Frédéric Bastiat’s Distinction between Legal and Illegal Plunder


A Paper given at the Molinari Society Session “Explorations in Philosophical Anarchy” at the Pacific Meeting of the American Philosophical Society, Seattle WA, 7 April, 2012.

Abstract: This paper comes out of a larger research and publishing project on the life and work of the French advocate for free trade, economic journalist, arch-critic of the socialist movement, member of the French Chamber of Deputies during the Second Republic, and economic, political, and social theorist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). An important part of Bastiat’s social theory was the idea of “plunder” (“spoliation” in French). His theory emerged in the last 3 years of his life (1847-1850) as he intensified his battle against protectionism and socialism, first as a journalist, then as a politician in the Chamber of Deputies during Second Republic, and then as an economic theorist. In this paper I would like to explore in more detail what Bastiat thought about the history of plunder and what part it plays in his social and economic theory.

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 History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA) annual meeting, RMIT Melbourne, Victoria, July 5-8, 2011.

Online here.

This paper examines the origin, content, and form of Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms which will comprise volume 3 of Liberty Fund’s translation of his Collected Works. It is argued that in opposing the economic sophisms which he saw around him Bastiat developed a unique “rhetoric of liberty” in order to make his case for economic liberty. For the idea of debunking “fallacies”, he drew upon the work of Jeremy Bentham on “political fallacies” and Col. Perronnet Thomas on “corn law fallacies”; for his use of informal “conversations” to appeal to less well-informed readers, he drew upon the work of two women popularizers of economic ideas, Jane Marcet and Harriet Martineau.

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On Ricochets, Hidden Channels, and Negative Multipliers: Bastiat on Calculating the Economic Costs of ‘The Unseen’.


A Paper given at the “History of Thought” Session of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. 
Southern Economic Association 83rd Annual Meeting,
November 23-25, 2013
Tampa, Florida

The paper is online here

In this paper I would like to examine a theory Bastiat developed in the latter years of his life (1847-1850) on calculating the costs and benefits of what he called “the unseen”. This is an important part of Bastiat’s economic theory which has been ignored by researchers to date, partly because the relevant articles were not included in the FEE translation of his Economic Sophisms (but which will be included in LF’s new translation of the complete Sophisms), partly because of mistranslations of those that have been translated (the key word “ricochet” was often translated figuratively, often as “indirect” or “rebounds”, and not as the technical economic word Bastiat intended it to be), and partly because a full electronic version of his complete works did not exist until recently when comprehensive key word searches could be used for the first time to uncover the rich and colorful vocabulary Bastiat used in formulating his ideas on this topic.

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Gustave de Molinari and the Seven Musketeers of French Political Economy


See the full paper at my main website.

This is part of a book-length “introduction” (300 pp.) I have written to the translation of Molinari’s Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (1849). It includes a brief biography of Molinari; a discussion of the struggle against protection in France from the 1820s to the late 1840s; the socialist attack on private property and the legitimacy of profit, interest and rent in the 1840s; a brief history of the popularisation of economic theory and the role played by the “conversation” format; Molinari’s and the economists’ activities during the 1848 Revolution; and Molinari’s theory of liberty and the “natural laws” of political economy which he presents in Les Soirées.

Abstract: In Paris in the 1840s there emerged a very special and unique collection of individuals who came together to promote classical liberal and free market thought and to fight socialism and interventionism. I call them “the Seven Musketeers” of French political economy. The term “Musketeer” comes from Gérard Minart’s new biography of Gustave de Molinari (2012) in which he described Frédéric Bastiat, Molinari, and 2 other colleagues (Guillaumin, Coquelin) as “The Four Musketeers”. This is quite appropriate as Dumas’ popular novel came out in 1844 [it was serialised in Le Siècle] and Bastiat, like D’Artagnan, came from the south-west province of Gascony. These economists formed a close band of liberal intellectuals and activists in Paris who were fighting protectionism and socialism not the Protestant enemies of the King of France as the original Musketeers were. My research has revealed that 7 individuals actually fit this description. They are made up of two generations who were key figures in the classical liberal and political economy movement. The 1st were born around 1800 and were in their mid to late 40s in 1848; the 2nd were born around 1820 and were in their late 20s in 1848.

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The Classical Liberal Tradition – A History of Ideas and Movements over 400 Years

IHS Advanced Studies Summer Seminar, “Liberty & Scholarship: Challenges and Critiques” Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, PA.

Date: 13-19 June, 2015

Lectures on:

  1. “The Classical Liberal Tradition – A History of Ideas and Movements over 400 Years” – two lectures
  2. “Images of Liberty and Power: State Propaganda and its Subversion”
  3. “Competing Visions of the Future: Socialist and Classical Liberal”

Lecture 1. “The Classical Liberal Tradition: Theory and History (A Two-Part Lecture)”


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