TBT #4: The Great Frederic Bastiat

For this particular throwback Thursday, I would like to introduce a writer and economist who has been a huge influence on some many in the liberty movement today. His name is Claude Frederic Bastiat (1801 – 1850). He was a French economist and legislator who championed the free market, private property and personal liberty. His amazing essay “The Law” has had a huge impact on the philosophy and ideas within the Austrian school of economics today.

Bastiat is an author I like to quote quite often if you ever get into a conversation with me on economics and government. He said the rather famous quote “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.” He also offers an amazing parable of government intervention at the end of “The Law” called the Parable of the Traveler. It pretty much lays out one of the basic premises of the Austrian School. That is that government is completely incapable of regulating the market simply because it cannot truly know what the market needs. This is echoed later by the great Economist F.A. Hayek who said in his book “The Fatal Conceit” that “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” Because of this basic principle, when one reads Bastiat, it’s almost as if he was looking at today’s situations and events and writing about them.

This, I think, just goes to show how little government and it’s appetite for power and control has changed. It also shows that government and legislators have never really learned that they cannot design much of anything. If you are looking into the idea of a free market I suggest reading Bastiat. Being that he has influenced so much of the Austrian School, his ideas are very easy to understand and a good introduction to someone curious about economics but with little understanding of it. He was brilliant writer and defender of freedom and many of the great economic minds of the 19th century may not have been who they had been had Bastiat not taken pen to paper.

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