The State of the Libertarian Movement after 50 Years (1970-2020): Some Observations

See my earlier posts:

[Collapsed Building, Bangladesh (Apr. 20213)]

1.) The Collapse of the Liberty Movement in Australia and Elsewhere in 2020

What we have witnessed during 2020 in Australia and probably in the UK and US as well, was the catastrophic collapse and failure of the liberty movement in the face of the Covid hysteria and panic, and the lockdown socialism which has been the result (or in the case of the state of Victoria “lockdown stalinism”). We haven’t seen anything like such an expansion of government power and intervention in the Australian economy since the mid-1970s, and I fear 2021 will continue down this path with barely a squeak of protest.

In 1972 the social democratic Labor Party came to power and in the space of three years completely transformed the Australian economy, including the introduction of a country-wide single payer health care system, huge increases in taxation, and in government debt. That is the reason why I first became active in libertarian politics and I joined many thousands of people who were appalled and outraged at what was happening. Last year, a conservative government did more in 10 months to expand the power of the state, increase debt, and drastically cut private economic activity than three years of a “socialist” government back in the 1970s.

Yet where are all those who once could be relied on to speak out and stand up for liberty? They are all lying low and saying and doing nothing.

Something very similar has happened in the UK and has been recognized by an interesting post on the Lockdown Skeptics website looking back on the anniversary of the first lockdowns in March 2020. See “The First Anniversary of “Three Weeks to Flatten the Curve”” Lockdown Sceptics (23 March 2021) article

It is hard to know what to do in the face of this. Is it “betrayal” of our ideals? cowardice? the failure of their critical faculties, on many levels, to question the dictates of politicians and the so-called advice of technocrats? Have they forgotten all the economics they once knew? Have they stopped loving liberty? Have they become “willing slaves”? Who knows.

2.) Some Reasons for Optimism 50 Years ago

When I look back over my working life things seemed to be more hopeful back in the 1970s and 1980s than they seem today. In 1974 I was at high school in Sydney at the time and had just discovered libertarianism the year before. My path was not unusual – Rand, then Rothbard, then Mises and Hayek. Toss in Lysander Spooner and Bastiat as well for good measure.

At that time, there were reasons for some optimism: Hayek won the Nobel Prize in 1974; Friedman in 1976; Nozick had published Anarchy, State, and Utopia to much acclaim; Rothbard had published a best seller with a mainstream publisher For a New Liberty. A couple of years later Thatcher became PM (1979) followed by Ronald Reagan in 1981; Roger Douglas was Minister of Finance in NZ in 1984 and began deregulating its economy. . Free market ideas were even beginning to appear in popular culture with Friedman’s “Free to Choose” in 1980 and “Yes, Minister” (1981). This was all topped off with the coming down of “The Wall” in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It seemed we were on a roll and victory might be seen, admittedly at the end of a still very long tunnel.

On a personal note I was living in Stanford when Reagan was President, and then in Cambridge when Thatcher was in power, so I was able to witness what was going on first hand. But that is another story.

But then progress in our direction stopped and everything thing seemed to unravel during the 1990s. Instead of cutting back on military expenditure and using the savings to begin winding back the welfare state the neo-cons got control of the US and pushed it in the opposite direction. So I see the 1990s as the “lost decade” for libertarianism. When 9/11 occurred the stage was set for what turned out to be 2 decades of the expansion of state power, not its winding back. I thought in 2001 that the US was “only one crisis” away from full fascism. In 2020 that new crisis might well have come. The people are afraid and they automatically turn to the state for help.

3.) The Willing Slavery of everybody around us today

Watching the craven way in which people just surrendered all their liberties without a fight or even a peep of protest in 2020 made me go back to Étienne de la Boétie’s great essay “Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” (c. 1550s) in order to understand better why this was happening. I started putting different versions of the essay online in English and French. See the Boetie index page His conclusion was that most people accepted the fact of and necessity for being “willing slaves” as a result of custom, education, and ultimately the threat of force. A very few had “a love of liberty” in their hearts which couldn’t be extinguished and struggled against this servitude. The frustrating thing is that he also realized that if enough people just said “no” to the state it would crumble. The problem was to figure out how to fan the spark of the love of liberty in those that had it into a stronger flame, as well as the bigger problem of creating a tiny spark in those who did not already have it. That too is our perennial problem and it has just got much, much worse.

4.) Rethinking the Strategy to achieve Liberty

In Nov. 2020 I also went back to the various papers I had on libertarian strategy going back to Rothbard’s seminal paper) “Toward a Strategy for Libertarian Social Change” (April, 1977) which I put online in a new clean copy (I had an old one there for over a decade but nobody paid any attention to it). I also got hold of several others papers from a conference on strategy which Koch and Rothbard organized in 1976 at the time of the founding of the Libertarian Party and the Cato Institute. These are very interesting and are not readily available. I wanted to provoke a more serious discussion of strategy given the current dire circumstances. See these papers here.

I started getting interested again in strategy back in 2015 when I began writing a few papers and we organised a Liberty Matters discussion on the spread of CL ideas. I wrote even more position papers when Liberty Fund was going through its “Strategic Refresh” in 2018 but these too were all ignored. Some of these are also listed under Nov. 2020 new additions on my website.

5.) The Growing number of Fronts on which we have to fight for liberty

[M46 Patton and M4 Sherman Tanks massed in Korea]

Back in 2010 when Liberty Fund celebrated its 50th anniversary I thought that there was little to celebrate since in the previous 10 years it, along with the other well-funded liberty organizations, seemed to have had no impact in halting some of the greatest new threats to liberty, such as the expansion of wars in the Middle East (now going on for 20 years); the massive and secret surveillance of private emails and phone calls; the restrictions and impediments to plane travel implemented by a massive new bureaucracy; and most recently the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-9 which had seen the almost instantaneous conversion of nearly all economists into Keynesians (if they weren’t already).

It was at this time that I drew up my first list of four major ongoing and new threats to liberty which the liberty movement had failed to address adequately up to 2010. These were:

  1. War: the expansion of the warfare state following 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its further proliferation in Libya, Syria and elsewhere
  2. Presidential Power: the growth of presidential power and the abdication of Congress to restrain these powers, such as declaring and financing foreign wars, or ordering the execution of individuals deemed “enemies of the state” without court or congressional oversight
  3. The Surveillance State: the power of the NSA and other agencies to spy upon and surveil ordinary citizens at will
  4. Sound Money and Banking: the knee-jerk reversal to Keynesian orthodoxy following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008/9, concerning government debt, deficits, and monetary expansion

I tried to encourage my colleagues to discuss this but they were not interested. They were too busy “celebrating.”

Now 10 years later in 2020 not only have we not been able to counter these four serious threats to liberty, we can add three more to the above list:

  1. Protectionism: and the use protectionist trade policies under President Trump after 2016
  2. Socialism: the growth in interest in “socialism” since the 2018 elections; the open self-identification of many politicians as “democratic socialists” is a bad omen
  3. Radical Environmentalism: the Green movement (e.g. the Green New Deal) has become a powerful force and uses fear of “global warming” as cover for socialism; its impact on the thinking of school age children is very worrying for the the future of liberty

If these seven “pre-existing conditions” (to use a medical metaphor) were not enough to frighten lovers of liberty with the enormous effort and time which countering any one of these threats would require, we now face yet two more additional threats to add to my list:

  1. Critical Race Theory and Wokeness – which has exploded in the last few years and seems to have taken over all levels of education, but most especially the university sector; I fear that this has progressed to the point where we have lost at least one generation, perhaps two, to pro-liberty ideas
  2. Hygiene Socialism: the hysteria and panic over a virus which has come about because of the public’s change in their tolerance (and accurate evaluation) of risk, the uncritical acceptance of false mathematical models of the spread of the disease, and belief that government central planning and massive restrictions on individual liberty and economic activity can “halt” the spread of the disease and save more lives than it takes.

It is depressing when one lists these threats to liberty on one page. To switch to a military metaphor, it is hard to know where to begin to fight back on a battle field with so many fronts. Our army is small and theirs is so large and apparently growing in numbers and strength. If we only have scarce resources to fight on one or two fronts, which ones should we focus on? what should we do about the other fronts? can we still fight and win some skirmishes on the margin? what happens about the core or the HQ of the state’s armies? do we have to wait for some crisis or collapse to show people the folly of the old statist ways of doing things? how do we know that something worse won’t replace the current system? have we entered a new “Dark Ages” of liberty which was a fear Pierre Goodrich wrote about in one of the founding memoranda for Liberty Fund which he wrote in the late 1950s?

I was struck by this pessimism of Goodrich when I first read it. One function of the Online Library of Liberty, in the light of this, was to act as a “scriptorum” where dedicated (electronic) monks would copy the great books of liberty for the benefit of future generations , since the current generation had lost interest in and knowledge of these works. It was a very long-term strategy and one Goodrich seriously thought about when LF was founded. I wonder if anybody today is taking a similar long term perspective. And if so, does it really matter given the foes we now face on numerous fronts?


The year 2020 has turned out to be a watershed year in the struggle for liberty. Little did we expect that a corona virus (remember when they called it the “novel” corona virus which meant it was merely the latest of several such viruses we have encountered?) would turn the tables against liberty and the liberty movement so suddenly, so completely, and with so little resistance on the part of the public.

But we need to keep this latest attack on the principles, practices, and institutions of liberty in some historical perspective. I believe that when we do that our plight will appear to be even worse than we have imagined. I say this because this latest expansion of state power (what I have termed “hygiene socialism” or “lockdown socialism”) comes on top of the eight other major areas of expanded state power which have emerged over the last 20 years, which remain largely unchallenged (intellectually) and still intact (politically). Had we been able to make some headway in reducing these other manifestations of state power and intervention, weakening their intellectual justification, persuading voters to exercise their electoral power to elect politicians to begin dismantling key government programs, then we would be in a much better position to tackle head-on this latest manifestation of state power, but because it comes on top on these existing programs, our task has suddenly become much harder.

My great fear is that in order to continue to impose and expand hygiene socialism the state will seek and get enthusiastic public support to use these other, pre-existing programs to do this. This means that the corrupted system of money and banking will be called upon to “fund” programs to support failed businesses, locked-down workers, and drug manufacturers; the extensive system of surveillance of private citizens will be used to “trace” and “monitor” suspected disease carriers (or “ex-disease” carriers); the trade policy of “protection” for domestic industry will be expanded to make sure that “the nation” will be able to manufacture all of its “own” masks and vaccines and not be “dependent” on foreign manufacturers (especially the dreaded “Chinese”), and so on. The result will be an expanding and increasingly interlocked system of government programs and interventions which will be argued is “necessary” in order to secure the “safety of the people” (salus populi). Of course, this notion of “the safety of people” could be vastly expanded to other risks to life and limb which are even greater than covid 19. Once one has started down this slippery slope of statism there is no stopping once a certain momentum has built up.

Given the nine “battle fronts” on which we now have to fight the battle of ideas the big issue as far as I can see is whether or not we can identify the “golden thread” which ties all these different fronts together. If we could pick at that thread and unravel the whole cloth, we might have a chance of reversing the course of the battle. But I don’t know what that thread is. Do you?

[Chinese “Tank Man”]

Bastiat on the Seen and the Unseen

Bastiat is justly famous for the idea of “the seen” (ce qu’on voit) and “the unseen” (ce qu’on ne voit pas) which was the title of the last book he wrote before his untimely death on Christmas Eve 1850. It was an original contribution to the idea of opportunity cost (which Tony de Jasay believed he in fact invented) which was brilliantly described in his witty and deeply insightful booklet. Less well known is the fact that he had been developing the idea over the course of the previous ten years and that it had a richness and depth which has not been fully appreciated – “not seen” you might say. I believe it was also a crucial part of his treatise on economic theory, Economic Harmonies on which he was working when he wrote his booklet What is Seen and What is Not Seen.

In this paper “Bastiat on the Seen and the Unseen: An Intellectual History” I explore the history of the development of his idea and some of its related concepts. One of these is the idea that economic acts (often interventions by the state) create a series of interlocking and sequential “effects” or “consequences” which flow outwards into other sectors of the economy. These effects are separated in time and space from the initial act and are often hard to observe. Some are close by in time and space and can be easily “seen” by even the untrained eye. Others however are stretched out across space and time and can be quite subtle in their impact. Thus they are hard to discern and are largely “unseen” except for the “good economists” who have been trained in the complexities of market processes.

As he often did with his original ideas, Bastiat developed a complex “cluster” of terms and concepts to describe and explain his ideas about how the economy functioned. He did this with his theory of “la spoliation” (plunder), “la classe” (class), “les causes perturbatrices et les causes réparatrices” (disturbing and restorative factors), “l’harmonie et la dissonance” (harmony and disharmony), and “l’action humaine” (human action), and for each of these “clusters” I have created a visual concept map to help the student of Bastiat’s work understand it better. They can be found here. I have now done the same for his idea of “the seen” and “the unseen.”

See a larger version

Bastiat was a very skilled wordsmith and loved to make puns and other plays on words, and create many allusions to related terms and concepts. This was part of his “rhetoric of liberty” and reflected his great love of literature and his masterful command of language. As he liked to do, Bastiat uses pairs of opposing words and concepts to make his arguments, such as the seen and the unseen, the visible and the invisible, the noticed and the unnoticed, things in the light and things in the shadows, the real world versus the unreal world of fictions and illusions and disguises, the close by and the distant, the immediate and the postponed or delayed, the hidden and the obvious, the direct and the indirect, being blind and being clear sighted, seeing only one side or all sides of an event, the deep and the superficial, the normal and the abnormal, the single event versus events which are linked in a chain or series, and of course the good economist who sees or foresees “the unseen” and the bad economist who does not.

This paper is part of a broader project I have underway to reclaim Bastiat as a significant economic theorist, after his abject dismissal by scholars such as Joseph Schumpeter (“I do not hold that he was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist.”) a view which has been repeated endlessly by people who I think have not actually read the man’s work in either English or French.

As he observed in chapter 12 on “the right to work and the right to a profit” in WSWNS:

“Not to understand political economy is to let oneself be blinded by the immediate effect of a phenomenon; to understand it means to consider all of its effects in one’s thinking and in one’s predictions about the future.”

My “Farewell to America” tour (January 2020)

As part of my “Farewell to America” tour in January 2020 I gave the following talks and papers on my way back to Australia:

  1. On Bastiat at the Political Economy Project at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
  2. On Bastiat at the American Institute for Economic Research, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
  3. On classical liberal class analysis at the Adam Smith Center and the School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University
  4. On the history of the classical liberal tradition at the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, Perth, Western Australia

David’s lecture on Bastiat
[David’s lecture on Bastiat at the AIER]

(1.) Dartmouth College: “Bastiat’s Economic Harmonies: A Reassessment after 170 Years.”

At Dartmouth College, New Hampshire: “Bastiat’s Economic Harmonies: A Reassessment after 170 Years.” A paper given to the Political Economy Project at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire (7 Jan. 2020). This paper is a summary of what I have learned about the originality and importance of Bastiat as an economic theorist after having completed the manuscript of volume 5 of the Collected Works of Bastiat for Liberty Fund in September 2020. It builds upon a “Liberty Matters” discussion I organised on this topic earlier in the year when I invited leading scholars of Bastiat’s economic thought (Donald J. Boudreaux, Guido Hülsmann, and Joseph T. Salerno) to give their assessment of his work. See the discussion. In my paper I talked about Bastiat’s importance as a leading classical liberal figure and the striking radicalism of his thought. I also explain why I think he is underrated as an economic, political, and social theorist but justly recognised as one of the greatest economic journalists and popularizers of economic ideas who has ever lived. I include in the paper a number of key passages from his writings to illustrate my claims. See the paper in HTML and PDF; and also the lecture slides PDF. The talk was videoed but has not been released to my knowledge.

(2.) American Institute for Economic Research, Great Barrington, Massachusetts: “Bastiat on Harmony and Disharmony”

At the American Institute for Economic Research, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Here I gave a paper on my reconstruction of what Bastiat’s great unfinished works on Harmony and Disharmony might have looked like had he lived long enough to complete them. These never finished works might rank alongside Lord Acton’s much anticipated History of Liberty as one of the most important classical liberal books never written. I also was interviewed by Jeff Tucker on the importance, originality, and radicalism of Bastiat which appears as a three part podcast.

“Bastiat on Harmony and Disharmony” – a talk given at the AIER (20 January, 2020). In this nearly book-length paper I explore the connection between harmony and disharmony in the thought of Bastiat. The interconnections between the two show that Bastiat was never a crude “optimist” as many of his critics have argued. Given the presence of “plunder” and “disharmony” in human relations throughout history Bastiat understood that harmony could and had been disrupted or prevent from occurring – hence his desire to write a book on The History of Plunder to explain how this had taken place and what it had meant for human flourishing. In spite of these impediments, the potentially “harmonious” nature of human relationships kept bursting through in the form of markets and other social interactions between individuals. He thought this needed to be described and explained in at least two works – one on “social harmony” broadly understood (legal, social, political), and another on the very important subset of harmony, namely “economic harmonies”. In Bastiat’s theory of history there was a constant tension between the forces or factors tending towards “disharmony” (disturbing factors) and those tending towards “harmony” (restorative factors) which I explore in some detail. The end result I believe is a very sophisticated and rich social theory which has not been properly appreciated by historians of thought in general and libertarians in particular. See the lecture in HTML and PDF 5.9MB; as well as the lecture slides PDF. The video of the proceedings is here and on Youtube.

Following the talk, I was interviewed by Jeff Tucker on the life and thought of Frédéric Bastiat which appears in three parts.

  1. Part 1: “Who was Claude-Frédéric Bastiat?” Part1
  2. Part 2: “Who was Claude-Frédéric Bastiat” Part 2
  3. Part 3: “Insights into Bastiat’s Libertarianism” Part 3

(3.) Singapore: “Understanding Class Divisions in Society: A Classical Liberal Approach”

In Singapore I gave a talk on how classical liberal class analysis can explain many of the divisions which have arisen in modern societies; and was interviewed on the history of the classical liberal tradition and what this political tradition still has to offer us today.

“Understanding Class Divisions in Society: A Classical Liberal Approach”. This talk is part of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) Series co-organised by the Adam Smith Center and the School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University (20 Jan. 2020). According to socialists and Marxists, tensions and conflicts within society are the result of the very essence of the existence of private property and free market relationships between individuals (especially wage labour). In a “capitalist” society these tensions become so great that they give rise to “classes” which contend for power and profits and eventually result (according to the Marxists) in class warfare and ultimately revolution. The classical liberal tradition on the other hand also has a theory of class and class conflict, but these tensions and conflicts are the result of political and other coercive interventions in the economy. In this talk I explore the kinds of problems and tensions created by government intervention the economy, how they give rise to “class conflict” (class here being defined politically rather than economically), and how this different way of looking at the world can help us understand and explain the cause of many tensions and conflicts which are afflicting societies today. The five examples of social tensions and conflicts caused by governments which I discuss in the talk include:

  1. different groups fighting over control of limited resources (taxes) in order to get benefits for themselves
  2. different groups trying to get laws passed by the government to further their own vision of “the good society” and to exclude or harm groups they oppose
  3. different regions of nation states trying to free themselves from central control and taxation, and seeking autonomy
  4. groups which oppose the “capitalist system” (the free market and liberal society) and which seek to either overthrow it or radically change it so it conforms to their ideas of how a future society should be structured and run
  5. the most powerful groups in society who wish to use the power of the state to pursue their own interests at an international level

See the lecture in [ HTML ] and [ PDF ]. A video of the talk is on Facebook.

I was also interviewed by Bryan Cheang, head of the Adam Smith Centre , on the history of the classical liberal tradition (not yet online).

(4.) The Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, Perth, Western Australia: “An Introduction to the Classical Liberal Tradition: People, Ideas, and Movements”.

“An Introduction to the Classical Liberal Tradition: People, Ideas, and Movements”. A talk given at the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, Perth (30 January, 2020). In this talk I survey for Mannkal’s incoming students (for northern hemisphere readers the academic year in Australia starts at the end of summer, i.e February/March) the long history of the classical liberal tradition and its key ideas. I discuss the long history of the Classical Liberal tradition (CLT) which goes back over 400 years; how it has evolved over this period in reaction to the different kinds of oppression people have suffered under; and the problem we in the present face with defining what is meant by “liberalism” (hence the need for what I call “hyphenated” liberalism.” I argue that there have been 4 main periods in the evolution of CL ideas, beginning in the 1640s and continuing into 1680s (the English Civil War and Revolution in the 1640s (1647-49); and the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688-89); the 1750s-1790s (the “trans-Atlantic” Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions; the liberal reforms of the19th century 1815-1914 (the period of so-called “Classical Liberalism”; and the post-WW2 liberal / libertarian renaissance. I argue that there are two sets of ideas wee have to take into account: the things CLs were Against and the things they were For. It is in relation to the latter that I present my list of the “Twelve Key Concepts of CL”. Although the achievements of the CLT have been immense, it seems that that CL might be losing the battle of ideas today.

I have given versions of this talk for over a decade and I am currently re-writing and expanding it (as well as adding a section on liberalism in Australia). See the documents listed here “Study Guides on the Classical Liberal Tradition”, especially the section on “The 12 Key Concepts of Liberty”. An important summary of CL ideas and movements can be found in the Cato Institute’s The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism (2008) which is now online, along with my selection (with links) of the key entries and also here.
See also the PDF of my Mannkal talk overheads and Further Reading.

In addition to the talk, I ran a workshop for the Mannkal students in which we conducted a close reading of my new translation and edition of Bastiat’s perhaps best-known essay “The Law” (1850). See “Frédéric Bastiat, The Law (June 1850): A New Translation by David M. Hart with a Reader’s Guide to the Text” (with discussion questions and key passages) PDF.

Papers given at the Libertarian Scholars Conference, NYC, 21 Sept. 2019.

Was Molinari a true Anarcho-Capitalist?

(1.) “Was Molinari a true Anarcho-Capitalist?: An Intellectual History of the Private and Competitive Production of Security”. A paper given at the Libertarian Scholars Conference, NYC, 21 Sept. 2019 [Full paper HTML and PDFSlidesHandout ]. See the abstract of the paper below.

Some Thoughts on an ‘Austrian Theory of Film’: Ideas and Human Action in a Film about Frédéric Bastiat

(2.) “Some Thoughts on an ‘Austrian Theory of Film’: Ideas and Human Action in a Film about Frédéric Bastiat”. A paper given at the Libertarian Scholars Conference, NYC, 21 Sept. 2019. [Full paper in HTML and PDFSlides ] [ ScreenplayIllustrations ].

Abstract: When thinking about the problems a filmmaker faces when trying to make a “movie of ideas” I was struck by the relevance of the works of two economists, that of Ludwig von Mises’ theory of “human action” and Frédéric Bastiat’s theory of “the seen and the unseen,” in helping the filmmaker think about the problems of depicting economic ideas and economic actions in a visual medium like film. It made me think that perhaps we should develop an “Austrian theory of Film” to help us do this. If there can be a feminist theory of film and a Marxist theory of film, why not an Austrian theory of film?

Mises is relevant because according to his theory of human action people act upon the ideas they have about what their interests are (in many cases these are economic interests), what their alternatives might be, and how best they can attempt to satisfy those interests given their scarce resources and other options. In essence then, human action is based upon the ideas people hold. Bastiat is relevant because the ideas people hold in their heads are a textbook example of what is invisible to outsiders, in other words they are “the unseen” perhaps even the unseeable, yet the actions which people take based upon the ideas they have about themselves, their interests, and the world around them can be “seen” in the actions they take.

A few questions I pose and attempt to answer are: can the filmmaker use these theories about economic behavior to make an interesting film with economic themes? can the ordinary film viewer correctly infer the ideas which lie behind a person’s choices and actions as depicted in a film? and how subtle should a screenplay writer or director be in giving the viewer hints (or what I cake visual “nudging”)? I use the screenplay I have have written about Bastiat’s activities during the revolution of 1848 and the Second Republic, called “Broken Windows”, to discuss these and other matters. See the screenplay, “Broken Windows” and the accompanying “illustrated essay” of the life and times of Bastiat.

Some Key Terms used by Bastiat in his Economic Theory

Here are the “concept maps” or what I call “vocabulary clusters” of some of Bastiat’s key ideas which I have drawn up to assist me in my editing and translating work. I have done ones for Class, Disturbing Factors, Harmony and Disharmony, Human Action, and Plunder (images below).

What the digitization of the collected works of Bastiat and the compilation of those texts into one searchable file allowed me to do were the following things:

  1. to check the consistency of our and previous translations (Stirling, FEE) – I found that key terms (like “le ricochet” or “human action”) were not translated consistently
  2. to note when a key term was first used and to track his use of it over time
  3. to note the other terms which he associated with it, what I call “clusters”, which often involved related terms or opposite terms

My conclusion is that Bastiat developed a rich and diverse vocabulary of terms which was unique to him, which appeared in an advanced state for the first time in early 1845 in two articles he wrote before he entered the orbit of the Parisian economists, and which evolved slightly over the course of the final six years of his life.

I have identified a number of such “vocabulary clusters” of key words for some of his main ideas which are listed below. I used the “mind mapping” software “Scrapple” to show the relationships between the words in a visual way. I have completed five so far (class, disturbing factors, harmony and disharmony, human action, and plunder) and have plans to do a dozen more on the ricochet effect, the domains of the community (or the commons) and of private property, the social mechanism vs. mechanics, the apparatus of exchange, service for service, the seen and the unseen, responsibility and solidarity, perfectibility and progress, sophisms and the dupes, the telling of stories to explain economic concepts.