Front Page Titles (by Subject) 16.: Letter to Victor Calmètes - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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16.: Letter to Victor Calmètes - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Letter to Victor Calmètes
Mugron, July 1829
[vol. 1, p. 40]
. . . I am pleased to see that we have nearly the same opinion. Yes, as long as our deputies want to further their own business and not that of the general public, the public will remain just the tail end of the people in power. However, in my opinion, the evil comes from further afield. We easily surmise (since it suits our amour propre) that all evil results from power; on the contrary, I am convinced that its source is the ignorance and inertia of the masses. What use do we make of the rights given to us? The constitution tells us that we will pay what we consider appropriate and authorizes us to send our representatives to Paris to establish the amount which we wish to hand over in order to be governed; we then give our power of attorney to people who are beneficiaries of taxation. Those who complain about the prefects are themselves represented by them. Those who deplore the wars of sympathy23 we are waging in the east and the west, sometimes in favor of freedom for a people, sometimes to put another into servitude, are themselves represented by army generals. We expect prefects to vote for their own elimination and men of war to become imbued with pacifist ideas!24 This is a shocking contradiction. But, men will say, we expect from our deputies dedication and self-renunciation, virtues from classical times which we would like to see resurrected in our midst. What a puerile illusion! What sort of policy can be based on a principle distasteful to human organization? At no time in history have men ever renounced themselves, and in my view it would be a great misfortune if this virtue took the place of personal interest. If you generalize self-renunciation in public opinion, you will see society destroyed. Personal interest, on the other hand, leads to individuals bettering themselves and consequently the masses, which are made up solely of individuals. It will be alleged, pointlessly, that the interest of one man is opposed to that of another; in my opinion this is a serious, antisocial error.25 And, if we may progress from general notions to their application, if taxpayers are themselves represented by men with the same interests as they, reforms will occur by themselves. There are some who fear that the government would be destroyed by a spirit of economy, as though each person did not feel that it was in his interest to pay for a force responsible for the repression of evildoers.
I embrace you warmly.
[23 ]On 1 January 1820, a revolt against the absolutist and feudal regime of Ferdinand VII of Spain forced the king to reestablish the liberal constitution of 1812. In 1823, France, mandated by the Congress of Verona, mounted a military intervention resulting in the restoration of the previous regime.
[24 ]See “On Parliamentary Reform,” p. 367.
[25 ](Paillottet’s note) In this passage, the basic idea that Bastiat was to develop so masterfully twenty years later in the Harmony of Interests can be seen. [“Harmony of Interests” was Bastiat’s incomplete major work and was published posthumously as Economic Harmonies.]