Front Page Titles (by Subject) The State as the Great Fiction - Collected Works of Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843-1850
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The State as the “Great Fiction” - 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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The State as the “Great Fiction”
Bastiat’s essay L’État (The State) is probably his best-known work in English. In this volume we are reprinting a draft of his essay that appeared in the 11–15 June 1848 issue of Jacques Bonhomme, about a week before the shootings of the rioters began in Paris and shortly before the journal was forced to close. The essay was written to appeal to people on the streets of Paris and to attempt to woo them away from the spread of socialist ideas. Three months later Bastiat rewrote the piece, and it appeared in the 25 September 1848 issue of Le Journal des débats, where it was featured on the front page of the journal’s four very densely printed pages.3
Bastiat’s famous definition of the state is given in the pamphlet: “The state is the great fiction by which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”4 Bastiat’s theory of the state was taken up for discussion in some detail in a meeting of the Société d’économie politique, of which Bastiat was a member, on 10 January 1850.5
In the meeting, the liberal economist Louis Wolowski defended a more expansive role for the state but was challenged by Bastiat and other members of the society. Bastiat’s pamphlet stirred up so much interest that future meetings of the society were set aside for futher discussion of the matter.
The entry “L’État” by Charles Coquelin (who attended the January meeting) in the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (1852)6 quoted so extensively from Bastiat’s pamphlet that one could say that the dictionary entry was half written by him—an indication of the influence that Bastiat’s ideas had on the closely knit circle of political economists. Even fifty years later the reverberations of Bastiat’s ideas were still being felt. At a meeting of the society on 5 August 1899, the topic for discussion was Bastiat’s acclaimed definition of the state with the additional topic, “Is this always the case, and what will it become in the future?”7
[3. ]Bastiat, “L’État,” Le Journal des débats, 25 September 1848, pp. 1–2. See also “The State,” p. 93 in this volume.
[4. ]See “The State,” p. 97, in this volume.
[5. ]Société d’économie politique, “Séance du 10 janvier 1850,” in Annales de la société d’économie politique.
[6. ]Coquelin, “L’État,” in the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique.
[7. ]Letort, “Société d’économie politique: Réunion du 5 août 1899.”