, it became apparent that a seminal article in the development of his thinking as well as his word use was an article on the “right to a job” which appeared in Journal des Économistes, Feb. 1845. Below is the standard identification (“T” = “text”) and bibliographic format I used for all items in the collection:

T.23 (1845.02.15) “Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine. On the occasion of his article entitled: The Right to a Job” (Un économiste à M. de Lamartine. A l’occasion de son écrit intitulé: Du Droit au travail), Journal des Économistes, Feb. 1845, T. 10, no. 39, pp. 209-223 [OC1.9, pp. 406-28] and [CW4].

Once I had identified a number of key terms, such as “ricochet” and “la déplacement”, which had been mistranslated or translated inconsistently, I was able to find all such occurrences of the term and then make sure the new translation was consistent.

Coding the Texts

We spent a considerable amount of time working with a firm to develop a suitable DTD (Document Type Definition) for the conversion of the texts to an archival XML and then to HTML. To be brief, one of the key features was to make the “paragraph” the key element in the text, where each one would have a unique ID number so that word searches and citations of the text would point to the particular paragraph in which the key word or phrase was located.

Citing the Texts

My philosophy in building an online library of digital texts is to have the texts available in a variety of formats (facsimile PDF, HTML, and various eBook formats). The facsimile PDF is very important because I believe we must always go back to the original, or at least have it readily available, in order, if you will, “keep us honest” and to be able to show the reader that we have not altered the text in any significant ways (other than say simple formatting).

Within the HTML version it is important to include the original page numbers so that the reader can cite the relevant page in a footnote or scholarly article. Since each paragraph in the HTML version of the text has a unique ID number the reader can also make a direct URL link to it, also for the purposes of citation.

For example, to cite a passage in one of my French language editions of Bastiat’s work, his classic Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas (What is Seen and what is not Seen) (1850) I could use the page number [in bold] or the direct URL (to “para-14”) here:


Dans la sphère économique, un acte, une habitude, une institution, une loi, n’engendrent pas seulement un effet, mais une série d’effets. De ces effets, le premier seul est immédiat; il se manifeste simultanément avec sa cause, on le voit. Les autres ne se déroulent que successivement, on ne les voit pas, heureux si on les prévoit!

Entre un mauvais et un bon Économiste, voici toute la différence: l’un s’en lient à l’effet visible; l’autre tient compte et de l’effet qu’on voit et de ceux qu’il faut prévoir.

Mais cette différence est énorme, car il arrive presque toujours que, lorsque la conséquence immédiate est favorable, les conséquences ultérieures sont funestes, et vice versâ. — D’où il suit que le mauvais Économiste poursuit un petit bien actuel qui sera suivi d’un grand mal à venir, tandis que le [4] vrai Économiste poursuit un grand bien à venir, au risque d’un petit mal actuel.

I have also adopted in my own scholarly writing the practice of citing in parallel the French original and the English translation. Here is the same passage alongside the Liberty Fund edition of CW3 (which unfortunately does not include the original page numbers of the text) and At the OLL:

Dans la sphère économique, un acte, une habitude, une institution, une loi, n’engendrent pas seulement un effet, mais une série d’effets. De ces effets, le premier seul est immédiat; il se manifeste simultanément avec sa cause, on le voit. Les autres ne se déroulent que successivement, on ne les voit pas, heureux si on les prévoit! In the sphere of economics an action, a habit, an institution, or a law engenders not just one effect but a series of effects. Of these effects only the first is immediate; it is revealed simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The others merely occur successively; they are not seen; we are lucky if we foresee them.
Entre un mauvais et un bon Économiste, voici toute la différence: l’un s’en lient à l’effet visible; l’autre tient compte et de l’effet qu’on voit et de ceux qu’il faut prévoir. The entire difference between a bad and a good Economist is apparent here. A bad one relies on the visible effect, while the good one takes account both of the effect one can see and of those one must foresee.
Mais cette différence est énorme, car il arrive presque toujours que, lorsque la conséquence immédiate est favorable, les conséquences ultérieures sont funestes, et vice versâ. — D’où il suit que le mauvais Économiste poursuit un petit bien actuel qui sera suivi d’un grand mal à venir, tandis que le [4] vrai Économiste poursuit un grand bien à venir, au risque d’un petit mal actuel. However, the difference between these is huge, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous and vice versa. From which it follows that a bad Economist will pursue a small current benefit that is followed by a large disadvantage in the future, while a true Economist will pursue a large benefit in the future at the risk of suffering a small disadvantage immediately.

Here is an example of my use of a parallel quote in an essay which also contains footnotes:

Displaying the electronic version of the texts

I believe that it would be very useful to be able to show the entire text, not just selected paragraphs, in this parallel, side-by-side manner. I have experimented using the HTML element “iFrame” in order to do this. [See the entry HTML element – Wikipedia.] This enables the viewing of the original French text (either a facsimile PDF out HTML) against the English translation, and to compare English translations side-by-side (say Stirling’s vs. FEE’s).

The iFrame feature also allows a more ambitious and richer way to view a heavily annotated text, such as the ones I have created, which allows the “footnotes” to be viewed in one frame (I prefer the left), and the large middle frame with the main body of the text, and on the right any glossaries or appendices. This minimises the need for scrolling online or turning pages with a physical book. Thus one can jump from the main text to an endnote or glossary and back again in order to keep reading. This manner of viewing texts was the original idea behind “hypertext”[11] but it has never really caught on, perhaps because of the need for a large screen in order to show the text properly. However, this problem has largely disappeared with the dramatic fall in prices of wide screen monitors, but the preference of many people to read texts on “mobile devices” is a further impediment to viewing complex hypertexts.

Here is a screen snapshot of an iFrame page showing in four frames the table of contents (top frame), an older English translation (left frame), the French original (centre frame), and another English translation (right frame).I used this a great deal to compare the word choices made by different translators of the same French word.

Here is another screen snapshot showing in four frames a way of reading a complex, heavily annoyed text, with the table of contents (top frame), the footnotes or endnotes (left frame), the English translation (centre frame), and glossaries and other supplementary material (right frame):

Some Final Thoughts

My engagement with the “Paris School” of political economy began in 1978-79 when I first met Leonard Liggio who introduced me to it, which resulted in me writing my first scholarly piece on the ideas of Gustave de Molinari (1979),[12] and then the work of Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer (1983-86).[13] Bastiat came much later.

In a rash moment I decided in 2016 to write a screenplay for a film on the life and work of Bastiat, especially his involvement in the Revolution of February 1848. I was interested in how ideas might be depicted in a film, on which I have written a couple of pieces.[14] A model I had in mind was Warren Beatty’s great film “Reds” (1980) about the American journalist John Reed in Bolshevik Revolution. The result was “Broken Windows”.[15]

Appendix 1: Word Maps and Vocabulary Clusters for Bastiat’s Key Terms and Concepts

See “Vocabulary Clusters in the Thought of Frédéric Bastiat” (July 2022) here for more details.








  1. See “The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat in Chronological Order” (Updated: 16 November, 2020) here.  ↩
  2. Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, mises en ordre, revues et annotées d’après les manuscrits de l’auteur.Ed. Prosper Paillottet and biographical essay by Royer de Fontenay. (Paris: Guillaumin, 1st ed. 1854-55, 6 vols; 2nd ed. 1862-64, 7 vols; 3rd ed. 1870-73; 4th ed. 1878-79; 5th ed. 1881-84; 6th ed. 1907). I have put this online here.  ↩
  3. Gustave de Molinari, Œuvres Complètes, ed. Benoît Malbranque (Institut Coppet, 2019) here; and my blog post on this project “The Institut Coppet’s Collected Works of Molinari” (9 Dec. 2020) here.  ↩
  4. Harmonies of Political Economy. Translated from the French with a Notice of the Life and Writings of the Author by Patrick James Stirling (London: John Murrary, 1860); Harmonies of Political Economy, by Frédéric Bastiat. Part II., Comprising Additions from the Third Edition of the French, with Notes and an Index to both Parts (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1870). This contains chaps 11-25 which were included in the 2nd edition of 1851 and then in subsequent editions. The 3rd edition refers to the one included in Paillottet’s edition of the Oeuvres Complètes of 1854; Harmonies of Political Economy, by Frédéric Bastiat. Translated from the Third Edition of the French, with a Notice of the Life and Writings of the Author. Second Edition (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1880). This contains the complete text in one volume. See the HTML version .  ↩
  5. Economic Harmonies, translated from the French by W. Hayden Boyers. Edited by George B. de Huszar (Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: The Foundation for Economic Education, 1964) (1st edition D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. 1964. Copyright William Volker Fund).  ↩
  6. Sophismes économiques (Paris: Guillaumin, 1846). First series. [Signed and dated by Bastiat, Mugron 2 November 1845]; and Sophismes économiques. Deuxiéme Série. (Paris: Guillaumin, 1848). Both translated in CW3.  ↩
  7. See my paper “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. Online.  ↩
  8. See my comments in CW3: “Bastiat’s Rhetoric of Liberty: Satire and the ‘Sting of Ridicule’,” in the Introduction to CW3, pp. lviii-lxiv. Here.  ↩
  9. See Your search – Bastiat Frédéric Author/Contributor : 25 Results – Gallica  ↩
  10. Google Books collection of Bastiat books in full view in French here.  ↩
  11. See the entries on Hypertext – Wikipedia and History of hypertext – Wikipedia.  ↩
  12. My main “Molinari page” here and my undergraduate thesis on Molinari “Gustave de Molinari and the Anti-statist Liberal Tradition” (1979) here.  ↩
  13. David M. Hart, Class Analysis, Slavery and the Industrialist Theory of History in French Liberal Thought, 1814-1830: The Radical Liberalism of Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer (unpublished PhD, King’s College Cambridge, 1994) accessible from here.  ↩
  14. David M. Hart, “Bastiat goes to the Movies, or “Filming Freddie”: How to Popularise Economic Ideas in Film” (2017). A paper given at the APEE Annual Conference, April 2017, Maui, Hawaii online; and “Some Thoughts on an ‘Austrian Theory Of Film’: Ideas and Human Action in a Film about Frédéric Bastiat” (Sept. 2019). A paper given at the Libertarian Scholars Conference, New York City (28 Sept. 2019) online.  ↩
  15. “’Broken Windows’. A Screenplay about the Life and Work of Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)” (2016) online with an accompanying “Illustrated History of the Life and Work Frédéric Bastiat” here.  ↩

Frédéric Bastiat’s Philosophy of Markets


The French political economist, politician, and journalist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) placed “markets” and mutually beneficial “exchange” at the very heart of of his theory of economics which he elaborated in a two volume collection of essays Sophismes économiques (Economic Sophisms) (1846, 1848), a long essay on “La Loi” (The Law) (1850), and his unfinished treatise Harmonies économiques (Economic Harmonies) (1850, 1851)

His ideas are a sophisticated and theoretically rich “philosophy of markets” as he combined into a coherent whole the following aspects:

  • moral theory (the natural right to own property, opposition to the initiation of coercion against others),
  • economic theory (efficiency, prosperity, the primacy of the consumer), and
  • sociology (the class structure of the state, the organisation and history of “la spoliation” (plunder).

Bastiat’s Theory of Markets

Bastiat’s theory of markets has the following key points:

He believed that all individuals have needs and desires (des besoins) which they attempt to satisfy by taking action (l’action, les efforts) , either alone or by interacting with others in “markets”.

In order to explain how an individual makes choices when acting alone, Bastiat developed a theory of “Crusoe economics” to illustrate the nature of “human action” (l’action humaine) which influenced the thinking of Murray Rothbard in the 1950s and 60s when he was writing his treatise Man, Economy, and State (1962).

When individuals interact with others to satisfy their needs they create “markets” (or “the market”) which are made up of a multiplicity of individual exchanges.

He defined an exchange as the voluntary and mutually beneficial exchange of “service for service” (service pour service).

Over time there emerges an “apparatus of exchange” (l’appareil de l’échange) which is a collection of practices, beliefs, customs, laws, and institutions which make markets / exchange possible on a large scale and which continues over long periods of time.

Like Destutt de Tracy Bastiat thought that society could be regarded as “one Great Bazaar” (un immense bazar), in which there existed a huge number of interlocking / parallel markets satisfying a large number of of very diverse and often complex needs of the consumers which were satisfied by an equally large and very diverse number of producers. His concept of the “Great Bazaar” is very similar to Friedrich Hayek’s notion of the “Great Society” which was the global scale “spontaneous order” within which there were a myriad of smaller spontaneous orders often local in scale.

Markets are normally / potentially “harmonious” for all the participants (domestic or international, consumers and producers) unless they are disrupted by coercion and other “disturbing factors” (des causes perturbatrices) which creates “disharmony” (la dissonance).

If markets are allowed to flourish unmolested they can produce peace, prosperity and justice for those who participate in them.

On the other hand, if they are “disturbed” by government intervention markets can become “distorted” (déplacé), as in the misallocation of capital, and labour, and cause economic hardship, conflict, and injustice (economic recessions, war, plunder)

Thus markets are both fragile and robust at the same time. They can be broken or distorted by “disturbing factors” like coercion, war, plunder, and the granting of privileges to a favored few; yet they can also be quite robust since they have a self-repairing feature or what Bastiat termed “restorative factors” (des causes réparatrices)), which were driven by the self-interest of consumers and producers, price signals in the market, and the sense of “responsibility” and “solidarity” help by most people.

In order to properly understand the complexity of markets, especially if they are “disturbed” by government intervention, Bastiat developed his famous theory of “the seen” and “the unseen”. By “the seen” Bastiat meant that which was obvious and immediately visible to observers; and by “the unseen” he meant the hidden, delayed, or unexpected consequences of that intervention into markets which are not so obvious and apparent but nevertheless inevitable and apparent to the insightful and patient observer.

The opposite of the “harmony” of markets is “disharmony” (la dissonance”) caused by “la spoliation” (plunder) of various kinds. Bastiat had plans to write a multi-volume work of social theory which would deal with “Social Harmonies”, “Economic Harmonies” (the only volume to appear), and the Disharmonies caused by Plunder, the history of which Bastiat planned to write another volume but died before he could finish it.

In summary, one could say that the ideal of liberals like Bastiat and his friend Richard Cobden is that there should be “free markets in everything”.

Further Reading

Works by and about Bastiat here.

  • David M. Hart, “Bastiat on the Seen and the Unseen: An Intellectual History” here.
  • David M. Hart, “Bastiat on Harmony and Disharmony” here.
  • David M. Hart, ”The Paris School of Liberal Political Economy, 1803-1853” here.

The schematics I have created to illustrate the complex “word clusters” he used:

Blog Post: “Some Key Terms used by Bastiat in his Economic Theory” (22 Dec. 2019) here.

Website: “Vocabulary Clusters in the Thought of Frédéric Bastiat” here.

  1. Class:
  2. Disturbing Factors
  3. Harmony – Disharmony
  4. Human Action
  5. Plunder
  6. The Seen and the Unseen