By Dr. David M. Hart
PhD (Cantab), M.A. (Stanford), BA (hons) (Macqu.)
A Paper given at the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA) annual meeting, RMIT Melbourne, Victoria, July 5-8, 2011.
Frédéric Bastiat was best known in his lifetime for his opposition to the French government's policies of trade protection and subsidies in the 1840s and for his opposition to socialism as a Deputy in the Constituent Assembly and then the National Assembly during the 1848 Revolution and Second Republic between 1848 and 1850. His works remained in print throughout the 19th century and were published by that indefatigable classical liberal publishing firm of Guillaumin. He took as his model for achieving economic change the work of Richard Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League in Britain. Hence, Bastiat formed the Bordeaux Free Trade Association and then a national association based in Paris along with their affiliated newspapers and magazines, but his efforts were unsuccessful when the Chamber defeated a free trade motion in 1847.
Part of his tactics during this period was to debunk what he termed "economic fallacies" (or "sophisms") which were widely held by both the public and the political elite concerning the benefits of government protection and subsidies. He published a large number of these "economic sophisms" between 1844 and 1848 in popular newspapers and magazines as well as in more academic journals like the Journal des Économistes. These were collected and published in 2 books during his lifetime and the editors of his posthumous Oeuvres complètes had material enough for a third volume which was never published separately.
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 (estimated publication date is 2013). 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. One of Bastiat's original contributions was the use of "Crusoe economics" where he simplifies the economic choices faced by an individual by describing how Robinson Crusoe might go about ordering his economic priorities and deciding what his opportunity costs are. Another original contribution is Bastiat's clever use of short and witty economic "fables" and fictional letters written to political leaders. In many of these apparently "simple" fables Bastiat's draws upon classical French literature (Molière and La Fontaine) as well as contemporary political songs and poems (written by "goguettiers" like his contemporary Béranger) to make serious economic arguments in a very witty and unique manner. Bastiat's self-declared purpose was to make the study of economics less "dull and dry" and to use "the sting of ridicule" to expose the widespread misunderstanding of economic ideas. The result is what Friedrich Hayek correctly described as an economic "publicist of genius".
Frédéric Bastiat burst onto the Parisian political economy scene in October 1844 with the publication of his first major article "De l"influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l"avenir des deux peuples" (On the Influence of English and French Tariffs on the Future of the Two People) in the Journal des Économistes. This proved to be a sensation and he was welcomed with open arms by the Parisian political economists as one of their own. This was followed soon after by Bastiat's first visit to Paris and then England in order to meet Richard Cobden and other leaders of the Anti-Corn Law League. Bastiat's book on Cobden and the League appeared in 1845 which was an attempt to explain to the French people the meaning and significance of the Anti-Corn Law League by means of Bastiat's lengthy introduction and his translation of key speeches and newspaper articles by members of the League.
It was in this context that Bastiat wrote a series of articles explicitly called "Economic Sophisms" for the April, July, and October 1845 issues of the Journal des Économistes. These became the first half of what was to appear in early 1846 as Economic Sophisms Series I. As articles continued to pour from the pen of Bastiat during 1846 and 1847 and were published in his own free trade journal Le Libre-Échange (founded 29 November 1846 and closed 16 April 1848) and in the Journal des Économistes, he soon amassed enough material to publish a second volume of the Economic Sophisms, called naturally enough, Economic Sophisms Series II in January 1848. As Bastiat's literary executor and friend Prosper Paillottet noted in a footnote in the Oeuvres complètes which he edited, there was even enough material for a third series compiled from the several shorter pieces which appeared between 1846 and 1848 in various organs such as Le Libre-Échange, had Bastiat lived long enough to get them ready for publication. With Liberty Fund's edition of Bastiat's Collected Works we have been able to do what he and Paillottet were not able to do, namely gather in one volume all of Bastiat's actual and possible Economic Sophisms. The selection criteria is that they were written in a similar style to the other Sophisms (short, witty, sarcastic, sometimes in dialogue form, and having the intention of debunking widely held but false economic ideas (or "fallacies" or "sophisms")). We therefore include in this volume alongside Series I, Series II, and the "Third or New Series" of the Economic Sophisms, the longer pamphlet "What is Seen and What is Unseen" (July 1850) which is also very much in the same style and format. We don"t think Bastiat would mind us doing so.
In Liberty Fund's collection of Bastiat's Economic Sophisms we include some seventy two individual essays (or seventy four if one includes some of the slighter pieces written for Jacques Bonhomme as separate essays) which might fall into the category of refutations of popularly held economic fallacies designed for a general audience. They were written over a period of five years stretching from 1846 (when the free trade newspaper Le Libre-Échange was founded) to 1850 (the year in which What is Seen and What is Not Seen was published a few months before Bastiat's death). In writing these essays Bastiat used a variety of formats which are listed below according to how frequently they occur in the collection:
These essays are the dominant type in the collection and make up 50% of the total. Not surprisingly they read like they were originally written for popular newspapers and are quite conversational in tone. Bastiat often quotes from the speeches or writings of his protectionist opponents before attempting to refute their arguments. He also often makes conversational asides to his readers (e.g. the exclamation "What!" or other comments) which gives the impression that Bastiat is sitting next to the reader in a bar or hall and having a vigorous conversation. It is quite possible that the style of these essays is a result of a version of them having been given as speeches in public meetings of the French Free Trade Association before being printed in the Association's journal Le Libre-Échange. Some of these essays contain stories about made up characters with snippets of their dialog as Bastiat goes about making his points; others contain brief references to one of Bastiat's favourite characters, Jacque Bonhomme, the French everyman. Because the dialog or conversation is only a small part of the essay they have been included in this category and not the next.
The second most common format for the Sophisms were the essays written expressly in dialogue or conversational form (18% of the total). Some conversations were introduced with a section of prose before the conversation took center stage; others were entirely devoted to the conversation. Bastiat created stock characters to represent different sides in a debate which unfolded over several pages with the inevitable result that the free market advocate won the contest. Bastiat was quite inventive and often amusing in creating names for his characters, such as a "Mister Blockhead" (who was a Tax Collector), "The Utopian" (who was a Minister in the government who fantasized about introducing a radical free market reform program), and "Mister Prohibitionist" and "The Law Factory" (the Chamber of Deputies). His other characters were often fairly prosaic in their names, such as his favourite "Jacques Bonhomme" (the French everyman), John Bull (the British everyman who is used here to advocate postal reform), various "Petitioners" to government officials, "Ironmasters" and "Woodcutters", and the "Economist" and the "Artisan". In some cases the character "Jacques Bonhomme" was described as a "wine producer" which, given the fact that Bastiat was a gentleman farmer who came from a wine producing region, strongly suggests that sometimes the free trade arguments he was placing in Jacques mouth got a bit personal.
A quite innovative dialog form which Bastiat had much to do with inventing was the use of the characters "Robinson Crusoe" and "Friday" to create what might be called "thought experiments" in economic thinking. In these special dialogs Bastiat would simplify quite complex economic arguments often putting interventionist and protectionist arguments into the mouth of the European Crusoe and the more liberal free market ideas into the mouth of Friday [See below for a discussion of this].
Given Bastiat's love of literature and his penchant for the fairy tales and fables of La Fontaine and Perrault, it is not surprising that he would turn his hand to writing his own "economic tales" or fables. Another model might have been Voltaire's "philosophic tales" such as Candide (1759) although Bastiat does not quote him as he does Fontaine and Perrault. These "economic tales" are coherent stories or tales designed to make an important economic point in a light hearted manner. They are self-contained, usually have no introduction by a narrator (such as Bastiat), and are often very funny and poignant. Bastiat wrote eight of them as Sophisms and they are spread out quite evenly over the various collections he had published, suggesting that he regarded them as an essential part of the genre. Some of the more noteworthy tales are the following: "Reciprocity" [ES1 X] which is a fable in which the councillors of two wittily named towns "Stulta" (which could be translated as "Stupidville") and "Puera" ("Childishtown") try to figure out how best to disrupt trade between themselves; "The Chinese Tale" [ES2 VII] in which a free trade minded Emperor of China causes his protectionist-minded Mandarins considerable grief; "Protection, or Three Municipal Magistrates" [ES2 XIII] which is in fact a small, four act play with multiple characters who argue about the pros and cons of protection and free trade; and probably the best known of Bastiat's tales "The Broken Window" [WSWNS I] where there is a brief prose introduction before a wonderful story about Jacques Bonhomme's broken window is told, along with its impact on the Glazier and the Shoemaker. These "economic tales" are probably Bastiat's best work in making the study of economics less "dry and dull" (as he lamented) and it is a pity he did not write more of them as he seemed to have quite a talent for it.
On a par with his "economic tales", at least in terms of the number written (8 or 11% of the total) and their originality and creativity, are the fictional letters or petitions to government officials which Bastiat wrote. In most cases they were quite satirical and very funny. These fake letters and petitions were written to members of the Chamber of Deputies, various Cabinet Ministers, the Council of Ministers, and even to the King, usually with requests for preposterous solutions to their economic problems. Bastiat uses the "reductio ad absurdum" method to argue his point, taking a conventional argument used by protectionists, such as a request to keep cheap foreign imports out of the country because it hurts domestic producers, and pushing it to an absurd extreme, the best example being his "Petition of the Candlemakers" [ES1 VII]. In this case, a straight faced group of petitioners who make artificial light (such as candles and lamps) ask the Chamber of Deputies to pass a law forcing all consumers to block out the natural light of the sun during daylight hours in order to boost demand for their products. The ridiculousness of their demand and the logical similarity with the demands of the protectionists is the point Bastiat was trying to make in this clever and witty manner.
Another kind of document which Bastiat liked to "invent" was the historical document such as the "Monita secreta" [ESLE 67] based upon a seventeenth century forgery of a manual which purported to show how the Jesuits secretly went about recruiting members to their cause and lobbying governments to get the legislation they wanted. Here, Bastiat "discovers" a secret manual or guide book written to assist the protectionists in their political and intellectual struggle against the free traders. By "exposing" this secret and conspiratorial document for the first time to the French public, Bastiat has a field day.
There are only four instances of this type of essay in the collection. They are longer pieces and are written in a more academic style in which quite sophisticated and complex theoretical and history ideas are discussed. The first two examples are the opening two essays in Economic Sophisms Series II (1848) on "The Physiology of Plunder" and "Two Moralities" and are discussed in more detail below in the section on "Legal and Illegal Plunder." There is no information on any previous publication of these pieces so it is possible that they were written especially for the second series of Economic Sophisms. The other two essays were written for the more academic and sophisticated Journal des Économistes. "Theft by Subsidy" appeared in the January 1846 issue and is notable for Bastiat's testy reaction to reviews of Economic Sophisms Series I for being "too theoretical, scientific, and metaphysical", the defence of his strategy for "calling a spade a spade" in his writings (such as describing government taxation and tariffs as a form of "theft"), and for the appearance of one the wittiest pieces he ever wrote, a parody of Molière's parody, where Bastiat writes (in Latin) an "Oath of Office" for aspiring government officials. The second essay "Disastrous Illusions" appeared in the March 1848 issue of the Journal des Économistes and is interesting because it was published at the very beginning of the 1848 Revolution and shows the growing alarm felt by the political economists at the rise of socialist and interventionist ideas among the revolutionaries.
This type of essay is the one most infrequently used by Bastiat. The first occurs in ES1 essay XII and is a direct appeal to the Workers, perhaps modelled on a real speech Bastiat gave on the hustings as he campaigned for the French Free Trade Association. We do not have any information about its original date or place of publication. The other two occurrences are wall posters which originally appeared in Bastiat's and Molinari's revolutionary paper Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848. They were designed to appeal to the workers and citizens of Paris at the beginning of the 1848 Revolution. The idea was to post them on walls in the streets of Paris so the passers by could read them. In " A Disastrous Remedy" [ESLE 68b] Bastiat likens the state once again to a quack doctor who tries to cure the patient (the taxpayers of France) by giving him a blood transfusion by taking blood out of one arm and pumping it into the other arm [his parody of Molière appeared that same month in the Journal des Économistes]. In "The Immediate Relief of the People" [ESLE 68a] he argues that the state is not like Christ and cannot turn water into wine, or in this case give out more in subsidies than it takes in in taxes. Both were short, emotional appeals to the Parisian crowd to spurn the seductive socialist policies of the new Provisional Government.
It is an interesting question to ask oneself where Bastiat got the idea of writing short, pithy essays for a popular audience in which he debunked the misconceptions ("sophisms" or "fallacies") people had about the operations of the free market in general and of free trade in particular. If refuting fallacies was his end, then the use of constructed conversations between two idealised representatives of conflicting points of view was often the means to that end. Both these aspects of Bastiat's Economic Sophisms will be explored here briefly.
There are three likely sources which might have inspired Bastiat with the idea of debunking "fallacies" - Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), Perronnet Thompson (1783-1869, and Charles Dupin (1784-1873) - and another two who might have shown him how constructed conversations between adversaries might be suitable in appealing to a popular audience - Jane Haldimand Marcet (1769-1858), Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), and Charles Dupin (again).
Some of Jeremy Bentham's writings appeared first in French as a result of the work of his colleague ƒtienne Dumont who translated, edited, and published several of Bentham's works in Switzerland before they appeared in English in Bowring's 1843 edition of his works. These works were known to Bastiat who quoted from Bentham's Théorie des peines et des recompenses (1811) and even used quotations from it as the opening mottoes for the Economic Sophisms Series I and Series II. Bentham's attack on the notion of natural rights during the French Revolution, as expressed in the 1791 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, was eventually titled "Anarchical Fallacies" (it was written in 1795-1796 and had a number of working titles, one which was quite ribald) and was not published in English during his lifetime but was published by Dumont in French in 1816. In this work Bentham rejects the very notion of a natural right to liberty as literally "non-sense" and coined the unforgettable phrase that "Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense,—nonsense upon stilts." The method of analysis he adopted in this essay was to quote each article of the French Declaration and then to refute it methodically using very caustic language. Although Bastiat would not have agreed with Bentham on the content of his critique of natural rights he would have been impressed with Bentham's detailed enumeration of the "fallacies" and his humorous and sarcastic criticism of them, a method which Bastiat used to great effect in many of his own Sophisms.
Bentham followed this work with another one which was more general in its scope: a Traité des sophismes politiques which also appeared in 1816 with an English version of the book appearing as the Handbook of Political Fallacies in 1824. In the opening paragraph of this work Bentham defines a "fallacy" as follows:
By the name of fallacy it is common to designate any argument employed or topic suggested for the purpose, or with the probability of producing the effect of deception, or of causing some erroneous opinion to be entertained by any person to whose mind such an argument may have been presented.
According to Crane Brinton, Bentham's purpose in categorizing and discussing the varieties of political fallacies which he had identified was to expose "the semantics of persuasion" used by conservative political groups to delay or prevent much needed political reforms. Bentham organized his critique around the main sets of arguments which facilitated "the art of deception" and which caused a "hydra of sophistries" which permitted "pernicious practices and institutions to be retained". "Reason" on the other hand was the "instrument" which would enable the reformer to create this new "good government" by a process of logical analysis and classification. As he stated:
To give existence to good arguments was the object of the former work (the Theory of Legislation); to provide for the exposure of bad ones is the object of the present one - to provide for the exposure of their real nature, and hence for the destruction of their pernicious force. Sophistry is a hydra of which, in all the necks could be exposed, the force would be destroyed. In this work, they have been diligently looked out for, and in the course of it the principal and most active of them have been brought in view.
Bastiat shared Bentham's view of "deception" as an ideological weapon used by powerful vested interests to protect their political and economic privileges. As we will see below in the discussion of Bastiat's notion of "legal plunder", Bastiat saw that his task in writing the Sophisms was to enlighten "the dupes" who had been misled by "la Ruse", or the "trickery, "fraud" and "cunning" of the powerful beneficiaries of tariff protection and state subsidies.
Of all the various "sophistries" (or "sophisms") which allowed pernicious government to protect itself from reform, Bentham believed that they all could be categorized into four classes based upon the purpose or strategy the sophistry was designed to promote: the fallacies of authority, the fallacies of danger, the fallacies of delay, the fallacies of confusion. Arguments from "authority" were designed to intimidate and hence repress the individual from reasoning through things himself; arguments about immanent "danger" were designed to frighten the would-be reformer with the supposed negative consequences of any change; arguments which urged caution and "delay" were designed to postpone discussion of reform until it could be ignored or forgotten; and arguments designed to promote "confusion" in the minds of reformers and their supporters were designed to make it difficult or impossible to form a correct judgement on the matter at hand.
Bastiat on the other hand categorized the types of sophisms he was opposing along the lines of the particular social or political class interests the sophisms were designed to protect, which were categorized as "theocratic sophism," "economic sophism", "political sophism", and "financial sophism" which were designed to protect the interests (the "legal plunder") of the established Church; the Crown, aristocracy, and elected political officials; the economic groups who benefited from protection and subsidies; the bankers and debt holders of the government, respectively.
Thus, it is quite likely that Bastiat took not only the name "ssophismes" (which is how Dumont translated Bentham's term "fallacies" for the French edition) from Bentham for the title of his essays and books, but also the purpose as defined by Bentham, namely to debunk "any argument employed which causes some erroneous opinion to be entertained by any person to whose mind such an argument may have been presented." Furthermore, whereas Bentham focussed on "political fallacies" used by opponents of political reforms, Batiat's interest was in exposing "economic fallacies" which were used to prevent reform of the policies of government taxation, subsidies to industry, and most especially protection of domestic industry via tariffs.
Whereas Bentham uses relentless reasoning and classification to make his points, Bastiat uses other methods, such as humour, his reductio ad absurdum approach to his opponents's arguments, and his many references to classical French literature and popular song and poetry. Nevertheless, Bastiat's modification of Bentham's rhetorical strategy seems to describe Bastiat's agenda and method in opposing the ideas of the protectionists in France in the mid-1840s quite nicely, and shows the considerable influence Bentham had on Bastiat's general approach to identifying and debunking "fallacies."
A second influence on Bastiat's approach to debunking economic error and myths in popular thinking came from Baron Charles Dupin (1784-1873). In the late 1820s Dupin wrote a seven volume work Le petit producteur français (1827) which contained a spirited defence of the free market and those merchants, traders, and entrepreneurs who were engaged in providing goods and services for that market. Dupin was a Deputy, engineer, and lecturer at the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, where he taught courses for working people. He is important in the development of Bastiat's ideas for a number of reasons: firstly, he dedicated volume 4 of his work, "Le petit commerçant français", to the 'students of the Business schools of Paris, Lyon, and Bordeaux" which brings to mind Bastiat's dedication of his magnum opus, Economic Harmonies, "To the Youth of France"; secondly, his stated aim was "refuting the long term and entrenched errors concerning the interests of commerce" which was also Bastiat's aim in writing the Sophisms; thirdly, Dupin's efforts to speak to a popular audience on economic matters was duplicated several times by Bastiat as shown by the formation of several magazines and newspapers, such as the free trade journal Le Libre-Échange and the revolutionary broadside Jacques Bonhomme; and fourthly, the use of constructed conversations using stock figures to make his theoretical points. Concerning the latter, Bastiat borrows one of these stock figures directly from Dupin, a "M. Prohibant" (Mr. "Prohibiter" or Protectionist), in What is Seen and What is Unseen and it provided the model for other characters which Bastiat used, such as "M. Blockhead" which was the name he gave in one of his Sophisms to a particularly abstruse and annoying tax collector.
A third influence came from the exotically named Colonel Thomas Perronnet Thompson (1783-1869). During the late 1820s and early 1830s the Benthamite soldier, politician, polymath, pamphleteer, and agitator for the Anti-Corn Law League, Perronnet Thompson wrote a series of works which no doubt came to Bastiat's attention. Bastiat followed the activities of the British Anti-Corn Law League very closely and Perronnet Thompson was one of its best known writers. In 1827 Perronnet Thompson wrote a work very much influenced by the Benthamite methodology, the Catechism on the Corn Laws; with a List of Fallacies and Answers (1827) where he methodically listed quotations by advocates of protectionism in one column with their refutation alongside in another column of text. His work was so popular that he wrote other variants such as the Corn Law Fallacies, with the Answers (1839) and specifically for the French market the Contre-Enquête: par l"Homme aux Quarante Ecus (1834) which was a defense of free trade written in response to a French government inquiry.
The second aspect of Bastiat's Economic Sophisms which deserves exploring is his use of the constructed conversations using stock figures to represent the different sides in the argument about free trade and protection, such as "The Free Trader" vs. "The Protectionist", "The Economist" vs. "The Prohibitionist", "The Economist" vs. "The Artisan", and so on. This was an obvious attempt to appeal to a more popular audience who were repelled by serious theoretical economic analysis of problems such as free trade vs. protectionism. We have already examined the example which Charles Dupin supplied for Bastiat's approach with M. Prohibant but there are two female economists whose work should be mentioned in this context, namely Jane Haldimand Marcet (1769-1858) and Harriet Martineau (1802-1876).
Jane Haldimand Marcet was the daughter of a Swiss businessman who lived in London and married a Swiss doctor who had come to know her through her writings. She wrote introductory works on science and political economy which were designed to be accessible to ordinary working people. In her Conversations on Political Economy; in which the elements of that science are familiarly explained (1816) she typically had a family group gathered around the kitchen table or other domestic setting discussing the issues of the day in a "familiar" manner where a strong and outspoken figure would present the free market case to ill-informed and sceptical folk. She was a strong supporter of the free market and free trade and she understood the problems supporters of free trade faced in getting their ideas understood by the general population. Her book book was translated immediately into French by her nephew and published in Switzerland in 1817 so it would have been available to Bastiat in either English or French editions.
At this time it was extraordinary to find one female popularizer of free market ideas, yet we have two when we include Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) who was a close contemporary of Bastiat (who was born in 1801). Martineau was an English writer who was born in Norwich to a family of French Huguenots who had fled religious persecution after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Her father was a textile manufacturer and her poor health (she suffered from deafness) turned her towards reading widely and writing. She was unusual in becoming a professional full-time writer at a time when few women were able to pursue such a career. She was a translator, novelist, speech writer, and journalist who wrote a popular defence of the free market, pioneering travel writing about a trip to America, and essays on women's rights. Her multi-volume Illustrations of Political Economy (9 vols. 1832-43) was an introduction to economic principles written in narrative form which went far beyond Bastiat's efforts in its length and breadth. Bastiat's friend and colleague Gustave de Molinari said of her in his review of a French translation of her works in the Journal des Économistes in April 1849 that "she deserves her double reputation of an ingenious narrator and a learned professor of political economy."  Her influence on Bastiat was to show yet again the power of presenting economic ideas in a simple, popular form via simple, everyday stories or conversations between recognizable stock characters. Where she differed markedly from Bastiat was in the length of the stories and their number (she wrote nine volumes of the Illustrations) whereas Bastiat preferred the short and pithy magazine article of which he became a master exponent.
The style which Bastiat had perfected in the mid- and late 1840s, the short and often sarcastic and humorous rebuttal of false but commonly held economic ideas, and the use of constructed conversations between stock characters who held opposing views was continued after his death by other members of the free market school in Paris. His close friend and colleague, Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), with whom he started the magazine Jacques Bonhomme in the June days of the Revolution, adopted Bastiat's rhetorical style in two books which appeared in the late 1840s and early 1850s, so therefore still very much under the influence of Bastiat. In 1849 Molinari published a path breaking book which pushed the boundaries of the free market position to its very limits, the Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare. Entretiens sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (1849). The book was made up of eleven "Soirées" or evening parties where an "Economist" sparred with a "Conservative" and a "Socialist" over the issues which had been raised during the 1848 Revolution concerning the limits of state power to intervene in and regulate the economy, and the rights of individuals to own property and to dispose of it freely on the market. Molinari had elevated the "familiar conversation" to the more sophisticated table of the "soirée" which was far above the working man's dinner table used by Marcet and Martineau, and even above Bastiat's conversations in the streets of Paris and Bordeaux with "artisans" and "Jacques Bohomme," the quintessential ordinary Frenchman. Molinari followed Les Soirées with another book in 1855 called Conversations familires sur le commerce des grains (1855) which comprised a series of conversations on free trade in wheat between a "Rioter", a "Prohibitionist", and an "Economist". By this time the Revolution of 1848 had well and truly entered the picture and a street "rioter" now had to be part of the "familiar conversation", if that were possible.
Had Bastiat lived longer there are at least two more books he would have written: the first would have been to complete his main theoretical work on political economy, the Economic Harmonies (1850), which he left incomplete at his death; the second would have been to write "A History of Plunder". The latter was mentioned by Paillottet as something that was very much on Bastiat's mind in his last days in Rome on the eve of his death. Paillottet quotes Bastiat:
A very important task to be done for political economy is to write the history of Plunder ("lla Spoliation"). It is a long history in which, from the outset, there appeared conquests, the migrations of peoples, invasions and all the disastrous excesses of force in conflict with justice. Living traces of all this still remain today and cause great difficulty for the solution of the questions raised in our century. We will not reach this solution as long as we have not clearly noted in what and how injustice, when making a place for itself amongst us, has gained a foothold in our customs and our laws.
The most likely origin for Bastiat's thinking on plunder and the development of societies based upon different forms of seizing the property of their productive citizens is the work of two political economists and lawyers whose writings were well known to Bastiat, namely Charles Comte (1782-1837) and Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862). Comte's book Traité de législation (1827) in particular was much admired by Bastiat. Although Bastiat never wrote his "History of Plunder" his ideas did inspire others to attempt such a task. Ambroise Clément (1805-86) who, after Bastiat's death was one of the editors of Dictionniare de l"économie politique (1852), wrote an article for the Journal des Économistes in July 1848 on "Legal Plunder" in which he developed some of his ideas further with a more detailed categorization of the kinds of legal state theft or plunder. Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), who was one of Bastiat's collaborators in founding two newspapers during the 1848 Revolution, wrote several book-length works using his theoretical framework in which he chronicled the rise of the state since medieval times and the way in which the ruling elites organized the plundering of their subject peoples.
Paillottet also tells us that a significant part of the Economic Harmonies, which was left half-finished, was supposed to cover in more detail the problem of the "Disturbing Factors", by which he meant war and other forms of plunder (such as Slavery, Theocracy, Monopoly, Government Exploitation, and Communism), which prevented the full and harmonious operation of the free market. In this volume of his works, the key essays where Bastiat explores his theory of plunder are the following:
As a supporter of the idea of natural law and natural rights, Bastiat believed that there were universal moral principles which could be identified and elaborated by human beings and which had a universal application. In other words, there were not two moral principles in operation, one for the sovereign power and government officials and another for the rest of mankind. One of these universal principles was the notion of an individual's right to own property, along with the corresponding injunction not to violate an individual's right to property by means of force or fraud. In the Christian world the injunction was expressed in the Ten Commandments, particularly "Thou shalt not steal" and, since there was no codicil attached to Moses' tablets exempting monarchs, aristocrats, or government employees, Bastiat was prepared to argue that this moral commandment had universal applicability.
According to Bastiat there were two ways in which wealth could be acquired, either by voluntary production and exchange or by coercion:
There are only two ways of acquiring the things that are necessary for the preservation, embellishing and amelioration of life: PRODUCTION and PLUNDER.
And a bit further into the essay he elaborates as follows, with his definition of plunder (in bold):
The genuine and equitable law governing man is "The freely negotiated exchange of one service for another." Plunder consists in banishing by deception or force the freedom to negotiate in order to receive a service without receiving another in return.
Plunder by force is exercised as follows: People wait for a man to produce something and then seize it from him with weapons.
This is formally condemned by the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not steal.
When it takes place between individuals, it is called theft and leads to prison; when it takes place between nations, it is called conquest and leads to glory.
It is not certain when these words were written as neither Bastiat nor Paillottet provide that information. It is most likely that they were written specifically for the the Second Series of the Economic Sophisms which were published in January 1848. In an earlier article published in January 1846, "Theft by Subsidy", Bastiat responded to criticism of his First Series of Economic Sophisms which had just appeared in print that they were "too theoretical, scientific, and metaphysical." His response was to make sure that his future writings could not be accused of this again, which he did by peppering their pages with an "explosion of plain speaking." By this he meant that he would use very blunt, direct, even "brutal" language, such as "theft", "pillage", "plunder," and "parasitism," when describing the activities undertaken by the State which were accepted by most people as perfectly normal and "legal". So, in many of the essays written in 1846 and 1847 which were to end up in future editions of the Economic Sophisms Bastiat wanted to make it perfectly clear what he thought the state was doing by regulating and taxing French citizens and to call these activities by their "real name", namely theft and plunder. As he notes in an aside:
Frankly, my good people, you are being robbed. That is plain speaking but at least it is clear.
The words, theft, to steal and thief seem to many people to be in bad taste. Echoing the words of Harpagon to Elise, I ask them: Is it the word or the thing that makes you afraid?
He cites the Ten Commandments, the French Penal Code, and the Dictionary of the French Academy to define what theft is as clearly as he can and to note its universal prohibition. According to these definitions, in Bastiat's mind, the policies of the French government were nothing more than "theft by subsidy", "theft by Customs duties", "mutual theft" of all Frenchmen via subsidies and protective duties, and so on. Altogether they made up an entire system of "plunder" which had been evolving for centuries and which he had wanted to make the topic of his book on "A History of Plunder".
Therefore, because of the ubiquity of plunder in human history it was essential for political economy to take it into account when discussing the operation of the market and its "disturbing factors":
Some people say: "PLUNDER is an accident, a local and transitory abuse, stigmatized by the moral order, reproved by law and unworthy of the attentions of Political Economy."
But whatever the benevolence and optimism of one's heart one is obliged to acknowledge that PLUNDER is exercised on a vast scale in this world and is too universally woven into all the major events in the annals of humanity for any moral science, and above all Political Economy, to feel justified in disregarding it.
A key feature of plunder which distinguishes it from the acquisition of wealth by voluntary exchange is the use of violence or what he called "la Ruse" (fraud or trickery) fraud. Within the category of "plunder" there are two main types which interested Bastiat: "illegal plunder" which was undertaken by thieves, robbers, and highway men and which was prohibited by law - hence the title "illegal plunder"; the second type of plunder was what Bastiat called "legal plunder" which was usually undertaken by the state under the protection of the legal system which exempted sovereigns and government officials from the usual prohibition of taking other people's property by force. Illegal plunder was less interesting to Bastiat as it was universally condemned and quite well understood by legal theorists and economists. Instead, Bastiat concentrated in his scattered writings on the latter form, legal plunder, as it was hardly recognized at all by economists as a problem in spite of the fact that it had existed on a "vast scale" throughout history and was one its driving forces. As he noted in his "final and important aperu" which ended the "Conclusion" to Economic Sophisms I:
Force applied to spoliation is the backdrop of the annals of the human race. Retracing its history would be to reproduce almost entirely the history of every nation: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Goths, the Francs, the Huns, the Turks, the Arabs, the Mongols and the Tartars, not to mention the Spanish in America, the English in India, the French in Africa, the Russians in Asia, etc., etc.
In the essay "The Physiology of Plunder" which opened Economic Sophisms II Bastiat sketches out the main types of plunder which had emerged in history: war, slavery, theocracy, and monopoly. Historically, societies and their ruling elites which lived from plunder had evolved through alternating periods of conflict, where the elites fought for control of the state, and periods of "truce", where plunder became regularized until another rivalrous group of plunderers sought control of the state. In a letter to Mme Cheuvreux (23 June 1850) Bastiat observes that:
... our history will be seen as having only two phases, the periods of conflict as to who will take control of the State and the periods of truce, which will be the transitory reign of a triumphant oppression, the harbinger of a fresh conflict.
The immediate historical origins of the modern French state were the aristocratic and theological elites which rose to dominance in the Old Regime and which were challenged for control of the state first by socialist-minded reformers under Robespierre during the Terror and then by the military elites under Napoleon. The defeat of Napoleon had led to a temporary return of the aristocratic and theological elites until they were again overthrown in another Revolution, this time one in which Bastiat played an active role as elected politician, journalist, and economic theoretician. Bastiat examines in some detail the part played by the aristocracy in the essay "The Working Class and the Bourgeoisie" (22 May 1847), Sophisms from Le Libre-Échange, and he devotes a surprising amount of space to analyzing "theocratic plunder" in "The Physiology of Plunder". On the rise of the aristocracy he states:
Between a nation and its aristocracy, we clearly see a deep dividing line, an undeniable hostility of interests, which sooner or later can only lead to strife. The aristocracy has come from outside; it has conquered its place by the sword and dominates through force. Its aim is to turn the work done by the vanquished to its own advantage. It seizes land, has armies at its disposal and arrogates to itself the power to make laws and expedite justice. In order to master all the channels of influence, it has not even disdained the functions, or at least the dignities, of the church. In order not to weaken the esprit de corps that is its lifeblood, it transmits the privileges it has usurped from father to son by way of primogeniture. The aristocracy does not recruit from outside its ranks, or if it does so, it is because it is already on the slippery slope.
In the period in which he was living, the modern state had evolved to the point where a large, permanent, professional class of bureaucrats carried out the will of the sovereign power (which was King Louis Philippe during the July Monarchy 1830-1848, and then the "People" in the Second Republic following the Revolution of February 1848) to tax, regulate, and subsidize a growing part of the French economy. Three aspects of the growth of the state on which Bastiat had focussed his opposition in the mid- and late 1840s were protectionist tariffs on imported goods, taxation, and the government subsidization of the unemployed in the National Workshops during 1848. As the state expanded in size and the scope of its activities it began supplying an ever larger number of "public services" which were funded by the taxpayers. Bastiat had a stern view of these developments and viewed any "public service" which went beyond the bare minimum of police and legal services as "a disastrous form of parasitism". Using his favourite stock figure of Jacques Bonhomme in order to make his points Bastiat compares the "forced sale" of "public services" - or "legal parasitism" of the French bureaucracy - to the actions of the petty thief who indulges in mere "illegal (or extralegal) parasitism" when he takes Jacques" property by breaking into his house.
Although the plundering elites were voracious in their appetite for the taxpayers" property, Bastiat believed there was an upper limit to how much they could take because countervailing forces came into operation to check their growth. Firstly, widespread plunder and regulation of the economy hampered productive growth and made society less productive and prosperous than it might otherwise have been. A good example of this Bastiat thought was evidenced by slave societies where the productivity of slave labour was considerably less than that of free labour. By locking themselves into a slave-based economy the slave owners deprived themselves of further economic gains.
This invariable constraint is a marvelous thing. In its absence, provided that there were a stable balance of power between the oppressors and the oppressed, Plunder would have no end. When the constraint obtains, this balance always tends to be broken, either because the Despoilers become aware of the loss of wealth in question, or, where this awareness is lacking, because the ill constantly grows worse and it is in the nature of things that constantly deteriorate to come to an end.
In fact, there comes a time when, in its gradual acceleration, the loss of wealth is so great that Despoilers are less rich than they would have been if they had remained honest.
Secondly, Bastiat thought that a "Malthusian Law" operated to fatally restrict the expansion of the plundering class. The Malthusian pressures on the plundering class were twofold: their plunder provoked opposition on the part of those who were being plundered who would eventually resist (such as tax revolts, smuggling, or outright revolution); and the "Despoilers" (of wealth) would gradually realize that their plunder and regulation created economic inefficiencies and absolute limits on the amount of wealth they could extract from any given society. Bastiat developed his ideas on a Malthusian limit of the scale of plunder first in a discussion of "theocratic plunder" and then in a section on the State in general:
Plunder using this procedure and the clear-sightedness of a people are always in inverse proportion one to the other, for it is in the nature of abuse to proceed wherever it finds a path. Not that pure and devoted priests are not to be found within the most ignorant population, but how do you prevent a rogue from putting on a cassock and an ambitious adventurer from assuming a miter? Despoilers obey Malthus's law: they multiply in line with the means of existence, and the means of existence of rogues is the credulity of their dupes. It is no good searching; you always find that opinion needs to be enlightened. There is no other panacea... (p. 21)
The State is also subject to Malthus's Law. It tends to exceed the level of its means of existence, it expands in line with these means and what keeps it in existence is the people's substance. Woe betide those peoples who cannot limit the sphere of action of the State. Freedom, private activity, wealth, well-being, independence and dignity will all disappear there. (p. 24).
In the earliest forms of the plundering state, such as the warrior and slave state of the Roman Empire, the role played by outright violence and coercion in maintaining the flow of plunder to privileged groups was very important. However, as populations grew and economies advanced alternative methods were needed by the elites to protect the continued flow of plunder. It was at this moment in human history, Bastiat thought (developing Bentham's idea of "deceptions" and "political fallacies" to prevent political reform), that ruing elites began to use what he called "la Ruse" (trickery or cunning) and "les Sophismes" (fallacies, sophisms, and other forms of ideological deception and confusion) so that they could trick or "dupe" the citizens into complying with the demands of the elite to hand over their property. Of course, it was in order to defeat this stage in the evolution of societies based upon plundering that Bastiat wrote his series of Economic Sophisms between 1845 and 1850.
As he stated in the "Conclusion" of Economic Sophisms I (which served more like an introduction to his first collection of Economic Sophisms than its conclusion) Bastiat explains the connection between his rebuttal of commonly held economic sophisms and the system of plunder he opposed so vigorously:
For them (the plundering classes) to rob the public, the latter have to be misled. To mislead them is to persuade them that they are being robbed for their own good; it is to make them accept fictitious services and often worse in exchange for their possessions. This gives rise to Sophism. Theocratic Sophism, economic Sophism, political Sophism and financial Sophism. Therefore, since the time when force has been held in check, Sophism is not only an evil, it is the very genius of evil. It must in its turn be held in check. And to do this the public must be made more shrewd than the shrewd, just as it has become stronger than the strong.
Good public, it is under the patronage of this thought that I am addressing this first essay to you, although the Preface has been strangely transposed and the Dedication is somewhat belated.
A case study of how trickery and sophistic arguments can be used to ensure compliance with the demands of the plundering class is provided by Bastiat in his lengthy discussion about the rule of the Church in European history which he believed had practised deception and trickery "on a grand scale". The Church had developed an elaborate system of "theological plunder" through its tithing of income and production and on top of this it created a system of "theological trickery" based upon the notion that only members of the church could ensure the peoples' passage to an afterlife. This and other "theological sophisms" created "dupes" of the ordinary people who duly handed over their property to the Church. Bastiat had no squabble with a church in which the priests were the instrument of the religion, but for hundreds of years religion had become instead "the instrument of its priest":
If, on the other hand, Religion is the instrument of its priest, he will treat it as some people treat an instrument that is altered, bent and turned in many ways so as to draw the greatest benefit for themselves. He will increase the number of questions that are taboo; his moral code will bend according to the climate, men and circumstances. He will seek to impose it through studied gestures and attitudes; he will mutter words whose meaning has disappeared, a hundred times a day, words which are nothing other than vain conventionalism. He will peddle holy things, but just enough to avoid undermining faith in their sanctity and he will take care to see that this trade is less obviously active where the people are more keen-sighted. He will involve himself in terrestrial intrigue and always be on the side of the powerful, on the sole condition that those in power ally themselves with him. In a word, in all his actions, it will be seen that he does not want to advance Religion through the clergy but the clergy through Religion, and as so much effort implies an aim and as this aim, in these hypothetical circumstances, cannot be anything other than power and wealth, the definitive sign that the people have been misled is when priests are rich and powerful.
The challenge to this "theocratic plundering" came through the invention of the printing press which enabled the transmission of ideas critical of the power and intellectual claims of the Church and gradually led to the weakening of this form of organised, legal plunder. The Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment gradually exposed the "theological sophisms" for what they really were - so many tricks, deceptions, lies, and contradictions - and many people were thus no longer willing to be the dupes of the Church.
In a similar manner, Bastiat thought, the modern bureaucratic and regulatory state of his day was, like the Church, based upon a mixture of outright violence and coercion on the one hand, and trickery and fallacies (Sophisms) on the other. The violence and coercion came from the taxes, tariffs, and regulations which were imposed on taxpayers, traders, and producers; the ideological dimension which maintained the current class of plunderers came from a new set of "political" and "economic sophisms" which confused, mislead, and tricked a new generation of "dupes" into supporting the system. The science of political economy, according to Bastiat, was to be the means by which the economic sophisms of the present would be exposed, rebutted and finally overturned, thus depriving the current plundering class of their livelihood and power: "I have said enough to show that Political Economy has an obvious practical use. It is the flame that destroys this social disorder, Plunder, by unveiling Trickery and dissipating Error." And in the following essay on "The Two Moralities" Bastiat contrasts the role of "religious morality" and "economic morality" in bringing about this change in thinking: "Let religious morality therefore touch the hearts of the Tartuffes, the Caesars, the colonists, sinecurists and monopolists, etc. if it can. The task of political economy is to enlighten their dupes." Bastiat was skeptical that religious morality would be successful in changing the views of those who held power because, as he pointed out on several occasions, how many times in history have ruling elites ever voluntarily given up their power and privileges? His preference was to strike at power from below by opening the eyes of the duped and tricked with the truths which political economy provided, to encourage doubt and mistrust in the justice of the rulers" actions, and to mock the follies of the political elite by using sarcasm and the "sting of ridicule". Bastiat summed up the job of the political economists as "opening the eyes of the Orgons, uprooting preconceived ideas, stimulating just and essential mistrust and studying and exposing the true nature of things and actions."
When the editors of the Dictionnaire d"économie politique (1852) began contemplating writing an article on "The State" they did not commission a new article from among their stable of contributors, but could think of nothing better than to reuse large sections of Bastiat's pamphlet 1848 "The State." This pamphlet had appeared in late 1848 after several months of polemical writing by Bastiat against proposals for a greatly expanded role for the state being put forward by members of the Provisional Government and then the Constituent Assembly (to which Bastiat had been elected on 23 April 1848) and its supporters on the Left. Such was the high regard for Bastiat's views on the matter that the Dictionnaire's editors elevated it to a position as the orthodox view of the State among the French free market political economists in the Guillaumin circle. How this came to be the case will be explored in the discussion below.
Some of the essays from this volume (volume 1) as well as from volume two of Liberty Fund's translation of his works, give the reader the opportunity to track the development of Bastiat's ideas on the state as they developed out of some sketches he published in Le Libre-Échange in December 1846 and January 1847, through the first essay which had the name "The State" which appeared as a statement in Bastiat's revolutionary magazine Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848, through the more developed version of the essay which appeared in near final form in the Journal des Débats, 25 September 1848, and then as a pamphlet published by Guillaumin shortly thereafter. It seems that Bastiat's ideas came to a head during the radicalization of the Revolution in June 1848 and that the ideas he expressed in these early statements need to be interpreted as a response to the specific political and economic events of that hectic period.
The culmination of his thinking about the state resulted in a "definition" on which he had been working since at least March 1848 when he, no doubt tongue-in-cheek, offered a F50,000 prize "to be given to anyone who provides a good definition of the word STATE, for he will be the saviour of finance, industry, trade and work." In the 1848 Guillaumin pamphlet edition of the work he provided his own definition since, unsurprisingly, no other suitable one was forthcoming from amongst the readers of his Jacques Bonhomme magazine: "THE STATE is the great fiction by which EVERYONE endeavors to live at the expense of EVERYONE ELSE."
There are several hints in earlier writings that this is what Bastiat was moving towards in his understanding of the state. In a sophism he wrote for Le Libre-Échange in 27 December 1846 entitled "Recipes for Protectionism", he continues an earlier satire he had written of a fictitious report to the king recommending that everybody's right hands be tied behind their backs in order to increase the amount of work done in the nation (and hence increase national prosperity according to the protectionist doctrine). This time he has an advisor to the king recommend firstly the burning of the city of Paris which some protectionists, following the historical example of the Great Fire of London in 1666, thought would create a great stimulus to economic activity as the city was rebuilt, and then secondly, what he calls a "new method of protection", namely a doubling of taxes which would provide the state with enough funds to give every worthy industry all the direct economic protection they could possibly want in order to be competitive with foreign producers. In the course of the ensuing discussion over this proposal, Bastiat gives us an early version of his definition of the state:
Just a moment, Minsters, I agree that I am suggesting nothing new. My system (direct protection of industry) and yours (indirect protection) are identical. It is still the work done by everyone that subsidizes the work of each person, a pure illusion ("illusion" in the French original), or the work of a few, which is brazen injustice.
A month later, and just one month before revolution was about to break out in Paris in February, Bastiat published another article in Le Libre-Échange which he called "The Utopian" (presumably a reference to the utopian hope of seeing any government in France at that time adopting a radical free market and limited government program). The Utopian dreams of being one of His Majesty's Ministers and being able to implement the reforms proposed by the economists like Bastiat, even if he did not have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies to form a working government. The reforms he prosed to reduce the size and scope of the state include the following:
Bastiat concludes his utopian fantasising with the Minister recognizing the hopelessness of seeing implemented the changes he had just proposed:
The Utopian becomes excited: "Thank heavens; my budget has been reduced by 200 million! I will abolish city tolls, I will reform indirect contributions, I É"
"Just a minute Mr. Utopian!"
The Utopian becomes increasingly excited: "I will proclaim the freedom of religion and freedom of education. New resources. I will purchase the railways, I will reimburse the debt, and I will put a stop to rigging the market."
"Freed from excessive cares, I will concentrate all of the forces of government on repressing fraud and distribute prompt and fair justice to all, I É"
"Mr. Utopian, you are taking on too much, the nation will not follow you!"
"You have given me a majority."
"I withdraw it."
"About time, too! So I am no longer a Minister, and my plans remain what they are, just so many UTOPIAS."
Two months later, after revolution had broken out in Paris in February and Bastiat and two younger colleagues Molinari and Coquelin had started their first revolutionary magazine La République française and then another in June, Jacques Bonhomme. He returned to the subject of the powers of the state and the attitudes of the common people towards it in a series of articles and posters which were published in the short-lived Jacques Bonhomme. What Bastiat was attempting to do was to lessen the very high expectations the people had ofwhat the Government could and should do. To achieve this Bastiat wanted to show that the state was in no financial position to pay for any of these new measures and that if it did try to acquire additional resources via increased taxation then these burdens would inevitably fall on all French citizens and that therefore the people would be no better off because of this. Hence, for them to expect the new state to 'square the circle" was impossible, an "illusion" or a "fiction".
In the very first issue of Jacques Bonhomme (11-15 June 1848) Bastiat published a short article called "The State" (rough draft) in which he appealed to the people that no financial expert could provide what they were demanding and that they would have to accept the hard fact that "since the State has nothing it has not taken from the people, it cannot distribute largess to the people." After listing over a dozen new and expensive demands that the people were placing on the government Bastiat offers the reward of F50,000 for a "good definition of the word STATE" which was mentioned above. It was clear to Bastiat, if not to the people of Paris protesting in the street, that no conception of the state could enable it to "do something with nothing". Of course it is clear from other writings of Bastiat, especially his scattered writings on "plunder", that he understood that a state which favored one class over another could provide clear benefits to one group but only at the expense of less politically powerful groups. The economic problem posed by the eruption of "democracy" in France in 1848 was how all the people could enjoy benefits from the state if all the people were paying taxes to the state in what he called in the final pamphlet version of The State, "reciprocal plunder".
The day after the publication of "The State" Bastiat published two more articles in a similar vein, "The Immediate Relief of the People" and "A Disastrous Remedy". The difference with these essays was that they were designed as small posters which could be pasted on walls around the city, as the editor Paillottet stated in a footnote, in order to "enlighten the people" by "putting them free of charge before the eyes of passers-by". It is hard to imagine passers by, in the middle of a revolution sweeping Paris, stopping to read these posters and taking in Bastiat's arguments. Nevertheless, Bastiat repeats his argument in "The Immediate Relief of the People" that the state cannot step in to provide for all the unmet needs of the people which had been proposed in a system of "National Workshops" which were set up by the revolutionary government to provide work relief for the unemployed of Paris. Bastiat had opposed the establishment of these welfare measures and correctly predicted that they would bankrupt the new government. When they were eventually closed down in June it provoked rioting in the streets of Paris. Bastiat courageoulsy took to the streets humself duringthe "June Days" in order to help the injured and drag the dead off the streets, to persude the troops to stop shooting the protesters, and to persuade the protesters that their dreams of a welfare state were false and misguided. He argues in one of these essays that "the tax collector's coffers are not the wine pitcher of Cana" - a reference to the Gospel of John which related the first public miracle of Jesus where he is reputed to have turned water into wine for a wedding party. According to Bastiat the state is not a miracle worker but rather a middle man who takes a cut of all money which passes through his hands. A far better proposal according to Bastiat was for the state to drastically cut the taxes it levies on the people - by abolishing city tolls, the salt tax, the tax on cattle and wheat - thereby reducing the cost of living for ordinary people. France should model itself on the minimal state in the American Republic where the policy was, as Bastiat saw it, "give the State what is strictly necessary and keep the rest for yourself."
In the second poster which Bastiat planned to stick on walls all over Paris, "A Disastrous Remedy", he turned to his tried and true strategy of using sarcastic humor to appeal to his readers. In this case he uses the device of "the seen and the unseen" as he relates the story of a quack doctor who has two methods of curing the sick who come to him. The first is to take a loaf of bread from the sick man each morning and to give him back three quarters of the same loaf later in the day so he has something to eat. The doctor, like the state, becomes a middle man who gets, literally, a cut of 25%. The doctor's second plan is to give the sick man a blood transfusion by inserting a tube into his right arm and transferring the blood into his left arm, of course spilling some in the process.
In a previous reference to the "disastrous" consequences of socialist legislation in March 1848 Bastiat had published an article in the Journal des Économistes called "Disastrous Illusions" which was written to appeal to the more sophisticated readers of that economics journal. The subtitle of the article was "Citizens give the State life. The State cannot give its citizens life." Bastiat begins by apologizing to his readers for using humour and ridicule in his campaign to "combat Privilege" but he excuses himself by saying that "it is totally permissible to inflict the sting of ridicule on the minority that exploits and the majority that is exploited." Now that revolution had broken out and the people were demanding socialist policies of redistribution and public subsidies to the poor and the unemployed he was faced with another, potentially more dangerous "illusion" which might well be "the rock on which our beloved Republic will founder" - "it is no longer a question of particular privileges, but of transforming privilege into a common right." Bastiat then reminds his readers what the policy agenda is for the Economists in France:
The school of thought known as the Economist School proposes that all privileges and monopolies be abolished immediately, all pointless state functionaries be dismissed immediately, all excessive salaries be reduced immediately. There should be deep cuts in public expenditure and reorganization of taxes, to remove all those that bear hard on the things that the people consume, which hamper their movement and paralyze work. For example, this school asks for city tolls, the salt tax, the duties on the import of subsistence items and working tools to be abolished on the spot.
It asks for the word Liberty, which floats on all our banners and which is engraved on all our buildings, to become the truth at last.
It asks that, after paying the government what is essential for maintaining internal and external security, repressing fraud, misdemeanors and crime and subsidizing the major works of national utility, THE PEOPLE SHOULD KEEP THE REST FOR ITSELF.
Bastiat concludes for his audience of Economists by summing up the situation of France at the start of the Revolution and the pressing need for security and freedom so that capital could be built up, production and employment increased, and the general prosperity of the people improved:
In our view, increasing salaries does not depend on either benevolent intentions or philanthropic decrees. It depends and depends solely on an increase in capital. In a country such as the United States, when capital is built up quickly, salaries rise and the nation is happy.
Now, in order for capital to be built up, two things are needed: security and freedom. In addition, it must not be pillaged by taxation as it grows.
This, we think, is where the rules of conduct and the duties of the government lie.
New schemes, agreements, organizations and associations ought to have been left to the common sense, experience and initiative of the citizens. Such things are not accomplished by taxes and decrees.
Providing for universal security by reassuring peaceful civil servants and, through an enlightened choice of new civil servants, basing true freedom on the abolition of privileges and monopolies, allowing items of prime necessity and those most essential for work to enter the country freely, creating the resources needed at no charge by means of a reduction of excessive duties and the abolition of prohibition, simplifying all administrative procedures, cutting out whole layers of bureaucracy, abolishing parasitic civil service functions, reducing excessive remuneration, negotiating immediately with foreign powers to reduce armed forces, removing city tolls and the salt tax and fundamentally reorganizing the tax on wines and spirits and creating a sumptuary tax: all these form the mission of a popular government in my view, and this is the mission of our republic.
Under a regime of order, security and freedom like this, we would see capital being built up and giving life to all branches of production, trade expanding, farming progressing, work actively being encouraged, labor sought after and well paid, earnings benefiting from the competition of increasingly abundant capital projects and all the living forces of the nation, currently absorbed by
superfluous or harmful administrative bodies, turned towards furthering the physical, intellectual and moral well-being of the entire nation.
Sometime between March and September 1848 Bastiat worked on his theory of the state which appeared in its most polished form in the 25 September issue of the Journal des Débats and which was soon reissued by Guillaumin as a stand alone pamphlet. This has become one of Bastiat's best known essays and has been in print in English since the Foundation for Economic Education translated it in 1964 as part of the Selected Essays on Political Economy. In this version of "The State" Bastiat has increased the prize money for a good definition of the State from F50,000 to F1 million along with a suitable array of ribbons and medals for the lucky winner. As in his previous versions, he lists the large number of new tasks the people are demanding that the state carry out, he lists the taxes and regulations he would like to see abolished immediately, he describes it as a "most bizarre illusion" that the people expect to be able to live at the expense of others if all are engaged in the same activity of political rent seeking, and he sees the state as a middle man who insists on taking his cut of any resources which are transferred through his hands. But unlike his previous version, Bastiat now provides his own definition of the state, which as we saw above, is "THE STATE is the great fiction by which EVERYONE endeavors to live at the expense of EVERYONE ELSE."
Other new additions to his theory of state which appeared in the Guillaumin edition of The State include the notion, derived from his theory of the nature of plunder, that the modern democratic and socialist state which was emerging before his eyes in 1848 was a system of "reciprocal plunder" where each organised group within the democratic polity was actively engaged in plundering other groups for their own special advantage. What Bastiat could not see clearly at the beginning of the Revolution in March 1848 but which did appear in the new French Constitution which, in its Preamble he believed, had explicitly created a "personification of the STATE" in the form of a super mother or father figure whose task it now was to provide for all the needs of the people. The specific phrase he quoted from Article I of the Preamble states "France has been constituted as a Republic ... (and has as its aim) ... to assist all its citizens in reaching ... an ever higher level of morality, enlightenment, and well-being". In contrast to this Bastiat thought the Preamble to the American Constitution of 1787 was far closer to his ideal of limited government in which the State did not treat its people as children who had to be cared for: "We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America."
Another interesting difference between his earlier essays and the final Guillaumin pamphlet was the specific political opponent he was now able to identify. Those advocating a new and enhanced role for the government immediately following the outbreak of the Revolution in February and March were not identified by Bastiat other than the general population who expected big things of the new regime, especially the National Workshops. By September Bastiat had identified the Montagnard Manifesto of the Socialist Democratic Party within the National Assembly as the main opposition the liberal free market groups now had to face and Bastiat dutifully spent several paragraphs outlining the threat they posed. He concluded his pamphlet with the observation that France, and possibly Europe as a whole, had entered a new phase of political struggle in which three identifiable political systems were contending for dominance - a view of the state where the state undertook many functions but which funded these activities with a very high level of taxation (perhaps Bastiat is imagining the form the modern welfare state would take in the 20th century); a second view of the state where the state had very few functions and consequently placed a very small tax burden on its citizens (Bastiat's position); and a new third theory of the state which had emerged during the course of the 1848 Revolution and which was a hybrid of the first two, where the state undertook many functions (or "did everything") but the people made no financial contribution to fund its activities. This latter theory of the state Bastiat denounced as "illusionary, absurd, puerile, contradictory and dangerous":
Fellow citizens, since time immemorial two political systems have confronted one another and both have good arguments to support them. According to one, the State has to do a great deal, but it also has to take a great deal. According to the other, its twin action should be little felt. A choice has to be made between these two systems. But as for the third system, which takes from the two others and which consists in demanding everything from the State while giving it nothing, this is illusionary, absurd, puerile, contradictory and dangerous. Those who advocate it to give themselves the pleasure of accusing all forms of government of impotence, and of thus exposing them to your blows, those people are flattering and deceiving you, or at the very least they are deceiving themselves.
As for us, we consider that the State is not, nor should it be, anything other than a common (police) force, instituted not to be an instrument of mutual oppression and plunder between all of its citizens, but on the contrary to guarantee to each person his own property and ensure the reign of justice and security.
The person who put his name to the article on "The State" in the Dictionnaire d"économie politique (1852), the aim of which was to provide a summation of the state of political economy in mid-19th century France with its immensely detailed essays on key economic concepts and numerous biographical and bibliographical articles, was the leading editor Charles Coquelin. It was Coquelin, who along with Gustave de Molinari, joined Bastiat in founding the revolutionary magazine La Républisque française (February-March 1848) and Jacques Bonhomme (June-July 1848) in which an early draft of the essay on "The State" was published in June 1848. The majority of the five column, closely printed article was devoted to long quotes from Bastiat's pamphlet - Bastiat's offer of a million france prize for the best definition of the state, his list of the demands for increased state functions, the list of taxes he wanted to abolish immediately, his lengthy critique of the Manifesto of the Montagnards, and his concluding remarks about the three competing theories of the state which now faced France. However, somewhat surprisingly, Coquelin did not quote Bastiat's famous definition of the State in spite of mentioning his offer of considerable prize money. In spite of some tut-tutting about Bastiat's use of "the sting of ridicule" Coquelin was effusive in his praise for Bastiat's theory of the state with its limited powers and low taxes and it was Bastiat's view which was to remain the orthodox position of the political economists for the next decade or two.
Modern readers of economics do not find it strange when an economist uses "thought experiments" to help simplify and clarify complex economic arguments. Members of the Austrian school resort to this process as a matter of course because it helps them establish the logic of "human action" which every economic actor must face when making decisions about what to produce or what to exchange. Bastiat, too, found it helpful to make use of the fictional figure of Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked on his Island of Despair in his thought experiments to show the obstacles which need to be overcome in order for Crusoe to achieve some level of prosperity, the opportunity costs of using one's time on one task rather than another, the need to deprive himself of some comforts in order to accumulate some savings, and (when Friday and visitors from other islands appear on the scene) the benefits of the division of labor and the nature of comparative advantage in trade. We have come across two instances in the Economic Sophisms where Bastiat uses Crusoe to make his points, one in the essay "Property and Plunder" (in vol. 2), and multiple references in Economic Harmonies (in vol. 5).
In an unpublished outline or sketch most likely written in early 1847 Bastiat uses Robinson Crusoe for the first time to simplify the economic arguments for free trade. Crusoe is a character introduced in the essay "Midi à quatorze heures" by the defender of free trade who is in the middle of a long argument with a protectionist. The context of the discussion is the impact of the Treaty of Methuen which was a commercial treaty between England and Portugal signed in 1703 during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). It allowed for the free entry of English textiles into Portugal and was accused by protectionists of having caused a decline in the Portuguese economy. Bastiat uses Crusoe as a stand in for "Portugal" in an argument with a French protectionist to show how Crusoe would benefit from trade, just as Portugal did after its economy was exposed to British competition after the signing of the Treaty. Bastiat begins by giving a concise explanation of how he plans to use the Crusoe character to make his economic points, which suggests that this outline was the first one to use the Crusoe character in the elaboration of "Crusoe economics":
Let us run off to the island to see the poor shipwrecked sailor. Let us see him in action. Let us examine the motives, the purpose, and the consequences of his actions. We will not learn everything there, in particular not those things that relate to the distribution of wealth in a society of many people, but we will glimpse the basic facts. We will observe general laws in their simplest form of action, and political economy is there in essence.
Let us apply this method to just a few problems.
This explanation shows some of the benefits using of "Crusoe economics" to explain economic ideas. It is useful for simplifying an examination of an individual's motives and purposes in taking certain actions, and then in assessing the consequences of those actions. By abstracting the single individual economic actor away from the crowd the observer can begin to figure out "general laws in their simplest form of action, and political economy is there in essence." Once this thought process has taken place and the method applied to just enough simple problems so the principles can be understood, they then can be applied to more complex economic arrangements where many people are involved.
Bastiat begins his discussion of Crusoe by looking at his attempts to catch fish, grow vegetables, and clothe himself alone on the island. Being a good European he expands his production by making a net (a "machine") which he does successfully by sacrificing his leisure time. A prohibitionist who is also part of the discussion fears that if visitors come to the island wanting to trade clothes Crusoe would be made worse off. In the Crusoe "thought experiment" the visitors take the place of "the English" who were permitted to trade their cheaper clothing in the Portuguese market under the Treaty of Methuen. Bastiat outlines Crusoe's thinking in agreeing to trade his vegetables for "foreign" clothes:
"Would we also be able to study the Treaty of Methuen on the Island of Despair?"
"Why not? Let us take a walk there. Do you see, Robinson Crusoe is busy making clothes to protect himself from the rain and cold. He is regretting the time he has to spend on this as he also needs to eat and his garden takes up all his time. But here is a canoe that has come to the island. The stranger that disembarks shows Robinson Crusoe some warm clothes, offers to trade them to him for a few vegetables and offers to continue this exchange in the future. Robinson Crusoe first looks to see whether the stranger is armed. Seeing that he has neither arrows nor a tomahawk, he says to himself: "After all, he cannot lay claim to anything that I do not agree to; let us have a look." He examines the clothes, calculates the number of hours he would spend making them himself and compares this with the number of hours he would have to add to his gardening work to satisfy the stranger. If he finds that the trade, while leaving him just as well fed and clothed, makes a few extra hours of his time available, he will accept, knowing full well that these hours saved are a net gain, whether he devotes them to work or leisure. If, on the other hand, he thinks that the bargain is not advantageous, he will refuse it. What need is there in this case for an external force to forbid it to him? He is able to refuse it himself.
After several pages of going back and forth the free trader armed with his Crusoe arguments is not able to fully convince the protectionist of his position and the discussion ends unsatisfactorily. This lack of resolution perhaps explains why Bastiat never finished the essay and never published it his usual journals.
The second occasion for Bastiat's use of Robinson Crusoe can be found in one of the Economic Sophisms Series II, "Something Else", which originally appeared in Le Libre-Échange on March 21, 1847. Bastiat, as he often does, has created a conversation between two intellectual opponents (in this case a Protectionist and a Free Trader) where the Protectionist asks the Free Trader to explain the effects of protectionism. The Free Trader replies "(t)hat is not so easy. Before considering the more complicated cases, one should study the simpler ones," before launching into a discussion of how Crusoe made a plank of wood without a saw. After two weeks of intense labor chipping away at a log with an axe Crusoe finally has his plank (and a blunt axe). He then sees that the tide has washed ashore a proper saw-cut plank and wonders what he should do next (the new plank is an obvious reference to a cheaper overseas import which the protectionists believed would harm the national French economy). Bastiat puts some protectionist notions in Crusoe's head and Crusoe now concludes that he can make more labor for himself (and therefore be better off according to the protectionists) if he pushed the plank back out to sea. The Free Trader exposes this economic fallacy by saying that there is something that is "not seen" by the Protectionist at first glance, namely "Did he not see that he could devote the time he could have saved to making something else?" (p. 244).
Bastiat then raises the level of complexity in his economic arguments by introducing a second and then a third person on Crusoe's island. By introducing a second person, Friday, Crusoe now has someone with whom he can cooperate and trade. They can pool their resources, plan their economic activities, develop a simple form of the division of labor, and even trade with each other. When a third person arrives from another island and proposes a trading relationship whereby Crusoe and Friday trade their vegetables for the visitor's game Bastiat now can explore the benefits of international comparative advantage in trade. Bastiat uses this three way conversation to make his points: interestingly, he gives Crusoe the protectionist arguments; Friday is given the domestic free trade arguments, and the visitor becomes an advocate of international free trade.
Another example can be found in the essay "Property and Plunder" [July 1848]. The context was a debate in the National Assembly on the question of "the right to work" legislation which Bastiat and the free market liberals strenuously opposed. The socialist supporters of the legislation believed that the state should provide work and wages for those who could not get any on the free market. Furthermore, wages should be raised if the state felt that workers were not being paid their "just" wage. Here Bastiat again introduces Crusoe and Friday to help explain why voluntary exchanges between individuals are both just and more productive than "exchanges" brought about by state imposed controls. On their island Crusoe hunts birds and Friday fishes in the sea. Their division of labor means that they can both benefit from exchanging with each other. In this essay Bastiat gives socialist arguments to Crusoe who believes the value of his birds are intrinsically worth more than the value of Friday's fish and that Friday should be forced to give him more fish than he would have if a free bargain had been made between them. Bastiat argues that in a freely made bargain there is an exchange of 'service for service" which leaves both parties better off. Friday tells Crusoe that if he insists on being paid a premium for his birds then he, Friday, will take up his own hunting when he needs a bird to eat, and that no trading will take place, thus leaving them both worse off compared to what would have happened if they had engaged in free trade.
Many of these arguments were to come together in Bastiat's major theoretical treatise, Economic Harmonies, which appeared half finished just before he died in 1850 and in a more complete form (though not fully) soon after. This work contains at least six major uses of "Crusoe economics" as Bastiat makes his case for the free market in chapters on "Exchange", "Capital", and "Private Property and Common Wealth".
Bastiat is one of the first (perhaps even the first) economist to make extensive use of "Crusoe economics" in his elaboration of the fundamentals of free market economics. In a search of the economic works on the Online Library of Liberty for references to "Robinson Crusoe" in works written before Bastiat in 1847 we find that there are no references at all in the works of Adam Smith, in J.B. Say's Treatise on Political Economy, or the works of David Ricardo. There are only single references scattered across the writings of economists who were writing in the 1810s, 1820s and 1830s, such as Jeremy Bentham, Jane Marcet, Thomas Babbington Macaulay, Richard Whately, and Thomas Hodgskin and none of them uses the Robinson Crusoe analogy to express serious economic ideas. In the case of Richard Whately (1831), he firmly rejected the use of Crusoe in any discussion of the nature of political economy because in his view the study of economics was the study of "exchanges" and, since Crusoe did not engage in any exchanges, he was "in a situation of which Political-Economy takes no cognizance." As we have seen in the examples from Bastiat's works, issues of economizing and opportunity costs are amenable to discussion using Crusoe "thought experiments" and of course exchange does enter the picture when Friday is introduced.
Another economist who made considerable use of "Crusoe economics" in his writing was the American economist Henry C. Carey (1793-1879) who was well known to Bastiat. Carey charged him with plagiarizing his (Carey's) work on "the harmony of interests" which appeared in 1851 (and which Bastiat had seen in manuscript) in his (Bastiat's) Economic Harmonies which appeared in 1850. A study of Carey's writings shows that in his early work Principles of Political Economy (1837-1840) there are no references to Crusoe at all, but in his later Principles of Social Science (1858-1860) there are over a dozen significant references where Carey does employ "Crusoe economics" to make his points. Perhaps here a case might be made that Carey has plagiarized Bastiat. Whatever the merits of the case might be, Bastiat's extensive use of "Crusoe economics" between 1847 and 1850 may well be an original contribution to economic reasoning.
In an important essay called "Two Moralities" which was the second essay in the Second Series of Economic Sophisms which appeared in January 1848, Bastiat reflects on what he is trying to achieve in writing the Economic Sophisms and how he can best achieve this aim. He calls the system of legal plunder which he wants to eliminate "malevolent action" and sums up the two pronged task he thinks is necessary to achieve this in the following way:
There are therefore two opportunities for a malevolent action to be eliminated: the voluntary abstention of the active being [those doing the plundering] and the resistance of the passive being [those being plundered].
The first of the two moralities, "religious morality", has a role to play in the former, i.e. to persuade those carrying out the plundering to see the immorality of what they are doing and to cease doing it. Bastiat is extremely sceptical that this has ever worked in history, pointing out that no ruling class has ever voluntarily given up their privileges because of any moral qualms they might have had about them. Instead, he thinks it should be the task of political economy, or "economic morality", to assist those being plundered to resist their oppressors "actively". In another passage he states:
It (political economy) shows them the effects of human actions and, by this simple demonstration, stimulates them to react against the actions that hurt them and honor those that are useful to them. It endeavors to disseminate enough good sense, enlightenment and justified mistrust in the oppressed masses to make oppression increasingly difficult and dangerous... The sum of evil always outweighs the good, and this has to be so, since the very fact of oppression leads to a depletion of force, creates dangers, triggers retaliation and requires costly precautions. A simple revelation of these effects is thus not limited to triggering a reaction in those oppressed, it rallies to the flag of justice all those whose hearts have not been corrupted and undermines the security of the oppressors themselves.
There is room for cooperation between the "two moralities" which could be more effective if it were organized into a "pincer movement" in the war against vice and legal plunder:
Let these two moralities, therefore, work hand in hand instead of mutually decrying one another, and attack vice in a pincer movement. While economists are doing their job, opening the eyes of the Orgons, uprooting preconceived ideas, stimulating just and essential mistrust and studying and exposing the true nature of things and actions, let religious moralists for their part carry out their more attractive but difficult work. Let them engage iniquity in hand-to-hand combat. Let them pursue it right into the deepest fibers of the heart. Let them paint the charms of benevolent action, abnegation and self-sacrifice. Let them open the source of virtues where we can only turn off the source of vice: that is their task, and one that is noble and fine.
Bastiat's particular political goals in organizing a French free trade movement, engaging in popular economic journalism, and standing for election can be summarized as follows: to expose the bad effects of government intervention in the economy; to uproot preconceived and incorrect economic ideas; to arouse a sense of injustice at the immoral actions of the government and its favoured elites; to create "justified mistrust among the oppressed masses" of the beneficiaries of government privilege; and to open the eyes and stiffen the resistance of "the dupes" of government policies. The problem he faced was to discover the best way to achieve this for a popular audience which was gullible about the government's professed motives in regulating the economy and who were largely ignorant of economic theory.
A major problem Bastiat is acutely aware of is that political economy had a justified reputation for being "dry and dull" and it was this reputation that Bastiat wanted to overcome with the style he adopted in the Sophisms. The issue was how to be appealing to popular readers whom he believed had become "the dupes" of those benefitting from the system of legal plunder. The means Bastiat adopted to achieve his political goals was to write in a style which ordinary people would find appealing, amusing, and convincing and an analysis of the devices he used in composing his Sophisms reveals the great efforts Bastiat took in trying to do this.
Before discussing the numerous rhetorical devices Bastiat used in his Sophisms it is instructive to also examine the variety of formats in which he published his material. He did not stick to any hard or fast approach to his writing. Sometimes he would write just an ephemeral article on a local issue which had no further use or purpose. At other times he would write an article for a small journal and then adapt it for inclusion in a printed collection such as Economic Sophisms I (1846) and Economic Sophisms II (1848). Each article therefore needs to be understood in the light of the original place of publication and the audience for whom it was written. We have indicated wherever possible in a footnote this contextual information in order to help the reader. The following are the different publishing formats he used for his writings:
The style and the rhetorical devices Bastiat used in the individual Sophisms show considerable variety and skill in their construction. Bastiat has been justly recognized for his excellent style by economists such as Friedrich Hayek and the historian of economic thought Joseph Schumpeter, but this has not been studied in any detail. Schumpeter described Bastiat in very mixed terms as a brilliant economic journalist but as "no theorist" at all:
Admired by sympathizers, reviled by opponents, his name might have gone down to posterity as the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived... I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist.
Friedrich Hayek seems to agree with Schumpeter that Bastiat was not a major theorist but that he was "a publicist of genius" who did pioneering work in exposing economic fallacies held by the general public. Nevertheless, Schumpeter did acknowledge a key aspect of Bastiat's style noting that "(a) series of Sophismes économiques followed, whose pleasant wit... has ever since been the delight of many."
A fuller list of the rhetorical devices used by Bastiat in the Sophisms shows the breadth and complexity of what one might call his "rhetoric of liberty" which he formulated to expose the follies of the policies of the ruling elite and their system of "legal plunder," and to undermine their authority and legitimacy with "the sting of ridicule":
Our study of Bastiat's Sophisms reveals a well read man who was familiar with classic French literature, contemporary songs and poems, and opera. The sheer number and range of material which Bastiat was able to draw upon in his writings is very impressive. It not only includes the classics of political economy in the French, Spanish, Italian, and English languages but also a very wide collection of modern French literature which includes the following: fables and fairy tales by La Fontaine and Perrault; plays by Molière, Beaumarchais, Victor Hugo, Regnard, Désaugiers, Collin d'Harleville; songs and poems by Béranger and Depraux, short stories by Andrieux, odes by Horace, operas by Rossini, poems by Boileau-Despréaux and Viennet, and satires by Courier de Méré. The plays of Molière were Bastiat's favourite literary source to quote and he used Tartuffe, or the Imposter (1664), The Misanthrope (1666), L"Avare (The Miser) (1668), Le Bourgeois gentihomme (The Would-Be Gentleman) (1670), and Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) (1673).
Sometimes Bastiat quotes from memory and gets the lines wrong or confused. This suggests that he had memorized a large repertoire of poems, songs, stories, and scenes of plays from his youth but in his considerable haste to get a large amount of material ready for publication in a very short time (most of his writing was composed between 1845-1850) he occasionally got some details incorrect. His interest in more contemporary French literature was a result of the innovative education he received at the College of Saint-Sever and then the Benedictine École de Sorze (1814-1818) where the school encouraged the study of modern subjects and languages such as English, Italian, Spanish and not the Greek and Roman classics which he came to despise as the culture of a society which engaged in conquest, slavery, and plunder. The school also allowed him to learn the cello which began a life-long love of music, especially opera.
The significance of Bastiat's interest in modern literature is that he is able to use it to illustrate his potentially "dry and dull" economic and political arguments in a form of speech and to use social situations which were much more familiar to his readers than quoting ancient Greek and Latin authors would have permitted. For example, he quotes many times from Molière's plays in order to show the follies of members of the bourgeois class who attempted to ape the manners and speech of the nobility who are universally hostile to having careers in the free market and to bourgeois values in general. A sampling of Bastiat's use of modern French literature is quite instructive.
The fables of Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695) provide a rich source of material which can be used as political or economic fables or parables to criticise and mock political figures. The story about "The Weasel that got caught in the Storeroom" (La belette entrée dans un grenier) is about a weasel which was able to squeeze through a small hole in the wall in order to get into a farmer's grain storage room so it could steal his provisions. It is a clear reference by Bastiat to the predatory behaviour of politicians, government employees, and their favourites who wish to take tax-payers" money in order to fund their projects. In this case Bastiat draws on Fontaine's fable in a discussion of the bloated "great standing armies and the powerful navies" which have grown fat on heavy taxes. Once inside the store room the weasel (a politician or the military) ate so much food that it got too big to get back out through the same hole in the wall. A rat, on seeing its predicament, says that after five or six days of not eating "you would have then a belly which is much less full. You were thin to get in, you'll have to be thin to get out." Perhaps the moral of this tale according to Bastiat is that politicians and other tax-consuming vested interests like the military who "grow fat" on taxes will have to drastically change their behaviour if they wish to escape their predicament when the tax paying "dupes" wise up to what is going on.
Bastiat usually avoided quoting ancient Roman authors because of his contempt for their moral and political philosophy. He saw them as members of a warrior and slave owning elite who had little of value to say to modern readers living in a commercial society. The exception here is Bastiat's quoting of a French poet LeBrun who wrote an imitation of one of Horace's Odes (1834) in which the author claims his poetry will outlast the memory of the tyrants of his day, in a work which recalls to mind Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ozymandias" (1818):
Thanks to the Muse who inspires me,
this monument is finished
which neither sword nor flood will ever destroy.
Even the sky, armed with lightning,
will not be able to reduce it to ashes:
The centuries will also try in vain.
It will defy the grasping tyrants,
hardier than the pyramids
and more lasting than bronze.
In this poem the author suggests that works of art and culture were more valuable and longer lasting than the reigns of tyrants and emperors who rose and fell with monotonous regularity in human history. Of course, the most recent example of this was Napoleon under whose reign Bastiat lived during the first fourteen years of his life and whose legacy so appalled classical liberals such as Benjamin Constant, Jean-Baptiste Say, and all the other political economists Bastiat was associated with in his day. Bastiat cites this poem in the "Conclusion" to Economic Sophisms Series I as he reflects on the importance of economic laws in explaining how wealth is created and how societies prosper or decline according to how well they follow these laws. The "monument" Bastiat has in mind is the book which best provides an exposition of these economic laws and thus can "destroy all sophisms at a stroke", most likely a book such as Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) or Jean-Baptiste Say's Treatise of Political Economy (1803). Perhaps Bastiat thought he could write such a book as he worked on his magnum opus on economic theory, the Economic Harmonies, in the hope that it would become such "an imposing and durable edifice".
Speaking truth to those who do not want to hear it is also a theme Bastiat turned to on more than one occasion. In "Theft by Subsidy" SE2 IX he quotes a scene from Molière's play The Misanthrope (1666) where Alceste, a misanthrope, is trying to tell Oronte, a foolish nobleman, that his verse is poorly written and worthless. Because of the power of the nobleman he has to be very careful what he says. To offend him by telling him the truth might incur his wrath and bring down punishment on Alceste. After many attempts at avoiding the answer with circumlocutions Alceste finally says that the nobleman's attempt at writing poetry is hopeless and that "Franchement, il est bon à metre au cabinet" (frankly, it is only good to be thrown into the toilet). Bastiat quotes this scene in the course of explaining to an audience of sympathetic political economists in the Journal des Économistes that the time for high theoretical and "the politest circumlocutions" is over and that advocates of free trade need to use a more "brutal style" when trying to convince their opponents. Their protectionist opponents needed to be 'shouted out" in "an explosion of plain speaking" where protectionism is described in the bluntest terms possible as "theft" and "plunder."
Another group who do not like to hear the truth spoken to them are the kings, emperors, and other tyrants who rule the world. This example comes from our volume two where Bastiat quotes a story by the contemporary poet and playwright Franois Andrieux (1759-1833). Andrieux had been a member of the liberal Girondin group during the Revolution before taking up a number of academic positions under Napoléon. Bastiat was particularly interested in Andrieux's tale "The Miller of Sans-Souci," which was read at a public meeting of the Institute on 15 Germinal an 5 (4 April 1797). The story is about an ordinary German mill owner who had the courage to speak the truth to power, namely, to King Frederick the Great. One might note that Bastiat is the Frenchman of his day who had the courage to speak some unpalatable truths to power, in his case the socialists and interventionists who had come to power during the revolution of 1848. Bastiat refers to this tale several times in his writings, and it is not hard to see why it became one of his favorite anecdotes.
The liberal republican Andrieux depicts an entrepreneurial mill owner who is determined to keep his property when ordered to hand it over to the state in order to satisfy the whim of Frederick the Great in expanding the size of his palace. Not only does Frederick take the name of the mill, "Sans-Souci," as the name for his palace, but he also wants to tear down the mill and its large rotating blades in order to have a clear view of the countryside. The mill owner refuses, saying that he does not want to sell the mill to anybody, that his father is buried there, that his son was born there, and that the mill is as valuable to him as Potsdam is to the Prussian emperor.
Frederick slyly replies that if he wanted to he could seize the miller's property, as he was the "master." The resolute and fearless miller says to Frederick's face, "You? Take my mill? Yes, (you might) if we didn't have judges in Berlin." Frederick smiles at the naive thought that his subjects really believed that justice of this kind actually existed under his reign and tells his courtiers to leave the miller alone as an act of noblesse oblige. Andrieux concludes his tale with a reflection on the nature of the power of emperors, reminding his readers that the warrior Frederick had seized Silesia and put Europe to the torch: "These are the games princes play. They respect a miller but steal a province."
Bastiat quotes Andrieux's tale about the Miller and Frederick the Great in the "Third Letter" published as a series of Five Letters in the Journal des Débats in July 1848 and addressed to the socialist Victor Considérant on the nature of private property. In this Letter Bastiat reflects on how individuals in a state of nature have the right to claim land as their own property in a very Lockeian manner. He uses a "thought experiment" much like his stories about Robinson Crusoe but does not use the "Crusoe" figure by name, instead talking about "savages on an island" who peacefully go about creating private property in land, trading their produce, and renting pieces of it to each other. When voluntary trades between individuals cannot be made because of disagreements over price each party has the right to refuse to enter into the exchange and can walk away without penalty. Bastiat thought this was a much more satisfactory solution to the problem of property ownership and the settlement of disputes than the Miller's naive faith in the honesty and dependability of judges in Frederick the Great's Prussia.
Sometimes Bastiat goes beyond quoting a famous scene from a well-known classic work and adapts it for his own purposes by rewriting it as a parody. A good example of this is Molière's parody of the granting of a degree of doctor of medicine in the last play he wrote Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) (1673) which Bastiat quotes in "Theft by Subsidy" (JDE January 1846). Molière is suggesting that doctors in the seventeenth century were quacks who did more harm to their patients than good, as this translation clearly suggests:
I give and grant you
Power and authority to Practice medicine,
Throughout the whole world.
Bastiat's takes Molière's Latin and writes his own pseudo-Latin, this time with the purpose of mocking French tax collectors. In his parody Bastiat is suggesting that government officials, tax collectors, and customs officials were thieves who did more harm to the economy than good, so Bastiat writes a mock "swearing in" oath which he thinks they should use to induct new officials into government service:
I give to you and I grant
virtue and power
At will, along this whole road
The behaviour of kings to take what they like when they like from their subjects is another theme which attracted Bastiat for obvious reasons. In Charles Perrault's fairy tale "Donkeyskin" (1694) the morale of the story is that sometimes ordinary people have to go to considerable lengths to prevent a king from exercising his arbitrary power. Perrault worked as an administrator serving under Jean-Baptiste Colbert during the reign of Louis XIV. After Colbert's death in 1683 he lost his position and turned to writing children's stories. The fairy tale "Donkeyskin" is about a princess who was desired by her own father, the king, to be his next wife after his first wife, the princess' mother, died. The princess' fairy godmother told her to wear the skin of a donkey as a disguise in order to avoid her father's attentions.
Bastiat no doubt enjoyed the story because it showed how those who were without power could deceive and outwit those who wielded absolute and irresponsible power. He mentions the fairy story in the Sophism "The Mayor of Enios" who was a dictatorial mayor of a small town on the banks of a river. Bastiat describes the mayor as "a pasha" and an arch Napoleonist who used conscript labour supplied by the local inhabitants to carry out public works and who eventually became corrupted by his extreme political powers. After reading protectionist ideas in Le Moniteur he decided to impose high tariffs on the only bridge across the river in order to "increase communal wealth" even if it meant disrupting trade in the greater Département and impoverishing the town's inhabitants. The fairy godmother in Bastiat's tale was the local Prefect who believed in free trade within the country but not internationally. He therefore refused to allow a tyrannical local mayor to have his way, thus allowing the local people to return to the normal trading relationships they had enjoyed with the region before the mayor abused his powers. Bastiat's point of course is that the local mayor was only using the same logic as the national protectionists like the Prefect. If restricting trade locally was harmful, then so too was restricting trade internationally - and for exactly the same economic reasons.
Another story in a similar vein comes from a poem or song written by a "goguettier" who was a member of a social club (une goguette) where political, patriotic and drinking songs were sung. The members of these clubs were ordinary people, often from the lower or middle class, who would gather to talk politics when other forms of political association were forbidden or strictly limited. Bastiat quotes a number of Goguettiers (Paul Émile Debraux, P.J. Béranger) and this suggests that he knew their works quite well, perhaps even knowing some of their works by heart which raises the intriguing possibility that he had attended meetings of the clubs in person. One song Bastiat refers to is a satirical song by Pierre-Jean Béranger (1780-1857) who made a name for himself mocking Emperor Napoleon and then all the monarchs of the Restoration period in turn. Bastiat mentions the song "Le Roi d"Yvetot" (The King of Yvetot) (May 1813) which is a thinly disguised criticism of Napoleon. The minor Seigneur Yvetot behaved in his district as if he were a king and tormented the local populace accordingly, taxing them heavily and pursuing the young girls to his heart's content. Verse IV goes:
So well he pleased the damsels all,
The folks could understand
A hundred reasons him to call
The Father of his Land.
His troops levied in his park
But twice a year - to hit a mark,
Ha! ha! ha! ha! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!
A kingdom match with Yvetot!
Another verse in particular might have caught Bastiat's eye as it deals with the burdens of taxation; from verse III:
No costly regal tastes had he,
Save thirstiness alone;
But ere a people blest can be,
We must support the throne!
So from each cask new tapp"d he got,
(His own tax-gath"rer), on the spot,
Ha! ha! ha! ha! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!
A kingdom match with Yvetot!
In his correspondence Bastiat mentions Béranger several times which shows how close his personal relationship was to the poet and song writer as well as how closely connected some artists like Béranger were to the political economists like Bastiat. In a letter to his friend Felix Coudroy (Bayonne 5 August 1830) Bastiat relates his activities in the 1830 Revolution (27-29 July) when the garrison in Bayonne was split over whether or not to side with the revolution or the sitting monarch Charles X. Bastiat visited the garrison in order to speak to some of the officers in order to swing them over the revolutionary cause. In a midnight addition to his letter Bastiat relates how some good wine and the songs of Béranger helped him persuade the officers that night:
The 5th at midnight
I was expecting blood but it was only wine that was spilt. The citadel has displayed the tricolor flag. The military containment of the Midi and Toulouse has decided that of Bayonne; the regiments down there have displayed the flag. The traitor JÉÉÉ thus saw that the plan had failed, especially as the troops were defecting on all sides; he then decided to hand over the orders he had had in his pocket for three days. Thus, it is all over. I plan to leave immediately. I will embrace you tomorrow.
This evening we fraternized with the garrison officers. Punch, wine, liqueurs and above all, Béranger contributed largely to the festivities. Perfect cordiality reigned in this truly patriotic gathering. The officers were warmer than we were, in the same way as horses which have escaped are more joyful than those that are free.
In the Sophism "Protection or the Three Municipal Magistrates" Bastiat again quotes Béranger. This Sophism has the distinction of being the only one he wrote as a small play with numerous actors in four 'scenes." The play opens with three municipal magistrates scheming about how they can use protection to increase the local butter industry by keeping out "foreign" butter from Normandy. In scene three, some twenty years later, a father and his son are reflecting on their need to leave Paris because the policies of the magistrates had ruined the city's economy and forced many industries to close down. In scene four Jacques Bonhomme has become an agitator urging the overthrow of the protectionist policies of the city and the restoration of freedom. His exchanges with "The People" as he debates the protectionist "Pierre" are very funny as the fickle People change their demands depending on whoever had spoken last, perhaps reflecting Bastiat's own frustrations and difficulties in appealing to ordinary people on the issue of free trade.
Béranger was a particular favourite of Bastiat who referred to his satirical poems and songs several times. The song "Mandement des vicaires généraux de Paris" (Pastoral from the vicars general of Paris) (1817) is a satirical song which mocks the ruling elites of the early Restoration who blamed every problem of the day on the influence of the ideas of Rousseau and Voltaire. A typical verse is the following: "In order to teach children that they were born to be slaves, shackles were fitted when they first learned to move. If mankind is free in the cradle it is the fault of Rousseau; if reason enlightens them then it is the fault of Voltaire." This suggests that conservative critics of any reform in a liberal direction are out of touch with the needs of ordinary people who no doubt never read Rousseau or Voltaire, but who nevertheless knew they wanted to be free.
Bastiat quotes this song in the context of a discussion about the losses which are incurred when any protectionist tariff is imposed on a transaction. He had been particularly impressed by the arguments of the English free trader and Anti-Corn Law League supporter, Colonel Perronnet Thompson, who had developed an algebraic formula for describing these losses which he called "the double incidence of loss". Thompson's formula had proven to be so influential in the ensuing debate about the merits of free trade in England that his name had been bandied about so often by the opposition in their efforts to refute him that the underlying arguments on which his formula had depended had been forgotten. Thus Perronnet Thompson's name had been misused much like Rousseau's and Voltaire's in Béranger's song as a scapegoat for every ill the protectionists identified in the free trade cause. Because of this Bastiat wanted to NOT mention his name and return to the underlying reasons and arguments that lay behind Thompson's formula.
If a pattern emerges from the examples cited above it is that Bastiat likes to use literary references to show his readers that economic issues need not be "dull and dry" and to help him expose the nature of politicians and the political and economic power they wield. Thus in a witty and clever way he induces the reader to see things the way they are and to share his disdain for those who misuse their power and to encourage them to no longer think like "dupes".
The Sophisms also reveal a man who has a very good sense of humour and an understanding of how humour can be used for political purposes as well as to make political economy less "dry and dull" for average readers. Sprinkled throughout the Sophisms are Bastiat's own jokes, plays on words, and puns. For example, in "The Tax Collector" Bastiat creates a dialogue between Jacques Bonhomme (a wine producer like Bastiat himself) and a Tax Collector, a M. "Lasouche". Lasouche is a made up name which Bastiat creates to poke fun at his adversaries. The FEE translator translated "M. Lasouche" as "Mr. Clodpate." Since "la souche" means a tree stump, log, or plant stock, we thought "Mr. Blockhead" might be appropriate in our new translation.
This play on words requires some knowledge of Latin. In "Reciprocity" Bastiat creates two fictitious towns which he calls "Stulta" and "Puera" as part of a fable about how towns create artificial obstacles to trade in order to boost their own local economies. The names of the towns "Stulta" and "Puera" are plays on the Latin words 'stultus" for foolish, and "puer/puera" for young boy or girl; thus one might translate them as "Stupidville" and "Childishtown". There are also puns on French words such as "haut" (high or tall) and "gauche" (left). In "High Prices, Low Prices" Bastiat discusses how protectionists usually prefer "high prices" while free traders prefer "low prices". In the course of his argument he makes a play on the word "haut" (high) in the passage "Would it not be amusing to see low prices becoming the watchword in Rue Hauteville ("Highville") and high ones lauded in the Rue Choiseul" The joke is that the Rue Hauteville was the headquarters of the Odier Committee and the Association for the Defense of National Work (a protectionist organization) and the Rue Choiseul was the headquarters of the Association for Free Trade which Bastiat lead at one time. In "The Right Hand and the Left Hand" Bastiat continues his strategy of making reductio ad absurdum arguments in order to ridicule his opponents. In this case he is showing that by rejecting free trade, the protectionists are just making extra work for themselves by making it harder to buy goods more cheaply elsewhere. In this Sophism Bastiat suggests that in order to make more work for themselves they should think about passing a law to make everybody tie their right hand behind their back and only use their left (gauche) hand to work with. He wittily refers to this practice as a form of "gaucherie" or clumsiness.
Sometimes Bastiat is able to laugh at himself as well at as his adversaries. In "The Fear of a Word" a discussion takes place between an Economist and an Artisan and the conversation comes to the problem of the meaning of words and how some people fear the words more than they do their meaning. It probably happened on occasion to Bastiat when he was campaigning for the Free Trade Association that discussion would get bogged down in the different meanings of key phrases such as "free trade" (libre-échange) and "freedom to trade" (échange libre). The phrase "free trade" was frightening to the Artisan because of its politically charged meaning in the free trade movement both in France and in Britain. The Artisan however is more comfortable with the less threatening phrase "freedom to trade". The Economist points out to him that although the two phrases have a different word order in French they in fact mean exactly the same thing. In the Sophism the Artisan says literally, "So free trade and trade free is the same as white bonnet and bonnet white" and both sides laugh at the silliness of it all.
Another example of his self-deprecating humour is in "A Little Manual for Consumers, in other words for everyone" where Bastiat makes fun of the problems he and others faced in coming to terms with technical economic expressions, in this case "to consume," "the consumer", and "consumption." Here Bastiat likens these difficult and ugly words to so many barflies that one cannot get rid of, perhaps expressing some frustration at the difficult task he had set himself in trying to make them understandable to the general public. No doubt he had to "consume" a few glasses in the course of his agitation for free trade and, coming from a wine producing region like Les Landes, Bastiat probably knew what he was talking about here:
Consume – Consumer – Consumption; these are ugly words that represent people as so many barflies, constantly with a coffee cup or a wine glass in front of them. But political economy is obliged to use them. (I am referring to the three words, not the wine glass.)
It is interesting to speculate whether the strategy of using irony, sarcasm, parody, mockery, puns, and other forms of humour in his writing was an explicit and deliberate one, or one that just naturally arose out of his jovial personality. A clue comes from an article he wrote in early 1846 soon after the appearance of the First Series of Economic Harmonies. In an article in the Journal des Économistes of January 1846, "Theft by Subsidy" ES2 IX, he opens with the following testy remarks:
People find my small volume of Sophisms too theoretical, scientific and metaphysical. So be it. Let us try a superficial, banal and, if necessary, brutal style. Since I am convinced that the general public are easily taken in as far as protection is concerned, I wanted to prove it to them. They prefer to be shouted at. So let us shout:
Midas, King Midas has ass's ears!
An explosion of plain speaking often has more effect than the politest circumlocutions. Do you remember Oronte and the difficulty that the Misanthropist, as misanthropic as he is, has in convincing him of his folly?
It is seems that he was stung by some critical reviews of Economic Sophisms Series I for being "too theoretical, scientific and metaphysical" and thus failing to achieve his major aim, which was to appeal to a broader popular audience. As a result he may well have decided deliberately to use more sarcasm, humour, and parody in future Sophisms. An analysis of the format of ES1 suggests that this might have been the case: of the 22 essays 14 (or 68%) were in formal prose (although often quite conversational) and 6 (or 27%) were in the form of the often amusing and clever dialogs, economic tales, and fictional letters and other documents. The "Theft by Subsidy" article was unusually angry and bitter for Bastiat as it contained some strong words about the need to call "a spade a spade" regardless of the sensitivities of common opinion; in this case he wanted to call most government policies a form of theft and the protectionist system in France a form of "mutual theft" (p. 113):
Frankly, my good people, you are being robbed. That is plain speaking but at least it is clear.
The words, theft, to steal and thief seem to many people to be in bad taste. Echoing the words of Harpagon to Elise, I ask them: Is it the word or the thing that makes you afraid?
It was in the course of this angry tirade against the government and his critical reviewers that Bast wrote one of his sharpest, wittiest, and bitterest pieces of humour - his parody of Molière's parody of quack doctors in Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) which is quoted at length above in which Bastiat writes an "Swearing In" Oath for government employees.
This experience may have convinced Bastiat to alter the balance of his Sophisms in the next series to be published two years later, just before the outbreak of the Revolution. In that collection which had five fewer essays than the first (17 rather than 22) the number of essays in standard prose dropped from 15 (68%) to 4 (24%) and the number of more humorous dialogs, tales, and fictional documents was increased from 6 (27%) to 9 (41%). Bastiat seemed more determined than ever to reach the people and to avoid making economic arguments "dry and dull".
It is possible that after the appearance of the more humorous Second Series of Economic Sophisms Bastiat thought he might have gone too far in the opposite direction. In the article "Disastrous Illusions" which appeared in the Journal des économistes shortly after the outbreak of Revolution in February 1848 he expressed his very serious worries about where the revolution was heading, seeing the rise of socialist and protectionist ideas among the revolutionaries as very dangerous and perhaps presaging the "rock on which our beloved Republic will founder". If this were true, then it was no time for his joking, punning, parodying:
I would keep quiet if it were a matter only of temporary measures that were required and to some extent justified by the upheaval of the great revolution that we have just accomplished, but what people are demanding are not exceptional remedies but the application of a system. Forgetting that citizens" purses fill that of the State, they want the State's purse to fill those of the citizens.
I do have to make it clear that it is not by using irony and sarcasm that I will be striving to dispel this disastrous illusion. In my view at least, it casts a somber shadow over the future, which I very much fear will be the rock on which our beloved Republic will founder. 
Bastiat spent much time between February 1848 and Christmas 1850 working hard to prevent the rapid increase in the power of the state both in a socialist and in a protectionist direction in the Constituent and then the National Assembly, in which he served as vice president of the Finance Committee. He also struggled to complete his theoretical work Economic Harmonies as his health continued to fail making it very difficult to work for long periods of time during the last two years of his life. When his last work was published in July 1850, What is Seen and What is Not Seen (which we are including in volume 2 as part of his Economic Sophisms), the balance of serious essays and more humorous ones had shifted back closer to what they had been in the First Series - of the 12 essays only 2 (or 17%) were humorous dialogs and tales, while 10 (or a very large 83%) were in more formal prose. Paillottet says in a fascinating footnote that the pamphlet What is Seen and What is Not Seen was a year overdue in appearing in print as Bastiat had lost the manuscript in a house move and was forced to rewrite it. Since he was struggling in his own mind over the right balance to have between serious and humorous sophisms he decided that the second version was far too serious and he threw it into the fire in anger and frustration. He was happier with the third version of his manuscript which is the version that appeared in print in July 1850.
Thus one could conclude from this that Bastiat could not settle on the right balance of serious and humorous sophisms in his collections and fluctuated from one extreme to the other as circumstances changed in the tumultuous years between 1846 and 1850. In spite of this indecision one can still say that Bastiat succeeded in his aim of making the study of political economy less "dry and dull" in the Sophisms than in most other forms in which economic ideas had appeared in print up to that time. Quite sophisticated and sometimes complex economic ideas were made lively, amusing, contemporary, and interesting, perhaps even persuasive, which was of course his real purpose in resorting to these rhetorical devices in the first place.
This introduction to the collection of Bastiat's essays which he called "Economic Sophisms" has focused on a number of issues:
If nothing else, the publication of Bastiat's collected Economic Sophisms in this volume demonstrates that Bastiat deserves his reputation as one of the most gifted writers on economic matters. His skill at mixing serious and amusing ways of making his arguments is unsurpassed; the quality of his insights into profound economic issues are often exceptional; his ability to combine his political lobbying for the Free Trade Movement, his journalism, his political activities during the Revolution, and his scholarly activities is most unusual; and his humour, wit, and literary knowledge which he scatters throughout his writings is a constant joy to read and appreciate. He truly was and continues to be one of a kind.
 "De l"influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l"avenir des deux peuples," Journal des Économistes, October 1844, T. 9, pp. 244-71. I am building a chronological list of all of Bastiat's writings which will be publiushed in the 6th and final volume of his Collected Works. A partial list of material to date can be found at the OLL website here <http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1562&Itemid=281>.
 Bastiat's introduction to Cobden and the League (1845) will appear in vol. 6 of LF's edition of his Collected Works. Bastiat, Cobden et la ligue, ou l"Agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845). It is also volume 3 of the Oeuvres complètes.
 See the "Note on the Publishing History of the Economic Sophisms" (below) for details.
 Page number ??? of this volume.
 The number of Sophisms include the following: 22 for ES1 (published in January 1846; 17 for ES2 (published in January 1848); the 12 chapters of WSWNS (published in July 1850); and the 21 or 23 (depending on how one counts the smaller pieces which appeared in Jacques Bonhomme) which were written and published at various times but which first appeared in Paillottet's edition of his Oeuvres complètes in 1854. For statistical purposes in this paper we use the figure of 72 separate Sophisms.
 The abbreviations used in this section are: Economic Sophisms Series I (ES1), Economic Sophisms Series II (ES2), New Series from Libre-Échange (ESLE), and What is Seen and What is Not Seen (WSWNS), with the number following referring to the essay number in that collection. The essays written in informal or conversational prose can be found in ES1 I, II, III, IV, V, VI, IX, XI, XIV, XV, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXII; ES2 IV, V, VIII, XVII; ESLE 50, 51, 52, 55, 56, 58, 61; WSWNS II, III, IV, V, VI, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII.
 Essays in dialog form can be found in ES1 XIII, XVI, XXI; ES2 IX, X, XI, XII, XV; ESLE 54, 57, 59; WSWNS VII.
 The dialogs in which Robinson Crusoe appear can be found in ES2 XIV and ESLE 60. In volume two of Liberty Fund's edition there is a discussion of 'savages on an island" very much like the discussions elsewhere of Crusoe. See "Property and Plunder", p. 000. There are also multiple references to Robinson Crusoe in Economic Harmonies.
 Bastiat's economic tales can be found in ES1 VIII, X; ES2 VII, XIII; ESLE 63, 64, 65; WSWNS I.
 Bastiat's invented letters and petitions can be found in ES1 VII; ES2 III, XVI; ESLE 53, 62, 66, 67, 69.
 ES2 I "The Physiology of Plunder"; ES2 II "Two Moralities," IX "Theft by Subsidy;" ESLE 70 "Disastrous Illusions".
 Speech to the Workers ES1 XII; wall posters ESLE 68a, 68b.
 The motto at the head of Economic Sophisms Series I (1846) was "In political economy there is a lot to learn and very little to do" which comes from Théorie des peines et des recompenses, p. 270; the motto at the head of Economic Sophisms Series II (1848) was the advice Diogenes supposedly gave Alexander about what was his best course of action: "Get out of my sunlight!" which is a variation of the Physiocratic call for "Laissez faire". It comes from Théorie des peines et des recompenses, Tome Second, Book IV. "Des encouragements par rapport ˆ l"industrie et au commerce," p. 271. Bentham, Théorie des peines et des recompenses, ouvrage extrait des manuscrits de M. Jérémie Bentham, jurisconsulte anglais. Par M. Et. Dumont, Troisime edition. (Paris: Bossange frres, 1826, 1st edition 1811).
 "Sophismes anarchiques," pp. 271-392 in Tactique des Assemblées législatives, suivie d"un Traité des Sophismes politiques; Ouvrage extrait des manuscrits de M. Jérémie Bentham, Jusiconsulte anglois, par ƒt. Dumont, Membre du Conseil Représentatif du Canton de Genve, Tome II (Genve: J. J.Paschoud, 1816). The English language edition of "Anarchical Fallacies: Being and Examination of the Declaration of Rights issued during the French Revolution" appeared in vol. 2 of The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. < http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1921/114226>. See also Nonsense upon Stilts: Bentham, Burke and Marx on the Rights of Man, edited with introductory and concluding essays by Jeremy Waldron (London: Methuen, 1987). Bentham's famous dismissal of natural rights as "nonsense upon stilts" can be found in this volume: "Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense,—nonsense upon stilts." < http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1921/114230/2345508>
"Traité des Sophismes politiques", pp. 1-267 in Tactique des Assemblées législatives, suivie d"un Traité des Sophismes politiques; Ouvrage extrait des manuscrits de M. Jérémie Bentham, Jusiconsulte anglois, par ƒt. Dumont, Membre du Conseil Représentatif du Canton de Genve, Tome II (Genve: J. J.Paschoud, 1816). An English version of the book appeared with the editorial assistance of the Benthamite Peregrine Bingham the Younger, the Handbook of Political Fallacies, which appeared in 1824. See Jeremy Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, revised and edited by Harold A. Larrabee. Introduction to the Torchbook edition by Crane Brinton (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962); and also The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2. THE BOOK OF FALLACIES: FROM UNFINISHED PAPERS OF JEREMY BENTHAM. EDITED BY A FRIEND. <http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1921/114047>.
 Jeremy Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, revised and edited by Harold A. Larrabee. Introduction to the Torchbook edition by Crane Brinton (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962), p. 3.
 Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, p. xi.
 Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, p. 5.
 Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, p. 6.
 Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, p. 6.
 Handbook of Political Fallacies (1962), p. 7.
 Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, p. 11.
 Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies, p. 9.
 The Conclusion of Economic Sophisms I, p. 198.
 Charles Dupin, Le petit producteur français, in 7 vols. Volume 4: "Le petit commerçrant français" (Paris: Bachelier, 1827), p. ix-x.
 "Le petit commerçant français", p. ix-x.
 Economic Sophisms Series II, X. "The Tax Collector", p. ???
 Catechism on the Corn Laws; with a List of Fallacies and Answers (1st published 1827; 2nd ed. London: James Ridgway, 1827).
 Corn Law Fallacies, with the Answers (London: Effingham Wilson, 1839).
 Contre-Enqute: par l"Homme aux Quarante Ecus (1834).
 Conversations sur l"économie politique, dans lesquelles on expose d"une manire familire les éléments de cette science, etc trad. Par G. Prevost, neveu de l"auteur (Geneva and paris: Paschoud, 1817).
 Contes de Miss Harriet Martineau sur l'économie politique, traduit de l'anglais par M. B. Maurice (Paris: C. Gosselin, 1833-1839). Review by Gustave de Molinari, "Contes sur l"économie politique, par miss Harriet Martineau", in Journal des Économistes, No. 97, 15 avril 1849, pp. 77-82.
 Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare. Entretiens sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849).
 Conversations familires sur le commerce des grains (Paris: Guillaumin, 1855) which comprised a series of conversations on free trade in wheat between a "Rioter", a "Prohibitionist", and an "Economist".
 Conclusion of Economic Sophisms I, p. 199.
 See the many references to Comte and Dunoyer in Bastiat's correspondence in Vol. 1 of Works. See Charles Comte, Traité de législation, ou exposition des lois générales suivant lesquelles les peuples prosprent, dépérissent ou restent stationnaire, 4 vols. (Paris: A. Sautelet et Cie, 1827); Traité de la propriété, 2 vols. (Paris: Chamerot, Ducollet, 1834). And Charles Dunoyer, L'Industrie et la morale considérées dans leurs rapports avec la liberté (Paris: A. Sautelet et Cie, 1825); Nouveau traité d'économie sociale, ou simple exposition des causes sous l'influence desquelles les hommes parviennent ˆ user de leurs forces avec le plus de LIBERTƒ, c'est-ˆ-dire avec le plus FACILITƒ et de PUISSANCE (Paris: Sautelet et Mesnier, 1830), 2 vols.; De la liberté du travail, ou simple exposé des conditions dans lesquelles les force humaines s'exercent avec le plus de puissance (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845).
 Clément's main contribution was to begin categorizing the various kinds of "legal theft" ("vols") which had existed in French history up to the present (1848), which included aristocratic theft during the Old Regime, monarchical theft, theft by regulation ("vols réglementaires"), industrial theft, theft under the guise of philanthropy ("vols ˆ prétensions philanthropiques"), administrative theft. "De la spoliation légale," Journal des Économistes, No. 84, 15 juillet, 1848, pp. 363-374.
 Gustave de Molinari, L'évolution économique du XIXe sicle: théorie du progrs (Paris: C. Reinwald 1880); L'évolution politique et la révolution (Paris: C. Reinwald, 1884); ƒconomie de l'histoire: Théorie de l'ƒvolution (Paris: F. Alcan, 1908).
 In a proposed section of Economic Harmonies on "Disturbing Factors" Bastiat had planned the following chapters: 16. Plunder, 17. War, 18. Slavery, 19. Theocracy, 20. Monopoly, 21. Government Exploitation, 22. False Brotherhood or Communism. Aside from the first two chapters there were no notes or drafts found among Bastiat's papers at the time of his death.
 In vol. 1 of Bastiat's Works one should also note his letter to Mme. Cheuvreux of 23 June, 1850; and in vol. 2 the essays "Property and Plunder" and "Plunder and the Law" for additional thoughts on this topic. In vol. 5 (forthcoming) there is Paillottet's footnote at the end of chapter 10 of Economic Harmonies in which he relates Bastiat's plans for further work on the theory and history of plunder.
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 8
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 2. One should also note the similarity of FB's views to those of the sociologist Franz Oppenheimer who wrote The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922). <http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1662>.
 ""Le vol à la prime", Journal des économistes, January 1846, T. XIII, pp. 115-120; this also appeared in SE2 IX, pp. ???
 "Theft by Subsidy", p. 104.
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 2
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 2.
 "Conclusion" to Economic Sophisms I , p. 197.
 Vol 1 Works, Letter 176 to Mme Cheuvreux, 23 June 1850. p. 252.
 "The Working Class and the Bourgeoisie" 22 May 1847, Sophisms from Le Libre-Échange, pp. 11-12.
 "The Middlemen" in What is Seen and What is Not Seen, p. 33.
 "III. Taxes", in What is Seen and What is Not Seen, pp. 15-16.
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 5-6.
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, pp. 21, 24.
 The Conclusion of Economic Sophisms I, p. 198. The last paragraph of this quotation suggests that Bastiat's first collection of Economic Sophisms was assembled and printed in some haste, thus not allowing him to get the Dedication and Preface in the right order.
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, pp. 16ff.
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, pp. 20-21.
 "1. The Physiology of Plunder" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 7
 "II. The Two Moralities" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 43
 "II. The Two Moralities" in Economic Sophisms II, p. 45. In Molière's play Tartuffe, or the Imposter (1664) Tartuffe is a scheming hypocrite and Orgon is a well-meaning dupe.
 "The State (rough draft)" essay no. 8 in LF vol. 2 pp. ???.
 "The State (rough draft)", Jacques Bonhomme, 1st issue 11-15 June 1848. Vol.2 of LF's edition, pp. ???.
 "The State", essay no. 7 in LF's ed. vol. 2 "The Law," "The State," and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, pp. ???
 "Recipes for Protectionism" in Le Libre-Échange 27 December 1846 SLE , pp. ???
 p. ???
 "The Utopian" originally appeared in Le Libre-Échange in 17 January 1847 and was incorporated as essay XI in the Economic Sophisms Series II which was published in 1848.
 p. ???
 "The State", Jacques Bonhomme, 1st issue 11-15 June 1848, SLE, p. ???
 "The Immediate Relief of the People" and "A Disastrous Remedy" in Jacques Bonhomme, 12 March 1848 in LF's ed. pp. ???
 Paillottet notes in a footnote in Oeuvres complètes, T. II, p. 459 that the following two articles were written for Bastiat's revolutionary journal Jacques Bonhomme and were designed to be affixed to walls as posters in order to "enlighten the people" by "putting them free of charge before the eyes of passers-by"
 John 2: 1-11.
 This reminds one of the scene in Mike Nichols film of Catch-22 (1970) where two nurses distractedly treat a severely injured airman encased in a full body plaster cast.
 "Disastrous Illusions" JDE March 1848 in vol. 2 SLE, p. ???
 p. 238 draft translation. The new addition in this passage compared to his earlier list of cuts is the immediate abolition of taxes on workman's tools. Towards the end of the article Bastiat also refers to reorganizing the tax on wines and spirits (something he had advocated for a long time as a representative of the wine growing region of Les Landes) and the introduction of a new 'sumptuary tax" which he does not describe in any detail.
 "The State" in Journal des Débats, 25 September 1848. Republished in LF's edition vol. 2 p. ???
 "The State" in Selected Essays on Political Economy, (FEE 1964), pp. 140-151.
 p. ???
 The new Constitution of the Second Republic was approved by the National Assembly in a vote on 4 November 1848.
 I. - La France s'est constituée en République. En adoptant cette forme définitive de gouvernement, elle s'est proposée pour but de marcher plus librement dans la voie du progrs et de la civilisation, d'assurer une répartition de plus en plus équitable des charges et des avantages de la société, d'augmenter l'aisance de chacun par la réduction graduée des dépenses publiques et des impôts, et de faire parvenir tous les citoyens, sans nouvelle commotion, par l'action successive et constante des institutions et des lois, ˆ un degré toujours plus élevé de moralité, de lumires et de bien-être.
 James McClellan, Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government (3rd ed.) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000). APPENDIX C: Constitution of the United States of America (1787). <http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/679/68449>
 last 2 paragraphs of The State, p. ???
 DEP, vol. 1, pp. 733-36.
 Coquelin mentioned that a more sober assessment of how limited state functions should be and how they would be carried out in a free market was reserved to another article on "Gouvernement" written by one of Bastiat's intellectual mentors Charles Dunoyer. DEP, vol. 1, pp. 833-41.
 "Midi à quatorze heures," ESLE 60, our translation pp. 115ff.
 "Midi à quatorze heures", ESLE 60, our translation p. 115.
 ESLE 60, pp. 120-21. For Bastiat the freedom to refuse to enter into a trade was just as important as the freedom to negotiate one.
 "Something Else" ES2 XIV [Libre-Échange March 21, 1847] [FEE ed. p. 243 ff.]
 Essay 10 in vol. 2 "The Law," "The State," and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850.
 Richard Whately, Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, delivered in Easter Term 1831 (London: B. Fellowes, 2nd and enlarged ed. 1832). Chapter: Lecture I. "A man, for instance, in a desert island, like Alex. Selkirke, or the personage his adventures are supposed to have suggested, Robinson Crusoe, is in a situation of which Political-Economy takes no cognizance ". <http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1377/35830/1403616>
 Henry C. Carey, The Harmony of Interests, Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Commercial (Philadelphia: J. S. Skinner, 1851).
 Principles of Political Economy, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837-1840); Principles of Social Science, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1858-1860).
 II. Two Moralities" Economic Sophisms II, pp. 34-46.
 "II. Two Moralities" Economic Sophisms II, p. 38.
 "II. Two Moralities" Economic Sophisms II, p. 43.
 "II. Two Moralities" Economic Sophisms II, p. 39.
 "II. Two Moralities" Economic Sophisms II, p. 44.
 "II. Two Moralities" Economic Sophisms II, p. 40.
 Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, edited from a manuscript by Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 500.
 F.A. Hayek, "Introduction", Selected Essays on Political Economy, trans. Seymour Cain, ed. George B. de Huszar (Irvington-on -Hudsnon: Foundation for Economic Education, 1975), p. ix.
 It is quoted in "V. Our products are weighed down with taxes" in SE1, p. 78. See the Fables de La Fontaine, illustrées par J.J. Grandeville. Nouvelle édition, Tome 1 (Paris: H. Fournier ainé, 1838), Book III, Fable XVII, p. 121.
 Quoted in the Conclusion, SE1, p. 190. See "Imitations en vers français. Ode XXX – Livre III," in Oeuvres complètes d'Horace. Éditions polyglotte publiée sous la direction de J.B. Monfalcon (Paris: Cormon et Blanc, 1834), p. 229.
 Quoted in "Theft by Subsidy" SE2 IX, p. 104 from Molière, The Misanthrope (1666), Act I Scene II.
 Théatre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 4 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1882), p. 86.
 See "Property and Plunder," in vol. 2 pp. 000–00. Our trans. p. 28.
 "The Miller and Sans-Souci" first appeared in Contes et opuscules en vers et en prose (1800) and was reprinted in Îuvres de Franois-Guillaume-Jean-Stanislas Andrieux, vol. 3, pp. 205-8.
 Quoted in "Theft by Subsidy" SE2 IX, p. 112 from Molière, Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) (1673). See Théatre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 8 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1883), Third Interlude, p. 286.
 Thanks to Arthur Goddard's excellent translation in the FEE edition, Economic Sophisms, p. 194.
 See Oeuvres choisies de Ch. Perrault, de l"Académie française, avec les memoires de l"auteur, et des recherches sur les contes des fees, par M. Collin de Plancy (Paris: Brissot-Thivars, 1826).
 Quoted in "63. The Mayor of Enios," ESLE,6 February 1848, p. 144.
 Quoted in "XIII. Protection or the Three Provincial Magistrates", SE2, p. 178.
 Oeuvres complètes de Béranger. Nouvelle edition illustrée par J.J. Grandville (Paris: H. Fournier, 1839), vol. 1, pp. 1 ff. (for "The King Yvetot"); for the English translation of "The King Yvetot" see Béranger's Songs of the Empire, the Peace, and the Restoration, trans. Robert B. Brough (London: Addey and Co., 1854), pp. 21-24.
 Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 30. In a second letter to Coudroy dated Paris May 1845 Bastiat relates his first meeting with the political economists in Paris at a formal dinner hosted by the publisher Guillaumin. Béranger was part of the circle of Parisian political economists and had been invited to attend the welcoming dinner for Bastiat but declined because he had another engagement. [Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 59]. In a third letter to Coudroy dated Paris 22 March 1846 Bastiat tells him that "our good Béranger" had joined the French Free Trade Association [Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 95].
 Chansons de Béranger. Nouvelle édition (Bruxelles: A. Wahlen, 1832), pp. 442-447.
 Quoted in "57. One profit against Two Losses", SELE, 9 May 1847, p. 67.
 "X. The Tax Collector," Ec Soph II, p. 118.
 "X. Reciprocity", Ec Soph I, p. 105.
 "V. High Prices, Low Prices," Ec Soph II, p. 62.
 "XVI. The Right Hand and the Left Hand," Ec Soph II, p. 231.
 "59. The Fear of a Word," Soph LE, p. 92.
 "61. A Little Manual for Consumers, in other words for everyone" SLE, p. 126.
 "Theft by Subsidy" ES2 IX, originally published in the Journal des Économistes of January 1846.
 p. 104.
 Page ??? of this volume.
 "Disastrous Illusions" JDE March 1848 [ESLE 70], p. 233.
 A similar analysis of the balance of serious and humorous essays in what Paillottet called the "New Series of Sophisms" which he included in the Oeuvres Complètes but which Bastiat never put into print produces the following results: of the 22 essays in this collection 6 (or 27%) were standard prose, 2 (or 9%) were academic prose, 12 (or 55%) were invented or satirical documents and letters, economic tales, or conversations, and 2 (or 9%) were revolutionary posters. This shows an even higher proportion of humorous material than that in the Second Series of Economic Sophisms. This may explain why he did not put together a Third Series in the less congenial environment of post-February 1848 France.