Front Page Titles (by Subject) Eyewitness to Political and Economic Upheavals (1848–50) - Collected Works of Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843-1850
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Eyewitness to Political and Economic Upheavals (1848–50) - Frédéric Bastiat, Collected Works of Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843-1850 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843-1850, Jacques de Guenin, General Editor. Translated from the French by Jane Willems and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Pascal Salin. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation Editor Dennis O’Keeffe. Academic Editor, David M. Hart (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012).
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Eyewitness to Political and Economic Upheavals (1848–50)
After a period as a successful provincial magistrate, Bastiat was elected in the immediate aftermath of the February revolution of 1848 to the Constituent Assembly in Paris. He represented his home département (the Landes, located in the southwest region of France) and became active in opposing both the socialism of the left and the authoritarianism of the right. As a classical liberal advocate of natural rights, universal franchise, the ultraminimalist state, and absolute free trade, Bastiat was not completely at home on the right or on the left side of the Assembly, though he oft en sat on the left because of his opposition to many of the establishment’s policies. On the right sat the monarchists, militarists, large landowners, supporters of the very limited voting franchise, and business interests who advocated tariff protection and subsidies. Occupying the left were the republicans, democrats, socialists, and advocates of state-supported make-work schemes and other subsidies to the poor. As some of his speeches indicate, Bastiat could cleverly play off one side against the other, appealing to the right in his attacks on socialism but appealing to the left in his support of the republic and his criticism of state subsidies to the rich.
In 1846 a key economic reform occurring in Britain caught Bastiat’s attention: Prime Minister Robert Peel’s abolition of the Corn Laws.4 The repeal of these laws eliminated many price controls on imported food stuffs and thus lowered the cost of food for those British consumers who were the least well off. The person behind the successful repeal was Richard Cobden whose organization, the Anti–Corn Law League, mobilized British opinion and forced Peel to act as he did. Bastiat, impressed with this popular and successful movement, very much wanted to emulate Cobden’s success by organizing a homegrown French free-trade movement and spent much of his time during the mid-1840s trying to bring this about, with disappointing results.5
Toward the end of his life, as a deputy in the Constituent Assembly and then in the Legislative Assembly, Bastiat became immersed in the struggles against the rise of socialist groups from the left and the opportunistic, interventionist policies of other groups on the right. Many of his pamphlets from this period were economic in nature and designed to alert people to the dangers of growing government intervention in the economy and attacks on the rule of law. The pamphlets are period pieces to the extent that they reflect the day-to-day or week-to-week battles for liberty fought by Bastiat in the Assembly (he served on a budget committee and thus had access to important economic data). However, they are also timeless works of applied economic theory that still stand today as insightful, informative, and even exemplary forms of their kind.
[4. ]See the entry for the “Anti–Corn Law League” in the Glossary of Subjects and Terms.
[5. ]A future volume will contain Bastiat’s writings on the free-trade movements in Britain and France.