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Collected Works of Bastiat, vol. 4: Miscellaneous Economic Writings

[Created: June 15, 2017]

Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)
Map of Les Landes in SW France


We are providing in draft form volume 4 of the Collected Works of Bastiat which contains his Miscellaneous Economic Writings. Please note the following:

  • this is an "Author's Final Draft" which will be tidied up and properly formatted by our in-house editor, especially things like data tables
  • what we do not have here is the Front Matter and Guido Hülsmann's Introduction
  • the internal references have been left blank deliberately (e.g., see, pp. 000.) as they are place-holders
  • the quotes are side-by-side in French and English for research purposes. Only English quotes will apper in the final version
  • we now include an Editor's Introduction to each piece

For more information about Frédéric Bastiat see the following:



Table of Contents

  1. Some Additional Letters (7)
    1. Source
    2. Editor's Introduction
    3. Letter 209 to M. Muiron (Eaux-Bonnes, 7 Nov. 1844)
    4. Letter 216 to Félix Coudroy (1845)
    5. Letter 210 to Paillottet (Pisa, 30 Sept. 1850)
    6. Letter 211 to Paillottet (Pisa, 7 Oct. 1850)
    7. Letter 212 to Paillottet (Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850)
    8. Letter 213 to M. Soustra (Pisa, 12 Oct. 1850)
    9. Letter 214 to Paillottet (Rome, 8 Nov. 1850)
  2. Early Writings: The Bayonne and Mugron Years, 1819-1844
    1. Section Introduction
    2. T.296 (before 1830) "On the Romans as Plundering Villains"
    3. T.297 (before 1830) "On the Romans and Self-sacrifice"
    4. T.289 "The Poetry of Civilization" (c. 1830)
    5. T.104 "Letter to M. Saulnier, Editor of La Revue britannique, (on the cost of government in the U.S. and France)" (c. 1831)
    6. T.318 "Election Manifesto" (c. 1832)
    7. T.285 "On Certainty" (c. 1833)
    8. T.4 "On a Petition in Support of Polish Refugees" (c. 1834)
    9. T.6 "A Letter to "Charles" in Support of a Polish Refugee" (Mugron, 1 Sept. 1835)
    10. T.7 Five Articles on "The Canal beside the Adour" (18 June 1837, La Chalosse)
      1. First Article
      2. Second Article
      3. Third Article
      4. Fourth Article
      5. Fifth Article
    11. T.286 "Proposals for an Association of Wine Producers" (15 Jan. 1841)
      1. 1. An Association.
      2. 2. Statutes of the Association.
      3. 3. Prospectus for the Journal of the Association, Le Midi (The South),
    12. T.298 (1843) "On the Cost of Being Governed"
    13. T.17 "On the Allocation of the Land Tax in the Department of Les Landes" (July 1844)
    14. T.18 "Two Articles on Postal Reform I" (3-6 Aug. 1844, Sentinelle des Pyrénées)
      1. First Article (3 August, 1844)
      2. Second Article (6 August, 1844)
  3. The "Paris" Writings I: Bastiat and the Free Trade Movement (Oct. 1844 - Feb. 1848)
    1. T.23 "Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine. On the occasion of his article entitled: The Right to a Job" (Feb. 1845, JDE)
    2. T.317 "Introduction and Post Script to Economic Sophisms" (March 1845)
    3. T.20 "On the Book by M. Dunoyer. On The Liberty of Working" (May, 1845)
    4. T.47 "Thoughts on Sharecropping" (15 Feb. 1846, JDE)
    5. T.51 "The Theory of Profit" (26 Feb. 1846, Mem. bord.)
    6. T.58 & T.49 "Two Articles on Postal Reform II" (April 1846, Mem. bord.)
      1. First Article (23 April 1846, Mem. bord.) (T2, FN)
      2. Second Article (30 April 1846, Mem. bord.)
    7. T.64 "On Competition" (JDE, May 1846)
    8. T.68 "On the Redistribution of Wealth by M. Vidal" (15 June 1846, JDE)
    9. T.288 "A Light-Hearted Look at Free Trade" (mid or late 1846)
      1. 1. "One has to see it to believe it"
      2. 2. "The World turned upside down again" (Encore le monde renversé), pp. 299-300; (T1)
      3. 3. "A Simple Dialog between a Protectionist and a Free Trader"
    10. T.80 "Second Letter to M. de Lamartine (on price controls on food)" (Oct. 1846, JDE)
    11. T.81 "On Population" (JDE, 15 Oct. 1846)
    12. T.105 "To M. de Noailles in the Chamber of Peers (on Perfidious Albion)" (24 Jan. 1847, LE)
    13. T.111 "A Curious Economic Phenomenon. Financial Reform in England" (21 Feb. 1847, LE)
    14. T.118 "Two Methods of Equalizing Taxes" (4 April 1847, LE)
    15. T.136 "The Salt Tax" (20 June 1847, LE)
    16. T.139 "Mr. Ewart's Proposal for a Single Tax in England" (LE, 27 June, 1847)
    17. T.143 "On Mignet's Eulogy of M. Charles Comte" (11 July 1847, LE)
    18. T.151 "A Letter (to Hippolyte Castille) (on intellectual property)" (9 Sept. 1847, Travail Intel.)
    19. T.299 (late 1847) "The Difference between doing Business and an Act of Charity"
    20. T.300 (1847.11.28) "On the Difference between Illegal and Immoral Acts" (LE, 28 Nov. 1847)
    21. T.161 "On the Export of Gold Bullion" (LE, 12 Dec. 1847)
    22. T.163 "A Speech on intellectual property given to the Publishers Circle" (16 Dec. 1847, Travail int.)
    23. T.167 "Barataria" (c. 1848)
      1. Don Quixote to Sancho
      2. Sancho's Reply
    24. T.176 "Natural and Artificial Organisation" (JDE, 15 Jan., 1848)
    25. T.177 "Laziness and Trade Restrictions" (16 Jan. 1848, LE)
    26. T.178 "Letter to M. Jobard (on intellectual property)" (22 Jan. 1848, Ec. belge)
  4. The "Paris" Writings II: Bastiat the Politician, Anti-Socialist, and Economist (Feb. 1848 - Dec. 1850)
    1. Section Introduction
    2. T.293 (post-1848) "On Experience and Responsibility"
    3. T.295 (c. 1848) "Why our Finances are in a Mess"
    4. T.186 "A Few Words about the Title of our Journal: La République française" (26 Feb. 1848, RF)
    5. T.302 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on the Formation of Committees" (13 May 1848)
    6. T.303 "Speaks in a Discussion of Randoing 's Proposal to increase Export Subsidies on Woollen Cloth" (9 June 1848)
    7. T.216 "A Hoax" (15 June 1848, JB)
    8. T.217 "Taking Five and Returning (giving back) Four is not Giving" (15 June 1848, JB)
    9. T.218 "A Dreadful Escalation" (20 June 1848, JB)
    10. T.304 "Speaks in a Discussion on the Decree concerning the Regulation of the Political Clubs" (26 July 1848)
    11. T.203 (1848.07.28) "A Complaint made by M. Considerant and F. Bastiat's Reply."
      1. Text: A Complaint Made by M. Considérant and F. Bastiat's Reply
      2. Bastiat's Reply to Considerant
    12. T.305 "Report to the Assembly from the Finance Committee concerning a Grant to assist needy citizens in the Department of la Seine" (9 August 1848)
    13. T.306 "Additional Comments in the Assembly on the Report from the Finance Committee concerning a Grant to assist needy citizens in the Department of la Seine" (10 August 1848)
    14. T.307 "Speech in the Assembly on Postal Reform" (24 August 1848)
    15. T.223 "Economic Harmonies: I, II, and III. The Needs of Man" (1 Sept., 1848, JDE)
      1. I.
      2. II.
      3. III.
    16. T.224 Bastiat's Letter to Garnier on the Right to a Job (Oct, 1848)
    17. T.273 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on Income Tax" (10 Oct., 1848)
    18. T.308 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on the Election of the President of the Republic" (27 Oct. 1848)
    19. T.274 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on the Emancipation of the Colonies" (10 Dec. 1848)
    20. T.225 "Economic Harmonies IV" (JDE, 15 Dec. 1848)
    21. T.294 "On the Value of Services" (c.1849-50)
    22. T.316 "Money and the Mutuality of Services" (c. 1849)
    23. T??? "The Consequences of the Reduction in the Salt Tax" (JDD, 1 Jan. 1849)
    24. T.309 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on a Proposal to change the Tariff on imported Salt" (11 Jan. 1849)
    25. T.234 Capital and Rent (Feb. 1849)
      1. Capital and Rent
      2. The Sack of Wheat.
      3. The House
      4. The Plane
    26. T.275 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on Financial Reform" (10 Feb. 1849)
    27. T.310 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on Amending the Electoral Law" (26 Feb. 1849)
    28. T.311 "Speech in the Assembly on Amending the Electoral Law (Third Reading)" (10 and 13 March 1849)
    29. T.239 Damned Money! (April 1849, JDE)
    30. T.276 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on the Peace Congress and State support for an Experimental Socialist Community" (10 May 1849)
    31. T.230 "Capital" (mid-1849, Almanac rép.)
    32. T.290 "When extremes meet" (June 1849)
    33. T.240 and T. 283 Speech on "Disarmament, Taxes, and the Influence of Political Economy on the Peace Movement." (22 Aug. 1849)
    34. T.312 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on changing the Law on the Appropriation of Private Property for Public Use" (6 Oct. 1849)
    35. T.277 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on the Limits to the Functions of the State (Part 1) and Molinari's Book" (10 Oct. 1849)
    36. T.241 Free Credit (Oct. 1849 - March 1850, Voix du peuple)
      1. Letter No. 1: F. C. Chevé to F. Bastiat (22 October 1849)
      2. Proudhon's Preface to Bastiat's First Letter
      3. Letter No. 2: F. Bastiat to the Editor (12 November 1849)
      4. Letter No. 3: P. J. Proudhon to F. Bastiat (19 November 1849)
      5. Letter No. 4: F. Bastiat to P. J. Proudhon (26 November 1849)
      6. Letter No. 5: P. J. Proudhon to F. Bastiat (3 December 1849)
      7. Letter No. 6: F. Bastiat to P. J. Proudhon (10 December 1849)
      8. Letter No. 7: P. J. Proudhon to F. Bastiat (17 December 1849)
      9. Letter No. 8 : F. Bastiat to P. J. Proudhon (24 December 1849)
      10. Long footnote from Letter 8
      11. Letter No. 9: P. J. Proudhon to F. Bastiat (31 December 1849)
      12. Letter No. 10: F. Bastiat to P. J. Proudhon (6 January 1850)
      13. Letter No. 11: P. J. Proudhon to F. Bastiat (21 January 1850)
      14. Letter No. 12: F. Bastiat to P. J. Proudhon (4 February 1850)
      15. Letter No. 13: P. J. Proudhon to F. Bastiat (11 February 1850)
      16. Letter No. 14: F. Bastiat to P. J. Proudhon (7 March 1850)
    37. T.242 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on Disarmament and the English Peace Movement" (10 Nov. 1849)
    38. T.319 "Speaks in the Assembly on the Right to Form Unions" (16 Nov. 1849)
    39. T.245 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on State Support for popularising Political Economy, his idea of Land Rent in Economic Harmonies, the Tax on Alcohol, and Socialism" (10 Dec. 1849)
    40. T.168 "Liberty, Equality" (c. 1850)
    41. T.301 "On coerced Charity" (c. 1850)
    42. T.315 "The Consequences of an Action" (c. 1850)
    43. T.182 "Our Abilities vs. Our Needs" (c. 1850)
    44. T.284 "A Note on Economic and Social Harmonies" (c. early 1850)
    45. T.250 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on the Limit to the Functions of the State" (Part 2)" (10 Jan. 1850)
    46. T.313 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on Public Education" (6 Feb. 1850)
    47. T.314 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on a Plan to give money to Workers Associations" (9 Feb. 1850)
    48. T.251 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on the Limits to the Functions of the State (Part 3)" (10 Feb. 1850)
    49. T.253 "The Balance of Trade" (29 March 1850)
    50. T.255 "England's New Colonial Policy. Lord John Russell's Plan" (JDE, 15 Apr. 1850)
    51. T.256 "Comments at a Meeting of the Political Economy Society on Land Credit" (10 Apr. 1850)
    52. T.248 "Abundance" (summer 1850, DEP)
    53. T.278 "The Society's farewell to Bastiat at a Meeting of the PES" (10 Sept. 1850)
    54. T.292 "On the Idea of Value" (late 1850)
    55. T.279 "The announcements of Bastiat's death at a Meeting of the PES and in the JDE" (10, 15 Jan. 1851)
      1. Text: The Account in the JDE
      2. Text: ASEP version
  5. Appendices
    1. Appendix 1: Further Aspects of Bastiat's Thought (CW4)
      1. Bastiat's Anti-socialist Pamphlets, or "Mister Bastiat's Little Pamphlets"
      2. The "Apparatus" or Structure of Exchange
      3. Ceteris paribus, or other things being equal
      4. Disturbing and Restorative Factors
      5. Great Market: Society is one Great Market or Bazaar
      6. Harmony and Disharmony
        1. Introduction: The Harmony of the Providential Plan
        2. The Harmony of Natural Laws
        3. Harmonies Social and Economic
        4. What did he mean by "social harmonies"?
        5. What did he mean by "economic harmonies"?
        6. Bastiat's Theory of Disharmony
      7. Human Action
      8. Leisure: The Importance of Leisure
      9. Service for Service
      10. Social Economy
      11. The Social Mechanism and its Driving Force
    2. Appendix 2: The French State and Politics (CW4)
      1. The French Army and Conscription
      2. Assignat
      3. Bank of France
      4. Chamber of Deputies and Elections
      5. Fortifications of Paris
      6. General Councils (conseils généraux de département)
      7. Government Administrative Regions
      8. Money
      9. National Workshops (Ateliers Nationaux)
      10. Tariff Policy
      11. Taxation
        1. Gabelle
        2. Indirect Taxes
        3. Octroi
        4. "Taxe de quarante-cinq centimes" (the 45 centimes tax)
        5. Wine and Spirits Tax.
      12. Teaching Political Economy in the Universities
      13. Welfare Office (Bureau de bienfaisance)
  6. Bibliography
    1. Bibliographical Note on the Works Cited in This Volume
    2. Primary Sources
      1. Newspapers and Journals
      2. Official Government Documents
      3. Economic Reference Works
      4. Collected Works by Bastiat
      5. Works by Other Authors cited in the Text, Notes, and Glossaries
    3. Secondary Sources
      1. Reference Works
      2. Secondary Sources
      3. Webliography (Websites)
  7. A Chronological List of Bastiat's Writings (see separate file)
  8. Glossaries
    1. Glossary of Persons
      1. Aguado, Alexandro Maria (1784-1842)
      2. Aquinas, St. Thomas (1225-1274)
      3. Arago, Étienne Vincent (1802-1892)
      4. Arago, François (1786-1853).
      5. Argout, Appolinaire, Antoine Maurice, Comte d' (1782-1858)
      6. Bacon, Francis (1561-1626)
      7. Barrot, Hyacinthe Camille Odilon (1791-1873)
      8. Baudre , Jean-Baptiste de (1773-1850)
      9. Bentinck, Lord George (1802-1848)
      10. Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832)
      11. Béranger, Pierre-Jean de (1780-1857)
      12. Bernadotte, Jean-Baptiste (1763-1844)
      13. Bertin, Armand (1801-1854).
      14. Billault, Adolphe Augustin Marie (1805-1863)
      15. Blanc, Louis (1811-82).
      16. Blanqui, Jérôme Adolphe (1798-1854).
      17. Bonhomme, Jacques [person]
      18. Brisson, Barnabé (1777-1828)
      19. Brutus, Marcus Junius (ca. 85-42 B.C.).
      20. Buffet, Louis Joseph (1818-98).
      21. Buckingham, Richard Grenville, 2nd Duke of (1797-1861)
      22. Burritt, Elihu (1810-1879)
      23. Cabet, Etienne (1788-1856).
      24. Caesar, Gaius Julius (100-44 BC)
      25. Carey, Henry C. (1793-1879)
      26. Castille, Hippolyte (1820-1886)
      27. Cato the Younger (95-46 BC)
      28. Charras , Jean-Baptiste-Adolphe (1810-1865)
      29. Charlemagne, Edmond (1795-1872)
      30. Chastellux, François -Jean, marquis de (1734-1788).
      31. Chateaubriand, François René, vicomte de (1768-1848).
      32. Chégaray, Michel-Charles (1802-1859)
      33. Cherbuliez, Antoine-Elisée (1797-1869)
      34. Cheuvreux, Hortense (née Girard) (1808-93).
      35. Chevalier, Michel (1806-87).
      36. Clément, Ambroise (1805-86).
      37. Cobden, Richard (1804-65).
      38. Colmont, Saint-Julle de (1792-??)
      39. Comte, Charles (1782–1837).
      40. Condillac, Étienne Bonnot, abbé de (1714-80).
      41. Considerant, Victor Prosper (1808-93)
      42. Coquelin, Charles (1802-1852)
      43. Coquerel, Athanase-Charles (père) (1795-1868) and fils (1820-1875)
      44. Croesus (595-547 BC).
      45. Coudroy, Félix (1801-74)
      46. Culmann, Jacques (1787-1849)
      47. Cuvier, George (1769-1832)
      48. Daire, Eugene (1798-1847).
      49. Darblay brothers, Auguste-Rodolphe Darblay (1784-1873) and Aymé-Stanislas Darblay (1794-1878)
      50. David, Irénée François (1791-1862)
      51. Degousée , François Rose Joseph (1795-1862)
      52. Demesmay, Philippe Auguste (1805-1853)
      53. Descartes, René (1596-1650)
      54. Destutt de Tracy, Antoine (1754-1836).
      55. Destutt de Tracy , Victor (1781-1864)
      56. Deucalion
      57. Diogenes (413-327 BC)
      58. Dombasle, Joseph Alexandre Mathieu de. (1777-1843)
      59. Droz, Joseph (1773-1850).
      60. Duchêne, Georges (1824-1876)
      61. Dunoyer, Barthélémy-Pierre-Joseph-Charles (1786-1862)
      62. Dupin, Charles (1784-1873)
      63. Dupuit, Jules (1804-1866)
      64. Durrieu, Simon (1775-1862).
      65. Dussard, Hippolyte (1791-1879).
      66. Enfantin, Barthélemy Prosper (1796-1864).
      67. Epimenides of Knossos
      68. Ewart, William (1798–1869)
      69. Falloux, Alfred-Frédéric (1811-1886)
      70. Faurie, François (1785-1854).
      71. Faucher, Léon (1803-1854)
      72. Fénelon (François de Salignac de la Motte-Fénelon) (1651-1715).
      73. Fichte, Johann Gottlieb (1762-1814)
      74. Flandin, Louis (1804-1877)
      75. Fontenay, Roger-Anne-Paul-Gabriel de (1809–91)
      76. Fonteyraud, Henri Alcide (1822–49)
      77. Fould, Achille (1800-1867).
      78. Fourier, François-Marie Charles (1772-1837)
      79. Fournier, Louis-Jacques-Marie (1786-1862)
      80. Fox, William Johnson (1786-1864).
      81. Galabert, Louis (1773-1841)
      82. Garnier, Joseph (1813-81).
      83. Gasparin, Adrien Étienne Pierre de. (1783-1862)
      84. Girardin, Saint-Marc (1801-73).
      85. Girardin, Émile de (1806-1881)
      86. Gracchi Brothers. Tiberius Gracchus (162-133 B.C.) and Gaius Gracchus (154-121 B.C.).
      87. Guillaumin, Gilbert-Urbain (1801-1864)
      88. Guizot, François Pierre Guillaume (1787-1874).
      89. Harcourt, François-Eugène, duc d' (1786-1865).
      90. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831)
      91. Hill, Rowland (1795-1879)
      92. Hilliers, Achille, comte Baraguey d' (1795-1878)
      93. Hottinguer, Jean-Conrad (1764-1841)
      94. Hovyn de Tranchère , Jules-Auguste (1816-1898)
      95. Humann, Georges (1780-1842).
      96. Hus, Jan (1370-1415).
      97. Huskisson, William (1770-1830)
      98. Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826).
      99. Jobard, Marcellin (1792-1861)
      100. Juvigny, Jean-Baptiste (1772-1836)
      101. Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804)
      102. Kerdrel, Vincent Paul Marie Casimir Audren de (1815-1899)
      103. Lakanal, Joseph (1762-1845)
      104. Lamarque, General Jean-Maximien (1770-1832).
      105. Lamartine, Alphonse Marie Louis de (1790–1869) (to do)
      106. Lamennais, Félicité, abbé de (1782-1854).
      107. Laplace, Pierre Simon, marquis de (1749–1827).
      108. Law, John (1671-1729)
      109. Lebeuf, Louis-Martin (1792-1854).
      110. Leclerc, Louis (1799-1854)
      111. Lefranc, Bernard Edme Victor Etienne (1809-83).
      112. Leroux, Pierre (1798-1871).
      113. Livy (Titus Livius) (59 BC - 17 AD)
      114. Louis IX (1214-1270)
      115. Lopez-Dubec, Salomon (1808-1860)
      116. Lurcy, Gabriel Pierre Lafond de. (1802-1876)
      117. Madison, James (1751-1836)
      118. Malebranche, Nicolas de (1638-1715)
      119. Mallet, Charles (1815-1902)
      120. Malthus, Thomas Robert (1766-1858).
      121. Manuel, Jacques André (1791-1857)
      122. Marrast, Armand (1801-1852)
      123. Mauguin, François (1785-1852)
      124. Midas (8th century BC)
      125. Mignet, François-Auguste-Alexis (1796-1884).
      126. Mill, James (1773-1836)
      127. Mimerel de Roubaix, Pierre (1786-1872).
      128. Mirabeau, Gabriel Honoré Riqueti, comte de (1749-91).
      129. "Molière," Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622- 1673)
      130. Molinari, Gustave de (1819-1912)
      131. Monclar, Eugène de (1800-1882)
      132. Mondor and Tabarin (Antoine and Philippe Girard)
      133. Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de (1533–92).
      134. Montesquieu, Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de (1689-1755).
      135. Morin, Étienne-François-Théodore (1814-1890).
      136. Nadaud, Martin (1815-1898)
      137. Necker, Jacques (1732-1804)
      138. Nemours, Duke de
      139. Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1726)
      140. Noailles, Paul, duc de (1802-1884).
      141. Odier, Antoine (1766-1853).
      142. Owen, Robert (1771-1858).
      143. Pagès, Louis-Antoine (Garnier-Pagès) (1803-1878)
      144. Pagnerre, Laurent (1805-1854)
      145. Paillottet, Prosper (1804-78).
      146. Parieu, Félix Esquirou de (1815-1893)
      147. Pascal, Blaise (1623-62).
      148. Peel, Sir Robert (1788-1850).
      149. Pereire, Émile (1800-1875)
      150. Planat, Charles (1801-1858)
      151. Plutarch (46 CE - 125 CE)
      152. Price, Richard (1723-1791)
      153. Proclus Lycaeus (412-485 AD)
      154. Proteus
      155. Proudhon, Pierre Joseph (1809-65).
      156. Quesnay, François (1694-1774)
      157. Quijano, Garcia.
      158. Quintus Curtius Rufus (1st century AD)
      159. Quixote, Don
      160. Raudot, Claude-Marie (1801-1879)
      161. Renouard, Augustin-Charles (1794-1878).
      162. Ricardo, David (1772-1823).
      163. Richard, Henry (1812-1888)
      164. Richardet, Victor. (1810-??)
      165. Rodet,Denis Louis (1781-1852)
      166. Rondot , Cyr-François-Natalis (1821-1900)
      167. Rossi, Pellegrino (1787-1848).
      168. Rothschild Banking Family
      169. Rothschild, James Mayer (1792-1868)
      170. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712-78).
      171. Russell, John, first Earl Russell (1792-1878).
      172. Saint-Beuve, Pierre (1819-1855)
      173. Saint-Chamans, Auguste, vicomte de (1777-1860)
      174. Saint-Gaudens, Jean (1799-1875)
      175. Saint-Simon, Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de (1760-1825).
      176. Salvandy, Narcisse Achille de (1795-1856)
      177. Sarrans, Jean-Bernard (1796-1874)
      178. Saulnier, Sébastien-Louis (1790-1835)
      179. Say, Horace Émile (1794-1860)
      180. Say, Jean-Baptiste (1767-1832)
      181. Sénard, Antoine (1800-1885)
      182. Seneca (ca. 4 BC – AD 65)
      183. Senior, Nassau William (1790-1864)
      184. Silguy, Count Jean Marie François Xavier de (1784-1864)
      185. Sismondi, Jean Charles Léonard de (1773-1842)
      186. Smith, Adam (1723-90).
      187. Smith, John Prince- (1809-1874)
      188. Steuart, James (1713-1780)
      189. Storch, Henri-Frédéric (1766-1835).
      190. Sturge, Joseph (1793-1859)
      191. Thierry, Jacques-Nicolas Augustin (1795-1856)
      192. Thiers, Adolphe (1797-1877)
      193. Thompson, Thomas Perronet (1783-1869).
      194. Thoré, Théophile, (also known as Thoré-Bürger) (1807-1869)
      195. Tranchère, Jules-Auguste Hovyn de (1816-1898)
      196. Triptolemus
      197. Urville, Jules Dumont d' (1790-1842)
      198. Vatimesnil, Antoine Lefebvre de (1789-1860).
      199. Vidal, François (1812-1872)
      200. Villèle, Jean-Baptiste, comte de (1773-1854).
      201. Visschers, Auguste (1804-1874)
      202. Vivien, Alexandre (1799-1854).
      203. Vuitry, Adolphe (1813-1885)
      204. Walras, Antoine Auguste (1801-1866)
      205. Wilson, James (1805-60).
      206. Wolowski, Louis (1810-76).
    2. Glossary of Places
      1. Adour River
      2. Auch
      3. Bourbon Palace.
      4. La Chalosse.
      5. Les Eaux-Bonnes
      6. Garonne River.
      7. Gironde.
      8. Les Landes.
      9. The Luxembourg Palace
      10. Mugron.
    3. Glossary of Newspapers and Journals
      1. Le Censeur and Le Censeur européen
      2. La Chalosse.
      3. Le Courrier français (1819-1846)
      4. La Démocratie pacifique (1843-1851)
      5. Dictionnaire de l'Économie Politique (1852-53)
      6. Jacques Bonhomme [Journal] (June-July 1848)
      7. Le Journal des débats (1789-1944)
      8. Le Journal des Économistes
      9. Le Libre échange (29 Nov. 1846 - 23 Feb. 1848).
      10. Le Mémorial bordelais (1814-1862)
      11. Le Moniteur industriel (1839-)
      12. Le National (1830-1851)
      13. La Patrie (1841-)
      14. La Presse (1836-)
      15. La République française (26 February - 28 March 1848)
    4. Glossary of Historical Events and Terms
      1. Cholera Outbreak of 1849
      2. Le Club de la Liberté du Travail (Club for the Freedom of Working, or "Club Lib")
      3. Corn Laws
      4. International Congress of the Friends of Peace (Paris, August 1849)
      5. Irish Famine and the Failure of French Harvests 1846-47
      6. Navigation Acts
      7. Political Clubs
      8. July Monarchy (1830), February Revolution (1848), June Days (1848)
      9. Revolution of 1848 (also "February Revolution").
    5. Glossary of Groups and Organizations
      1. The Academy of Moral and Political Sciences
      2. Anti-Corn Law League.
      3. Association pour la liberté des échanges (The French Free Trade Association).
      4. Association pour la défense du travail national (Association for the Defense of National Employment)
      5. The Chamber of Deputies and the Electoral Class
      6. Girondins.
      7. The Party of Order.
      8. Physiocrats.
      9. The Socialist School
      10. Société d'économie politique (Political Economy Society)
    6. Glossary of Key Ideas & Concepts
      1. Association and Organization
      2. Free Banking
      3. Laissez-faire
      4. Malthusianism and French Political Economy
      5. The Means of Subsistence vs. the Means of Existence
      6. Phalanstery (Phalanx).
      7. The Right to Work (Right to a Job) (Le Droit au Travail)
      8. The Socialist Critique of Property and the Economists' Replies
  9. Endnotes



Some Additional Letters (7)


P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905). Appendix, pp. 277-314.

Editor's Introduction

There is some additional material by Bastiat in Ronce's book which was not included by Paillottet in the OC. The following are short letters or parts of letters, five of which come from his final months when he was en route to Rome where he would ultimately die of his throat condition on Christmas Eve 1850.

P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905). Appendix, pp. 277-314; and pieces of 6 previously unpublished letters.

  1. Letter 209: To M. Muiron (Eaux-Bonnes, 7 Nov. 1844), Ronce, pp. 86-87
  2. Letter 210: Letter to Paillottet (Pisa, 30 Sept. 1850), Ronce, pp. 253-55
  3. Letter 211: Letter to Paillottet (Pisa, 7 Oct. 1850), Ronce, pp. 255-56
  4. Letter 212: Letter to Paillottet (Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850), Ronce, pp. 256-59
  5. Letter 213: Letter to M. Soustra, (Pise, 12 Oct. 1850), Ronce, pp. 225-27
  6. Letter 214: Letter to Paillottet (Rome, 8 Nov. 1850), Ronce, pp. 260-61



1. Letter 209 to M. Muiron (Eaux-Bonnes, 7 Nov. 1844)


Letter 209 to M. Muiron (Eaux-Bonnes, 7 Nov. 1844), in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 86-87.

Editor's Introduction

Ronce tells us that this letter was written soon after Bastiat's first article "On the Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two People" was published in the JDE (Oct. 1844) which was his breakthrough into the world of the Parisian economists. 42 In it he thanks a friend, M. Muiron, (about whom nothing is known) for having delivered his manuscript safely to the Guillaumin offices in Paris. As an outsider living in the remote south west of France, Bastiat depended on the assistance of friends like Muiron to help him get established as an author and political activist. Although he is critical in this letter of the editor of the Journal des Économistes (Hippolyte Dussard), 43 published by Urbain Guillaumin, he would soon enter Guillaumin's network of economists, politicians, and supporters, and would publish many more articles in the Journal (about 28 between 1844 and 1850) as well as numerous books and pamphlets, not to mention his Oeuvres complètes (Complete Works) the first edition of which appeared in 6 volumes in 1854-55, and a second edition in 7 volumes in 1862-64.


M. Muiron, 70, rue de Seine Saint-Germain, Paris.

Monsieur, the generosity which you have shown towards me and the precious moments I enjoyed with your instructive conversations make me duty bound to express all my thanks to you. I would not have delayed expressing this to you until now if I hadn't been waiting for the right moment provided by the publication of this piece which you kindly agreed to return to "M. Bastiat of Paris."

Works of this kind, even if they contain the merit of being timely and independent minded, run the great risk of getting buried in the depths of oblivion if generous friends do not bring them to the attention of the appropriate people. I hope that you will be willing to introduce the first fruits of my studies to M. de Salvandy. 44 The opinion of a man as important as he is because of his position and his stature would be a prize of infinite value for me, especially if it were of an encouraging nature. If the opposite were the case, it would still have the advantage of warning me that a man who lives in solitude must marshal his forces carefully.

The editor of the journal thought fit to cut an entire passage (on p. 149) in which I attempted to reveal the reasons why the Parisian press is in general so hostile to free trade. 45 I had the failing common to all scribblers to think that they had cut exactly what I thought most merited being kept in. Certainly, this part of my work showed at least some courage because one has to confront the fearsome power of Messrs "les journalistes." The proof of their power lies in the cuts which the editor of the journal ordered to be made.

I would be happy to learn that your good health has improved and that, in recognition of this fact, you might plan to spend another season at Les Eaux-Bonnes. 46 It would be a great pleasure to resume our walks and our conversations.

Yours sincerely…



2. Letter 216 to Félix Coudroy (1845)


Letter 216: Letter to Félix Coudroy (1845). This letter was discovered by the original French editor Paillottet among Bastiat's papers and was inserted in a footnote to T.9 "Reflections on the Question of Dueling" (11 February 1838) which was a review in the local newspaper La Chalosse of Coudroy's pamphlet on dueling. Paillottet states it was written sometime in 1845. [OC7, p. 10] [CW1, p. 309].

Editor's Introduction

This short letter to his boyhood friend and neighbour in Mugron Félix Coudroy 47 tells us something about Bastiat's method of writing, namely that he preferred the simplicity and directness of his first drafts. It also shows us that he was aware of a new work by one of the leading members of the circle of economists in Paris, Charles Dunoyer, 48 whose three-volume magnum opus De la liberté du travail had been published in early 1845. Dunoyer was the President of the Political Economy Society which would host a welcome dinner for Bastiat in Paris in May 1845. Coudroy and Bastiat belonged to a discussion group in Mugron called "The Academy" which would meet regularly to discuss new books and current events and where they no doubt discussed Dunoyer's book soon after it appeared. Bastiat would write but not publish a review of Dunoyer's book in March 1845 which can be found below T.20 "On the Book by M. Dunoyer. On The Liberty of Working" (March, 1845). Coudroy would later that year write a long review of Bastiat's first book on Cobden and the League for the JDE. 49


My dear Félix,

Because of the difficulty of reading, I cannot properly judge the style, but my sincere conviction (you know that here I set aside the usual modesty) is that our styles have different qualities and faults. I believe that the qualities of yours are such that, when it is used, it shows genuine talent; I mean to say a style that is lively and animated with general ideas and glimpses that are luminous. Always make copies on small sheets; if one needs to be changed, it will not cause much trouble. When you are copying you will perhaps be able to add polish, but, for my part, I note that the first draft is always faster and more accessible to today's readers who scarcely go into anything in depth.

Do you not have an opinion of M. Dunoyer?



3. Letter 210 to Paillottet (Pisa, 30 Sept. 1850)


Letter 210. Pisa, 30 Sept. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 253-55)

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat's health continued to get worse throughout 1850. His last attendance at a session of the Chamber of Deputies was on 9 February after which he took a leave of absence. The first volume of his treatise Economic Harmonies was published in January 1850 with 10 chapters but he was too ill to work much on completing volume 2 which was eventually reconstructed from his notes and drafts by his friend Prosper Paillottet. 50 This enlarged edition of Economic Harmonies with an additional 15 chapters appeared posthumously in July 1851.

In May 1850 Bastiat left Paris and returned to his home town Mugron in Les Landes, and then went to the spa town of Les Eaux-Bonnes in June and July to recuperate and work on his two pamphlets The Law and What is Seen and What is Not Seen . He briefly returned to Paris in August but was told by his doctor that he could not survive another winter in Paris and advised him to go to Italy where the climate was less harsh. He attended his last meeting of the Political Economy Society on 10 September so he could say farewell to his friends and colleagues. 51

He took 6 weeks travelling to Rome, spending time along the way in Lyon and Marseilles (September), Pisa (October), before arriving in Rome in early November, where he stayed until his death on 24 December. His friend Prosper Paillottet went to Rome to see him during his last days, as did the Cheuvreux family who had become close friends and supporters of Bastiat. Madame Hortense Cheuvreux 52 ran an important liberal salon in Paris which Bastiat had attended over the previous two years.

One of the things Bastiat and Paillottet discussed at this time was the completion of his treatise Economic Harmonies and the editing of his Complete Works after his death. Bastiat appointed Paillottet his literary executor and with the assistance of Roger Fontenay 53 carried out Bastiat's wishes.


My dear Paillottet, I left Paris on the 11th and here it is the 30th. So there you have it. Twenty days away and I have still only received a single letter from Marseilles. I keep asking at the post office and the usual answer is "there is nothing for you." I fear that they have the wrong address and there is a misunderstanding about this, as I cannot imagine my friends leaving me without any news. They must know that in this life of hardships to which I have been condemned, not being able to speak or write or to make friends, their memory is all I have to soothe my soul. How happy I would be if only they thought to write to me often! But are absent friends always in the wrong? No! I much prefer to think that it is the Post Office which is not doing its job properly. And anyway, how can they be mistaken with such a simple address: M. F. B., poste restante, Pisa, Tuscany?

My dear Paillottet, I am waiting for the arrival of what you wrote to me about from Marseilles, that is the dispatch of the box of books. 54 Sadly, I now see that they will not be of much use to me, either for reading or for working with, because the Italian climate instills in me a great feeling of far niente (doing nothing). And then, without feeling that I am sicker, it is clear that I am weaker. I do not sense it by comparing one day to the next, but if I turn my mind back one or two months I cannot fail to see my decline. If this continues for much longer I will not be able to do anything.

I suppose M. de Fontenay has returned from the countryside. Next time you see him, give him a kick in the pants to get his book on Capital published. 55 Without that, I think he is a man who will let the days and months slip by.

Pisa is a delightful place, at least the quarter where foreigners and the sick live. The Arno river forms a large semi-circle along which are houses. From my window I can see the sun from sunrise to sunset. The warmth, the light, the view of the river, the activity on the quay, makes any sad thoughts seem far away. There is not even time for boredom. One has to think that the sound morale influence of this location augurs well for my physical recovery.

Mme Cheuvreux told me that they have decided to travel here from Florence. I received this news from Marseilles. But not having received any more letters I am in an agony of uncertainty not knowing if they will change their minds. You would do me a very great service if you could make inquiries upon receipt of this letter and let me know by return mail. At the same time, tell M. Cheuvreux that, according to what I have been told, quarantine would not last longer than October 19, which is the day the State packet-boat departs. In addition, assure him that the quarantine station at Livorno is quite comfortable. Therefore I think the best plan is to board the Post ship. If I had had advance warning I would have gone to the quarantine station to reserve the best places, on the assumption that this hoax which is quarantine takes longer than expected.

Farewell my dear Paillottet. I will have your reply in only 12 days time. Like a good schoolboy I will cross myself every morning at matins.

Farewell, your devoted friend.



4. Letter 211 to Paillottet (Pisa, 7 Oct. 1850)


Letter 211. Pisa, 7 Oct. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 255-56).

Editor's Introduction

In a last flurry of activity towards the end of his life, Bastiat had to respond to the charge made against him by the American economist Henry Carey 56 that he had plagiarised Carey's work on the idea of "the harmony of interests" and his criticism of Ricardo's idea of the natural productivity of land. Bastiat's book on Economic Harmonies was circulating among the economists in Paris in manuscript form by the end of 1849 and was published by Guillaumin early the following year, in January or February. It was reviewed quite critically by Ambroise Clément in the JDE in June 1850 57 after a delay which Bastiat thought was a slight on him because of his radical new ideas. Although he lived in America, Carey read Clément's review and this provoked him into writing a letter of complaint to the Editors of the JDE in August 1850 but which was not published until January 1851, two weeks after Bastiat's death. In the letter he argued that he had expressed his ideas on harmony and land rent in his book Principles of Political Economy which was published in 1837 and that Bastiat should have cited this in his book, especially since he not not started writing about economic matters until 1844. 58

Carey's next book, with the strikingly similar title, The Harmony of Interests, was published in Philadelphia in 1851 59 but Carey's book was available in proofs at the end of 1850, probably sent by him to the Parisian economists to prove his case against Bastiat. The difficulty was in getting a copy of the proofs to the dying Bastiat in Rome in time for him to look at them. They arrived sometime in November and Bastiat wrote a reply to Carey's criticisms and sent it to the JDE just a couple of weeks before he died. They published Carey's original August 1850 letter, along with Bastiat's response, and a letter in support of Bastiat by Clément in the 15 January 1851 issue of the JDE. 60 In essence, Bastiat said he got his ideas from many sources, only one of whom was Carey (he listed in his correspondence and elsewhere that J.B. Say, Charles Comte, and Charles Dunoyer had been the major influences on his thinking) and that the idea of "the harmony of interests" was not "une individuelle invention" (an invention of an individual) of Carey or anyone else.

In spite of being saddened by Bastiat's death in December Carey continued the debate with another letter to the JDE which was published in May 1851 61 in which he responded to Bastiat and denied that he was seeking any "brevet d'invention de ces lois" (patent on these (economic) laws) but just wanted due recognition of his prior work. There was some venom in these letters back and forth which was complicated by feelings of national pride, with Bastiat not liking criticisms of French institutions by an American, and Carey in turn not liking French criticism of America, citing the work of Tocqueville and Beaumont in particular.

In the absence of his friend, Proposer Paillottet jumped in with a letter to Carey published in the June 1851 issue of the JDE 62 in which he pointed out that Bastiat had been writing on economic matters, especially on the relative contributions to the creation of "value" made by labour or land itself, as early as 1834 and could not have plagiarised Carey's 1837 work. 63

Carey's final word on the matter was penned in December 1851. 64 By then he had come to accept the idea that "the word" harmony had been used independently by many writers but that "la chose" (the thing or the theory) which lay behind its meaning could be very different. Whereas Bastiat thought that what lay behind the idea of value, including the value produced by land, was the exchange of "service for service," 65 Carey thought it was the exchange of "labour for labour." However, Carey's bigger concession was to come to realise during the course of the debate that Bastiat's views were also strongly opposed by the more orthodox economists at the JDE, like Joseph Garnier, who were staunch Ricardians and Malthusians. Thus, although he may have resented Bastiat's claim to have independently discovered the idea of "the harmony of interests," Bastiat was in fact an ally of his with his radical rethinking of the Ricardian theory of rent and Malthusian pessimism which ran along very similar lines to his own.

Another thing we learn from this letter is the real excitement Bastiat felt at the immanent arrival of the Cheuvreux family, in particular Madame Hortense Cheuvreux whose salon Bastiat had attended in Paris and to whom he was very close. She and Paillottet were the only people from his circle of Parisian economist friends who visited him in Rome as he was dying.


My dear Paillottet,

I intended to reply to your kind note of 27 September but at the moment my head and my hand are tired from scribbling down the pages which are included below. I will write back you in the next day or so to discuss Carey, the books, etc. and what concerns me the most, your plans to travel in Italy with Mme Paillottet. In the meantime, I will say to you that since one has a trip like this only once in one's life, it is necessary to do this in the best possible conditions. If I get better between now and the spring, and if chatting to you is not forbidden, I don't need to tell you how much pleasure it would give me if I could be a tourist with you. But if I am like I am now, pray don't let my presence here influence your plans. I would only be a hindrance to you and thus completely ruin your plans; and you yourself, by trying to be kind to me, would cause me harm by encouraging me to talk. You can understand how delighted I am to see the arrival of the Cheuvreux family. Well, reason tells me that their presence here will be painful for me. I will suffer terribly knowing that they are so close and not being able to follow them; or at least, if I give in to this feeling I can say goodbye to what little have left of my larynx.

But whatever may happen, this is not what I am writing to you about today. My letter has a special purpose. Mme Cheuvreux writes that she leaves Paris on 14 October. Now, it is that very day that the letter I inclose will arrive in Paris. Will she receive it? Will her concierge know where to send it?

This is what I am going to ask you to do. Since I am giving Mme Cheuvreux some information about her travels, would you see that it is forwarded to her upon receipt of this letter ?

If she has already left, would you address the letter to M. Auguste Girard, Captain of Artillery at Valence and the brother of Mme Cheuvreux, and attach stamps to it so the barracks porter doesn't get it into his head to refuse to accept it.

Farewell, my dear Paillottet, your devoted friend.



5. Letter 212 to Paillottet (Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850)


Letter 212. Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 256-59). Only part of this letter was included in Paillottet's edition of the Oeuvres complètes and in our CW1: Letter 197. Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC1, pp. 443-44).

Editor's Introduction

We can only speculate about the reasons why Paillottet left out this part of Bastiat's letter from his edition. In it Bastiat talks about his illness and his doctors, his worries about not being able to fulfill his duties to his electorate and the Chamber of Duties where he had been Vice-president of the Finance Committee, his fussing about the Cheuvreux's travel plans to come visit him in Italy, his embarrassment at not having said farewell to some of his friends in Paris, and matters concerning the sending of Henry Carey's manuscript to him so he could evaluate for himself the reasons for Carey's accusation of his plagiarising his work on "the harmony of interests" and the productivity of land.

Concerning his activities in the Chamber of Deputies during the Second Republic, after the Revolution of February 1848 Bastiat was elected on 23 April as a Deputy in the Constituent Assembly representing the département of Les Landes. He was soon after appointed Vice-President of the Finance Committee to which he was re-appointed 8 times. He was re-elected on 13 May as a Deputy in the Legislative Assembly representing the département of Les Landes on the "Social Democratic" list. As his health deteriorated Bastiat lost his voice and was unable to speak in the Chamber as there were 900 Deputies in a very large hall with no amplification. He tried writing his speeches as pamphlets and circulating them among the Deputies so he could reach more people. He also began taking leaves of absence from the Chamber to let his voice recover. He gave his last formal speech in the Chamber on 12 Dec. 1849, on "The Tax on Wine and Spirits" and he last spoke in the Chamber in a debate on plans to give money to Workers' Associations on 9 February 1850. 66 Shortly after this he took another leave of absence, returned to his home town of Mugron and the local spa town of Eaux-Bonnes to rest, and never returned to the Chamber.


[The following passage concludes the first paragraph of Letter 197 in OC and our CW1, p. 280. The following paragraphs were cut by Paillottet and then the letter continues in CW1, pp. 280-81]:

Thank God I am not dead, nor even sicker … But in the end, if the news had been true it would have been necessary to accept it and resign oneself to it. I would like all my friends to be able to adopt the philosophy I myself have adopted in this regard. I assure you that I would surrender my last breath without pain, almost with joy, if I could be sure to leave behind for those who love me, not bitter regrets but soft, affectionate, and melancholy memories. I want to prepare them for the time when I will get sicker.

[The following lines were cut by Paillottet in his edition of OC but were included in an Appendix in Ronce's book.]:

Mme Paillottet shared your worries. Tell her how much I appreciate this show of concern for me. I hope that in the spring she can reassure herself in person that my body and soul are holding together quite well, and that they will not be separated without fierce resistance. Concerning this journey, I beg you to make up you mind without any consideration regarding me. If I am better, I will let you know, and then I'm sure it would be a pleasure for both of us to be tourists together. But if I am in the same state as I am now, then your trip would be completely ruined. Even in the first situation, I have to avoid making my stay in Italy anything other than purely therapeutic. What would my electorate say, what would my colleagues say, if I, supposedly under care for my health, went to admire the marvels of Naples and Venice in the middle of the parliamentary session and after having taken a year of successive sick leave? No, that would not be acceptable. M. Andral 67 prescribed Pisa or Rome and I will limit myself to that, and I will try to spend the month of April with my family in Mugron. 68 As for the rest, we have plenty of time to talk about all these other projects. 69

When you see M. de Fontenay thank him for the recommendations he made. The one for Livorno was not useful. I hope never to have anything more to do with that town. As for a doctor, I have met one who appears to me to be a prudent and educated man. He is professor Mazzoni. After he examined me he told me that his observation was that what was suitable for my condition was healthy living rather than any remedies. Here is a doctor who doesn't want to impose himself on you.

The Cheuvreux left Paris on the 14th. It seems that their travel plans were very different from my way of undertaking a journey. Not only did they not follow my advice but their letters prove to me that they didn't even read them. There they are, leaving Paris on the 14th, just in time to miss the Post Ship which leaves Marseilles on the 19th. Now, from every perspective that was their best way to make the crossing. They will now be reduced to travelling partly by land, partly by sea, in ships loaded down with cargo, where people smoke, where there is neither first nor second class berths, no security, etc. 70 The worst is that they will remain at sea for so long, despite the portion of the journey which they will take on land. I spelled out all of this to them like so many As, Bs, and Cs. They certainly skipped over all these passages in my letters. I am really upset.

My cousin 71 hasn't written to me. However, he should have received one of my letters, one of the first letters I sent from here. If you see him, remind him about me and tell him not to neglect me in this way.

I would also be very much obliged if you could visit on my behalf M. and Mme de Planat 72 whom I was not able to visit to say my goodbyes. I don't excuse myself for this omission which only you can carry out now if you are willing to do so.

When Guillaumin 73 sends me Carey's article I will be able to see what I have to reply to. 74 I said a word or two about this to M. Say 75 yesterday. Unfortunately, I fear that our communication and the shipping of the proofs of Carey's book will be impossible because of the price. Each letter I write costs 12 sous in stamps and those I receive cost 30 sous in shipping costs. My conclusion is that shipping large parcels would be exorbitant. As for the rest, as I am nowhere near being on the road to recovery in my ability to work, the postal reform of Tuscany will have to wait. 76



6. Letter 213 to M. Soustra (Pisa, 12 Oct. 1850)


Letter 213. Pisa, 12 Oct. 1850. Letter to M. Soustra, in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 225-27)

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat was surprised and hurt by the poor reception his book on Economic Harmonies received, even by his colleagues in the Political Economy Society, when it appeared in print in January 1850. This should not have surprised him as he had published a number of articles which later became chapters in Economic Harmonies , such as the articles on competition 77 and population 78 in 1846, the opening chapters of Economic Harmonies in the JDE in January, September, and December 1848, 79 and two pieces on rent in 1849. 80 So he knew his very different views on the Malthusian population trap, the Ricardian theory of rent, and the orthodox view of the nature of value had upset some of the other economists and that they had expressed their reservations in personal conversations and at meetings of the Political Economy Society several times. 81

The Journal des Économistes was slow to publish a review of his book perhaps knowing that it would hurt Bastiat especially as his health was rapidly deteriorating. His friend Ambroise Clément 82 reviewed it some six months after it had appeared in print which was rather unusual as the JDE was quick to bring new books to the attention of its readers. 83 After making some brief remarks about his skill as a writer and complimenting him on his chapters of "Natural and Artificial organisation" and "Exchange" Clément attacked as "graves erreurs" (grave errors) Bastiat's opinions on several key issues, namely his rejection of Malthusian population theory, his rejection of the idea that land and other raw materials create "unearned" income for the owner, and his new argument value is created by the reciprocal exchange of "service for service." 84 In a posthumous review of the second enlarged edition (which appeared in July 1851) in the JDE in August 1851 Joseph Garnier 85 reprimanded Bastiat for continuing to ignore "the masters" of political economy (as well as his colleagues) whose views on value and land rent he rejected. 86 Garnier had hoped Bastiat might have left some notes or drafts written during his final year to address these criticisms. But he did not.

Another close friend, Gustave de Molinari, shared Garnier's criticism of Bastiat's theories in the obituary he wrote for the JDE which appeared in February 1851. 87 He considered Bastiat's attempts to rethink Ricardo's and Malthus' ideas to be "fâcheuse" (unfortunate), that his reformulation of the theory of value as the exchange of "service for service" a mere play on words, and that ultimately Bastiat was a popularizer of economic ideas like Benjamin Franklin, rather than an innovative theorist like J.B. Say. 88 Among his professional colleagues, only Michel Chevalier thought highly of it.

In several other letters Bastiat's expresses his frustration with the responses of what he called "middle-aged men (who) do not easily abandon well-entrenched and long-held ideas" and sadly came to believe that he was only speaking to a future generation of thinkers who might understand his ideas and develop them further. 89

This letter also gives an interesting insight into Bastiat's very critical views about the practice of journalism in France. His series of witty and clever articles known as the "economic sophisms" showed that in just a few years (1844-48) Bastiat had become a master of the craft of journalism becoming perhaps one of the greatest economic journalists who has ever lived. Many of his friends and colleagues were also journalists so he knew the profession very well.


… My dear Soustra, 90 don't think that the indifference shown by the journals towards my book has affected me very much. What has affected me a little (and again I begin to bore myself by talking about it) is the impossibility of seeing myself continuing to work on it. As for journalism, I have seen it too close up. It is a trade, the most trade-like thing imaginable. A man overburdened with tasks, who does not have time to read, who cannot and will not correct his ideas, who has a party line to follow, runs the business. Five or six beardless youths, who are crassly ignorant, who have no other skill than knowing how to turn a nice phrase, compose the article line by line. They never read, they never study, and they attach no importance even to the things they write. One can only compare them to a student doing his homework. Such is the Parisian press, with only a very few exceptions. Also, the signature of a well-known author confuses them. If this system can be helped, it will renew the blood of journalism which it needs very much.

Whatever the case may be, upon reflexion, I understand that in our present time, few of these young writers have been able to penetrate very far in understanding enough of my theory to review it. I would be consoled on the day when some pen or another has grasped the key idea, because then I would be sure that it has not been lost. My regret is that I have left this work in draft form. 91 There remains a lot for me to do, but this work demands strength …



7. Letter 214 to Paillottet (Rome, 8 Nov. 1850)


Letter 214. Rome, 8 Nov. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 260-61)

Editor's Introduction

Ronce tells us that Bastiat's spirits were lifted by the early arrival of his friends from Paris, the Cheuvreux and Bertin 92 families, to Pisa on October 22. He felt well enough to spend a day or so travelling with them to Florence. The Cheuvreux then accompanied him to Rome where he would remain until his death. He relates to Paillottet how he now suffers from boredom as he is no longer able to work on projects like rewriting his pamphlet on "Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest" (March, 1849) which the Guillaumin publishers wanted to reprint.

One interesting fact we learn from the letter is that, even at this very late stage in his illness, Bastiat still has the capacity to joke and laugh at himself, on this occasion a joke about the inefficiency of the "Roman Revenue Service" and "the seen and the unseen."


It would give me great pleasure to write to you, my dear Paillottet, a long letter. But I will have to content myself (and perhaps you as well) with a short one in the style of Girardin, 93 because even though I could write for a long time I would have to confront my great physical difficulties.

I am very happy to have come to Rome where I enjoy the loving and constant care of the Cheuvreux family. Furthermore, I have been able to shake off a second illness which was growing upon the first one while I was in Pisa. It goes by the name of boredom . At last, I have had the good fortune to find here a close relative and friend (Eugène de Monclar). You can see how pleased I am with my move here. However, I ought to say that my larynx 94 does not appear ready to move into the next phase of convalescence.

You can tell Guillaumin to go ahead and reprint my pamphlet "Parliamentary Conflicts of Interests" 95 and that I approve of the measures you have taken together. However, don't think that if I were not prevented from doing so, I wouldn't resist correcting the pamphlet. I would want to cut the first part, lengthen all the examples I gave on the constitutional history of Britain, and above all correct something which I attributed to M. Thiers. 96 I was so angry to have made this mistake that, when the public discussion of it was taking place, I would have retracted my statement from the rostrum, if I hadn't forgotten to do so. But let us not dwell on the impossible.

As for the book by Carey, send it to me when and as you can. 97 If Guillaumin had some contacts in the French embassy, this way of contacting me would be convenient. As for the other matters, getting copies of the Journal des Économistes costs me in Tuscany no more than a standard letter. I don't know what it is like in the Roman States. But sending it via the Embassy is more convenient from the point of view of security than that of cheapness.

Concerning the delivery of letters, I have just learned that those which come from France in envelopes cost double. This is absurd, but it is true. If you fold it and seal it in the old fashioned manner you would save me 75 centimes that I can see and which the Roman Fisc (revenue service) does not see . 98

Our dear friend Michel Chevalier 99 has not failed us in writing a strong review in favour of my book. 100 I plan to write to him to thank him for his article which, as you can imagine, has made me very happy.

Tell me about M. de Fontenay. Is he hard at work? What is he busy with? Perhaps he should avoid concentrating all his energy for too long on a single subject. Experience has shown many thinkers that a single object of study disappears in the face of too determined research. By examining several topics at once one can see the connections between them. When he has finished working on Capital , then could work hard on something else, like Wages , or this wonderful subject which I have been busy with, the importance of the consumer .

Farewell, my dear Paillottet. Don't don't forget to mention me to our friends, and give my news to Justin.

Your devoted friend.



Early Writings: The Bayonne and Mugron Years, 1819-1844

Section Introduction

[See the Reader's Guide to the Writings of Bastiat]



1. T.296 (before 1830) "On the Romans as Plundering Villains"


T.296 (before 1830) "On the Romans as Plundering Villains" (sometime before 1830). This previously unpublished sketch was discovered by the original French editor Paillottet among Bastiat's papers and inserted in a footnote to "Baccalaureate and Socialism". He estimated that it had been written sometime before 1830. [OC4, pp. 454-55] [CW2, pp. 194-95] </titles/2450#lf1573-02_footnote_nt177>

Editor's Introduction

This very short piece is an early expression of the great hostility Bastiat showed towards Ancient Greece and Rome, which was so admired by his contemporaries and played such as crucial role in French education. He mentions this several times in his theoretical work, in his letters, and in his speeches and articles on educational reform. He rejected the morality of the ancient Romans in particular who were warriors and slave owners who kept the majority of the Roman people in political subjection and ruled the rest of the Mediterranean world as subjects of their ever growing empire. The Romans disliked manual labor, used violence to maintain their economic privileges and political rule, and regarded war and the warrior virtues as supreme. For all these reasons, Bastiat despised the Romans.

In his writings on the theory of plunder, Bastiat placed Roman slavery at an early point in the evolution of European society which he saw as moving from primitive plunder, through war, slavery, theocracy, monopoly, governmental exploitation, and communism (or what he called "false fraternity").

Bastiat's very first reference to Rome was in a letter to his friend Victor Calmètes (8 December, 1821) which set the tone for his views for the remainder of his life:

In Rome, wealth was the fruit of chance, birth, and conquests; today, it is the reward only of work, industry, and economy. In these circumstances, it is nothing if not honorable. Only a real fool taken from secondary school would scorn a man who knows how to acquire assets with honesty and use them with discernment. 101

As someone who attended an experimental school in Sorèze, where modern languages, history, and music were taught, Bastiat believed that the study of the Latin language and Roman classics in government schools help twist the minds of modern-day youth and prejudiced them against voluntary cooperation and industrious work. As he stated in an early article "On a New Secondary School to Be Founded in Bayonne" (1834) he warned educators about teaching pupils too much about the Romans:

For what is there in common between ancient Rome and modern France? The Romans lived from plunder and we live from production, they scorned and we honor work, they left to slaves the task of producing and this is exactly the task for which we are responsible, they were organized for war and we aim for peace, they were for theft and we are for trade, they aimed to dominate and we tend to bring peoples together.

And how do you expect these young men who have escaped from Sparta and Rome not to upset our century with their ideas? Will they not, like Plato, dream of illusory republics; and like the Gracchi, have their gaze fixed on the Aventine Mount; and like Brutus, contemplate the bloody glory of sublime devotion? 102

He was still saying the same thing during the Revolution of 1848 where he stated in an article on "The Scramble for Office" in his revolutionary newspaper La République française (March, 1848) that:

In a country in which, since time immemorial, the labor of free men has everywhere been demeaned, in which education offers as a model to all youth the mores of Greece and Rome, in which trade and industry are constantly exposed by the press to the scorn of citizens under the label profiteering, industrialism, or individualism, in which success in office alone leads to wealth, prestige, or power, and in which the state does everything and interferes in everything through its innumerable agents, it is natural enough for public office to be avidly sought after.

How can we turn ambition away from this disastrous direction and redirect the activity of the enlightened classes toward productive careers? 103

In one of the last major pieces he wrote in his final year, Baccalaureate and Socialism , which is his most extended work on the defects of a classical education and "Roman morals," he attributed much of the violence and interventionist legislation during the recent revolution to the classical ideas taught in French schools:

The causes of the Revolution probably had no connection with a classical education, but can we doubt that this form of education contributed a host of mistaken ideas, sadistic feelings, subversive utopias and deadly experimentation? Read the speeches made in the Legislative Assembly and the Convention. They are in the language of Rousseau and Mably. They are just tirades in favor of, and invocations and exclamatory addresses to, Fabricius, Cato, the two Brutuses, the Gracchi, and Catilina. Is an atrocity going to be committed? There is always the example of a Roman to glorify it. What education has instilled in the mind is translated into act. Sparta and Rome are agreed on as models and so they must be imitated or parodied. One person wants to establish the Olympic Games, another the agrarian laws and a third (the distribution of) black broth in the streets. 104

For a similar early diatribe against the Romans see "On the Romans and Self-Sacrifice" below. 105


Distance contributes not a little to giving antique figures an aura of greatness. If Roman citizens are mentioned to us, we do not normally conjure up a vision of a robber intent on acquiring booty and slaves at the expense of peaceful peoples. We do not visualize him going about half naked, hideously dirty in muddy streets. We do not come across him whipping a slave who shows a bit of initiative and pride until the robber draws blood or kills him. We prefer to conjure up a fine head set on a bust brimming with force and majesty and draped like an ancient statue. We prefer to contemplate this person as he meditates on the great destiny of his fatherland. We seem to see his family around the hearth honoring the presence of the gods, with his wife preparing a simple meal for the warrior and casting a confident and admiring look on the brow of her husband and the children and paying attention to the words of an old man who whiles the hours away reciting the exploits and virtues of their father. …

Oh! How many illusions would disappear if we could evoke the past, wander in the streets of Rome, and see at close hand the men whom we admire from afar in such good faith!



2. T.297 (before 1830) "On the Romans and Self-sacrifice"


T.297 (before 1830) "On the Romans and Self-sacrifice" (before 1830). This previously unpublished sketch was discovered by the original French editor Paillottet among Bastiat's papers and inserted in a footnote to "Baccalaureate and Socialism". He estimated that it had been written sometime before 1830. [OC4, pp. 490-91] [CW2, pp. 223-24] </titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_299>

Editor's Introduction

See the Editor's note above on Bastiat's attitude towards the Romans.


When I sacrifice part of my wealth to build walls and a roof that will protect me from thieves and the weather, it cannot be said that I am driven by self-renunciation but that on the contrary I am endeavoring to preserve myself.

In the same way, when the Romans sacrificed their internal divisions in favor of their security, when they risked their lives in combat, when they subjected themselves to the yoke of an almost unbearable discipline, they were not practicing self-renunciation; on the contrary they were embracing the sole means they had of preserving themselves and escaping the destruction with which they were threatened by the reaction of other peoples to their acts of violence.

I know that several Romans demonstrated great personal self-sacrifice and devoted themselves to saving Rome. But there is an easy explanation for this. The interest that determined their political organization was not their only motive. Men accustomed to conquering together, to hating everything foreign to their society, had to have an exalted degree of national pride and patriotism. All warlike nations, from primitive hordes to civilized peoples who make war only accidentally, experience patriotic exhilaration. This is all the more true of the Romans, whose very existence was based upon permanent war. This thrilling national pride, combined with the courage born of warlike customs, the scorn of death it inspired, the love of glory, and the desire to live on in posterity, had frequently to produce dazzling exploits.

For this reason, I do not say that no virtue can arise in a society that is purely military. I would be contradicted by events, and the bands of robbers themselves offer us examples of courage, energy, devotion, a scorn of death, generosity, etc. However, I claim that, like these bands of plunderers, these nations of plunderers, from the point of view of self-renunciation, do not win out over industrious nations, and I will add that the enormous and continuous vices of the former cannot be erased by a few dazzling exploits, which are perhaps unworthy of the name of virtue, since they work to the detriment of humanity.



3. T.289 "The Poetry of Civilization" (c. 1830)


T.289 (1830.??) "The Poetry of Civilization" (La Poésie de la Civilisation). Ronce says he found this in Bastiat's papers and thinks it was written sometime before 1830. In Ronce, Appendix VI, pp. 302-3.

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat was about 29 when he wrote this short piece sometime during 1830 when the July Revolution took place. 106 For someone who disliked ancient Greek and Roman culture so much, he dropped a lot of classical references in this short essay, perhaps to show that he was not ignorant of it, but rather opposed it for moral and economic reasons.

It is also interesting for the kind words he has to say about his friend, Étienne Vincent Arago (1802-1892), with whom he probably went to the same progressive school in the town of Sorèze. 107 Étienne was the youngest brother of the famous Arago family, and like Bastiat, he was elected after the Revolution to the Constituent Assembly and served as Director General of the Post Office where he began implementing reforms which were very dear to Bastiat's heart. During the 1820s he was active in Carbonari circles and in the 1830 Revolution he took part in the fighting on the barricades as an ally of Lafayette's group, while Bastiat remained behind in Bayonne where he too played a small role in helping the new "constitutional monarch" Louis Philippe come to the throne. While Étienne was on the barricades in Paris, Frédéric was drinking red wine and singling political songs with the officers of the Bayonne citadelle, thus helping them decide to side with the revolution and oppose the deposed King Charles X. As he wrote to his friend Félix Coudroy:

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 J—— 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.

Farewell, all has ended. 108

Étienne Arago made a name for himself as a prolific and successful playwright throughout the 1820 and 1840s writing very political plays such as Mandrin, mélodrame en 3 actes (1827), about Louis Mandrin (1725-55) the famous 18th century brigand and highwayman, and Les Aristocraties (1847), which was a strong republican attack on the privileges of the aristocracy.

Bastiat also knew the oldest Arago brother François (1786-1853) who was a famous astronomer and physicist whose work was noticed by Laplace who got him the position of secretary and librarian at the Paris Observatory. In one of the sophisms he wrote in 1847 109 Bastiat appealed directly to François Arago to help him develop the more sophisticated mathematics which he needed in order to calculate more precisely the losses imposed on the economy by tariff protection and subsidies, thus making his arguments more "invincible." We do not know if François ever replied to his letter.


… There are two kinds of poetry. One is the product of the imagination; the other is the story of human feelings.

I am quite inclined to think that materialism, or to put it better, "Pryrrhonism," 110 destroys the poetry of the imagination. But one can say the same of all truth. It is quite evident that as the circle of science expands that of the imagination contracts, since one can only imagine what one doesn't know. The latter explains why the people of antiquity had more imagination that modern people. Not knowing anything about causes they imagined them to be their own creation. It was not only poets who created things but philosophers as well , and the people too.

Even in our own time, rough and ignorant men, because they are ignorant, revel in chimeras, because only the man who has reflected a great deal and who is often mistaken can say " I don't know. " Peasants explain all phenomena which they are aware of, as being under the influence of the moon, the stars, sorcerers, and saints, etc. By enlightening them you dry up these springs of the imagination.

Think of the time when Christianity replaced Paganism. Didn't we see the same fears about the pleasures of the imagination? If your religion dominates all beliefs, the Pagans said, what will become of poetry? Olympus will now only be an ordinary hill, Parnassus only a lump of dirt and granite, rivers will be denuded of Naiads, and trees of Dryads, fauns, and wood nymphs. 111 Beauty (Aphrodite) will no longer be the daughter of the day and the waves; she will be stripped of her belt and Love (Cupid) will no longer have his arrows and blindfold. 112 You will no longer have dwelling places of the gods but fences and hedges; you will no longer have divinities of the hearth but a gloomy fire place. Peace, Concorde, Victory, Filial Piety, Modesty will no longer be gentle deities. The Dawn, Iris, will lose their colors and their charm. 113 The Sun will no longer be a chariot pulled by Apollo's chargers across the sky; 114 and the Moon will now only be a mundane satellite of the Earth. This is what they will no doubt say.

After this mythology has disappeared other mythologies will have their turn; but if the poetry of the imagination has been lost, that of the heart will replace it; and I am truly surprised that you, in order to convince me, so often call upon the marvels of nature, that you don't want to let me believe that, after all is said and done, the truth, the simple truth, is more beautiful than the most brilliant products of the human imagination.

Believe me, my friend, there is more poetry in the head of Arago that in that of Homer.



4. T.104 "Letter to M. Saulnier, Editor of La Revue britannique , (on the cost of government in the U.S. and France)" (c. 1831)


T.104 (undated, possibly 1831) "Letter to M. Saulnier, Editor of La Revue britannique (on the cost of government in the U.S. and France)." Paillottet included this letter in a footnote with the pamphlet Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget (Feb. 1849). He states in was written "in his retreat in Mugron many years ago" but gives no specific date. It was most likely written as the debate was being conducted in the pages of La Revue britannique or shortly thereafter . [OC5, pp. 443-45] [CW2, pp. 308-10].

Editor's Introduction

For the classical liberals of Bastiat's day, the United States was seen as an excellent example of a working limited, decentralised, and low cost government, in contrast to the highly centralised, bureaucratic, and expensive French state. In 1831 a debate took place in La Revue britannique which was edited by Sébastien-Louis Saulnier 115 who took issue with a speech given by General LaFayette in the Chamber on the relative costs of the French and American governments to their respective citizens. James Fenimore Cooper (who had lived in France for two years in the late 1820s) took the side of Lafayette who argued that the American government was the lowest cost government in the world. 116 This view was challenged by the editor Saulnier and an American diplomat, Mr. Harris, in La Revue britannique and some of the articles were published as separate pamphlets. 117 Bastiat must have read this exchange with considerable interest as his own political interest was beginning to show itself at this time: he played a small part in the July Revolution in 1830 which brought Louis Philippe to the throne, he was appointed Justice of the Peace in Mugron in May 1831, stood unsuccessfully for election to the local legislature in July 1831, and in November 1833 he was elected to the General Council of Les Landes.

In this letter to the editor (which Paillottet says was never sent) we see evidence of Bastiat's interest in economic data concerning tax rates and his belief in a very limited government as embodied in the American example. It also shows that he kept abreast of events in Britain and America by reading La Revue britannique which would become even more important to him when he discovered the activities of Richard Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League in the early 1840s.


To M. Saulnier

Editor of La Revue britannique

Dear Sir,

You have filled with transports of joy in all those who find the word economics absurd, ridiculous, unacceptable, bourgeois, and mean. The Journal des débats extols you, the president of the council quotes you, and the favors of government are waiting for you. However, what have you done, sir, to merit so much applause? You have established through figures (and everyone knows that figures never lie) that it costs the citizens of the United States more than the subjects of France to be governed. 118 This gives rise to the harsh consequence (harsh for the people in fact) that it is absurd to wish to place limits on the lavishness of power in France.

But, sir, and I ask your pardon and that of the centres for economics and statistics, your figures, assuming they are correct, do not seem to me to be unfavorable to the American government.

In the first place, to establish that one government spends more than another does not give any information on their relative goodness. If one of them, for example, is administering a nascent nation that has all its roads to build, all its canals to dig out, all its towns to pave, and all its public establishments to create, it is natural that it spends more than one that has scarcely more to do than maintain its existing establishments. Well, you know as well as I do, sir, that spending that way is to save and create capital. If it were done by a farmer, would you be confusing the investments that an initial establishment requires with his annual expenditure?

However, this major difference in situation leads, according to your figures, to an additional expenditure of only three francs for each citizen of the Union. Is this excess genuine? No, according to your own data. This may surprise you, since you have set at 36 fr. the contribution by each American and 33 fr. that of each Frenchman. 119 Well, 36 = 33 + 3 is good arithmetic.——Yes, but in political economy, thirty-three is often worth more than thirty-six. See for yourself. Money, in comparison with labor and goods, is not as valuable in the United States as it is in France. You yourself set a day's pay at four francs fifty centimes in the United States and at one franc fifty centimes in France. The result, I believe, is that an American pays thirty-six francs with eight days' work, whereas a Frenchman needs twenty-two days' work to pay thirty-three francs. It is true that you say that people buy forced labor (corvée) 120 from each other in the United States for three francs and that consequently the price of a day's work ought to be set at three francs there.——There are two answers to this. Forced labor is bought in France for one franc (for we also have forced labor, about which you do not speak) and then, if a day's work in the United States is worth only three francs the Americans no longer pay thirty-six francs since, to reach this figure, you have raised to four francs fifty centimes all the days that these citizens devote to fulfilling their military obligations (militia), 121 their forced labor, their jury service, etc.

This is not the only subtle difference you have used to raise the annual contribution of each American to thirty-six francs.

You impute to the government of the United States expenses that it is not concerned with in the slightest. To justify this strange method of proceeding, you say that these expenses are no less borne by the citizens. But is it not a question of determining which are the voluntary expenses of the citizens and which are the expenditures of the government?

A government is created to fulfill certain functions. When it exceeds its functions, it has to appeal to the citizens' purses and thus reduce the portion of revenue that was freely at their disposal. It becomes simultaneously a plunderer and oppressor. 122

A nation that is wise enough to force its government to limit itself to guaranteeing security to each person and that spends only what is absolutely essential to this consumes the remainder of its revenue in accordance with its particular talents, its needs, and its inclinations.

But in a nation in which the government interferes in everything, nothing is spent by itself and for its own benefit, but it is spent by the government and for the government, and if the French public thinks as you do, sir, if it cares little that its wealth goes through the hands of functionaries, I have resigned myself to that fact that one day we will all be lodged, fed, and clothed at the State's expense. These are things that cost us something and, according to you, it is of little importance whether we get them through taxation or through direct purchase. The importance that our ministers give this opinion convinces me that we will soon have clothes produced by them, just as we have priests, lawyers, teachers, doctors, horses, and tobacco of their fashioning. 123

Yours, etc.

Frédéric Bastiat



5. T.318 "Election Manifesto" (c. 1832)

Source Info

T.318 "Election Manifesto" (c.1832). Quoted in part by Bastiat in a later Election Manifesto: 1846.07.01 "Aux électeurs de l'arrondissement de Saint-Sever (Mugron, 1 July, 1846)" (To the Electors of the Arrondissement of Saint-Séver (Mugron, July 1, 1846)) [OC1.14, p. 461] [CW1]. Also quoted by Molinari in his obituary of Bastiat: Gustave de Molinari, "Nécrologie. Frédéric Bastiat, notice sur sa vie et ses écrits," JDE, T. 28, no. 118, 15 Feb. 1851, pp. 180-96.

We have not been able to locate the original.

Editor's Note

Bastiat had political ambitions after his brief participation in the "Three Glorious Days" in July 1830 (27-29th) which overthrew the Bourbon monarch Charles X and brought his cousin Louis Philippe (of the Orléanist branch of the Bourbon family) to the throne. He wrote his first "election manifesto" or statement of principles in November 1830 in support of a candidate, M. Faurie, 124 in the election for Les Landes. In it there are already strong hints of the positions he would defend some 25 years later: his desire for lower taxes, the dangers of political lobbyists and vested interests seeking benefits at taxpayer expence, the tendency of government to constantly grow in size and thus absorb more taxes to fund their activities, and the self-interest of politicians and bureaucrats who inflate their salaries and their benefits. Concerning the latter, what he termed "this vast machine" of government, he warned:

Abuses, sinecures, exorbitant pay, irrelevant positions, damaging jobs, and administrative structures substituted for competition will have to be strictly investigated; I have no fear in stating that this is the worst plague from which France is suffering. 125

Possibly as a reward for his political activity he was appointed a Justice of the Peace in the canton of Mugron (in spite of not having any formal legal training) on 28 May 1831, and he then stood for election (unsuccessfully) to the legislature of the Arrondissement of Dax on 6 July 1831. He tried again (unsuccessfully) the following year for the Arrondissement of Saint-Sever on 11 July 1832, when the Election Manifesto below may have been written. He had better luck the following year when he was elected to the General Council of Les Landes on 17 November 1833, which may have helped develop his interest in economic matters as he wrote several memoranda for the Council and other regional bodies on subjects like the local land tax, the tax on wine, and public works. 126 He was reelected to the General Council on 24 November 1839 and continued in this position until he died.

He was certainly persistent in his efforts as he tried again to get elected to the legislature in the Arrondissement of Saint-Sever on 9 July 1842 (unsuccessfully) and again in 1846 when he wrote yet another manifesto "To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever" 127 explaining why they should elect him in spite of him being "too progressive" for some and not progressive enough for others. One reason why he faced opposition was for his very strong criticism of the conquest and colonization of Algeria. 128 Another was his belief in very limited government which the following passage makes clear:

But, even if there were agreement on the limits of public authority, it is no easy matter to force it and maintain it within those limits.

Government power, a vast, organized, and living body, naturally tends to grow. It feels cramped within its supervisory mission. Now, its growth is hardly possible without a succession of encroachments upon the field of individual rights. The expansion of government power means usurping some form of private activity, transgressing the boundary that I set earlier between what is and what is not its essential function. Government power departs from its mission when, for instance, it imposes a particular form of worship on our consciences, a particular method of teaching on our minds, a particular direction for our work or for our capital, or an impulse to invade in our international relationships, etc.

Gentlemen, I would bring it to your attention that government becomes all the more costly as it becomes oppressive. For it can commit no encroachments otherwise than through salaried agents. Thus each of its intrusions implies creating some new administration, instituting some fresh tax, so that our freedom and our purse inevitably share a common destiny.

Consequently, if the public understands and wishes to defend its true interests, it will halt authority as soon as the latter tries to go beyond its sphere of activity; and for that purpose the public has an infallible means, which is to deny authority the resources with which it could carry out its encroachments.

Once these principles are laid down, the role of the opposition, and I would even say that of parliament as a whole, is simple and clearly defined.

It does not consist in hindering the government in its essential activity, in denying it the means of administering justice, of repressing crime, of paving roads, of repelling foreign aggression. 129

Towards the end of this manifesto of 1846 Bastiat quotes himself, from an earlier unpublished election manifesto from 1832, to prove to the electors in 1846 that his views about the role of the state had barely shifted over the years and thus they could be confident that he would remain a steadfast opponent of growing government and heavier taxes should they decide to vote for him now.

In spite of all his efforts, Bastiat did not succeed in getting elected to political office until the April elections of 1848 when he became a Deputy representing Les Landes in the Second Republic.


[Bastiat introduces his long quotation from the 1832 manifesto with the following:]

As for me, when I consider how I have persisted in defending a principle that is making no progress in France, I sometimes wonder if I am not a maniac possessed with a fixed idea.

To enable you to judge whether I have changed, let me set before you an extract from the declaration of policy that I published in 1832, when a kind word from General Lamarque 130 attracted the attention of a few voters in my favor:

In my view, the institutions that we have already obtained and those that we can obtain by lawful means are sufficient, if we make enlightened use of them, to raise our country to a high degree of freedom, greatness, and prosperity.

The right to vote taxes, in giving citizens the power to extend or restrain the action of the government as they please, isn't that management by the public of public affairs? What might we not achieve by making judicious use of that right?

Do we consider that ambition for office is the source of many contentions, intrigues, and factions? It rests with us alone to deprive that fatal passion of its sustenance, by reducing the profits and the number of salaried public offices." …

Do we feel that industry is shackled, the administration overcentralized, education hampered by academic monopoly? There is nothing to prevent us from holding back the money that facilitates those shackles, that centralization, those monopolies.

As you can see, gentlemen, I shall never expect the welfare of my country to result from any violent change in either the forms or the holders of power; but rather from our good faith in supporting the government in the useful exercise of its essential powers and from our firm determination to restrict it to those limits. The government has to be firm facing enemies from within and from without, for its mission is to keep the peace at home and abroad. But it must leave to private activity everything that is within the latter's competence. Order and freedom depend on those conditions.

[Bastiat then concludes by saying:]

Are those not the same principles, the same feelings, the same fundamental way of thinking, the same solutions for particular problems, the same means of reform? People may not share my opinions; but it cannot be said that they have varied, and I venture to add: they are invariable. It is too coherent a system to admit of any alterations. It will collapse or it will triumph as a whole.



6. T.285 "On Certainty" (c. 1833)


T.285 (1833.??) "On Certainty" (De la certitude). Ronce says this was sketch written around 1833 and found in his notebooks. In Ronce, Appendix II, pp. 284-87. [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Is these seemingly random musings Bastiat is concerned about the difficulties of rationally determining the scientifically "perfect" weight of a coin which he believes is impossible because of experimental error in weighing and measuring objects in the real world. He then applies similar reasoning to the problem of the moral perfectibility of mankind which he believes can only be approached "asymptotically" and never actually reached. Bastiat began talking about the "perfectibility of mankind" early in 1845 in his articles "On the Book by M. Dunoyer. On The Liberty of Working" and "Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine" (JDE Feb. 1845), and then in earnest in 1846 in his articles "On Competition" (JDE May 1846) and "On Population" (JDE, October 1846), after which it became a central part of his social theory. 131

He concludes somewhat cryptically that "Where one understands little about the effects of drunkenness there will be more drunkards." Given his later interest in the unchanging nature of the "natural laws" of political economy, he is foreshadowing his future claim that if mankind refuses to understand and recognise the power of these laws they will be doomed to suffer the consequences of bad economic policies.


In moral philosophy, a fact is the asymptote of what is right , just as in physics, what can be measured is the asymptote of what is rational in theory .

A fact tends to approach continuously what is right. It is the result of our human nature which is perfectible but not perfect.

That which can be measured tends to approach the theoretically perfect because our senses are also perfectible but imperfect.

One understands that a new kind of exercise makes an organ more practiced and that a new kind of force adds to its strength.

But these new exercises and these new forces only ever add a finite amount to a finite amount, while the theoretical is infinite.

I challenge you and I challenge all the scientific and technical experts to tell me what is the rational weight, the mathematically exact weight, for a piece of money.

Firstly, do they (the experts) have a standard and mathematically determined weight with which they can compare it?

If you tell me that a gramme has theoretically an exact value, I will say no, it doesn't, since one would have to have measured just as precisely the earth's arc of meridian. 132 Now, there would have been in this operation only an error in measurement. A metre would have an error of one ten millionth in its length. This is quite small but it is enough to make your standard, which is very reasonable, not rational.

However, I will admit that it might be. It remains to be seen whether this small piece of copper which you claim is a gramme, has been made with infinite perfection.

You have compared it to a given volume of distilled water, but water weighs more or less according to how much it has expanded, etc.

I will further admit that your piece of copper is a gramme which has been mathematically determined.

You will still have to place the two objects to be compared in the two pans of a balance. But who can tell me that these pans weigh the same? You will say you have weighed them, but in other balances, and my objection therefore will move back to infinity.

However, I will admit the mathematical accuracy of your balance, but the objects which we are comparing, when they have reached equilibrium, do not have an equal weight as a result. They displace more or less air according to their volume. Therefore we have to weigh them in a vacuum and we don't know if there is any vacuum.

Therefore, you can only ever show me an approximate weight.

You can do this operation a thousand times and take the average, and you will give me a more probable result. But a series of probabilities is not a certainty.

Thus it is quite true that in physics complete certainty cannot be acquired by us who have incomplete senses. To say that "I am sure" is to say that "I am infinite."

In order to be sure of one thing it is necessary to be sure of everything.

Therefore, in order to know the weight of this piece of money it is necessary to have measured exactly the quater of the earth's meridian, to have have had perfect instruments in order to carry out this operation, and still more perfect instruments to make the first instrument; it would be necessary to have had a perfect cube of water, to have perfectly distilled the water and not to have allowed, for example, a single atom to have escaped from this organised mass of atoms, a thousand of which could sit on the point of a needle; it would be necessary to have made the perfect vacuum, to have a perfect barometre, in other words to know perfectly its freezing point; it is necessary to determine exactly the movement of the air, not to touch the objects being compared because the warmth of one's hands and the steam deposited on these objects by touching them will change their weights; it is necessary to have perfect scales, and after all that has been achieved, you would still only have the standard of weight.

Everywhere the measurable is the asymptote of the theoretical.

Facts are the asymptote of that which is right.

That which is right is perfection. Perfection is incompatible with human nature; since mankind cannot achieve that which is right either by his thoughts nor by his acts. But he can approach them continuously.

In fact, it is absolutely essential that error and vice constantly lose their influence upon mankind.

Vice is the daughter of error. Not always the error of those who give themselves up to it, but the error of those who suffer from it and those who have the opinion that they should tolerate it.

There are as many fewer corrupters as there are fewer corruptible men. There are fewer of both to the degree that there are fewer men who are inclined to suffer the effects of corruption.

In a society where one doesn't know that all bodies which are not supported will fall down, lots of misfortune will occur.

It is the same for matters of morality. Where one understand little about the effects of drunkenness there will be more drunkards.

Again, this is true for the morality governing social relations, and all the more true , in this case, as the correction comes from a double source, that is in the mind of the perverted man and in that of the society which protects itself from vice …



7. T.4 "On a Petition in Support of Polish Refugees" (c. 1834)


T.4 (1834.??) "On a Petition in favor of Polish Refugees" (D'une pétition en faveur des réfugiés polonais). In an unnamed local Bayonne paper. [OC7.1, pp. 1-4.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

In 1830 the Kingdom of Poland was part of the Russian Empire. On 29 November 1830, an uprising broke out in Warsaw. The Polish independence movement was not supported by other European powers, France included, although public opinion in France was very favorable to it. On 8 September 1831, Russian troops retook Warsaw and numerous Poles went into exile, mostly in France. Between 1830-48 France received nearly 20,000 Polish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German refugees, including socialists such as Karl Marx. 133 The law of April 1832 guaranteed them some financial assistance but only in exchange for the onerous conditions which Bastiat describes later in the article.

In order to help the refugee Poles overcome some of the bureaucratic restrictions they faced in moving about the country and finding jobs, liberals like Bastiat organised petitions, wrote articles in the local press, and lobbied influential friends to help them get residence permits and jobs suited to their areas of expertise. As examples we have this newspaper article by Bastiat from 1834 and a letter he wrote to organise assistance for a particular Pole he knew who was an engineer (Sept. 1835). It shows another side of Bastiat's commitment to political liberty, in that he sometimes took a personal interest in the affairs of those who were harassed by the state and took steps to assist them.

Paillottet believes the article dates from 1834 and was published in an unnamed local Bayonne paper. We, however, have not been able to locate it.


At this moment, a petition to the Chamber of Deputies is being signed in Bayonne to ask for the law dated 21 April 1832 134 relating to refugees not to be renewed when it expires.

We are pleased to learn that people of all shades of opinion are offering to sign this petition. In fact, it is not a question here of asking the Chamber for an act to satisfy this or that clique, nor to favor freedom at the expense of order nor order at the expense of freedom (if indeed these two things can be anything other than inseparable). It is a question of justice and humanity toward our unfortunate brethren. It is a question of not pouring absinthe and bile into the cup of exile, which is already bitter enough.

During the Polish War, a variety of opinions and projects was to be found in France about this war. Some would have liked France to come to the aid of the Poles with arms, others with money, and still others through diplomacy, while yet others thought that all forms of assistance were useless. However, although opinions varied, there was one single wish, one hope, totally in favor of Poland.

When some survivors of this unfortunate nation came to France to escape the hatred of absolute monarchs, this warmth toward hapless courage remained.

However, what has been the fate of the Poles in France in the last two years? You can judge this by reading the law that placed them under the discretionary power of the Government, the wording of which is as follows:

Article 1: The Government is authorized to restrict foreign refugees to living in France in one or more towns of its choosing.

Article 2: The Government may compel them to move to those towns as it chooses for them; it may order them to leave the Kingdom if they do not go to this destination, or if it considers their presence likely to disturb public order and peace.

Article 3: This current law may be applied to foreign refugees only by virtue of an order signed by a Minister.

Article 4: This law will remain in force for just one year from the day it is promulgated.

Now we ask whether it would not be unworthy of France to make a law like this permanent or, which amounts to the same thing, to prorogue it indefinitely through successive renewals.

It seems probable that the most ardent wish an exiled person can cling to, after the longing to see his exile come to an end, is to engage in some form of work and build up a few resources for himself through his industry. But, in order to do this, he has to be able to choose his place of residence. Those refugees who might be useful to commercial establishments have to reside in commercial towns; those who have an aptitude for a particular manufacturing industry have to be able to go to the regions in which such factories are located, while those of artistic bent have to live in the towns in which fine arts are encouraged. Finally, they have to have the right not to be expelled from one day to the next, and to expect that the sword of a despotic government will not be constantly held over their heads.

The law dated 21 April is calculated to prevent the Poles who are unable to receive either news or help from their own country, whose families are oppressed and dragged off to Siberia, or whose fellow-countrymen are dispersed and wandering all over the world, from doing anything for themselves to improve their lot. They are no longer refugees but genuine prisoners of war, huddled in their hundreds in villages that offer them no resources and where the uncertainty in which they find themselves prevents their taking steps that might decrease their expenditure. We have seen them at 9 o'clock receiving an order to leave town at mid-day, etc.

This system of persecution is based on the necessity of maintaining public order and peace in France. But all those who have had the opportunity of meeting Poles know full well that they are not the instigators of trouble and disorder and that they are fully aware that the interests of France have to be discussed by Frenchmen. Finally, if any one of them does not understand his position and duty sufficiently, the courts are there, and it is not in the least necessary for a minister two hundred leagues away to judge and condemn without hearing and seeing or even ascertaining the facts, or at least being obliged to ensure that he is not mistaking the name or the identity of individuals.

The result of this is that it is enough for a Pole to have a well connected personal enemy for him to be thrown out of the country without a hearing, an enquiry, or the guarantees that the lowliest of miscreants would obtain in France.

And what is more, are those who fear that the presence of Poles disturbs public order in good faith? We do not accept that they wish to disturb the peace, and if they had any such intention, we would be disposed to believe that it is the stringent measures taken against them that have annoyed them and led them into error. But is our Government on such unsteady foundations that it has to fear the presence of a few hundred exiled people? Is it not satirizing itself by claiming that it cannot guarantee public order unless it is armed with arbitrary powers against these people?

It is therefore perfectly clear that the petition that is being signed at this moment is not and should not be the work of one party, but that it should be welcomed by all the people of Bayonne, no matter what their political views, provided that there is some spark of humanity and justice in their hearts.



8. T.6 "A Letter to "Charles" in Support of a Polish Refugee" (Mugron, 1 Sept. 1835)


T.6 (1835.09) "Letter to "Charles" in Support of a Polish Refugee" (Lette à un ami non identifié pour la défense d'un refugié). Mugron, 1 Sept. 1835. [JCPD]

Editor's Introduction

This letter was acquired by M. Paul-Dejean at an auction in 2012 and is here published for the first time. It follows nicely the previous article where Bastiat writes a newspaper article urging public support for a petition to liberalise the restrictive 1832 law which controlled the movement and activities of refugees. In this letter we see Bastiat's private actions to organise practical help for a Polish engineer he knew personally, M. Michalewsky, by lobbying his political and business contacts to contribute their weight and support to his efforts. Note that one of the names he refers to is an influential Landais general and Peer Antoine Simon Durrieu.


My Dear Charles

I cannot find the way to express my gratitude for the speed and pleasure with which you took into your protection the unfortunate Pole whom I had recommended to you. Your last letter made him a happy man, especially since we were not expecting any success as prompt and complete as that.

I thought it preferable to send you M. Michalewsky's petititon. I am including a certificate from the Mayor of St.-Sever and another engineer from the arrondissement. The chief engineer also wanted me to send you his, but because of a misunderstanding it has not been included. I will get it if it is necessary, but I think that what we have is sufficient. M. Michalewsky has several others at hand from some of the villages where he has lived, and from a mathematics professor at a college in St-Sever. I think it would be better if he brought them to you himself. The position he now occupies here was obtained as a result of a personal recommendation from the Director General of the Bridges and Highways Department. Concerning the steps about which you spoke at the beginning of your letter, I'll thank you for them as if they had already been crowned with success. Personally, I have no interest in the matter. I hope that M. Durrieu 135 has not been taken advantage of.

Here, the word is that you might be appointed a Councilor at the Royal Court in Paris, or Procurer-General of the Province. Not having read anything about this in the newspapers I presume all this talk is premature. However, now that the appointment process has finished, I hope that your position will soon be confirmed.

But returning to my Pole, as you might think, he wants as little uncertainty as possible. After his arrival in Paris he will need to find some accommodation and to begin preparing for his interview which will be held on 5 September. The journey is a little long and all these factors will, I hope, encourage you to make immediate use of the kind services of M. de Gasparini.

You said nothing about your Portuguese litigation. 136 Your father, when he was in Paris, also neglected to talk to me about the Arias-Quivigne trial. The soundness of your case seems to me to be as clear as the midday sun. I cannot wait to see the end of it.

Adieu, my dear Charles. I write in haste as I feel an attack of the fever which has afflicted me these past three years returning. But I will always make the time to assure you of my sincere friendship and, on this occasion, of my deep gratitude.

Your friend

Frédéric Bastiat

Mugron, 1 September, 1835



9. T.7 Five Articles on "The Canal beside the Adour" (18 June 1837, La Chalosse )


T.7 (1837.06.18) "The Canal beside the Adour" (Canal latéral à l'Adour), 5 articles, 18 June 1837 - 20 Aug. 1837, La Chalosse , nos. 28-37. [JCPD]

Editor's Introduction


La Chalosse is a wine-growing region in the Département of Les Landes which has Dax as its major town. It lies in the foothills of the Pyrénées to the south of the Adour river. Bastiat's home town of Mugron is located there.

La Chalosse was a local weekly newspaper published in the town of Saint-Sever. It appeared between December 1836 and March 1876. Bastiat's first published piece in the journal was this series on "The Canal beside the Adour" (18 June-20 Aug. 1837). He then published two more in 1838 on "Reflections on the Question of Dueling" (Feb. 1838) 137 and "On the Basque Language" (April, 1838). 138 Bastiat went to a school in Saint-Sever for a year in 1813 and stood unsuccessfully for election to the local council in 1832 and 1842. 139

When Bastiat wrote these articles in June 1837 he was a relatively young man of 36 years and had described himself a couple of years earlier as "un simple agriculteur" (a simple farmer). 140 This was not entirely true as he had inherited land from his grandfather in 1825 in the wine growing region of La Chalosse and had acquired more property by means of a dowry when he married in 1831. His total estate of about 250 hectares (617 acres) was used for wine growing on the south side (left bank) of the Adour river, some general farming, and sharecropping by 150 farmers. The income he received from this pushed him into the top 5% of income earners, thus giving him the right to both vote and to stand for election under the very restricted franchise which existed during the July Monarchy.

During his late 20s he had been involved in liberal politics in the last years of the Restoration which reached a high point with his late-night assistance on August 5, 1830 in persuading the officers of the Bayonne garrison to side with the new King Louis Philippe (from the junior Orléanist branch of the family) and not with the overthrown Bourbon King Charles X, thus making it impossible for the overthrown King's Bourbon relative King Ferdinand VII of Spain to come to his military rescue via the south of France. Following the installation of the new monarchy which had some liberal inclinations, Bastiat had hoped to get some position in the new regime, either as an elected representative for the arrondissement of Dax (failed 6 July 1831) or St. Sever (failed 11 July 1832, and again 9 July 1842), or as a local magistrate (Justice of the Peace) in the canton of Mugron (successful 28 May 1832), and finally election to the General Council of Les Landes (successful 17 November 1833; reelected 1839).

It was as a General Councillor that Bastiat had the opportunity and the means to begin commenting in detail on economic matters which came before the Council. He had easy access to government reports and economic data, an audience of 27 other Councillors, and a brief to discuss local economic matters such as local roads, railways, canals, and other public works; the regulation of local fairs and markets; the administration of departmental property; and the collection of direct taxes such as the land tax. He did this with both formal memoranda he wrote and presented to the General Council as well as articles he published in the local press in which he spoke as a respected Council member to various local interest groups. Before he made his breakthrough into the world of the Parisian political economists with his article on "French and English Tariffs" in October 1844 141 he wrote half a dozen other works on specific economic topics which show his gradual development as an economic analyst, especially his skill at handling economic data. These essays were on tariff reform, the building of public works such as the Adour canal, the taxation of wine, the reform of the Post Office, and the direct tax on land:

  1. "Reflections on the Petitions from Bordeaux, Le Havre, and Lyons Relating to the Customs Service" (April 1834) (in CW2, pp. 1-9.)
  2. "The Canal beside the Adour" (June 1837) (CW4, below pp. 000)
  3. "The Tax Authorities and Wine" (Jan. 1841) (CW2, pp. 10-23.)
  4. "Memoir Presented to the Société d'agriculture on "The Wine-Growing Question" (Jan 1843) (CW2, pp.25-42.)
  5. "Postal Reform" (Aug. 1844) (CW4, below pp. 000)
  6. "On the Division of the Land Tax in the Department of Les Landes" (c. 1844) (CW4, below pp. 000)

As a group, the essays show a growing ability over a period of 10 years to use and analyse economic data which Bastiat gets from government reports and other official publications. He seems to have been an advocate of free trade right from the beginning as his 1834 analysis of the inconsistencies of the petitioners from Bordeaux, Le Havre, and Lyons demonstrate. Bastiat argues that if free trade in agriculture is good for consumers (and the nation), then free trade in manufacturing will also be good for exactly the same reasons of lower costs, greater efficiencies, and the expansion of trade in general. In "The Tax Authorities and Wine", the "Memoir Presented to the Société d'agriculture on Wine-Growing," and "On the Division of the Land Tax" he argues that existing government policies on tariffs on wine, other indirect taxes, city tolls (octroi), and the tax on land seriously hamper economic development in Les Landes and impact ordinary working people the most. In "Postal Reform" we see him beginning to argue that the radical reforms introduced in England can and should also be applied in France and he uses very detailed French economic data on the costs of letter delivery to make the case.

Although Bastiat is becoming a skilled analyst of economic data during this period he is still not yet the master of economic theory he was to become later and we only see brief glimpses here of some of the original insights that he was to develop between 1847 and 1850 when he was working on his treatise, Economic Harmonies . These are indicated in the footnotes when they appear. We do see however, some of his earliest uses of French literature to make his economic points which was to become so much a part of his work in the Economic Sophisms which were written between 1845 and the end of 1847. See for example, "The Tax Authorities and Wine" (Jan. 1841) in which he cites La Fontaine and Molière, and "Memoir Presented to the Société d'agriculture on Wine-Growing" (Jan 1843) in which he cites his favourite radical poet Béranger twice. This would become what I have called his distinctive "Rhetoric of Liberty." 142

Some of the economic ideas expressed here in "the early Bastiat" are quite conventional and only hint at the original and very interesting ideas he would develop in his later works. For example:

  1. he still talks a great deal about the interests of "the nation"; he was to downplay this later in order to focus more on the interests of individual consumers
  2. in his discussion of the Adour canal there is an attempt to provide a cost benefit analysis of government expenditure but no sense of the "opportunity cost" of this kind of government activity. The idea that the money spent by government funded public works projects ("the seen") is money that is taken from and thus not spent by consumers ("the unseen") would become central to his chapter 5 on "Public Works" in What is Seen and What is Not Seen (July 1850). 143
  3. also in this essay is an older and more limited understanding of what constitutes productive labour (or what he would later call "effort"). Here he limits "productive labour" to agriculture, manufacturing, and trade, and makes no mention of other activities which create "non-material" goods or services which are also of value to consumers. He was to greatly expand this idea of "services" in Economic Harmonies . He also dismisses as "unproductive" the living off rents from land. When he later came to argue with Proudhon over this matter at the end of 1849, he was to completely reverse his position. 144
  4. related to this, is his use of the term "la classe" (class), especially in the phrases "la classe laborieuse" (the working or labouring class) and "la classe oisive" (the idle class). This notion of class is one increasingly used by socialists throughout this period and which would reach a climax in the 1848 Revolution when steps were taken to limit the power or even outlaw by legislation those who lived from "unproductive" or "exploitative" activities such as rent on land, interest on capital, and profits from employing wage labour. There was another theory of class which was also current at the time Bastiat wrote this essay, namely the "industrialist theory" 145 of class developed by classical liberals whom Bastiat had read, such as Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, and Augustin Thierry. 146 Bastiat would take this up in earnest in his later writings about "plunder", but here for some reason he ignores this tradition and uses the more common, socialist version.

It is interesting to speculate when Bastiat changed his mind about the nature of productive work (and the part played by services) and adopted the "industrialist" theory of exploitation and class which plays such an important part in his later work. I believe that there are hints of this new way of thinking towards the end of his long introduction to his book on Cobden and the League (1845) 147 which suggests that his research on Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League which he had undertaken in 1843-44 made him view classical economic theory in a new light. Cobden very much viewed the ruling and agricultural elites which benefited from the protectionist corn laws as an "oligarchy" which plundered ordinary English workers and consumers. Bastiat soon came to view the French political system in a very similar light.

Bastiat mentioned canals and canal building in several of his works. This is not surprising as the building of transport infrastructure, whether roads, canals, or railroads, was a crucial aspect of the industrial revolution. The question was not whether or not this infrastructure building was needed or not, but how it should be owned, financed, and run. The three main options were fully privately owned, funded, and operated roads, canals, and railways (which were more common in England); government owned, financed, and run operations (the eventual European model); or government licensed, private monopolies which were privately run but ultimately backed by government loans or bail-outs in case of failure (or a mixture of the last two). The latter was commonly used in France and the United States. As we can see from Bastiat's essay here, the building and financing of canals was a major concern of regional governments like Les Landes during the 1820s and 1830s. In the late 1830s and 1840s attention shifted to the building and financing of railways, and the decision to plan and build the 6 major lines (and their corresponding stations) which radiated out from Paris into the provinces, became a major topic of debate (as well as financial scandal at times).

Some examples of his references to canals include:

  1. There is an amusing fragment which was probably written at the same time as his articles on the Adour canal in which he wryly comments on the mania for speculation in shares in canal building companies which was sweeping France. 148
  2. in a letter to the editors of Le National (Nov. 1846) he states that an example of a "good tax" is one that taxes 1 franc from each citizen to fund the building of a canal which reduces transport costs by 5 or 6 millions francs for the entire nation 149
  3. there are references to canals in several economic sophisms: ES1 9 "An Immense Discovery" (Oct. 1845); ES1 10 "Reciprocity" (Oct. 1845); ES1 16 "Blocked Rivers pleading in favor of the Prohibitionists" (late 1845); and ES2 7 "A Chinese Tale" (late 1847). 150 The latter in particular, is a lengthy and amusing story about a Chinese Emperor who decides to increase "employment" for his people by ordering that a fully functioning canal be filled in with large boulders in order to stimulate economic activity in building a new road alongside the canal. Bastiat would later apply this same witty reasoning to railways in "A Negative Railway." 151

First Article

I am proposing to submit to readers of La Chalosse a few thoughts on the proposed canal which would run parallel to the Adour, concerning which the government has just ordered some surveys. 152 It seemed to me useful to devote this first article to an account of the facts which led to this decision.

A few years back the Engineers of the Departement of the Landes produced a plan with respect to navigation on the Adour. 153

This plan consisted in improving or strengthening with a network of supporting stakes:

1. The bed of the Lower Adour as far as the mouth of the Midouze:

2. That of the Midouze as far Mont-de-Marsan;

3. That of the High Adour as far as Mugron and eventually on to St. Sever.

With regard to this third and last part of the project, however, the engineers drew attention to some serious difficulties and could not proclaim the benefits involved as anything more than uncertain.

It was no doubt in view of this consideration, that the government and the Chambers decided to deal only with the Lower Adour and the Midouze, to whose improvement a sum of 900,000 francs was allocated. 154

This decision brought protests from those who dwelt beside the High Adour. They recalled that in former times the navigability of the river had made their ancestors prosperous and they could not without distress see it about to be abandoned.

In fact, however, M. Durrieu, the spokesman for their grievances, managed to get their voices heard. The government granted 60,000 francs, but only for the improvement of the worst stretches of the Higher Adour between Hourquet and Mugron, with the further reservation that 10,000 francs be employed in advance for preliminary investigations. At the same time it instructed M. de Baudre, 155 Divisional Inspector of the Royal Corps of Bridges and Roads, to visit the places in question and make an official report on the controversy between engineers and local complainants.

Unfortunately, the reports of M. de Baudre coincided overwhelmingly with those of the Engineers. They were even more unfavorable to us, for, having seen the rapid descent of the river, the enormous beds of gravel that it sweeps along, its sides devoid of all embankments to which the various works could be secured, he declared himself not only against the improvements envisaged, but even against the investigations which were then being carried out.

Was it really necessary, however, to abandon for good the High Adour Basin, a region enriched by navigation which in times past had reached as far up as Aire, and later on to Grenade and recently to St. Sever? Would there no longer be the hope of keeping it going even to Mugron? Surely M. de Baudre and M. de Silguy 156 could not be thinking on any such lines.

Indeed it would have been less distressing for the High Adour Basin never to have enjoyed navigable access than to see that access gradually cut off across the centuries until in our time it was blocked entirely.

There is one misfortune for people worse than lacking markets for their trade, namely losing ones which they have enjoyed since time immemorial. In the first case a population will adjust. It will produce little but seek to provide for all its needs. When, however, access to trade has led it to expand indefinitely on a very restricted range of production, it is easy to see that should its markets happen to vanish, it will suffer terribly, deprived as it is of goods on which it depends, whilst its own production is of no use either for local consumption or trade.

This is exactly the situation of the Chalosse, which for this reason, and for others outside the scope of this article, endures all the pains of a decline rendered all the more frightful in that there appears no hope of an end to it.

Naturally another thought presents itself: if the bed of the High Adour could not be improved, at least its waters could be used by a parallel canal.

This thought had sprung in the first instance from the patriotic mind of the famous General Lamarque, 157 who had developed it in a report in which it was hard to know whether most to admire the opinions of the expert administrator, the foresight of the great officer, or the talents of the brilliant writer.

Soon the thought had taken on in M. Galabert's projects 158 those colossal dimensions which aroused so much hope and gained so little support.

The famous engineer Brisson 159 reduced the idea to a less monumental scale, but one still huge enough to seem to be dealing with proposals rather than realities.

Finally, M. Silguy, Chief Engineer of the Departement of the Landes, has transformed it into a plan which has the merit of being easily and immediately put into operation, without excluding future amendments conceived on a much larger scale, this plan being at once complete in itself but also the basis for the realization of the much grander schemes of its predecessors.

This plan consists in opening a shipping and irrigation canal parallel to the river Adour, from the point where the river Arros flows into it, as far as the point where its utility for shipping is assured by the allocation of the 900,000 francs already spoken of in our text.

It is research into the feasibility of this project, one favorably received by the General Council of Les Landes, which has just been commissioned.

Second Article

Any productive enterprise is to be evaluated by the comparison of the expense it incurs with the benefits which it produces. We may think it useful, before trying to establish the benefits the people may expect from the Canal parallel to the Adour, to call the reader's attention to the probable costs of this operation.

It is true that it is impossible at this time to set an overall figure. This is an unknown, the determining of which is reserved for the preliminary studies which the government has ordered only very recently.

If we do touch on this question, however, it is because it subsumes another of extreme importance, one which is particularly vital to the Chalosse and the answer to which, it seems to us, ought to serve as the rule, even in the studies which are at present underway.

We said in the previous article that the question at issue was a canal both for navigation and irrigation. Certainly irrigation is in our view an essential condition of the project, since it is what makes its carrying out possible by assuring entrepreneurs an income. Indeed the next thing we will attempt to prove is that it will bring about a complete revolution in our agricultural system.

The more evident the benefits of irrigation, however, the more it is to be feared that the Corps of Engineers for Roads and Bridges will let itself be drawn into wishing to spread them too widely.

Is the projected canal to be far away from the Adour? This is a very serious question which it behooves public opinion to bring to a head.

If it is distant, this will permit a much vaster extent of land to be irrigated, but it will also increase costs by some indefinite amount, because to carry a larger volume of water, the canal will have to be built with much larger dimensions.

To build it closer to the river will restrict the benefits but also contain the costs.

Without hesitation we plump for the latter plan, because we are quite convinced that any project requiring very sizeable capital would be destined to be buried in the government files.

Locating the Canal far from the Adour would also involve the immense inconvenience of disrupting all the customary activity and of violently uprooting, if I may dare to speak thus, the entire flow of economic activity which takes place there at present.

We should not lose sight of the aim of the Canal, which is to offer an alternative to the shipping on the Adour, which has provided an occupation for riverside populations from time immemorial. It is the impossibility of improving the bed of the river that has led to the idea of opening up a parallel water-way. To take away this shipping from the natural entrepots of the Chalosse — Aire, Grenade, St. Sever, Mugron — would be to wander away entirely from the purpose in hand.

We will return later to this subject; but we have had to make haste to note these reflections here, because we have been given reason to fear that the formerly extremely modest ideas of the engineer who has been charged with the management of these studies, may have taken off in a new direction, since the government has given signs of an interest in this enterprise.

In the past the talk was of a canal with rather small traffic. Its dimensions had to be very modest. It had to supply irrigation to a small stretch of land only, which entailed its being close to the Adour. We think we even know the evaluation put on the costs of the project: some three million .

We are engaging M. de Silguy to continue with this project, and to resist that desire which all distinguished men have, to attach their names to some monumental achievement. We repeat that a canal too far from the Adour would do much good only after it had done much that was bad, and, which settles the matter, would be unfeasible.

As for the figure of three million which we spoke of above, we are aware that in the absence of prior investigations, it can be only an approximation, at least if one holds to the idea of not letting oneself be dragged into vast schemes.

If one cannot determine yet, however, the precise amount of the expenses, one can at least have some notion as to whether it will exceed the average of what canals with modest shipping have cost in France, or stay below that figure. All one needs for that is to work out whether the territory to be crossed must be ranked with those which present the most difficulty or those which present the least.

Well, between Plaisance and Le Hourquet, no serious obstacle presents itself. No water needs to be searched for a long way off; no reservoir has to be built; no mountains needs to be penetrated, no troughs need filling in, no rivers to be bridged, no roads to be crossed.

Materials are there in abundance the whole way.

The land involved, the manpower, and the means of transport can be obtained at the most modest of prices.

Finally, the soil is of the kind most favorable to the conservation of the water.

M. de Brisson 160 has shown that canals with limited shipping have cost, on average , 57,000 francs per kilometer and 15,000 francs per metre of gradient.

Using these guides, the cost of the Canal alongside the Adour would amount to,

72 kilometres at 57,000 francs per km 4,104,000 Fr
7 metres of gradient at 15,000 fr per metre 105,000 Fr.
Total 4,209,000 Fr.

Given what we have said about the absence of difficulties along the whole route, we are justified in hoping that the figure of three million is very close to the mark.

Third Article

There are only three direct sources of wealth: agriculture, manufacturing, and trade. To create primary materials, to make changes in their shape and location: such is more or less the whole circle of productive activity.

Another aspect of the matter is that no agent can exert a more favorable influence on each one of these three elements of national prosperity than water does.

No modification of agriculture could be more lasting than irrigation, no motors could improve factories more than waterpower does, and no means of transport could be more powerful for commerce than navigable waterways.

Production is not the sole function of society; society also has both an interest and a duty to conserve and defend that production. 161

We could thus think about the canal alongside the Adour from the agricultural, manufacturing, or military point of view.

Most of these questions have been dealt with by General Lamarque, so superbly, indeed, as to impose a rule of silence on his successors. So I will not deal with them.

I ask only that I be permitted to draw the attention of the readers of La Chalosse to the question of irrigation. This is where, as I see it, M. de Silguy's ideas are exceptional . This subject, moreover, will give me the chance to point out a few ideas, not entirely new, but rather commonly scorned or neglected.

To get an idea of the importance of water to agriculture, all you need is to compare the value and productivity of two different hectares of land, located moreover in the same circumstances, save that only one of them has been irrigated . It is well known in all countries that the result is a doubling of output.

One would be making a great mistake, however, if one were to judge on the basis of irrigation defined in this way, what it might be when carried out on a grand scale and supplied to a whole country.

In the first case one can evaluate only the direct influence of the water; in the second, in addition to this immediate result, there develops a whole series of mutually generated effects, some of which are perhaps more important than the one which gave birth to them. 162 Let us be the judges.

A country which is not watered, above all if it is exposed to the influence of burning heat, always possesses little grassland, and is consequently short of fodder, while livestock and consequently fertilizer are scarce. In consequence, in order to put livestock to pasture and obtain fodder, it must keep a lot of land vacant and resort to leaving land fallow. This already represents an immense loss in the value of the land. Necessarily there is added to this a no less considerable loss of labor-power, in the care of flocks and herds, the upkeep of fencing, the transport of enormous masses of fodder, endless weeding, etc, a condition which remains until the country has access to irrigation.

Then the pastures multiply, and with them the livestock and the manure. The good land improves and the unused land is cleared under the triple influence of water, fertilizer, and crop rotation. The costs of cultivation fall relative to the value of the products. The soil grows in value and fertility. The population increases in number and well-being.

Such are the general effects of irrigation. There are others which make themselves felt most markedly on the farms on the banks of the Adour, because of their exceptional situation – which is something I must explain. The right bank of the Adour presents initially a strip of good soil produced by the alluvium of the river. Behind this good soil vast heaths or moors stretch away. For the most part these two types of terrain are separated by marshland, formed by rainwater, which, falling on the moors, is prevented by the alluvial strip from draining into the river.

Most of the farms are composed of these three types of land in varying proportions.

This mix of different kinds of land, along with the hot climate and the sandy nature of the soil, makes it clear to the inhabitants what kind of agriculture is required.

On good land people produce as much cereal as possible. On this kind of terrain the fields would soon be exhausted and invaded by weeds . But the first difficulty could be circumvented by bringing in enormous masses of compost from the surface layer of the moorlands and the second by weeding and fallow farming. An agriculture so simple and based exclusively on manual labor could be, and in fact was, abandoned to share-cropping. 163

To describe here all the fatal consequences of share-cropping would be to pile article onto article. I will limit myself to indicating them in a very general way, leaving the reader to apply them at will.

Good agriculture like good anything else, requires the combination of three things: will, knowledge, and power .

Will is bound to be sluggish in the case of share-croppers, since all expenditure of effort over and above what is absolutely indispensable, is an undertaking in which all the costs fall on them and half the profit goes to someone else.

As for scientific knowledge , it would be absurd to look for it in a class of men lacking in everything, even will.

Sharecropping is equally deficient in power . Only the master could devote some capital to the land; but he reasons in respect of such expenditure in the same way as the share-cropper does in respect of labor, and he knows that he will get back only half of the profit from investments he would have to finance entirely on his own.

Thus all agriculture under share-cropping is apathetic, humdrum, and poor. 164

If we switch our attention from the work to the worker, we will be struck by a no less deplorable spectacle.

A uniform agriculture produces a uniform diet: bread and water and some salted meat, such is the food regime of the Landais peasant.

Clothing is not comfortable either in a country which lacks the raw materials and the means of making them .

It suffices, if one wants to get an idea of the dwellings, to remember that they are in the exclusive charge of the proprietor, who does not use them.

Finally, this badly nourished, badly clothed, and badly housed population, is further decimated by the endemic fever which the marshland produces and spreads to the countryside.

I could round off this sad account if I added to it a sketch of the intellectual and moral state of this unfortunate class, but this would take me too far from my subject.

I will summarize therefore, in order of their causation, the obstacles which, on the right bank of the Adour, stand in the way of agricultural progress and the well-being of the inhabitants:

Burning sun, arid soil.

Inevitable lack of pasture, livestock, and fertilizer.

An immense proportion of uncultivated land.

An agriculture which drains and wastes alluvial soils.

Share-cropping; lack of energy, knowledge, and capital.

A population badly fed, badly clothed, badly housed, and ravaged by periodic illness.

Fourth Article

Thus far I have considered the Canal by the Adour only in its connections with the right bank of this river.

In trying to establish that it was conducive alike to manufacturing by way of waterpower, to commerce by facilitating shipping, and to agriculture by means of irrigation, I wanted to show it, if I may put it thus, as an immense and versatile motor, 165 at work across the whole length of our region, bringing a powerful forward momentum to all the activity which takes place there.

It remains for me to consider its effects on the left bank of the Adour or on the Chalosse. 166 My initial thought is that it would be hard to understand how all types of production could be undergoing a sizeable development all around us, without our taking some share in that growth in well-being and prosperity.

Some worthy souls, however, without exactly denying the general benefits of the Canal, have expressed the fear that it might be more hurtful than helpful to the particular interests of the Chalosse. "To create a means of communication," they have said, "which puts our vineyards up against the Madiran, is to subject them to ruinous competition".

Fear of competition is the eternal stumbling block of all economic progress. 167 If this were the prevailing question with regard to the shipping on the Adour, I have to ask, where ought it to start? Grenade could establish that competition from Aire is to be feared and that the navigability of the river will be a scourge if the boats just sail past their storehouse doors. St. Sever could say the same about Grenade; Mugron could about St. Sever; Laurede about Mugron; and if such an argument is absurd on a district to district basis, I cannot work out why it should become decisive from province to province.

What a strange contradiction! We want roads and we do not want canals, which are only much improved roads. The ability to engage in economic tran sactions, however, is either useful or disastrous. If the former we must welcome the canals; in the latter case we must reject the roads. If competition is in itself a bad thing, the isolation of empires, provinces, and districts must be the aim and outcome of all civilization.

Moreover, one should not be surprised at the fears, even the exaggerated ones, of the Chalosse. The process of decay which is dragging the place down is so rapid that we must take seriously even its fears, which resemble those of an ill person whom real dangers make scared of imaginary ones.

Two interests, so it seems to me, must be the concern of the Chalosse: to win new markets for its wines; and to improve all its other sources of income.

To know whether the Canal will help or hinder the distribution of its wines, we have to look into the causes which have brought their distribution to a halt, and when we undertake this examination, we will find all these factors operating in a region where the canal would have no impact on them. It is not by perfecting our means of transport that we succeed in modifying the system of the prohibition of trade, the thousand shackles created by indirect taxation, the thousand barriers caused by municipal taxes on merchandise (the octroi), 168 or the apparently fixed preference consumers have for red wine.

Among the causes of our distress, however, there is one which will inevitably be affected by the Canal beside the Adour, namely, competition. It is important therefore to see what brought about this competition, what kind of future it is preparing for us, and how it can be modified by the Canal which is our present concern.

Two principal issues seem to me to make competition frightening with regard to the present and above all for the future of my native region. The first is the question of ease of communication and the second concerns the raising of beef cattle.

Those to whom I address my remarks are well aware that we encounter in places such as Dax and Bayonne a great deal of rival production other than that from the Madiran. Bordelais, Saintonge, Languedoc, the province of Salies, and even the Ile de Ré have recently driven out our products. How do wines from so far off come to invade our habitual trading centres ? It is because we live in an era when transport is cheap and our agriculture is based on crude manual labor and is very costly.

If this is the case, are our problems approaching their end? Far from it. On all sides there are being prepared means of transport vastly more powerful than those which these fearsome rivals of ours have introduced. The time is coming when distances are going to disappear, when one will be able to count the advantages of proximity for nothing, when canals and railroads will be able to shift the heaviest of loads from the North to the South, and from the South to the North, from the centre to the periphery and from the periphery to the centre, with prodigious economy. Whether this is a blessing or a curse matters little. The world marches on and our complaints will not stop it. What are we going to do, however, in the face of this fearsome competition, we who are already complaining that it is killing us? How will we defend ourselves, in our isolation and with our miserable farming practices ? This is what, it seems to me, should be the focus of serious thinking, rather than the obsessively minute calculation of the harm which competition from the Madiran can do us.

Now that I have shown the owners of the vineyards the future that awaits them, 169 I must show them how that future can be changed by the Adour Canal.

The thing which caused and as it were set in stone the manual labor-based agriculture of the Chalosse, was the high cost of raising cattle, a cost which reflects the barren character of the resources available in our area for education and the raising of live-stock. It would mean giving up for all time the idea of competing with our rivals on an equal basis, if, blindly sticking to the status quo , we were to repudiate the innovations which would put within our reach that economic agriculture which they have generally adopted. Now what is more likely to favor this revolution, one that is moreover imminent, than an irrigation Canal, a canal which will turn over fifteen thousand hectares of land, in the centre of the Département, almost exclusively to the production of fodder?

I am well aware, of course, that a revolution in the growing of vines is fraught with difficulties; that a whole region cannot easily change all its habits, and that our forecasts in this respect look utopian in the extreme. One cannot deny, however, that we are being drawn towards this revolution by irresistible forces, forces which it does not fall within our powers to control. We must prepare for these circumstances or be crushed by them. We must produce under the same conditions as the others or succumb under the weight of the competition. If we must of necessity move from one regime or perish, is it not wise to give a very favorable welcome to the project by which the transition will be facilitated?

It is not enough for us to produce at the same prices as our rivals; we also need the same means of having our products arrive at the centers of consumption. Doubtless these routes, these canals which are the means for the export for our wines are also a means of entry for wines from outside. To reject them for this reason would be a puerile act, comparable to that of the would-be country gentleman who keeps his house boarded up for fear that thieves might get in.

They say that the wine of Madiran will come to the Chalosse. So why should not the wine of the Chalosse go to Madiron? Madiran's wines do not all make their way down to our departement. The great majority are spread out across the Bearn, the Bigorre and the plain of Tarbes. We know that these wines are blended, something which our own are eminently capable of as well. It may well be therefore that the Canal would open up this new possibility for our vineyards.

Whatever is the case, it is certain that the latter can only gain from easy access for our trade with Dax and Bayonne, from the growth in population and wealth which the canal is bound to lead to across our entire navigable area, and that, accordingly, even when the case is discussed from the narrowest point of view, it is far from justifying the fears the project has inspired. I began by saying that the Chalosse had a double interest, first in having markets for all its wines, and secondly, in the improvement in all its other areas of economic activity. Although the question of wines is the only one I have touched on, I have no space to give an account of the likely effects of the Canal on all our other productive undertakings and interests. Perhaps that will be the subject of a fifth article.

Fifth Article

To finish what I had to say about the Canal beside the Adour, after having explored its influence on the wine industry, I still have to consider it in terms of its connections with other industries. Such a subject, if I dealt with the details, would yield me nothing more than a series of commonplaces. Perhaps I may be permitted to cast an eye more generally, on the probable future of the Chalosse. The results will speak for themselves to the reader.

The population of the Chalosse can be divided into two classes:

1.Those who live from rents;

2. Those who live by working. 170

The first has enjoyed until the present time virtually exclusive importance. It is clear, however, that this preponderance will soon begin to wane. A constant process is reducing the size of the great landed fortunes and forcing the small proprietors down into the ranks of the working class. 171 This is incontestable, and in witness of it, our countryside is dotted with ruined and deserted houses, attesting to the disappearance of as many once comfortable families.

The working class, by contrast, have virtually taken over our region. Already we can see this class growing everywhere. I am not very old, 172 yet I have seen a lot of shops invade a lot of living-rooms. I have seen the increase in the numbers of lawyers, doctors, solicitors and notaries. 173 I have witnessed the springing up of numberless artisans.

There are clearly laws in operation which reduce continuously the numbers of the idle class, 174 and increasing those of the working class, laws which tend to modify profoundly the face of our cities.

These laws are not hard to uncover. I will cite two of the principal ones: the growth of luxury and the fragmentation of inherited wealth .

The idle class has a thousand ways to ruin itself; it has only one of enriching itself, which is by saving. The landed fortunes which spread prodigality, carelessness, and misfortune are bound to be more numerous than those which engender good order and economy.

The division of inherited wealth works even more actively in the destruction of landed riches. One holding, no matter how extensive it may be, which goes on dividing and sub-dividing from generation to generation, dissolves eventually into a multitude of fragments, quite incapable of maintaining as many families in luxury. 175

If these are the causes which entail the decline of the idle classes, it is clear that the decline will stop only when the causes cease to exert their influence. It is most unlikely, however, that this will happen. Far from diminishing in their force, these causes seem to draw new vigor from their own effects, such that it is correct to say that the decline of the idle classes is subject to the same accelerating force as the fall of physical bodies.

In fact, civilization, travel, and frequent communications between men, awaken in us new needs, new desires, new temptations, new habits, and new pleasures.

If our fathers had a thousand ways of ruining themselves, we have ten thousand, and our descendants will have a hundred thousand. What was a unnecessary a hundred years ago, is today a necessity and the luxuries of our time will be indispensable a hundred years from now. 176 Perhaps it is only the privately owned (and worked) part of a limited area which will prove to be a constant; from which one has to conclude that the idle bourgeoisie is destined to vanish.

Besides all this, the division of inherited wealth is far from having run its course. On the contrary it has been given a new impetus by the recent changes which have affected our laws and way of life. One knows that there is the equal division of inherited property 177 a force which in very few generations would prevail against the strongest of aristocracies. So how long can it be thought that our small bourgeoisie could resist it?

We are thus drawn irresistibly towards work. Work is the law of mankind. It is the only refuge open to the inhabitants of the Chalosse, and we can readily see that they all have some feeling of embarrassment towards it, since they all aspire to leave to their sons a profession, instead of an inheritance of land rents.

These are, doubtless, incontestable truths. If this is so, however, by what strange reversal of ideas do we accept with such indifference and often with such disfavor these great improvements which are sure to open up an immense prospect of work for the generation to follow? What do we really want for this next generation, then? That it should be reduced to the alternative of looking for work far from the land which witnessed its birth or leading in its own country a life of idleness, and lacking in dignity? It is incontestable that the Canal beside the Adour offers powerful inducements to all forms of work. It will open to the enthusiasm of the young of today a multitude of careers in farming, manufacture, and commerce. A more lively system of production, and economic transactions multiplied many times over, can not fail to magnify the business opportunities of lawyers, solicitors, and notaries, indeed of all the professions, to increase the size of our markets, and to give much encouragement to the work of our artisans. The prosperity of each class reacts on all the others, and that is how general prosperity is fostered.



10. T.286 "Proposals for an Association of Wine Producers" (15 Jan. 1841)


T.286 (1841.01.15) "Proposals for an Association of Wine Producers." Documents relating to an Association for the Defence of Wine Producers planned by Bastiat. In Ronce, Appendix III, pp. 287-95.

According to Ronce they were written shortly after Bastiat returned from a trip to Spain and Portugal in 1840. In three parts: 1. Une Association; pp. 287-88; 2. Statuts de l'Association, pp. 288-92; 3. Prospectus du Journal de l'Association, Le Midi , pp. 292-95. In Ronce, Appendix III, pp. 287-95.

Editor's Introduction

This piece is interesting because of the light it shines on an early plan Bastiat drew up to organise an anti-tax, free trade movement in France some five years before he helped found the Free Trade Association in February 1846, first in Bordeaux and then a national body a few months later in Paris.

Bastiat first wrote on free trade in April 1834 in "Reflections on the Petitions from Bordeaux, Le Havre, and Lyons Relating to the Customs Service" 178 in which he called himself "a simple farmer" which belied his already deep reading in economic literature and his growing interest in the economic affairs of his Département of Les Landes. The new July Monarchy (which came to power in August 1830) launched an initiative to review French tariff and tax policies after the increases enacted in the 1820s during the Bourbon Restoration. 179 Given the unpopularity of the taxes on alcohol these were reduced somewhat but there was less success with tariff policy.

In France at this time there were a bewildering array of restrictions on goods allowed into the country. Some were prohibited outright, many raw materials were lightly taxed, while other finished goods had very high tariffs imposed upon them. In 1836 the average tariff rate imposed by the French government was about 12%. In Britain at this time it was about 15%; in the U.S. it was about 33%. To police this complex system a veritable "army" of public servants worked for the Customs Service. 180 According to the Budget Papers of 1848 the French state raised fr. 202.1 million from tariffs and import duties out of total receipts of fr. 1,371 million, or 14.7%. 181

Very few individuals or groups called for free trade across the board, but various groups, like the merchants in the port cities of Bordeaux and Le Havre and the important regional city of Lyon, called for free trade for some sectors of the French economy but not for their particular industries. Bastiat condemned them for their intellectual inconsistency and argued that:

I have come not to defend the protection that they are attacking but to attack the protection that they are defending. Privilege is being claimed for a few; I come to claim freedom for all. 182

Although he pointed out their errors in some detail and showed how French agriculture would benefit from a policy of free trade, he seemed to realise that his proposals were premature, since he opened the essay with the statement that "Free trade will probably suffer the fate of all freedoms; it will be introduced into our legislation only after it has taken hold of our minds." 183 And France, Bastiat understood very well, had not yet reached that stage.

His next significant essay on economic matters came three years later with an essay "The Canal beside the Adour" (June 1837) 184 in which he discussed the financing of public works in his Département. However, his next foray into free trade did not occur for another two and a half years after that with a pair of articles which he wrote at the end of 1840 or in early January 1841 on "The Tax Authorities and Wine" 185 and the essay republished here, "Proposals for an Association of Wine Producers." These essays began a period of growing interest in tax and tariff reform in Les Landes and its impact on both French agriculture and foreign trade, especially with the Netherlands and England. Between these two essays and his breakthrough essay on "On the Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two People" (written in June or July 1844 and published in the JDE in October) 186 which brought him to the attention of the economists and free traders in Paris, Bastiat wrote the following pieces on the wine industry, taxes, and free trade:

  1. "Memoir Presented to the Société d'agriculture, commerce, arts, et sciences du département des Landes on the Wine-Growing Question" (Jan. 1843) 187
  2. three 3 essays on "Free Trade. State of the Question in England," published in the Bayonne Sentinelle des Pyrénées , May-June 1843 188 in which he describes the activities of the Anti-Corn Law League for the first time and wonders why the French press continues to ignore it.
  3. and 2 undated pieces from 1844 on "Freedom of Trade" published in an unnamed newspaper in the south of France, 189 and
  4. another Report "On the Allocation of the Land Tax in the Department of Les Landes" possibly written for the General Council of Les Landes, of which he was a member. 190

Returning to the "Proposals", Ronce tells us that they were written in late 1840 after Bastiat returned from a business trip to Spain and Portugal to set up an insurance company which never eventuated. 191 He was on his way to England (perhaps to meet Cobden and other members of the Anti-Corn Law League which had began its free trade agitation in 1838) when he was taken ill and returned to Le Havre and then to Paris. He arrived in the middle of a debate which had spring up about the Minister of Finance Georges Humann's efforts 192 to reform the taxation system in order to meet a looming budget deficit.

This was caused by Adolphe Thiers' plans for a massive public works program to erect the so-called "fortifications of Paris," or what would later be known as "Thiers' wall or enclosure" (l'enceinte de Thiers). 193 The international crisis which arose in 1840 over France's support for the Pascha of Egypt and opposition by Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia led to growing fears in France, led by Thiers, that Britain might one day plan a new invasion and occupation of the capital as the victorious powers had done in 1815. Thiers therefore planned to build a military wall which would surround and supposedly protect Paris, along with a series of 16 massive star-shaped forts laid out in an outer perimeter beyond the wall. 194 Thiers' critics, such as the astronomer and mathematician François Arago 195 and the economist Michel Chevalier, 196 objected to its construction because it was so expensive, that military technology would soon make it obsolete, and that the wall would one day be used to "imprison" the citizens of Paris if they ever rose up in rebellion to demand much needed political and economic reforms (which they did of course in February 1848, and were duly down by troops stationed in the forts around Paris). In other words, the wall would result in the "embastillisation" of Paris (the Bastillisation of Paris). 197 To pay for the wall, budgeted at Fr. 150 million, Humann had to "rationalise" (i.e. increase) tax collection, which he did by undertaking a new survey of land and business ownership and more vigorously collecting the direct taxes which were levied upon them, as well as increasing indirect taxes on such things as wine and alcohol. As we know from a letter to Felix Coudroy 198 Bastiat opposed the building of the Thiers' wall as well as the consequent new taxes Humann imposed on the wine industry which had a significant impact on Bastiat's home region which depended heavily on wine production. These measures were the immediate cause for Bastiat writing his paper on "The Tax Authorities and Wine" and his ambitious "Proposals for an Association" to organise the wine producers of his region to oppose these tax increases.

Bastiat was so moved to oppose these mesures that he wrote the pamphlet, drew up the statutes for a broadly based anti-tax organisation, and a prospectus for its journal to be called Le Midi ("The South"), and took them personally to a print shop to be printed and distributed. This would not be the last time Bastiat would do something like this. He would do the same thing three times again, once in November 1846 when he became the editor of the magazine of the French Free Trade Association, Le Libre-Échange , 199 and twice more during the 1848 Revolution with two small publications which he and some close friends handed out on the streets of Paris, La République française (February-March, 1848) and Jacques Bonhomme (June-July, 1848). 200 If nothing else, Bastiat was an inveterate founder of small magazines to support a cause he passionately believed in.

These plans to build a large, organised anti-tax movement in the major wine growing areas of the south (around the regional cities of Orléans, Angoulême, and Bordeaux) came to nothing since he was met with indifference by most of the landowners and wine merchants he approached. In a letter to Felix Coudroy dated 11 January, 1841 201 Bastiat complains that the southern Deputies he spoke to had "interests to protect" or were "seeking government positions" and did not wish to jeopardise their chances of success. Thus the detailed plans he drew up concerning the structure and operation of the Association were largely wishful thinking on his part at this stage. Bastiat would have more success in creating a free trade association with a second attempt in early 1846 after he had made contact with the political economists in Paris who were part of the Guillaumin network. 202 The first branch of the Free Trade Association 203 was started in Bordeaux in February 1846 and a national organisation was created in Paris in July 1846. Bastiat would lead the Free Trade Association until ill health forced him to resign in February 1848. The Association would be closed down soon after the February Revolution so the economists could focus on the more pressing problem of the rise of socialism in the new Second Republic. But here, in January 1841 we see Bastiat in the full flush of enthusiasm for the cause of free trade.

It is interesting to compare this Proposal with a very similar one he drew up in February 1846, a "Plan for an Anti-Protectionist League," when the first Free Trade Association was being launched in Bordeaux. 204 He still asserts the importance of forming committees in every town, the need to take a principled stand in favour of complete and not partial free trade, and to avoid unnecessary political partisanship in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. This "Proposal" and his remarks about the activities of the English Anti-Corn Law League 205 in the introduction to his book on Cobden and the League (July 1845) reveal the strategy for radical economic and social change he was developing at this time and which he would attempt to put into practice in 1846.

Also of note is his use of sarcasm and expressions of anger in the face of these new taxes and regulations, which prefigures what was to become his hallmark "rhetoric of liberty" with its use of "harsh language" and wicked humour in the Economic Sophisms which he wrote in 1845–47 at the height of the campaign against protectionism.


1. An Association.

There are in France 2 million hectares 206 of land planted with vines.

Each hectare produces on average 50 hectolitres 207 of wine.

Total production is 100 million hectolitres.

Granting that a reform, even a partial one, of the laws which govern the collection of indirect taxes, 208 the system of octroi taxes (city taxes) 209 and that of customs duties, would have the effect of increasing the value of each hectolitre by 2 francs, resulting in a increase of 200 million francs in income for the producers, which represents, at an interest rate of 4%, a capital value of 5 billion francs .

It is estimated that this reform would produce at least a similar amount in additional profits for the traders, merchants, bar owners, and consumers.

Thus it is thus a matter of TEN BILLION FRANCS which can be won by introducing freedom of industry and the equalisation of tax rates. 210

There is only one means to achieve this: ORGANIZATION. 211

It is necessary that all those interests march to the beat of the same drum in order to reach the same goal, and they will be able to do this only when they are organised .

Every industry provides examples of this.

Producers of sugar, manufacturers of cloth, the maritime and colonial interests all have representatives .

We alone are always defeated because we do not know how to defend ourselves.

If the truth be told, it is difficult for millions of citizens who are spread across a vast territory, to organise themselves.

But nothing is impossible for an Association united in a public campaign.

This is what has lead us to found at the same time an Association for the Defence of Wine PRODUCERS and a Journal of the Association .

Both institutions are only in an imperfect embryonic form, but with time and the good will of our fellow citizens they can be developed further.

2. Statutes of the Association.

Article 1. A Society has been formed, with the government's authorisation, 212 comprising owners of vineyards, wine traders, merchants, and bar owners engaged in the wholesale or retail sale of alcoholic beverages, and all other persons who agree with these statutes.

Is is not necessary for this support to be explicit; it comes from the mere fact of having paid the subscription which will be discussed below.

Article 2. The aim of the Association is to seek, by constitutional means, the progressive reform of the legislation governing indirect taxation, the system of octroi (city tolls), and customs duties, where it causes harm to the production, distribution, sale, and consumption of wine and spiritous liquor.

The Association is formally to refrain from engaging in all other activities. especially any intervention in political matters.

Art. 3 To be a member of the Association one has to agree to an annual payment of 2 francs.

Art. 4. The wine growing land of France is divided into 5 districts, each of which will have one representative, namely: 213

Western District Administrative Centre: Nantes
Charente 110,000
Lower Charente 100,000
Vendée 17,000
Deux Sèvres 20,000
Lower Loire 30,000
Maine-et-Loire 38,000
Vienne 28,000
Upper Vienne 4,000
Indre 18,000
Indre-et-Loire 35,000
Cher 12,000
Loire-et-Cher 26,000
Loiret 38,000
Hectares of vines 476,000
Southwestern District Administrative Centre: Bordeaux
Gironde 138,000
Dordogne 90,000
Lot-et-Garonne 70,000
Lot 58,000
Tarn-et-Garonne 36,000
Gers 88,000
Landes 20,000
Upper Pyrénées 15,000
Lower Pyrénées 24,000
Hectares of vines 539,000
Southeastern District Administrative Centre: Marseilles
Bouches-du-Rhône 40,000
Var 68,000
Vaucluse 28,000
Drôme 24,000
Isère 27,000
Ardèchre 26,000
Lozère 26,000
Rhône 30,000
Loire 14,000
Upper Loire 6,000
Upper Alps 14,000
Lower Alps 6,000
Puy-de-Dôme 30,000
Hectares of vines 339,000
Southern District Administrative Centre; Montpellier
Upper Garonne 48,000
Eastern Pyrénées 45,000
Ariège 12,000
Aude 51,000
Tarn 31,000
Hérault 103,000
Aveyron 34,000
Gard 71,000
Hectares of vines 395,000
Central District Administrative Centre: Dijon
Côte-d'Or 26,000
Saône-et-Loire 37,000
Nièvre 9,000
Yonce 37,000
Aube 22,000
Marne 18,000
Upper Marne 13,000
Upper Saône 11,000
Doubs 8,000
Jura 21,000
Allier 17,000
Ain 17,000
Seine-et-Oise 16,000
Hectares of vines 252,000

The number of districts, and consequently the number of representatives, can be increased if the interests of the Association require it.

Art. 5. There will be created:

One Committee per Department,

One Committee per district,

One Central Committee,

One General Administrative body.

Art. 6. The members of the Association from the same Commune will choose from among themselves a Financial Officer.

The Assembly of Financial Officers from the Communes will meet in the main town of the Department and elect one of their members to the Subscription Committee.

This Committee will elect the representative of the Wine Growing Industry , or the member of the Central Committee.

All elections will be conducted using a plurality of votes, whatever may be the number of voters, according to the customary practices and at times announced in the Journal of the Association .

In the case where an election is not held the representative chosen at the preceding election will continue to carry out his duties.

Art. 7. The function of the Representatives of the Wine Producing Industry will be to make themselves available in Paris during the sessions of the Chambers in order to support the petitions and demands of their constituents.

To seek the progressive reform of the laws which regulate the distribution and the market for wine.

To judge the order in which each reform ought to be proposed, in order to bring about the common goal determined by the entire Association.

To determine and to develop the means of levying the tax in a way which is compatible with the liberty of industry and the principle of the equality of the tax burden.

Art. 8. The general Administrator is in charge of everything concerning financial accountability and publicity.

Art. 9. The Representatives of the Wine producing Industry will receive a monthly payment which will be set at a later date, either by the Subscription Committees or by the Central Committee itself.

This Central Committee will also set the salary of the General Administrator.

Art. 10. The Agent General will submit the financial accounts to the assembly of representatives and these accounts will be published in full in the Journal of the Association .

Art. 11 ( for the time being ). For the year 1841, it being expected that it will be practically impossible to organise a delegation by the methods stipulated above, we call upon the Committees which already exist in Bordeaux, Nantes, Dijon, Montpellier, and Marseilles, so that they can immediately nominate a Representative of their District.

In those towns where no Committee exists at the moment, wine producers, traders, and other interested parties ought to get together and proceed to elect a Representative without delay. This election is quite urgent and will be confirmed at a later date by the Subscription Committee.

Paris, 15 January 1841.

The Provisional Administrator of the Association

Frédéric Bastiat

Member of the General Council of the Department of Les Landes.

3. Prospectus for the Journal of the Association, Le Midi (The South),

Journal of the Association for the Defence of Wine Producers.

Without doubt, one of the most valuable sources of wealth which France possesses is the cultivation of vines.

This plant extends over 50 Départements, it covers 2 million hectares of land, and employs several million people.

It is not only the people who live in the countryside who are interested in the prosperity of the wine industry, since who could say to what level of development it might take our foreign trade and our merchant marine, if there were a more normal state of trading relations with foreign countries?

Unfortunately, the geniuses in the Ministry of Finance seem to have undertaken the task of snuffing out this branch of industry by restricting the market for wine, outside France with the regime of trade prohibition, and inside the country by the increase in the octroi (city tolls) and the legislation concerning indirect taxes.

One might have thought that, having reached its limits, the suffering endured by our port cities and our countryside would no longer be contested, and that the government, even if it backed away from introducing any reforms in the face of these difficulties, at least would recognise the justice of them.

But here we have it preparing for us a series of new taxes and new economic shackles.

And according to the customary tradition in these matters, the Fisc (Fiscal authorities) throws sarcasm in our faces as it oppresses us.

As proof, isn't it a cruel irony that the Minister of Finance (Humann), after having proposed, among other measures, to treat the vineyard owner under the same law which taxes and regulates a cabaret owner, 214 when he writes "thus we will see disappear a privilege which nothing can justify and which violates the principle of the equality of tax burdens"?

My goodness! Just because the law places an exceptional and onerous burden upon cabaret owners, does this exception become the rule, does a common right become then a privilege ? And to impose this exceptional burden on millions of citizens, does this make the principle of equality reign across the country?

And this is not all. The Minister has let it be known that he will not wait long before increasing the tax on alcohol to the levels of 1829. 215

So then, what will ten years of struggle and complaints have produced? The re-establishment of all our old tax burdens, with new taxes piled upon old, and new shackles imposed.

This only goes to show that, for whatever reason, the government is either deaf to our complaints or scorns them.

So, what is this reason?

In our opinion, it is not necessary to look any further than the lack of continuity, cooperation, and unity in the lobbying efforts of the owners of vineyards.

What is missing from their cause is not justice, not strength, but that which puts strength into the hands of justice, namely organisation .

Lacking organisation, we go from exaggerating things to being indifferent. Yesterday, we wanted to reform everything; today we abandon all hope of reform; we have instincts rather than willpower; we are not a single body, but a crowd.

This is not the path which the owners of the iron forges, those who raise cattle, or the sugar producers teach us to follow. They are not very numerous, but we are countless; their interests are hard to see compared to ours; they demand privileges while we demand a common right. However, in spite of our superiority in numbers, our interests, and justice, we fail while they triumph. Where does this difference come from? It is that they are organised and we are not.

These thoughts have made us dream of creating a huge Association for the defence of Wine Producers .

But, with that thought in mind, we thought it was necessary to prepare the way for this association with the creation of a Journal.

It is easy for a few manufacturers to get organised, but how, without having access to a means of communication, can we organise simultaneous mass protests in thousands of Communes across the country, all carried out in the same spirit and aiming at the same end? How do we create a shared vision and common method of action among all these individuals, Communes, and Départements?

Thus, a Journal is required in order to bring this Association about.

A Journal will be just as necessary once the Association has been formed.

Today it has to have an engine to drive it forward; tomorrow it will require a voice .

This then is the double task which we have imposed on ourselves:

Firstly, to bring such an Association into being, and by proposing its by-laws, to inspire us with its principles in order to help it spread;

Then, to serve as a way to connect the members of the Association with each other, to gather their opinions, to bring important facts and documents to their attention;

And finally, to bring all their activities together into a unified movement .

But, and we are the first to admit it, we will fail in our efforts if we are not supported by our fellow citizens.

And why not say it? Our task demands a moral force and even material resources which we would only be able to find in the encouragement and support of all men who have the prosperity of the south of France in their hearts.

Please allow me a final thought.

The path which we have traced out presents two pitfalls: partiality and exaggeration. It is difficult to be an impartial judge in a cause for which one is an advocate. It is no less difficult to be fair in expressing one's complaints which have often been provoked by the disdain and sarcasm of one's opponents.

But we believe we have the strength to resist this double temptation because we have always thought that prejudice and violence hinder the triumph of a cause just as much as they harm the honour of its defenders.

Frédéric Bastiat.

Member of the General Council of the Département of Les Landes

The price of subscribing to the Journal is fr. 6 per annum in Paris and fr. 7.50 in the Départements.

The temporary office (of the Association) is located at the printers Guiraudet et Jouaust , rue Saint-Honoré, 315.



11. T.298 (1843) "On the Cost of Being Governed"


T.298 (1843) "On the Cost of Being Governed" (1843). This previously unpublished sketch was discovered by the original French editor Paillottet among Bastiat's papers and inserted in a footnote to "Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (Dec. 1849). He says it was dated 1843. [OC5, pp. 483-85] [CW2, pp. 339-41] </titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_408>

Originally published as a footnote to T.244 (1849.12.12) "Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (Discours sur l'impôt des boissons). Speech given in the Legislative Assembly on 12 Dec. 1849. [OC5, pp. 468-93] [CW2, pp. 328-47].

Editor's Introduction

We know very little about Bastiat's personal life, including the nature or amount of his income. We do know that he inherited land near Mugron from his grandfather in 1825 (both his father and mother had died when he was quite young and he was raised by his grandfather and an aunt), that he owned about 250 hectares (617 acres) of land, some of which was farmed by sharecroppers, 216 and that he paid enough in direct taxes (over 500 francs p.a.) to not only vote but to stand for election, which he did unsuccessfully in 1831, 1832, and 1842 (the year before this piece was probably written).

Paying this amount of direct tax each year put Bastiat the top 5% of income earners in France, thus making him a member of "la classe électorale" (the electoral or voting class) who were eligible to vote and stand for elections - about 240,000 men out of a population of 35 million - until the Revolution of February 1848 introduced the Second Republic and universal manhood suffrage. 217

This short sketch may well be based upon Bastiat's own financial situation, since Monsieur "N." also pays fr. 500 in direct taxes, and is a kind of rumination by a frustrated taxpayer about what he pays to the government in the form of taxes and fees for service, and what he gets in return. Bastiat tells us that he has the 1842 Budget Papers 218 in hand as he compiles this fictitious "system of individual accounts" which he hopes the government might provide each tax payer. He says that Monsieur "N." paid a total of fr. 1,162 to the French state (in taxes and fees for services) out of an annual income of fr. 2,400 to 2,600 or 46% (if his income was fr. 2,500).

The idea that the government would give each tax payer an itemised annual "account" of their payments to and services or benefits received from the government is a very radical one. Bastiat's purpose was to use this as a way of showing in much greater detail what the relationship was between taxpayers and their government, perhaps with the added notion of showing them whether or not they were net "tax-payers" or net "tax-receivers" along the lines of Calhoun's theory. 219 In this instance, Monsieur "N" pays in fees and taxes a total of 1,162 francs to the state, or 46.5% of his income of 2,500 fr., but comes out as a net tax receiver since he receives 89 fr. 17 c. more from the government in services and benefits than he pays to it. Since the "sums paid out for the benefit" of M. "N" are an average which includes all French tax payers it is not at all clear that this particular taxpayer would "benefit" from government expenditure on the Civil List, subsidies to dancers, aid to colonists (to encourage settlement in Algeria), and so. But of course this was probably part of Bastiat's intention to show tax payers how little they directly got back from the government but which went to particular vested interests which had the government's ear.


It can be said that taxpayers cry out instinctively against the weight of taxes, for few of them know exactly what it costs them to be governed. We are fully aware of our share of land tax, but not what taxes on consumer goods take from us. I have always thought that nothing would be more favorable to progress in our constitutional knowledge and customs than a system of individual accounts , through which each person's attention could be focused on their contribution, concerning both the amount paid and the purpose to which it was put.

While waiting for the day when the Minister of Finance sends us our current account with the Treasury along with our yearly assessment of direct taxes, I have endeavored to design such a form with the 1842 budget to hand.

Here is the account of Monsieur "N", a landowner paying 500 fr. of direct taxes, which implies a revenue of 2,400 to 2,600 fr. at the most.


D EBIT . Sums received from M. "N" in 1843
fr. c.
Through direct taxes 500 0
Registration, stamps, use of public land 504 17
Customs and salt 158 0
Forestry and fishing 30 10
Indirect taxes 206 67
Post Office 39 0
The (state) University 2 50
Sundry products 21 87
TOTAL 1,162 31
CREDIT . Sums paid out for the Benefit of M. "N" .
fr. c.
Interest on the public debt 353 0
Civil List 14 0
Law Courts and Justice 20 0
Religion 36 0
Diplomacy 8 0
State education 16 0
Secret expenditure 1 0
Telegraphs 1 0
Subsidies to musicians and dancers 3 0
The needy, sick, and handicapped 1 10
Aid to refugees 2 15
Subsidies to agriculture 0 80
  to deep-sea fishing 4 0
  to manufacturing 0 23
Stud farms 2 0
Sheep pens 0 63
Aid to colonists 0 87
  to those suffering from fire and flood 0 90
Departmental services 72 0
Prefects and subprefects 7 20
Roads, canals, bridges, and ports 52 60
Army 364 0
Navy 114 0
Colonies 26 0
Tax collection and administration 150 0
T OTAL 1,251 48

Between the debit of 1,162 fr. 31 c. and the credit of 1,251 fr. 48 c. the difference is 89 fr. 17 c. This balance means that the treasury has spent 89 fr. 17 c. more on behalf of M. "N" than it has received from him. However, M. "N" should be reassured; Messrs. Rothschild and company 220 were willing to advance this sum and Mr. "N" will have to pay only the interest in perpetuity, that is to say, to pay in the future 4 to 5 fr. a year more.



12. T.17 "On the Allocation of the Land Tax in the Department of Les Landes" (July 1844)


T.17 (1844.07) "On the Allocation of the Land Tax in the Department of Les Landes" (De la répartition de la contribution foncière dans le Département des Landes). [OC1, pp. 283-333.]. Bastiat mentions this report in a letter to Félix Coudroy where he says he has not quite finished writing it. Eaux-Bonnes, 26 July 1844. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 46-49)

Editor's Introduction

This detailed article is the sixth and last essay Bastiat wrote on a very specific economic topic 221 before he made his breakthrough into the world of the Parisian political economists with his article on "French and English Tariffs" in October 1844. 222 It contains the most economic data of any of the previous essays and in places is quite heavy going for the reader, but it clearly shows his gradual development as an economic analyst who was becoming increasingly at ease with figures. It also provides Bastiat with an opportunity to show off the depth of his reading in the theory of political economy, in addition to his grasp of economic data. He mentions by name a fairly formidable collection of 14 theoretical works in the final section on Malthusian population theory. 223

Bastiat draws upon a number of sources for his economic data, not all of which is available to us today, such as:

  1. National government data, such as a 1836 report by the Director of Direct Taxation (not available to us); official publications containing statistical information, such as the Statistique de la France (1841), and national census data
  2. local data, such as the records held at the local Land Registry Office (Cadastre), and as a member of the General Council of Les Landes he was able to ask local mayors to provide him with the specific information he needed
  3. his own personal experience over a period of 20 years as a landowner, farmer, wine producer, and manager of sharecroppers on his estate (from 1825 when he inherited his grandfather's estate to the time this essay was written possibly in early 1844). This is particularly useful when it comes to knowledge of the local prices of agricultural products and the changing economic conditions of ordinary farmers and workers. 224

The issue he takes up here is the land tax, 225 which was the most important of the direct taxes used by the French government to raise revenue. 226 According to Budget data from 1848-49 227 the government had revenue of about 1.4 billion francs, the main sources of which were (in order of importance):

  1. 421 million francs from direct taxes such as the land tax, personal and property taxes, the door and window tax, and trading licences
  2. 307 million francs from indirect taxes on alcohol, salt, sugar, tobacco, and gunpowder
  3. 263 million francs from registrations, fees, stamp duty, etc.
  4. 202 million francs from tariffs and import duties

The biggest single sources of revenue for the state were the land tax (279 million francs), registrations, fees and levies (216 million francs), the tax on tobacco (120 million francs), import duties (106 million francs), and the tax on alcohol (104 million francs).

Thus the issue of the land taxes was doubly important to Bastiat: it was the biggest component of the single biggest source of revenue to the state; and he himself was a land tax payer. In fact, he paid sufficient direct taxes (like the land tax) to place him the top 5% of income earners in France, thus making him a member of "la classe électorale" (the electoral or voting class) who where eligible to vote and stand for elections until the Revolution of February 1848 introduced the Second Republic and universal manhood suffrage.

Unlike the other items subject to a direct tax, like doors and windows, and trading licenses, the land tax was not a fixed amount or a fixed percentage of a value. It was based upon the presumed income which a property owner received from the use of his property. During the first French Revolution, the law of 23 November 1790 created a tax on property which replaced several previous taxes. It was based upon the anticipated future revenue which a piece of land or a building would generate for the owner. To determine what this amount would be required a meticulously maintained registry of land (the Cadastre or Land Registry Office) and building titles in which an army of bureaucrats would register the sale of land and buildings, keep a record of the prices the land and buildings sold for, what crops or other items were grown, produced, and sold, and the income those buildings and land had generated on average over the years. Each year the central government would pass a budget which specified that a certain amount of revenue had to be collected. This amount was divided or "apportioned" among the various regions and Départements across France, the amounts being based upon that region's or Département's capacity to pay, which was based upon what that region or Département had been able to pay in the past. The share of revenue which had to be collected was passed down the hierarchy of the French administration from regions, départements, arrondissements (districts"), cantons ("municipalities" or "counties"), communes ("villages" or "towns"), and then finally to individual property owners such as farmers and shopkeepers.

Each arrondissement, like Bastiat's in Dax, used a complex formula or "matrix" to determine each district's share of the revenue which had to be collected, based upon such factors as the type of crops a particular canton grew, the average price those crops sold for over a previous period of time, the number of households or businesses which were engaged in economic activity, and so on. Because the tax assessment was not based on actual income earned it became the local bureaucrat's "best guess" of what a particular land or business owner might earn in his given location, based upon the kinds of crops grown in that area over the previous, say 15 years. Naturally, economic and political conditions had changed considerably in France since 1790, so the government passed a law on 31 July 1821 which created a committee in each Département whose job it would be draw up a new formula or "matrix" to determine what tax property owners should pay in the future. The Département in Dax passed onto the General Council of Les Landes the task of periodically advising them on how to change this formula for assessing tax, which is why Bastiat became involved as a member of that Council.

By 1844 when Bastiat wrote this essay, conditions had changed radically again and Bastiat skillfully uses the economic data he has gathered to show exactly how the land tax regime had got out of kilter with actual economic reality. He shows that the mix of economic activities in his Département had been changing and was even accelerating in the 1840s. Wine growing on the southern hills and slopes was declining, becoming less profitable, and employing fewer people; the growth of pine forests (producing wood and pine resin products) to the north was expanding, becoming more profitable, and employing more people; general farming on the alluvial soil beside the rivers (crops like wheat, rye, millet; meat from cattle, sheep, and pigs) remained stagnant; and sheep farming on the northern heathland was declining as more heath was converted to pine forests. The larger cities were growing as people left the land in order to work in commerce or light industry. Population levels in the countryside were changing as some economic regions declined economically, and so did their populations, and vice-versa. Also, the kind of labour undertaken in the countryside was changing away from sharecropping (which Bastiat favoured for a number of reasons) as it was becoming less profitable and towards more small privately owned or rented farms, which had their own problems caused by high debt levels and the decreasing size of farms caused by the inflexible inheritance laws which required an equal division of the property among the heirs. Bastiat documents these changes carefully and in great detail in over a dozen large tables of data and many more smaller ones.

His overall conclusion is that the current formula the bureaucrats used for determining the land tax was seriously out of date, inflexible and incapable of rapidly changing to new circumstances, placed too heavy a tax burden on economically declining areas like his home town of Mugron which produced wine, and under-taxed areas which were becoming more prosperous such as the pine forest industries further to the north. Bastiat not only showed up the nonsense of a bureaucratically determined assessment of a land owner's probable income but he also inserted into the essay a number of interesting insights which he would develop later in his career.

Most notably, he went beyond the brief set down by the Département and the General Council to examine the land tax "allocation" and looked at other factors which were impeding economic development in the region, namely the high rate of tariffs which made it difficult for his region to expand its market and sell wine outside of France, the onerous city tolls (octroi) which impeded the flow of goods within France, and the restrictions on individuals which prevented them from engaging in certain trades without all kinds of government permits and licences. He concludes with some advice the Council probably did not want to hear, namely that " Legislation is killing us in the most literal sense of the word" and that unless the political system was opened up to "the lowest social strata" by giving them the right to vote, they might just rise up in rebellion and run things for themselves. Or, if the mortality tables at the end of his essay are correct, many of them will simply die off.

He also devotes several pages to analysing the population theory of Thomas Malthus 228 who had come under increasing criticism by socialists like Proudhon who accused him, and by implication the other political economists, of being "heartless" towards the poor and disadvantaged. Here, Bastiat is still an orthodox Malthusian in many respects but he is beginning to develop a new way of thinking about the problem of the relationship between the size of a population and "the means of subsistence." The latter was Malthus preferred term and referred to the minimum number of calories required to ensure the survival of a human being. As Bastiat would develop in more detail later in an essay and a chapter in Economic Harmonies , he began thinking instead of "the means of existence" which referred to the level of income or, to use a more modern phrase, the standard of living, of individuals. The latter could vary because of a range of economic, political, geographic, or climatic conditions, the most of important of which according to Bastiat was economic liberty, especially free trade, which could dramatically increase the productive power of human activity, and thus break free of the Malthusian population trap.

Other essays in which Bastiat discusses tax include the following:

  1. T.12 (1841.010 "The Tax Authorities and Wine" (Le Fisc et la vigne) [OC1, pp. 243-59] [CW2, pp. 10-23]
  2. T.17 (1844.07) "On the Allocation of the Land Tax in the Department of Les Landes" (De la répartition de la contribution foncière dans le Département des Landes). [OC1, pp. 283-333.] [CW4]
  3. T.30 (1845.07.15) "Our Products are weighed down with Taxes" (Nos produits sont grevés de taxes), JDE , July 1845, T. 11, no. 44, p. 356-60; also ES1.5. [OC4.1.5, pp. 46-52] [CW3 - ES1.5]
  4. T.118 (1847.04.04) "Two Methods of Equalizing Taxes" (Deux modes d'égalisation de taxes); original title: "Le libre échange demontré par l'example du sucre de betteraves" (Free Trade makes its point with the example of Beet Sugar), LE , 4 April 1847, no. 19, p. 152. [OC2.40, pp. 222-25.] [CW4]
  5. T.166 (late 1847) ES2.10 "Le percepteur" (The Tax Collector) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 198-203]
  6. T.136 (1847.06.20) "The Salt Tax" (L'impôt du sel), LE , 20 June 1847, no. 30, p. 237. Not signed by Bastiat. [OC2.41, pp. 225-28.] [CW4]
  7. T.139 (1847.06.27) "The Single-Tax in England. The Proposal of Mr. Ewart" (La taxe unique en Angleterre, proposition de M. Ewart), LE , 27 June 1847, no. 31, pp. 245-46. [OC2.37, pp. 209-16.] [CW4]
  8. T.200 (1848.03.06) "Impediments and Taxes" (Entraves et Taxes) (Untitled Article), La République française, 6 March 1848, no. 9, p. 1. [OC7.55, pp. 234-35] [CW1, pp. 432-33]
  9. T.273 (1848.10.10) Bastiat's comments at a "Meeting of the Political Economy Society" (Séance de 10 oct. 1848) (on tax). In "Chronique," JDE, T. 21, no. 90, 15 Oct. 1848, pp. 339-40; also ASEP (1889), pp. 68-69. Not in OC. [CW4]
  10. T.232 1849.01.01 "The Consequences of the Reduction in the Salt Tax" (Conséquences de la réduction sur l'impôt du sel), Journal des Débats, 1 Jan. 1849, pp. 3-4. [OC5.9, p. 464] Included with Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget (Feb 1849) in CW2, pp. 324-27.
  11. T.235 (1849.02) "Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget" (Paix et liberté ou le budget républicain), published as a pamphlet, Paix et Liberté, ou le Budget républicain (Peace and Freedom, or the Republican Budget) (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849). [OC5, pp. 407-67] [CW2, pp. 282-324]
  12. T.240 (English) and T.283 (French) (1849.08.22) A speech on "Disarmament, Taxes, and the Influence of Political Economy on the Peace Movement." A speech at the Friends of Peace Conference in Paris, 22 Aug., 1849. A short version (1 1/2 pages, 1,300 words) is in French in Joseph Garnier, Congrès des amis de la paix universelle réuni à Paris en 1849, pp. 25-26; a longer longer version in English (3 1/2 pages, 2,600 words) in Report of the Proceedings of the Second General Peace Congress, held in Paris, on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of August, 1849 (translator unknown), pp. 49-52. It is untitled in both versions so we have given it one. [DMH] [CW3] [CW4]
  13. T.244 (1849.12.12) "Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (Discours sur l'impôt des boissons). Speech given in the Legislative Assembly on 12 Dec. 1849. [OC5, pp. 468-93] [CW2, pp. 328-47]


I intend establishing a few facts, ones that are capable of shedding some light on the following two questions:

1. Were the taxable capacities of the three major agricultural activities of the Department of Les Landes, namely the cultivation of pines, of vines, and the working of arable lands equitably evaluated when the tax was allocated among the three arrondissements (Mont-de-Marsan, Saint Sever, Dax)? 229

2. Since this allocation was made, have circumstances arisen to change the relationship between these various activities?

If in the light of such changes it is now the case that:

  1. From the outset, the region growing pines has been lightly taxed and the one growing vines overcharged;
  2. And ever since, one region has constantly prospered and the other constantly declined;

Then the conclusion must be drawn that the latter region is now paying too much for two reasons:

  1. Perhaps because its taxable potential was overestimated in 1821;
  2. Or because since 1821 this potential has decreased;

And that the former region is not paying enough:

  1. Perhaps because its income happened to be low in 1821;
  2. Or because since 1821 its income has increased.

I can express my ideas more clearly by using a hypothetical example.

Take two areas, P and V, which together produce a net income of 10,000 francs, with each section producing half.

Let taxation stand at 1,000 francs, or 10% of income, to be shared between them.

This division should take place fairly as follows:

On an income of 5,000 francs P will pay 500 francs in taxes or 10 per cent.

On an income of 5,000 francs V will pay 500 francs in taxes or 10 per cent.

However, if P's taxable capacity is underestimated by a fifth, it should be reduced to 4,000 francs,

And if V's is overestimated by a fifth, it should be raised to 6,000 francs,

The apportionment will be made as follows:

For a real income of 5,000 francs, deemed to be 4,000 francs, P will owe 400 francs of tax or 8%;

For a real income of 5,000 francs, deemed to be 6,000 francs, V will owe 600 francs of tax or 12%.

As long as the taxable capacities of these two areas of land continue to be equal, the injustice will be limited to removing one quarter of P's contribution and having V pay it instead.

However, if after a number of years, P's real income rises from 5,000 francs to 6,000 francs while V's decreases from 5,000 francs to 4,000 francs,

The apportionment becomes the following:

For an assumed income of 4,000 francs that is in reality 6,000 francs, P pays 400 francs or 6.7 %.

For an assumed revenue of 6,000 francs that is in reality 4,000 francs, V pays 600 francs or 15%.

This example shows that a region may, without its being noticed, transfer more than half its burden onto another.

First Question: Was apportionment carried out fairly in 1821?

The general rule is that tax should be based on income.

To establish the income from the land, the average price of commodities over the fifteen years prior to 1821 was used to calculate its output.

However, one single method of operation may lead to error. An effort was made to reduce this error by establishing income using a different procedure. Bills of land sales revealed the capital value of certain estates and interest at 3 1/2 percent of the capital was deemed to represent the income.

Thus, for the same estate, two different totals of income produced by two different procedures were found, and so the tax was based on the average income in accordance with the axiom that reality is to be found in averages.

Unfortunately, it is not truth but falsehood that is found in averages when the data on which they are based all lead to the same error.

Let us therefore examine the use made of these two bases for the apportionment of tax: the average price of commodities and bills of land sales .

§I The prices of commodities, according to the Director of Direct Taxation, were recorded in the land registry records for an average year as follows:

Wheat - 18 francs 77 centimes per hectolitre

Rye - 12 francs 76 centimes per hectolitre

Corn - 11 francs 33 centimes per hectolitre

Red wine - 28 to 60 francs per barrel

White wine - 10 to 22 francs per barrel

Resin - 2 francs 50 centimes per 50 kilograms

I am convinced that this initial basis for evaluation involves several errors of fact and theory that all favor the cultivation of pines to the detriment of field crops and vines.

Cereal prices are obviously extremely high. I do not mean to say that the data supplied by market price records have not been accurately followed, but the period from 1806 to 1821 produced data that did not much favor agricultural communes, either because it included times of troubles and invasions, or for some other reason. Proof of this is that in the following fifteen years, from 1821 to 1836, and according to the Director himself, these average prices fell to 17.13 francs for wheat, 11.27 for rye, and 9.17 for corn.

For all kinds of cereals, the first series had provided an average of 14 francs 28 centimes. The second provided one of only 12 francs 32 centimes, a difference of 1 franc 96 centimes or 14 percent.

If therefore the apportionment had been carried out in 1836, revenue from cultivatable land would have been evaluated at 14 percent less that it was in 1821.

As for the prices allocated to white wines, that is to say 10 francs and 22 francs, depending on quality, I do not consider them to be exaggerated. 230

But this is not the case for red wines. If there are a few vineyards that produced wines of a sufficiently high quality to be sold straight from the press at 60 francs (something I do not know about), I can at least state that lower qualities are far from achieving an average price of 28 francs, which implies 35 francs three months following harvest and sold in the cask.

However, it is above all the price of resin that I consider is the most liable to criticism. By accepting the obviously low figure of 2 francs 50 centimes per 50 kilograms, the authorities and the special commission doubtless foresaw that this was to expose all their operations to the suspicion of partiality. This suspicion was not misplaced. Farming and wine-producing communities in the department are all influenced by a distrust that it would be difficult to eradicate. People complain about this distrust and say that it is an obstacle to the reform they are working on, but does the responsibility for this not arise entirely from the administrative procedures that created it?

I will now make a few comments on what I have entitled theoretical errors, that is to say on the faulty method used to arrive at the averages and on the flawed consequences deduced from these.

First of all, in order for the prices of high quality produce combined with the prices for lower quality to produce a genuinely average price , consistent with real income , an equal quantity of both would have to be harvested, which in the case of wine is contrary to the truth. The Department of Les Landes produces a great deal more mediocre wine than good and if you disregard this fact, you reach an exaggerated average. For example, given 100 barrels 231 of wine at 28 francs and 10 barrels at 60 francs, the average of the prices taken on their own is rightly 44 francs. However, the average of genuine prices which make up income, that is to say the sums earned for each barrel taken together, is only 31 francs 91 centimes.

Subsequently, when a high price is included in the series of prices used to calculate an average, the average rises, from which the conclusion is drawn that there is a corresponding rise in income. However, this conclusion is neither accurate in theory nor true in practice.

Let us suppose that for four years a commodity is sold at 10 francs; its average is 10 francs. If in the fifth year this same commodity is sold at 20 francs, the average for the five years is 12 francs. The arithmetic cannot be faulted. But if you conclude from this that, over this five-year period, the figure of 12 instead of 10 represents the income, the economic conclusion would at the very least be very dubious. In order for it to be true, the quantity of the product in this fifth year would need to be equal to that of the preceding years, which cannot even be imagined in normal circumstances, since it is precisely the decrease in harvest that leads to an increase in price.

To obtain averages that reflect reality, and from which income can be deduced, we therefore have to combine the prices obtained with the quantities produced, and it is precisely this procedure that has been neglected. If in the new apportionment being undertaken, the average price of wines over the last three years were taken as a base, the following are the different results produced by the method used by the Land Registry Office and by mine:

The Land Registry Office would reason as follows:

1840 - 10 barrels at 25 francs, providing an income of 250 francs

1841 - 10 barrels at 25 francs, providing an income of 250 francs

1843 - 10 barrels at 50 francs (a wild guess), providing an income of 500 francs

Total - 30 barrels, at an average price of 33 1/3 francs, providing an income of 1,000 francs

Whereas this should read:

1840 - 10 barrels at 25 francs, providing an income of 250 francs

1841 - 10 barrels at 25 francs, providing an income of 250 francs

1843 - 5 barrels at 50 francs (actual price), providing an income of 250 francs

Total - 25 barrels, at an average price of 30 francs, providing an income of 750 francs

This is how one arrives at an imaginary income, on which, nevertheless, tax is unhesitatingly levied.

Doubtless it will be said that apportionment is an operation that is difficult enough without complicating it further with such fine considerations. People will also say that since the same procedures are used for all forms of product, any errors are cancelled out and offset one another, since all are subject to the same economic laws.

But this is exactly what I do not agree with, and I maintain that our Départment is subject to such specific conditions that the causes of error that I have just pointed out have to be taken into consideration if we aspire to even a semblance of equality in the apportionment of state charges. It remains for me to prove that the application of average prices , taken abstractly from the proportion between the differing qualities and the annual quantities, has been disadvantageous to cereal and vine growing regions.

An increase in the price of an item may have two causes.

Either there has been a fall in the production of this item; in this case, the price rises without it being at all possible for us to infer an increase in income.

Or the production of this item has remained stationary, or even increased, but demand has increased to a greater extent; in this case the price of this item rises and an increase in income can be inferred.

Well, it would be a very great injustice, in either case, if the average price of the item were taken as an index of income.

If the high price of 50 francs that La Chalosse gets this year for its wine has occurred without a decrease in the quantity produced, for example, because England, Belgium, and our major towns have removed the barriers of custom duties and city tolls with the result that the consumption of wine has doubled and prices with it, I would say "Record 50 francs in your list of annual prices and include this information in calculating an average, for it reflects a genuine increase in revenue."

In the same way, if the high price that we have seen resin products reach was due to a decrease in the productiveness of the pignadas 232 , if pine forest owners lost more on the quantity of their products than they gained on the prices obtained, I could quite properly say "Do not conclude from these high prices that revenues are proportionally high as well; this would be untrue and would constitute an act of plunder."

As it turns out, the opposite has happened. Les Landes has been fortunate enough to benefit from an increase in price; La Chalosse has been unfortunate enough to find that the increase in price has not allowed it to achieve even its normal revenue. Have I not good reason to demand that this profound change in situation be taken into account?

Let us conclude that the initial basis for evaluation has been damaging to both field crops and vines.

§II The second set of data used to determine taxable income is taken from individual sales of land .

The market value of a piece of land is quite an accurate indication of the income it generates. Two properties that are sold for 100,000 francs each are assumed to generate the same income, and this has to be equal to the interest generally yielded by capital in a given region and at a given time . The negotiation that takes place between the seller and the purchaser, in which one takes care to see that the income is not exaggerated and the other that it is not understated is better than any form of administrative survey on this subject and in addition offers a guarantee of wisdom, attention to detail, and self-interest that no zeal by inspectors, tax assessors, or experts can equal. For this reason, if it were possible to establish the market value of each tract of land, I for my part would not wish for any other basis for evaluating incomes and the allocation of taxes, for this market value summarizes all these circumstances that are so difficult to estimate and which influence the average income from land, as I have shown in the preceding section. 233

But we should not lose sight of the strong qualification encompassed in these words: in a given region and at a given time .

The interest on capital varies, in fact, according to the time and the place.

For identical incomes to be produced by equal sums of capital, changes in ownership have to have taken place at times and in places in which interest is uniform. This is as true for land as it is for public funds.

Treasury bonds 234 paying 5,000 francs in 1814 were worth just 60,000 francs; today their capital value is 120,000 francs.

In the same way, 100,000 francs invested in land may provide just 2,500 francs of rent in Normandy and yield an income of 4,000 francs in Gascony.

If the Chamber of Deputies took no account of these differences when it undertook the general standardization of tax assessment, it would not establish equality of taxation but inequality.

This is the fault that was committed in our Départment when the measurement of revenue was attempted on the basis of bills of land sales.

At the time this operation was carried out, land was not sold at a uniform rate all around the Départment. It was well known that money was invested for higher returns in Les Landes than in La Chalosse.

Even the Land Registry Office acknowledged the truth of this, for they offered to use three figures for the rate of interest, namely, 3, 3 ½ and 4 percent.

According to this data, an estate worth 100,000 francs would be presumed to yield an income of 4,000 francs in one canton while in another it would be deemed to produce just 3,000. Tax would be levied in accordance with this variation.

The Special Commission set up by the law dated 31 July 1821 235 rejected this distinction and adopted a uniform rate of 3 ½ percent.

The fact is, that the Commission committed an injustice by doing this if at that time interest over the entire territory was not uniform.

The Director himself acknowledges this.

"This uniform application of a rate of interest", he said, " has incontestably influenced the results produced by one of the two bases of apportionment, and it goes without saying that it has favored to a slight extent the areas in which the rate of interest is highest." 236

The slight extent mentioned by the Director can easily be translated into figures.

Let us imagine two estates that were sold for 100,000 francs each, one situated in an area in which the rate of interest is 4 percent and the other in one where interest is at 3 percent.

The first yields 4,000 francs of income and the second 3,000 francs, and tax should follow this proportion fairly, since it is levied on income.

According to the government procedure, each hundred francs of tax would be apportioned between these two properties as follows:

Portion relating to the property in Les Landes - 57 francs 15 centimes on 4,000 of revenue

Portion relating to the property in La Chalosse - 42 francs 85 centimes on 3,000 of revenue

Total - 100 francs 00 centimes

However, according to the Commission's approach, one hundred francs would be apportioned thus:

Portion relating to the property in Les Landes - 50 francs 00 centimes

Portion relating to the property in La Chalosse - 50 francs 00 centimes

Total- 100 francs 00 centimes

That is to say that Les Landes has been granted tax relief of 14 percent, which the Commission charged to La Chalosse. 237 Doubtless it will be said that, since bills of land sale are just one of two elements of the apportionment, this result may have been diminshed by the influence of the other element. This would be true if the farming and wine-producing cantons were favored by the application of the average prices for commodities, but we have seen that they were no more relieved by the first than by the second basis for evaluation. It is far from true that the errors tainting these two procedures cancel each other out and offset one another; it can be said that that they multiply one another, and always to the disadvantage of the same areas.

Thus, the two bases for the apportionment of tax have been invalidated and distorted and always for the benefit of one type of property, the pignadas (the pine plantations), to the detriment of the two others, farming-land and vineyards.

Let us move on to the results.

If we asked an impartial man what were the cantons that paid the highest taxes relating to vines, he would doubtless reply, those with the greatest acreage devoted to this type of cultivation, the cantons of Montfort, Mugron, Saint-Sever, Villeneuve, and Gabarret, and he would not be wrong. These five cantons alone pay three-quarters of the tax levied on vineyards. And if he were asked which ones pay the highest taxes relating to heath land, he would unhesitatingly reply, those that include vast stretches of heath, such as Sabres, Arjuzanx, Labrit, etc. But here our interlocutor would be sadly mistaken and probably greatly surprised to learn that it is La Chalosse and the Armagnac, wine-growing regions, that pay not only the majority, but almost all of the tax assignable to the heath lands.

The following is a table of our twenty-eight cantons listed in decreasing order of their shares of taxation relating to heath land. 238

Table, page 294, G1, ed. 1855

fr. fr.
Saint-Sever 6,296 Saint-Esprit 1,593
Grenade 5,599 Sabres 1,561
Mugron 3,904 Geaune 1,287
Roquefort 3,579 Dax 1,207
Hagetmau 3,327 Arjuzanx 1,168
Amou 3,000 Labrit 1,074
Montfort 3,000 Tartas (ouest) 914
Pouillon 2,883 Castets 600
Aire 2,852 Soustons 522
Saint-Vincent 2,663 Tartas (est) 495
Mont-de-Marsan 2,465 Pissos 166
Gabarret 2,272 Parentis 141
Peyrehorade 2,061 Sore 107
Villeneuve 1,817 Mimizan 94

Is it not odd to see in the first half of this list all the wine-producing cantons: Saint-Sever, Mugron, Amou, Montfort, Villeneuve, etc., as well as all the farming cantons: Hagetmau, Aire, Peyrehorade, etc., and in the second half all the cantons making up Les Landes and Maransin? 239

Here is another comparison that is no less curious.

The canton of Saint-Sever alone pays more taxes on its 5,583 hectares of heath than the following nine cantons together: Mimizan, Sore, Parentis, Castets, Soustons, Labrit, Arjuzanx, and Sabres, which together have an area of 203,760 hectares, and when you add nine other cantons the same size as Mimizan to these nine, under the current rules of apportionment, you still do not manage to extract from these tremendous stretches of land what is levied on the heath in the single canton of Saint-Sever, as can be seen in the following table:

Main Tax Main Tax
fr. fr.
1 canton ; Sabres 1,561 Saint-Sever 6,296
1 Arjuzanx 1,168
1 Labrit 1,074
1 Castets 600
1 Soustons 522
1 Pissos 166
1 Parentis 141
1 Sore 107
1 Mimizan 94
9 cantons similar to Mimizan at 94 francs each 846
18 cantons 6,279 6,296

We also learn from the report of the Director of Direct Taxation that the canton of Mimizan, whose territory feeds close to 5,000 inhabitants, that is to say, about one third of the population of the canton of Saint-Sever, pays the following taxes:

1,223 francs for field crops

8 francs for vines

4,212 francs for pines

94 francs for heath land

Total: 5,537 francs, a sum less than that which has to be paid for the heath alone in Saint-Sever.

Montfort's share is 40,771 francs. It exceeds that of Soustons and Castets, which are:

Soustons - 22,338 francs

Castets - 18,108

Total: 40,446 francs

Yet, according to the last census, the population of Montfort is only 13,654 inhabitants. The population of the two cantons of the Maransin is 18,027 inhabitants:

Castets - 9,006 francs

Soustons - 9,021

The share of the canton of Mugron is 34,790 francs. It exceeds the share of the following three cantons combined:

Sabres - 13,448 francs

Pissos - 11,694

Parentis - 9,103

Total: 34,245 francs

and, to within 355 francs, it equals the share of the following four cantons:

Labrit - 10,286 francs

Parentis - 9,103

Sore - 7,937

Mimizan - 7,819

Total: 35,145 francs

And yet, compared with our population of 10,038 inhabitants, these four cantons have a population of 20,784 inhabitants (more than double). Compared with our 4,486 hectares of field crops, they have 9,584 hectares, (more than double). Compared with our 1,887 hectares of vines, they have 43,894 hectares of pignadas , (23 to 1). Finally, compared with our 3,250 hectares of heath, they have 88,719 hectares (27 to 1).

I do not wish to say that the field crops and heath in these cantons are as valuable as ours, nor that their pines can equal our vines, taken by the hectare. The question is to see whether between them there is the huge disproportion we have just set out. If this is so, if revenues raised in Mugron equal those of Labrit, Parentis, Mimizan, and Sore, it remains to be explained how it is that they provide a living for just 10,000 inhabitants in La Chalosse, whereas they keep 20,000 inhabitants in Les Landes. This phenomenon can be explained away only by the proposition that those in La Chalosse are basking in luxury compared to the Les Landes. But then in this case I would ask why the population is decreasing in number in the former while it is increasing significantly in the latter.

I have no intention of stirring up conflict between the arrondissements. I think that discussion can take place with regard only to the various crops whose taxable capacity has been badly assessed. For this reason, I have not hesitated to compare not only cantons situated in various arrondissements but also cantons included in the same districts but which are devoted to other crops. This is why I contrasted Montfort with Soustons and Castets. I could equally have compared Villeneuve, a wine-producing canton in the first arrondissement, with Arjuzanx or even Mont-de-Marsan, and we would still encounter the same disproportion. The first of these cantons, with 8,887 inhabitants, pays much more than twice as much as the second, with 7,075 inhabitants, and as much as our chief town, which has a population of 15,915 inhabitants.

I could point out anomalies that are even more striking if I wished to abandon the comparison of cantons for that of communes; that would take me too far, so I will limit myself to two facts.

In the second arrondissement, there is a commune such as Nerbis that pays 1 franc 51 centimes for each hectare of heath. In the first arrondissements, communes, such as Mimizan, Pontenx, Aureilhan, Bras, Argelouse or Luxey that pay half or one third of a centime. Calen in the canton of Sore pays its share with 3/10 of a centime, from which it follows that one hectare of heath at Nerbis is valued at the level of 500 hectares at Calen. It is said that in the former arrondissement, each hectare of heath feeds one sheep and farming statistics, published by the Ministry of Agriculture confirm this claim 240 since we see that this arrondissement, which has 292,000 hectares of heath, maintains 338,800 sheep. Have the authorities considered that in Nerbis a flock of 500 animals can survive on one hectare of heath?

The quantity of wine produced by one hectare of vines is in fact the product of:

1 hectare of vineyard that, in the commune of Montfort, pays 7 fr. 34 c.
1/2 hectare of fenced land 2 02
1/2 hectare heath land 2 30
Total 9 fr. 66 c.

There are twenty communes in the former district that are taxed at only 27, 26, 24, or 20 centimes per hectare of pines and there are some, like Laharie (in the canton of Arjuzanx) that pay only 17 centimes. For an apportionment like this to be considered fair, the net product of one hectare of vines, established at Montfort, would have to be equal to the net product of fifty-seven hectares of pines at Laharie.

I will not pursue these comparisons any further. I think I have demonstrated two things, namely:

  1. that the two methods used to estimate the revenue of each of the crops in our Départment were calculated, doubtless unintentionally, in a way that hurts field crops and vines to the benefit of pines,
  1. that numerous irrefutable facts establish that this has been the effective result of the use of these procedures, with the consequence that the apportionment of tax has been inequitable from the outset.

It remains for me to prove that this inequity has increased since then and is increasing with every passing day following the changes that have been made in the proportions of the taxable capacity of these crops.

Second Question: Have the taxable capacities of the various crops in the Départment retained the proportions they had when the tax was apportioned?

When the tax revenues from land were being determined in 1821, the facts relating to that year were not examined. The dates of the leases and bills of land sales that were consulted were more or less old and the average prices applied were based on market-price lists that went back fifteen years. Thus, these various elements did not reflect a current state of affairs but the situation of the country during a period whose starting point must be set at the beginning of the century.

It is therefore with this period that I have to compare the present time, and across this period of approximately forty years I have to inquire into the phenomena that science has taught us to consider as being the surest evidence of increase or decrease in populations.

The first one that comes to the fore is the movement of the population itself. If it is true, as all political writers acknowledge, that the number of human beings increases or decreases according to their incomes, it is enough to observe the movement of the population in regions in which pines, cereals, and vines are grown to recognize what each of them has gained or lost with regard to taxable capacity. Let us therefore busy ourselves with this investigation, which I consider to be of the greatest interest even beyond the question of the apportionment of tax.

The Population of the Three Districts of Les Landes at various times.


1801 1804 1808 1821 1826 1831 1836 1841 % increase
Mont-de-Marsan 71,707 74,115 77,225 82,364 86,869 91,595 93,292 94,145 31.8%
Saint-Sever 77,467 80,834 80,602 82,364 86,869 91,595 93,292 94,145 31.8%
Dax 75,098 80,601 82,486 90,362 93,959 90,463 101,126 105,303 40%
Total 224,272 235,550 249,313 236,311 265,314 272,504 284,918 288,077 28.5

Table, page 300, G1, ed. 1855

This table shows us that there was an increase in population of 28 ½ percent for the entire Départment. This average was exceeded by 11 ½ percent in the third arrondissment and 3 percent in the first, while the second ended by being 14 percent below this average.

The arrondissment of Saint-Sever was the most populated at the beginning of the century. It moved down to second place in 1806, to third place in 1831, and finally, during the period 1832 to 1841, its absolute population decreased.

This initial overview appears to show that the arrondissment that provides the greatest production and sales of resinous products is the one that has prospered most quickly. The arrondissment that lies second for this crop is also second with regard to population increase. Finally the arrondissment in which the cultivation of pines is insignificant and whose principal source of revenue is in vineyards has remained stationary.

However, this teaches us nothing very precise about the influence of pines, field crops, or vineyards with regard to the population, since each of our arrondissment includes these three crops in varying proportions. Assuming that the cultivation of pines has brought prosperity and vineyards poverty, it is clear that the first and third arrondissment would have shown a more significant increase in population without the wine-producing cantons of Villeneuve and Gabarret and Montfort and Pouillon, with the second showing a lesser increase without the cantons of Tartas (West) which includes a great deal of pine.

It is therefore essential to examine the movements of population in the districts of those cantons that show us a much clearer distinction between the three types of crop whose influence we are comparing.

Here is the list of our twenty-eight cantons listed in decreasing order of prosperity as shown by the increase in their population:

Table, page 302, G1, ed. 1855

Population Changes by Canton

CANTONS. 1804 1844 % Increase % Decrese
Castets 5,760 9,006 56 "
Dax 13,224 20,951 51 "
Mimizan 2,700 4,870 43 "
Sabres 4,994 7,144 43 "
Saint-Esprit 10,907 15,612 43 "
Parentis 4,287 5,870 37 "
Pissos 4,693 6,342 37 "
Soustons 6,625 9,021 36 "
Arjuzanx 5,304 7,095 33 "
Saint-Vincent 7,780 10,334 32 "
Sore 3,251 4,268 31 "
Labrit 4,541 5,776 27 "
Roquefort 7,453 11,501 27 "
Tartas (ouest) 8,391 10,571 25 "
Peyrehorade 10,664 13,028 21 "
Hagetmau 10,587 12,462 20 "
Mont-de-Marsan 13,301 15,915 19 "
Tartas (est) 4,595 5,335 16 "
Geaune 8,183 9,197 13 "
Montfort 12,209 13,654 11 "
Aire 10,829 11,992 10 "
Amou 12,438 13,579 10 "
Grenade 7,173 7,872 9 "
Gabarret 8,122 8,746 7 "
Villeneuve 8,296 8,887 7 "
Pouillon 13,332 14,294 7 "
Saint-Sever 15,762 15,322 " 2 1/2
Mugron 10,343 10,038 " 3

I consider that this table sheds considerable light on the question. It can be clearly seen that increased prosperity correlates with the cultivation of pines and that a slow increase, stationary, or even decreasing prosperity has been the fate of the regions with field crops and vines.

In fact, if we divide this table into two series, the first includes all the cantons in which pine cultivation is predominant and ends with the cantons of Roquefort and Tartas (West), as though to demonstrate that where the pines stop, the prosperity of the region also stops. The second series of 14 cantons shows a smaller increase and includes exactly all the farming and wine-producing cantons in the department. The "Grande Lande 241 " and Maransin are no more present in this series than La Chalosse and the Armagnac are in the first.

These two series produce the following results:

Hectares Hectares Inhabitants Inhabitants Inhabitants
1st Series 2,160 150,022 89,910 127,463 37,553 42%
2nd Series 18,093 16,821 145,640 160,049 14,449 10%
Total 20,233 166,843 235,250 287,552 52,022 22%

In the population table for the cantons, a few facts will be noted which appear not to agree with these deductions:

  1. Dax and Saint-Esprit, which have no pines, are at the top of the scale, as they show increases in population of 56 and 43 percent.
  1. Mont-de-Marsan, which would have been expected to figure in the first series, comes in third place only in the second and shows an increase of just 19 percent.
  1. Montfort, which is a wine-producing canton and which for this reason should be one of the last on the table, nevertheless has eight cantons beneath it and shows an increase of 11 percent.

However, as we shall see, these apparent anomalies, far from undermining it, confirm the argument I am putting forward.

Let us note first of all that these are cantons that include the towns of Dax, Saint-Esprit, and Mont-de-Marsan, whose industrial population is not as directly influenced by farming as those of the countryside, which is the main object of this research.

Saint-Esprit had only 4,946 inhabitants in 1804; it now has 7,324. Its situation at the mouth of the Adour, its commerce, garrison, military establishments, and proximity to Bayonne explain this development.

Dax does not produce any resinous goods but it is the warehouse to which residents of Maransin come to carry out his sales and purchases. Dax has therefore prospered for the same reasons that would cause Bordeaux to do well if the sales of wine flourished and spread wealth around the Gironde, even though the commune of Bordeaux itself cannot produce wine.

Let us move on to Mont-de-Marsan. First of all, it would be a mistake to consider this canton one of those in which pines predominated. It has only 9,828 hectares of pines compared with 8,147 hectares of field crops and 428 hectares of vines. The tax it pays on its pines is only 1/8 th of its share. It therefore has to be ranked among the farming cantons, which already feel the influence of the cultivation of pines and, from this point of view, its place in the table is not far from the one that, a priori , might have been allocated to it. But one is easily convinced that it is not the fault of the pines if this canton is not included in the first rank. In effect, if we remove from the nineteen communes that make it up the six communes that have the greatest acreage of pignadas , we find that although in these six communes there is a significant proportion of cultivated land, the population has increased by 33 percent while that of the canton as a whole has increased by only 19 percent.

Table, page 305, G1, ed. 1855


Saint-Pardon 659 906 596 788
Saint-Martin 591 985 578 699
Geloux 578 1,321 600 815
Campagne 744 743 881 1,052
Saint-Avit 418 787 435 501
Saint-Pierre 903 1,037 746 1,344
Totals 3,893 5,779 3,896 5,199 Increase 33%

From which it is clearly seen that, in the canton of Mont-de-Marsan, the cultivation of pines has had the same consequences as in the rest of the Départment. What has reduced the increase in population in this canton to 19 percent is the influence of the town of Mont-de-Marsan, which in 1841 has no more inhabitants than it did in 1804. If we set the town aside, the canton would occupy tenth place in the table on page 302, ["Movement of Population by Canton"] between Arjuzanx and Saint-Vincent. But what are the reasons for the stationary condition of our chief town? It is not part of my brief to look for them. Perhaps the decrease in the sales of spirits has something to do with it, or perhaps it also is hiding part of its population from us.

It remains for us to examine the canton of Montfort. Overall, this canton shows an increase in population of 11 percent. This is not much, compared with the pine-growing region but it is still more than would be expected from a wine-producing canton, according to what is happening at Villeneuve, Gabarret, Saint-Sever, and Mugron. But while the canton of Montfort includes a few wine-producing communes, it also includes a great many farming ones.

What factors have caused the canton as a whole to achieve population growth of 11 percent? This is what we are going to see in examining these two categories separately.

Table, page 307, G1, ed. 1855

Breakdown of the Canton of Montfort

Field Crops Vines 1804. 1841.
hect. hect. pop. pop.
Clermont 450 20 825 913
Garrey 140 15 219 228
Gousse 110 6 151 216
Hinx 500 50 656 776
Louer 120 4 112 149
Ouard 330 1 321 370
Ozourt 240 22 287 350
Lier 420 1 371 509
Sort 480 30 826 943
Vicq 250 " 290 344
Cassen 170 43 348 466
Gibrel 110 76 237 292
Goos 310 60 487 566
Préchacq 410 60 491 584
Total 4,040 388 5,621 6,706
Ratio of Vines to Field Crops 1/10
Population increase 19%
Field Crops Vines 1804. 1841.
hect. hect. hab. hab.
Montfort 190 350 1,574 1,644
Gamarde 480 310 1,194 1,336
Laurède 100 195 844 769
Lourqueu 180 120 380 416
Nousse 80 110 390 393
Poyanne 100 140 563 558
Poyartin 590 170 970 983
Saint-Geours 240 310 773 849
Total 1,960 1,700
Ratio of Vines to Field Crops 1/2.
Population increase 4%

Thus, just as by breaking down the canton of Mont-de-Marsan into its elements we have ascertained that if it does not occupy a higher rank in the scale of prosperity in the Départment, it is not the cultivation of pines that has limited it; in the same way, through an analysis of the canton of Montfort, we are convinced that it has held its twentieth place only through its large number of farming communes. If we removed these communes, it would go down to one of the lowest in the rankings and would be exceeded in poverty and population only by the cantons of Saint-Sever and Mugron.

These two examples warn us that the cantonal district is still too extensive, including too great a variety of crops, to show us in a satisfactory manner the influence of each of these crops on the population, since these influences are visible to us only in combination. They have to be separated out as far as possible; the truth has to be pursued down to the level of the communes. This is what the five tables at the end of this article will endeavor to do.

From the report by the Director of Direct Taxation, I have taken the twenty-two communes that include the greatest proportion of pines and the twenty-two communes that offer the greatest proportion of vineyards, without distinguishing either cantons or districts. Between these two classes there is a third, which includes only cultivated land. Finally, two other classes record the transition between pines and field crops on the one hand and between field crops and vineyards on the other. Beside each commune, I have put the size of the population in 1804 and 1841. In this way, we will discover how the population has been affected, not only by each of the three major crops in the region but also by the combination of two of these crops. ( See pages 329 to 333 ). [329-30 - Région des pins; 331- Région des labourables; 332-33 - Région des vignes]

How can we not be struck by the remarkable results shown by these tables?

They show us that in our department, population movement has occurred as follows:

Increase: 60 percent in the region growing pines

Increase: 34 percent in the region divided between pines and field crops

Increase: 16 percent in the region growing field crops

Increase: 2 percent in the region divided between field crops and vines

Decrease: 4 percent in the region growing vines.

And you must not think that these two figures, 60 percent increase and 4 percent decrease, express the extreme effects produced on the population by the two crops we are comparing. For this to be so, we would have to be able to study them in isolation. However there are no communes in which one element, field crops, is not present, whose slow and progressive action either flattens out somewhat the increase shown in the region growing pines or likewise diminishes the effect of depopulation that has decimated the region growing vines. If we wanted to isolate the proper influence of these two crops quite separately from that of field crops, we would have to resort to a proportionality rule. I think that we would reach a close result using an intrinsically rigorous form of reasoning, which we would be able to challenge only by calling into question the official data on which it is based.

This is the problem to be solved:

The twenty-two communes in which pines are predominant show an increase of 8,998 inhabitants from a base of 13,573, or 60 percent.

The twenty-two communes in which vines are predominant show a decrease of 899 inhabitants from a base of 20,224, or 4 percent.

If we accept that in these communes, as in the rest of the Départment, field crops favored the section of the population corresponding to them to the tune of 16 percent, what is the proportion of increase and decrease that should be attributed exclusively to pines and vines?

The size of the population depends on the standard of living 242 and this in turn is nothing more than the level of income; and we know the proportion of income relating to each form of crop through its workforce's contribution to taxation. From this data it is easy to calculate the size of population that corresponds to each form of crop.

The fiscal contributions of the twenty-two communes in the first category are as follows:

27,483 francs for pines

7,043 francs for field crops

Incomes are in proportion to these contributions.

The size of population is in proportion to these incomes.

Therefore, the 13,573 inhabitants who make up the 1804 population can be broken down thus:

To pines 10,815
to field drops 2,758
Setting aside the increase found to be produced by pines, the increase due to field crops has to be added, namely 16 percent of 2,758 which is 441
So that if pines had no influence, the present population of these twenty-two communes would be 14,014
However, it is 21,771
The difference due exclusively to pines is 7,757

Well, an increase of 7,757 on 10,815 is 71 percent.

The share of the twenty-two wine-producing communes is 22,880 francs relating to vines, which corresponds to 11,709 inhabitants
16,742 francs relating to field crops, which corresponds to 8,515
Level of population in 1804 20,224
Through the effect of field crops, which implies an increase of 16 percent on 8,515 inhabitants, this level would have increased to 1,373
So that, without the influence of vines, the level of population in 1841 would be 21,597
However, it is 19,325
Deficit due exclusively to vines 2,272

A deficit of 2,272 on 11,709 is equivalent to 19 percent.

The only conclusions that can be drawn from these figures is that in a commune in which there are only pines, the population would have increased by 70 percent, that in one in which there are only vines it would have decreased by 19 percent and that in reality , the positive and negative changes have taken place within these two limits in each district in line with the proportions in which these crops are combined with a third element, field crops.

The following is thus at the end of the day the law governing the changes in population in the Department of Les Landes:

Pines only an increase of 71%
7/8 pine and 1/8 field crops (table on p. 329) an increase of 60
4/5 pine and 1/5 field crops (table on p. 330) an increase of 34
Field crops (table on p. 331 ) an increase of 16
2/3 field crops and 1/3 vines (table on p. 332) an increase of 2
½ field crops and ½ vines (table on p. 333) a de crease of 4
Vines only a de crease of 19

The result of this is that if a stretch of pines and a stretch of vines each providing a livelihood for one hundred people were subjected to the same tax burden at the outset, this burden would still exist today even though the same pines would provide a living 243 for 171 people and the same vines would no longer be able to provide for any more than 81 people, namely less than half.

This is very unfair. But if from the outset the apportionment was badly done how much more blatant is the injustice, as I think I have demonstrated in the first part of this article!

I don't wish to weary the reader's attention with weighty, arid figures. However, I cannot leave this question without showing the reader the details of the phenomenon of depopulation which has affected not only the wine-producing region but also a fairly wide area surrounding this region, in order to show the connection between the number of people and the reduced level of incomes as established by the legislation on Customs and indirect taxation. My heart bleeds when it is confronted with the deep distress implied by this depopulation.

Obliged, as I am, to restrain myself, I will go no further than to state the number of births and deaths in a period of thirty years (1814 to 1843) in the fifteen wine-producing communes at the top of the table on page 333 (Region des vigne - second column of figures). With regard to the other seven communes, I have asked the Mayors for statements but have not received them. The period of thirty years has been divided into two periods of fifteen years in order to facilitate a comparison between the current state of affairs and the situation of the region in previous times.

Table, page 312, G1, ed. 1855

Births Deaths Excess of Births Deaths Excess of
Births Deaths Births Deaths
Mugron 1,173 959 216 " 949 1284 " 335
Nerbis 283 229 54 " 179 267 " 88
Laurède 414 287 127 " 304 333 " 29
Gamarde 611 433 178 " 545 655 " 110
Donzacq 669 362 307 " 541 531 10 "
St-Geours 492 401 85 " 404 498 " 94
Ranos 202 175 27 " 180 155 25 "
Baigts 469 303 166 " 400 367 33 "
Lourquen 172 127 45 " 176 162 14 "
Montaut 548 424 124 " 464 490 " 26
Poyanne 250 225 25 " 269 273 " 4
Hauriet 291 187 104 " 224 234 " 10
Montfort 702 462 240 " 137 138 " 1
Nousse 159 103 56 " 404 470 " 66
St-Aubin 432 343 89 " 404 470 " 66
Total 6,869 5,026 1,843 " 5,814 6,445 132 753

I ask the reader to pay great attention to these figures. From 1814 to 1828, there were 6,869 births and 5,026 deaths. The population grew, with each 1,000 inhabitants providing 33 births against 24 deaths.

However, from 1829 to 1843, births fell to 5,814, or 27 ½ per 1,000 inhabitants and deaths increased to 6,445 or 30 ½ per 1,000 inhabitants.

So that, and this is worth noting, this decrease in the wine-producing population, which I had already noted from the censuses, is not the work of forty years, as one might have thought, but in fact that of the last fifteen years. What is more, in order for its absolute density to have diminished, it was necessary for it to lose, either by death or emigration, not only the difference shown in the censuses of 1804 and 1843 but also everything it had gained in the first twenty-five years of this period. 244

In this way, the best recorded facts come to give dismal confirmation to the law of population growth revealed by science.

The checks to population that keep the number of inhabitants at subsistence level", says Malthus, "can be categorized under two headings: the first act by anticipating an increase in population and the second by destroying it in proportion as it takes shape. 245

On which Mr. Senior makes the following comment:

Mr. Malthus has divided the checks to population into the preventive and the positive . The first are those which limit fecundity, the second, those which decrease longevity. The first diminishes the number of births, the second increases that of deaths. And as fecundity and longevity are the only elements of the calculation, it is clear that Mr. Malthus's division is exhaustive. 246

Criticisms of this doctrine have been raised recently. 247 It has been criticised for being sad and discouraging. Doubtless, it would be better if the means of existence (standard of living) could decrease and even disappear without people being any the less well fed, clothed, housed, and cared for in childhood, old age, and sickness. But this is neither true nor possible; it is actually contradictory. I cannot really understand the outcries against Malthus. What has this famous economist really revealed? After all, his theory is only a methodical commentary on this quite ancient and well known truth: when mankind can no longer get in sufficient quantity the things which feed him and sustain his life, it becomes necessary to reduce their numbers; and if they can't do this through acts of prudence, then suffering will change things for them.

We can clearly see this law in operation in our Chalosse. Sharecropping farms no longer yield the same income or, to put it another way, the same means of existence (the same standard of living), and immediately an instinctive sense of prudence reduces the number of births. 248 People reflect deeply before marrying. Heads of households understand that the property can no longer sustain the same number of people and they postpone the time they set up house and have children, or else the increasingly harsh exigencies of life make marriages more difficult, that is to say, more rare, and the number of unmarried people thus increases. This is how a region that recorded 33 births per 1,000 inhabitants now produces only 27.

However, prudence, or what Malthus calls a preventive check, is not powerful enough to reduce the population as rapidly as (falling) income can; a repressive check, 249 namely mortality, has to contribute to re-establishing a balance. Since the abundance of things has decreased, privation must ensue; privation brings suffering and suffering, death. Sharecropping farms are less productive, and consequently their acreage, which had been calculated with a view to a different order of things, tends to increase. Two sharecropping farms are combined into one or three into two. In the commune of Mugron alone, twenty-nine sharecropping farms have thus disappeared in our time, 250 and as many families have inexorably been condemned to a slow destruction. Finally, the ones that remain have fewer means to ensure themselves against hunger, cold, damp, and sickness; average life expectancy decreases, and in the end where there were 24 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants there are now 30½.

But is this decrease in population, which is certainly the effect and the indicator of poverty, also the measure of its extent? Listen to the judicious comments of Mr. de Chastellux 251 on this subject:

It is said that subsistence levels are an index of population; if they are lowered, the number of people has to decrease in the same proportion. Doubtless this decrease has to happen; whether it does so in the same proportion is another matter, or at least it is only at the end of a lengthy period of time that this proportion is found to be accurate. Before people's lives are shortened and the source of life declines, poverty has to have reduced physical strength and increased the number of diseases. When it takes hold of a region, when the supply of food decreases by a certain amount, by one sixth for example, the result is not that one sixth of the inhabitants die of hunger or emigrate, but these unfortunate people consume in general one sixth less. Unfortunately for them destruction does not always follow destitution, and nature, which is more thrifty than tyrants, is even more fully aware of the few resources men need in order to survive. Their numbers may still be high but they will be weak and unhappy. It is at this stage that by taking a little away, you take a great deal. 252

Yes, the interpretation of the distress on the left bank of the Adour would be very incomplete if it were constructed on the basis of mortality tables. A fall in income does not strike only the particular class that cannot lose anything without being in danger of death. Before being overcome, how many families descend from affluence to slender means and thence, to hardship and from hardship to destitution? First of all, they reduce expenditure on luxuries, then they economize on the ordinary comforts of life, and finally they cut down on the basic decencies. Their social status declines accordingly. These houses in ruins, this furniture in disrepair, and these children whose education has been interrupted; tell us that conditions have declined both from the point of view of morale and of physical well-being. They will tell us that monopoly and the tax authorities, these tyrants over our industry, know how little people need to live on, and that unfortunately destruction does not always follow poverty . 253

According to Chastellux, this is when, by taking a little, you take a great deal. I would say, that this is when an apportionment that is faulty and unjust, even in better times, becomes intolerable and monstrous.

The facts that I have set out are irrefutable. However, I do not doubt that efforts will be made to undermine this conclusion by denying the principle that population levels vary with the standard of living. "We do not accept this doctrine of Malthus'", they might say, "In the region producing pines there are doubtless more of us than before, but it does not follow that the income from our forests has increased. Only that it is shared among a greater number of people."

I will not go into a long dissertation on the factors governing population. I know that they raise questions that are still controversial. But as for the factors themselves, and the axiom that an increase in population is the effect, proof, and indictor of an increase that corresponds to a particular standard of living or level of income, I am not aware that doubt has ever been cast on the matter by any political writer of any worth, and I think I cannot do better than to subject my case to the authority of a large number of writers who all agree on this point, whatever other differences there may be between their opinions and theories.

"And what is the surest evidence that they (the people) are so protected and prosperous? The numbers of their population." (Rousseau) 254

"Wherever a place is found where two people may live in comfort, a marriage occurs. Nature lends itself to this quite well when it is not hindered by the difficulty of subsistence ." (Montesquieu) 255

"Alongside a loaf, a man is born." (Buffon, Natural History . 1749) 256

"After a certain number of years, the population of an industrious and commercial country approaches the level of subsistence." (Necker) 257

"To live you have to eat, and as any growth has a limit, that is where a population stops growing." (James Steuart) 258

"Population levels are in line with the means of subsistence and need. According to this principle, there is one means of increasing the population, and only one. This is to increase national wealth, or to put it better, to allow it to increase." (Bentham) 259 260

"The only true criterion of a real and permanent increase in the population of any country, is the increase of the means of subsistence." (Malthus, Principle, 1st ed., chapter VII)

"Distress has a prodigious influence on mortality tables. As a general thesis, it may be said that in our species, there are always just that number of people as know how and are able to acquire the means of subsistence for themselves. … It is certain that an increase in the number of individuals is a consequence of their well-being." (Desttut de Tracy). 261

"The population of a country is limited only by its products; production is the index of the population." (J. B. Say) 262

"Income is the index of subsistence and prosperity. Income is an index of population increase both for society and for the family." (Simonde de Sismondi). 263

"Population grows naturally as the resources available for existence increase." (Joseph Droz). 264

"As long as the means available for living increase the population will multiply. When they remain stationary, the population also remains stationary. As soon as they decrease, the population decreases in the same proportion." (Charles Comte). 265

I hope I will be forgiven for this unusual number of quotations; I believed that I could not establish too solidly a principle that serves as the basis both for the complaints and demands of my region.

But after all, and leaving economic science out of this, can it be seriously maintained that there has not been any improvement in the incomes of Les Landes and the Maransin and no decline in those of the Condomois 266 and La Chalosse? Is there any mystery concerning the prices of resin products and wine? Or can they rise and fall permanently without the situations of landowners and sharecroppers experiencing the effects? Will it be claimed that 156 people now live in the canton of Castets on an income identical to that which in past times was declared to be inadequate for 100 people? They must therefore be wretchedly poor, obliged as they are to cut back on one third of their expenditure, that is to say reduce all their consumption by one third! Well then, let us examine the question once more from this point of view. Let us see whether the number of people has increased in one sector of the department merely through the cuts made by each person in his consumption. If we succeed in finding that the inhabitants of Les Landes are provided with all forms of goods to the same level and better than those in La Chalosse, we will have to acknowledge that this extra population has not come to share a fixed level of income, but to live on new income, which has been established as numbers increased and on which, in all justice, they owe their share of tax.

The Minister of Agriculture and Trade has had a statistical profile of France published. 267 I have carefully drawn from the publication details on the level of consumption in each of our three arrondissements (Mont-de-Marsan, Saint-Sever, Dax). Doubtless, it is to be regretted that we cannot establish similar data for each canton and even for each commune, for the more we can narrow the geographical focus that clearly shows a predominant crop, the more the effect will relate to the cause. Be that as it may, the following table will be enough to shed light on the question under examination.

Table, page 320, G1, ed. 1855


Quantity Price Total Quantity Price Total.
CEREALS hect. lit. fr. c. fr. c. hect. lit. fr. c. fr. c.
Wheat 0,55 15,20 8,36 0,97 14,90 14,15
Wheat & Rye 0,09 11,20 0,90 0,10 10,40 1,04
Rye 2,25 7,93 17,92 6,37 9,21 3,42
Corn, millet 1,70 7,12 12,10 2,62 9,13 23,82
TOTAL 4,60 39,28 4,06 42,73
MEAT kil. kil.
Beef 1,66 0,70 1,16 1,52 0,65 0,99
Veal 0,55 0,70 0,38 1/2 0,22 0,70 0,15
Mutton 1,67 0,60 1,00 0,48 0,63 0,31
Lamb 0,63 0,65 0,43 0,30 0,65 0,19 1/2
Pork 10,64 0,65 6,92 10,31 0,65 6,70
Goat 0,09 0,30 0,27 " " "
Totaux 15,24 16,16 1/2 12,84 8,37 1/2
DRINK hect. lit. hect. lit.
Wine 2,19 7,83 17,29 0,67 8,86 6,90
Spirits 0,00 45,00 0,25 0,00 50,00 0,11
TOTAL 2,19 17,54 0,67 7,01

fr. c. fr. c.

Cereals 39,28 42,73

Meat 10,16 8,37

Drink 17,54 7,01

Total 66,98 48,11

What should be compared above all is the consumption in the first and second arrondissements, which draw at least a significant proportion of their incomes from different sources, since one pays three times as much for its pines as for its vines and the other three times as much for its vines as for its pines.

Well, we see that the annual consumption of each inhabitant in the first district exceeds that of each inhabitant in the second by 54 liters for cereals, 2 kilos 40 grams for meat, 152 liters for wine and 31 liters for spirits.

In money the difference is less marked because, for reasons that I cannot identify, the official document records rye, corn, and wine at prices that are much higher in Saint-Sever than in Mont-de-Marsan. But this difference is still 8 francs 87 centimes in favor of the inhabitants of Les Landes and this sum, multiplied by the figure for the population of the first arrondissement in 1836 establishes a higher level of consumption and consequently of income, more than 800,000 francs, in the case of the arrondissement that pays, on an official basis, 35,000 francs less in tax.

This inequality in the apportionment of tax is more apparent still in the statement below, which sets out the total value of consumption for the three arrondissements.

Table, page 322, G1, ed. 1855

fr. fr. fr.
Wheat 784,189 1,499,908 848,371
Mixed wheat & rye 93,251 97,573 60,375
Rye 2,175,885 357,016 775,705
Corn and millet 1,183,030 1,991,262 2,746,440
Wine 1,602,970 536,782 1,059,416
Spirits 22,000 10,000 84,000
Potatoes 34,164 35,405 35,627
Dry vegetables 28,888 37,969 47,708
Meat 906,764 749,828 1,159,689
Total 6,831,141 4,815,732 6,817,331

It can be seen how wrong the Minister of the Interior was when, in order to dissuade the General Council from revising the current re-apportionment, he wrote on 14 October 1836 269 that significant changes in the production of wine and pines would probably not occur. The facts show a severe and profound inequality. Thus in cereals, meat, wine, and spirits, the value of consumption is as follows:

72 francs 56 centimes per inhabitant in the 1 st arrondissement

64 francs 71 centimes per inhabitant in the 3 rd arrondissement

54 francs 60 centimes per inhabitant in the 2 nd arrondissement

However, in the cantons of Saint-Sever, Mugron, and Aire, each inhabitant pays 3 francs 24 centimes on average in tax, while in the cantons of Labrit, Parentis, Sore, Mimizan, Sabres, and Pissos each inhabitant pays only 1 franc 86 centimes, with the result that for the first group of cantons the ratio of tax to consumption is 5.93 percent whereas it is only 2.56 percent for the second.

And we should not lose sight of the fact that in each of the three major districts of the department where the three types of crop whose influence we are interested in are accepted staples, their share of consumption is mixed. It is clear that in the first district, the average of 72 francs 56 centimes (expenditure per person) has been exceeded in Parentis, Sabres, Arjuzanx, Pissos , etc., and is less in Gabarret and Villeneuve. What we have said in this regard in respect to population can also be applied, for the same reasons, to consumption.

If we summarized all the preceding considerations, these are the results we would find:

The share of each of the three major crops in the department is:

279,724 francs for field crops

66,396 francs for vines

75,888 francs for pines.

Total: 422,008 francs

Which implies that each of these contributes to an income of 1,000 francs in a ratio of: 663 : 157 : 180

This is the ratio that should be corrected in accordance with the comments in the two sections of this article.

In the first, we have seen that the tax evaluations were falsified by the application of inaccurate average prices and a uniform rate of interest.

For cereals, a common price of 14 francs 28 centimes was adopted, whereas the market prices from 1828 to 1836 were merely 12 francs 52 centimes. The prejudice against field crops: 12 ½ percent.

For red wine, action was based on a supposed average price of 42 francs. If you will refer back to what we said on this subject you will agree that it is certainly not an exaggeration to evaluate the injustice done to wine at 10 percent.

For pine resins, the price was set at 2 francs 50 centimes per 50 kilograms. If it were raised to 3 francs 50 centimes it would still be below the true price. Pines have therefore been favored to the extent of 40 percent.

If we correct the income from the three crops according to these figures, they would be in the ratio of 582 : 141 : 252 (for every 1,000 francs of income).

On the other hand, if interest at 3 percent for field crops and vines and 4 percent for pines had prevailed over the uniform rate of 3 ½ percent, the incomes of the first two crops would have been evaluated at 16 2/3 percent less and that of the third at 16 2/3 percent more, and their taxable capacities would have been in the following ratio, 553 : 131 : 210.

The average of these two sets of figures is, 567 : 136 : 231

Consequently the tax burden of 422,008 francs would be allocated as follows:

For field crops 256,189 francs instead of 279,724

For vines 61,448 francs instead of 66,396

For pines101,371 francs instead of 75,888

Total: 422,008 (in both cases)

This should have been the apportionment at the outset, assuming that similar errors to those we pointed out for the average prices and rates of interest were not made for the quantities produced .

This is what it should still have been if no change in the productive value of the three types of crop had occurred.

But in the second section of this article, we have noted that the population, and therefore the income, has changed as follows:

Field crops have gained 16 percent

Vines have lost 19 percent

Pines have gained 71 percent

The ratios quoted above, 567 : 136 : 231, should therefore be modified in accordance with this new data and replaced by:

657 : 110 : 395.

From which it follows that finally, the tax burden of 422,008 francs ought to be allocated thus:

Field crops 238,603 francs instead of 279,724 francs

Vines 39,964 francs instead of 66,396

Pines143,441 francs instead of 75,888

In other words, the tax is too high:

For field crops by one sixth

For vines by more than one third

and the tax for pines is too low by nearly half

In conclusion, I cannot refrain from putting a few reflections that are not too divorced from the subject under discussion.

Terrible distress has spread over a considerable portion of our department, and this has affected the standard of living so profoundly that the very sources of life have been altered. We do not have statistics for all forms of consumption in our arrondissement, but we know that the population devotes only 54 francs to groceries instead of the 72 francs which are spent elsewhere. However, groceries are the last things that people think of cutting down on. And since, moreover, we do have a prosperous class that has not yet been reduced to depriving itself of bread and wine, it must be concluded that to the same extent as this class exceeds the average of 54 francs, there is a section of the working class that is far from attaining it.

This is the explanation for the decrease in population recorded by the censuses and by records of births and deaths.

This sad phenomenon is linked to a revolution in farming which is happening before our eyes and which has not been sufficiently noted. 270

The acreage of sharecropping farms used naturally to be in proportion to what was required to ensure that the tenant's share provided a livelihood for a farming family.

When, because of the fall in the value of products, this share became inadequate, sharecroppers became a liability for landowners, who were faced with the alternative of either leaving the estate unfarmed or reducing their share still further in order to subsidize the tenant's share.

As soon as this happened, sharecroppers' food was weighed, measured, and restricted to what was strictly necessary. What is more, there developed a distinct tendency to enlarge sharecropping farms. In one place they were merged; in another vines were dug up to increase the acreage of field crops. All these expedients had a common result and even a common aim: to reduce the number of people and restore the balance between the levels of population and food supplies.

If this contingency and the consequences it entailed were the result of some physical catastrophe, we would have to weep and wail and hang our heads. But this is not so. Providence has not taken its gifts from us, the sky over La Chalosse has not turned to bronze, and the sun and dew have not ceased to make it fertile. Why then can it no longer feed its inhabitants?

You do not have to look far to find the reason. It is that they have been stripped of the freedom to trade , the freedom which is most immediately useful to man after the freedom of working . 271

It is therefore legislation that is the cause of our woes. Manufacturers have told us, "You will buy only from us and at our prices". The Fisc 272 has said, "You will sell only after I have taken half of your produce."

Legislation is killing us in the most literal sense of the word, and if we want to live the legislation has to be reformed.

Now reform of the legislation can come only from the electorate. 273

But how does it carry out its mission?

Faced with the countless harms that are causing the depopulating of our fields and towns, what is it doing to curb the action of the Fisc and to return to the people the ability to trade the things they have sweated to produce with each other, according to their interests,?

What is it doing? It is handing over the mandate to legislate to our opponents; it is going to look for its representatives in the foundries, factories, and even in the antechambers of the Legislature.

From all sides this doctrine is heard: "Favours are there for the pillaging; people must be mad not to do what everyone else is doing."

Among the people saying things like this, there are those who are thinking only of themselves; I have nothing to say to them. However, others cannot be suspected of a level of selfishness like this; their wealth sets them above the connivances of petty ambition. One unanswerable reason, besides, proves their personal disinterestedness; if they were seeking their own personal advancement, it is not the electoral law but the post of deputy that they would be using as a stepping-stone, and they have been seen to refuse to stand.

It is therefore not to themselves but to their love of their locality that they are sacrificing the general interest. The general interest is not attainable, they say. The political machine has been put in motion to exhaust our unfortunate fellow-citizens; it is not in our power to halt its action. At least let us return to them in the form of political favours, some part of what it is extracting from them.

But, I ask you, these hand-outs and favors, however much you might have imagined them to have increased, have they come anywhere near the scale of the harm that I have just described? What does it matter to these farmers now being decimated by starvation, these artisans with no work, or these landowners whose most bitter scrimping scarcely manages to postpone ruin, what does it matter to these victims of the Fisc and the monopolists that a sub-prefectureship or a seat in the Luxembourg Palace 274 is going in payment to the most prominent voter in the district as the salary for his apostasy? Give them back the right to trade and you would have done more for your country than if you had restored it to the favor of the Duke of Nemours 275 in person, or that of the King himself!

You call yourselves Conservatives. You oppose the lowest social strata 276 having the right to vote. In that case, be the responsible guardians of these people who are banned from participating. You do not wish to rule fairly on their behalf, nor allow them to legally rule for themselves, nor even allow them to rise up in rebellion against the things that harm them. What then do you want? There is just one possible end to their sufferings and this end is foreseen well enough in the mortality tables.

Table, page 329, G1, ed. 1855; Table, page 330, G1, ed. 1855; Table, page 331, G1, ed. 1855; Table, page 332, G1, ed. 1855; Table, page 333, G1, ed. 1855

Field Crops. Pines 1804. 1841.
hect. hect. pop. pop.
Mimizan 278 1,322 479 852
Onesse 367 4,728 687 1,098
Lesperon 670 5,490 683 1,060
Ponteux 392 2,661 740 1,486
Mezos 666 4,345 809 1,286
Saint-Paul en B. 259 1,736 348 772
Comenzacq 321 1,595 522 663
Escource 468 4,396 673 1,180
Pissos 600 3,500 1,477 2,056
Parentis 550 4,500 1,181 1,788
Sainte-Eulalie 180 2,000 271 475
Ichoux 300 4,000 542 841
Gourbera 194 979 206 303
Labenne 291 1,215 392 526
Moliets 154 1,643 293 404
Messange 226 2,332 321 430
Magescq 847 4,113 923 1,606
Seignosse 210 2,089 334 458
Leon 620 2,750 931 1,402
Linx 750 4,050 650 1,074
Lit et Mix 920 3,800 970 1,483
Vieille-Saint-Girons 580 2,400 131 608
TOTAL 9,849 65,344 13,573 21,771
Ratio of crops   : 7/8 pines, 1/8 field crops .
Change in population : Increase, 60 % .
Field Crops Pines 1804. 1841.
hect. hect. hab. hab.
Geloux 578 1,321 660 815
Aureilhan 116 388 217 305
Bias 74 281 107 169
Argelouse 160 1,000 329 396
Calen 320 2,000 533 660
Luxey 1,000 3,500 1,244 1,532
Sore 1,000 3,000 1,145 1,780
Sabres 1,042 2,750 1,679 2,524
Lue 314 2,103 503 790
Trenzacq 335 1,203 610 727
Belhade 200 1,200 384 518
Moussey 350 2,000 659 945
Sagnac 700 2,500 1,178 1,636
Bichet 150 1,500 206 330
Biscarosse 500 4,000 1,367 1,547
Gastes 70 800 211 259
Sanguinet 300 2,500 715 960
Saint-Yaguen 671 1,311 479 892
Rion 1,019 2,717 1,280 1,537
Laluque 596 1,227 560 698
Saint-Vincent de Tyrosse 385 466 558 754
Herm 558 2,578 783 851
Cap-Breton 182 793 586 968
Soustons 1,358 2,513 2,516 2,783
Azur 164 901 190 304
Saint-Geours 717 1,321 899 1,420
Tosse 316 752 493 698
Sorts 139 599 217 266
Castets 650 2,450 977 1,615
Levignac 420 1,950 723 959
Saint-Julien 760 3,000 884 1,123
Saint-Michel 410 2,100 162 217
Taller 480 1,500 332 527
TOTAL 16,034 60,879 23,416 31,405
Ratio of crops   : 4/5 pines , 1/5 field crops .
Increase in population : Increase, 34 %
1804. 1841.
hab. hab.
Vielle-Soubiran 273 471
Grenade 1,368 1,500
Vignau 605 601
Gazères 1,026 948
Bordères 159 524
Losse 711 1,027
Estigarde 267 307
Lubbon 361 420
Cauna 695 674
Bas-Mauco 223 202
Benung 1,110 945
Duhort 1,067 1,129
Bahus 549 533
Latrille 257 307
Saint-Agnet 352 385
Lacajunte 301 339
Arboucave 306 394
Philondenx 503 604
Miramont 832 827
Samadet 1,370 1,456
Gouts 538 475
Pomarez 1,765 2,115
Saint-Martin-Juza 1,974 2,515
Saint-Larant 664 855
Biaudos 694 834
Orthevielle 698 869
Lannes 921 1,131
Saint-Martin 1,101 1,340
Onard 321 370
Lier 371 509
Vie 290 244
Saint-Cricq 825 1,119
Sainte-Colombe 729 791
TOTAL 23,228 26,960
Ratio of crops   : all field crops .
Change in population : Increase, 16 % .
Field Crops Vi nes 1804. 1841.
hect. hect. hab. hab.
Bascons 409 290 1,067 1,033
Saint-Julien 278 192 398 446
Arthez 284 214 408 449
Fréche 726 349 894 929
Perquie 764 272 748 775
Audignon 408 98 617 578
Montgaillard 1,446 314 2,126 1,977
Larbey 202 116 383 508
Lahosse 276 107 583 613
Saint-Loubouer 883 232 1,321 1,267
Vielle 638 140 858 895
Urgons 504 62 695 703
Castelnau-Turs 472 99 505 590
Bastennes 200 100 512 482
Pouillon 1,520 506 3,060 3,163
Gibret 110 76 237 292
Poyartin 590 170 970 983
TOTAL 9,710 3,337 15,382 15,683
Ratio of crops   : 2/3 field crops, 1/3 vines.
Increase in population : 2%.



13. T.18 "Two Articles on Postal Reform I" (3-6 Aug. 1844, Sentinelle des Pyrénées )


T.18 (1844.08.03) "Postal Reform" (La Reforme postale), La Sentinelle des Pyrénées , 3 August, 1844, pp. 2-3; and 6 August, 1844, p. 2. Not in the OC. [JCPD] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

La Sentinelle des Pyrénées was a newspaper which appeared three times a week and was published in the town of Bayonne between 1831-1848. Bastiat was born in Bayonne in 1801 and had business interests there. He published 9 articles in the paper between March 1843 and August 1844, with his first ever published articles on free trade, "Free Trade. State of the Question in England" appearing in May and June 1843. 277 In these articles Bastiat addressed the issue of postal reform which was a pet interest of his. He wrote on it several times before the Revolution of 1848 and then took an active part in introducing radical reforms in the Chamber of Deputies during 1848 and 1849, such as trying to open the government monopoly to competition, introducing a low priced uniform prepaid stamp for the delivery of mail anywhere within France, and ending the government tax on letters.

The background for this, as was so often the case, were the reforms which the English liberals had introduced a few years previously. The free traders around Richard Cobden had other items on their reform agenda, such as reducing the cost of sending mail through the government monopoly postal service, the Royal Mail. Richard Cobden believed that the existing system was another example of protection given by the government to the elite which imposed an excessive cost on business and made it too expensive for most working people to afford to send letters to friends and family. The pioneer of postal reform in England was Rowland Hill (1795-1879) 278 who had close ties to Robert Torrens in the South Australian Colonization Commission between 1833 and 1839, and other political economists in the Political Economy Club. In 1837 he published an influential pamphlet on postal reform, Post Office Reform; its Importance and Practicability (1837) 279 which led to the passage of the "Uniform Four Penny Post" reform act in 1839 and then a further reform which cut the cost of a prepaid stamp to one penny in 1842. 280 In the reformed system, the cost of sending a letter was prepaid by the sender and was the same regardless of the distance carried. Up to then the price had depended on the distance carried and was paid by the recipient. Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League (founded by Cobden with John Bright in 1838) were able to take advantage of the cheap mail rates by distributing large numbers of their pamphlets and other propaganda before they were successful in 1846 in having the Corn laws repealed by the British Parliament.

Postal reform was also an issue of great interest to supporters of the free market in France in the 1840s because it was an expensive government monopoly, it was used as a major source of revenue, and because the government used its privileged position to spy on people's mail. Before the 1789 Revolution the postal service in France was a privilege sold to the private investors who ran the Farmers General who had little interest in making it affordable to ordinary people. This system of private monopolies was abolished in March 1791 when the postal service was nationalised and dozens of the Farmers General were guillotined. During the Restoration Charles X passed the law of 1827 which made the government system even more complex and burdensome by inducing a system of duties which was based on weight (9 categories) and distance (11 zones). In order to send a letter one had to go to the post office in order to determine the cost of sending each letter one wished to send according to these complex bureaucratic rules, something which Bastiat wittily mocked in "Salt, the Mail, and the Customs Service" (May 1846). 281 The year before the Revolution of February 1848 125 million letters were sent at an average cost of 43 centimes. 282 According to the Budget Papers of 1848 the French state raised fr. 51.5 million from various taxes, duties, and other charges for delivering letters, parcels, and money. The tax on letters alone raised fr. 46.5 million. 283

There were reformers within the French government who argued for change along the lines of the English. A. Piron, the Deputy Director of the Postal Service, published an important study in 1838 advocating the use of prepaid stamps 284 and the conservative magistrate and politician Michel-Charles Chégaray presented a detailed Report on Postal Reform to the Chamber of Deputies in July 1844 on the idea of a French version of the "uniform penny post" in which he advocated a flat rate of 20 centimes per letter. 285 The Chamber voted narrowly to adopt the reforms recommended in Chégaray's Report on the first reading of the bill (130 votes to 129) and asked for comments from the regional General Councils before making a final decision. As a member of Les Landes General Council, Bastiat published these two articles in the local journal the Sentinelle des Pyrénées in early August 1844 hoping to persuade them to lobby Paris to pass the reform bill. This was ultimately unsuccessful as the bill was defeated at the second reading.

These two articles show Bastiat's skilled use of economic data which he has taken from Chégaray's Report to make his arguments about the need to drastically cut the cost of sending letters. He makes the economic argument that the variable costs of transporting letters across large distances is small when compared to the fixed administrative costs of running the postal service, as well as the moral argument that the government should not be using the postal service to raise revenue by placing a tax burden on the often poor recipients of letters.

The issue of postal reform arose again two years later in April 1846 when another proposal was presented to the Chamber by Adolphe Vuitry 286 and Bastiat wrote another series of commentaries for the local press, this time in Le Mémorial bordelais (April, 1846). 287 Again he shows skill handling the economic data but this time his criticism of the government is more radical than before. He openly criticises the government for having "seized control" of the postal service in order to exercise a monopoly of delivery of letters and to use this monopoly as a means of raising revenue for the state. Bastiat argues that, if the delivery of letters was a public good like building and maintaining the roads and thus should be a government monopoly (a conclusion which he questions), then it should only charge enough to cover its costs and no more. He shows in some detail how this might be achieved and he believes that a uniform rate for letters regardless of distance carried is the most efficient way to pay for this service. Again, he urges a rate of 5c (or perhaps 10c if absolutely necessary). He believes that there should be no "fiscal component" (i.e. tax raising) embedded in the price of sending a letter. Fiscal measures should be paid by direct taxes and low tariffs (5%) and not by indirect taxes on food or the mail.

Bastiat's second more radical set of arguments in these articles from 1846 concerns the criminalisation of the acts of private individuals who carry letters for third parties, in other words, who compete against the state's monopoly. He uses very harsh language to denounce the severe penalties which the government planned to impose (a fine of 6,000 francs) on would-be competitors. He cites in particular the arbitrary powers granted to Post Office bureaucrats under Article 10 of the proposed legislation to decide independently of a court of law what offences may have been committed and how they were to be punished.

In addition to the four articles published in this volume Bastiat also dealt with postal matters in some of his other writings. In "Salt, the Mail, and the Customs Service" (May 1846) he mocks the complex system of deciding mail charges based upon geographic zones and weights (mentioned above) and he has one his favourite characters, Jacques Bonhomme, challenge M. de Vuitry who was the Deputy who was the chairman of the Chamber's Committee on Postal Reform, to let him take over the postal service and run it at a profit. Jacques Bonhomme offers to sub-contract out the government postal monopoly, rationalise the business, cut the postal rate to 5-10 centimes per letter, and still make a profit. 288 Bastiat's next article on postal reform appeared in January 1847 in an article "The Utopian" which appeared in the journal of the French Free Trade Association, Le Libre-Échange . In it a politician (the Utopian) is granted dictatorial powers by the King to introduce whatever liberal reforms he liked. Among the key reforms he proposes is postal reform which would see the cost of a letter cut to 10 centimes from the current average rate of 43 centimes per letter. 289

When the Revolution did break out in February 1848 postal reform was high on the list of legislation the government wanted to introduce. Étienne Arago, Bastiat's friend from college at Sorèze, was part of the Provisional Government in February 1848 and was appointed head of the Postal Service and began planning to reform the system. After the elections of April 1848 (in which Bastiat successfully ran to represent his départment of Les Landes) postal reform was discussed in August and during the debate Bastiat proposed an amendment which sought to introduce a nation-wide postal system based upon the British model with a 5 centime stamp for letters. Article 4 of his motion stated "All laws concerning the transport of letters by all other means are repealed" (i.e. laws preventing private competition were abolished). 290 However, it was not until 1849 that the uniform letter rate was reduced to 20 centimes per letter because of budgetary problems caused by the chaos of the Revolution. The cut in rates led to a significant increase in the number of letters sent, from 125 million letters in 1847 to 157 million in 1849 (a 25.6% increase) and to a reduction in tax revenue to fr. 42 million (a 20.7% decrease).

First Article (3 August, 1844)

The various General Councils are going to be asked to give their opinion on a uniform price on all letters, of twenty centimes . I think I ought to call the attention of these gatherings to M. Chégaray's report on this subject. The most misleading objection leveled against postal reform is that apparently it diverges from strict justice. The p ostal administration would be acting most inequitably, it has been said, if it placed exactly the same price on letters which it carries for distances which vary from a single kilometer to nine hundred kilometers. It is impossible after one has read the truly illuminating report of M. Chégaray, to let oneself dally for an instant over such an objection.

We know that each Post Office is the centre of eleven concentric circles at various distances from the center. The price of an ordinary letter grows by ten centimes each time it crosses one of these circles, with twenty centimes being the lowest charge, and the highest 1fr. 20c.

There are, however, three elements in the cost of a letter.

1. The transport costs.

2. The general administrative costs.

3. A tax.

Of these three elements, the first is the only one which is variable by its very nature. It costs the Post Office more to take a letter from Paris to Bayonne 291 than from Paris to Orléans.

The general administrative costs are the same for all letters. Those which stop at Orléans do not incur any more expenses by way of management, inspection, sorting, taxing, and distribution etc., than those which go on as far as Bayonne.

It is the same with the tax . No one seems likely to say that the principle of the equality of prices would be violated if all letters contributed equally to public revenue.

The law of 1827 292 took no account of these different destinations. The result of this is that the price it established is the most unequally shared of all those which are part of our financial system.

M. Chégaray has tried to establish, for a given letter, the figures which correspond to the three types of costs we have just listed.

He has found that the transport costs rise from 1.75c. to 6.75c. depending on the distance.

The general administrative costs are 8c. per letter.

The difference between the sum of these two expenses imposed by the administration, and the price it actually receives, leaves us with the tax paid by the recipient.

With this in mind, let us look at a table which sets out precisely the components of the present system.

Present System General Costs Transport Cost Tax Total
Zone Distance Rate
1 < 40 km 20c 8 c 1.75 c 10.25 c 20 c
2 40-80 30 8 2.25 19.75 30
3 80-150 40 8 2.75 29.25 40
4 150-220 50 8 3.25 38.75 50
5 220-300 60 8 3.75 48.25 60
6 300-400 70 8 4.25 57.75 70
7 400-500 80 8 4.75 67.25 80
8 500-600 90 8 5.25 76.75 90
9 600-750 100 8 5.75 86.25 1fr 00
10 750-900 11 8 6.25 95.75 1fr 10c
11 > 900 120 8 6.75 1 fr 5.25 c 1fr 20c

People who reject postal reform for reasons of equity, will probably be surprised to see the truly monstrous inequality revealed in the foregoing table.

While that part of the price – the sum of the General Costs and Transportation Costs – which is a fair return for the postal services provided, rises by 50% only, that is from 9.75c. to 14.75c., that element in the price which must be regarded as pure taxation, rises from 10.25c to 1fr. 5.25c. or in a ratio of 1 to 11.

Let us look now, at what the inequality would be, from the tax point of view, if there were a uniform rate of 20c.

Zone Combined General & Transport Costs Tax Total
1 9.75 c 10.25 c 20 c
2 10.25 9.75 20
3 10.75 9.25 20
4 11.25 8.25 20
5 11.75 8.75 20
6 12.25 7.75 20
7 12.75 7.25 20
8 13.25 6.25 20
9 13.75 6.75 20
10 14.25 5.25 20
11 14.75 5.75 20

Here the inequality goes in the opposite direction. The letter which goes the furthest pays the least duty. This inequality is only notional , however, so minimal is it, since is divided into minute fractions of a sou . 293

Notice in fact, that to get to perfect equality, starting on a basis of 20c. for the shortest journey, letters need to be priced as follows:

Zone Total
1 20 c
2 20.5
3 21
4 21.5
5 22
6 22.5
7 23
8 23.5
9 24
10 24.5
11 25

Am I not right to describe as notional an equality which could not be practiced without entailing the creation of half-centimes?

Postal reform can raise a lot of serious questions. I claim no more than to have examined one of them, that of equal pricing. I wanted to show people who are dubious about accepting the uniform rate, in the belief that it offends principles of equity, that they are completely mistaken. Any graduated rate would hurt more, for the very simple reason that in the transport costs there is only a sou of difference between a letter that goes the minimum distance and one that crosses the whole realm. Habit alone has produced the illusion I am seeking to destroy. Why don't people, out of love of equality, demand that newspapers be subject to variable pricing? Why is there no demand that tobacco and gun powder be sold at progressively dearer prices the more distant they are from their origin? Because we understand that the costs of transport count for so little in the prices of these things, that it is better to take no account of them than embarrass management with the minutiae of an overly complicated system of accounting. The same reason militates, and with greater force, in favor of a standard price on letters.

Second Article (6 August, 1844)

I have shown that postal reform is consistent with a uniform price , rather than its opposite, as many people appear to believe.

Having shaken off this attempt at ruling me out of court intellectually, I still have to examine the question in its own right, that is to say in its connection with general and fiscal interests.

As to the advantages to the public of a standard, moderate rate for letters, there is no doubt about the matter.

"It takes a lot of philosophizing", says Rousseau, "Before we notice what marvels the phenomena which our observations constantly fall on, contain". 294 This remark is applicable to the business of corresponding by means of letters. What spectacle is more astonishing than that of two human beings, separated by immense distances, by rivers, mountains, seas, communicating on days and at hours pre-arranged, their most secret projects, their most intimate feelings, without anyone along the route being in a position to violate the secrets of their hearts. Then, one comes to reflect that there is no one in the whole great human family who cannot correspond thus with another, that the number of possible links rises therefore to infinity, and that there are, even so, for each one of these links, men, horses, vehicles, ships always at the ready, so that these messages of the heart, whatever the point of departure and whatever the place of destination, can traverse the distances by the most direct way and with the greatest of speed. One is simply amazed at this power which civilization has attained. — The Fisc, however, does not hesitate to step in. It has a calculus for the power of the affections; it has measured, precisely what human sympathies entail; and it has no shame about asking, for the service it provides, a price which may be up to ten times what the service costs.

Consequently the ability to correspond is restricted. We no longer write about minor matters. We no longer write to share our good fortune or our joy. We wait until mischance or sorrow creates in us that irresistible outpouring of our hearts which material calculation cannot block. Misfortune to the poor; misfortune to the old man whose shaky arms can barely keep him alive; he must resign himself, every month, across the years perhaps, to not knowing if his daughter's heart is still beating!

Philanthropy does not prevent our recognizing that the particular part of the price of letters, which is fair payment of the service the Post Office has provided, must remain as a charge on the addressee. We have to recognize, however, that the other part of the price, which constitutes tax, pure and simple, must be uniform and, above all, modest. I say uniform, because, I ask you, is it just that the more one is separated from those one loves, the less one has the chance to see them, to be with them, then the more one has to pay – and I speak not of costs but of taxes – when one receives letters from them? I say, modest, because this tax is the hardest of all the things which tend to cramp our moral joys and inflict on our souls privation and sorrows.

This is not, however, how the Fisc reasons. If it is not wicked, it is egoistical. It will willingly accept a financial reform, but only on the condition that it will not cost it a single obole (cent) in revenue. Let us therefore look at the issue in fiscal terms.

We believe M. Chégaray is wrong when he says in his report that the postal reform adopted four years ago in England has neither fully justified nor contradicted the calculations of its authors. If these calculations have proved wrong this is by way of their succeeding beyond hope. It is true that general interests counted for a lot in the motives of the cabinet which introduced this great measure, one explored by M. Chégaray only in financial terms. Even in this connection, however, it is not right to say that it has not justified predictions, given that it has completely surpassed them. – Income has dropped they say, but wasn't this outcome expected? In reducing the price from 90c., which was the average price, to 10c., a price which in our country would scarcely be profitable, the Whig cabinet did not have in mind an unchanged postal revenue. It had banked on a more lively exchange of letters, a growth in business and wealth, which could improve the other sources of public revenue. A secondary hope had been that postal reform, by reducing costs and thereby encouraging the sending of letters, would in the long run result in revenue from the new arrangement coming to equal that of the former system of graduated and higher prices.

Was the cabinet mistaken in these forecasts? It had reckoned on its needing five years for the number of letters to double, and it has tripled in four . While in 1839, the Post Office had delivered 65 million letters, in 1843 it delivered 209 million. 295 Without the reform, this mail traffic would have cost the public 185 million francs in losses, while it has lost only 20 million. The Post Office has achieved, however, on all the services under its control, a net return of 15 millions, while the French Post Office has achieved a margin of receipts over expenditures of only 18 millions. So what the Fisc has lost in England is trivial, while what the public has gained is incalculable, above all in respect of the huge number of matters dealt with, alongside the mass of affectionate exchanges, for which no formal accounting is possible. Indeed never did reform so totally fulfill its purposes.

The plan which all minds seem to be collectively pursuing in France, is a uniform rate of 20 centimes per letter. Since the average level of the present price of sending a letter is 42.5c., the savings in duty paid by the recipient would therefore be a half, while in England it has worked out at eight ninths . So we should not expect either such a serious deficit in revenue to the Fisc, or so rapid a growth in the circulation of letters. The advantages and disadvantages of the reform will be moderate, just as the reform itself is. While in England the number of letters carried by the mail had to increase nine-fold, that is to say from 65 million to 585 million, it will be enough in France if the number of letters is doubled, that is raised from 80 to 171 million. When this has been achieved, the Fisc, on both sides of the Channel, will have recaptured all their prey 296 and the people will have gained by 17 million francs in France, and 468 million in England, which all goes to show that if the British reform has been accused of being too radical, this is because we are unfortunately in the habit of judging measures of this kind only from the fiscal point of view, thereby failing to take account of the interests of the public.



The "Paris" Writings I: Bastiat and the Free Trade Movement (Oct. 1844 - Feb. 1848)

[See the Reader's Guide to the Writings of Bastiat]



1. T.23 "Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine. On the occasion of his article entitled: The Right to a Job" (Feb. 1845, JDE)


T.23 (1845.01.15) "Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine. On the occasion of his article entitled: The Right to a Job " (Un économiste à M. de Lamartine. A l'occasion de son écrit intitulé: Du Droit au travail ), JDE , February 1845, T. 10, no. 39, pp. 209-223. [OC1.9, pp. 406-28] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

The Economists sometimes didn't know what to make of Alphonse Lamartine (1790-1869), 297 the Romantic poet from the lower ranks of the French aristocracy who had burst onto the literary scene in 1820 with his collection of poems Méditations poétiques , who later turned into a reformist, liberal politician during the July Monarchy with his call for the separation of church and state, his support for freedom of the press, the expansion of the voting franchise, and the abolition of the death penalty and of slavery, and his opposition to the building of new fortifications around Paris in the early 1840s. 298 However, they also opposed his advocacy of state regulation of the railways, government regulation of workers' wages and working conditions, and his sometimes lukewarm support for free trade. Bastiat's younger friend and colleague, Gustave de Molinari, was typical of many of the Parisian economists in his enthusiasm for Lamartine's work and their hopes for his support in future political battles for liberal reforms. Molinari wrote his very first book, a"political biography" of Lamartine, shortly after arriving in Paris. 299

Lamartine could have been crucial to advancing the the economists's cause when the February Revolution broke out and Lamartine thrust his way forward to take charge of the new Provisional Government if it weren't for his toleration and perhaps open support for state funded welfare programs such as "the right to work" (or right to a job) which were anathema to the economists. His sympathy for the idea made it possible for Louis Blanc to set up the National Workshops in the Luxembourg Palace in the first week of the revolution, and to extend the program to the point where it nearly bankrupted the French state, forcing the Assembly to cancel it in June, thus leading to the June Days rioting in protest and the killing and arrest of thousands of people. Bastiat became one of the National Workshops' harshest and most persistent critiques throughout the first half of 1848 from his position as Vice-President of the Assembly's Finance Committee. The origins of this opposition by Bastiat lay in this essay which he wrote in January 1845 to combat an article Lamartine had written the month before.

In spite of the harsh things Bastiat had to say to Lamartine in this essay, they later became good friends, sometimes sharing the stage at the large public meetings organised by the French Free Trade Association during the campaign of 1846-47. 300 They had become close enough for Lamartine to indicate to Bastiat that he might offer him a job in the Provisional Government which came to power on 24 February 1848:

There followed what has been called with reason the rush for positions. Several of my friends were very influential, including M. de Lamartine, who had written to me a few days before, "If ever the storm carries me to power, you will help me to achieve the triumph of our ideas." 301

Bastiat turned it down, apparently finding the jockeying for power distasteful and believing he could be more influential in the Finance Committee of the Chamber. As he related to his friend Félix Coudroy "As for me, I will set foot in the town hall only as an interested spectator; I will gaze on the greasy pole but not climb it. Poor people! How much disillusionment is in store for them!" 302 What frustrated Bastiat was the fact that Lamartine could support free trade on one hand but also find sympathy for the socialist criticism of wage labour on the other. Part of the purpose of this letter was to point this contradiction out to Lamartine.

Lamartine by 1844 had come under the influence of socialist ideas which were being actively promoted in France. Beginning in the late 1830s socialists like Proudhon, 303 Victor Considerant, 304 and Louis Blanc, 305 had increased their criticism of key aspects of the free market such as the right to own private property, the legitimacy of charging interest and rent, making profits on economic activity, and the organisation of work by means of wage labour. The most influential works were by the Fourier socialist Victor Prosper Considerant (1808-93) with the Théorie du droit de propriété et du droit au travail (A Theory of the Right to Property and the Right to Work) (1839) 306 and the journalist and historian Louis Blanc (1811-82) in L'Organisation du travail (The Organisation of Labour) (1839), 307 both of which were reprinted many times throughout the 1840s and during the Revolution. They argued that wage labour exploited the workers by not paying them the full value of their labour and by making them redundant in hard economic times. To counter this, they argued that workers should be guaranteed their jobs by the state, which should also employ unemployed workers in economic down turns, and by creating new forms of labour organisation in which workers were not paid by wages set by employers at market rates but by sharing amongst all workers the fruits of their labours. The slogans which the socialists popularised were "le droit au travail" (the right to work, or the right to a job) and the "organisation of work" in worker controlled "social" or "national workshops."

Lamartine was a liberal in that he didn't believe the state should interfere in the "la liberté des transactions entre le capital et le salaire" (freedom of transactions between capital and labour) or in free trade, but he was an interventionist when it came to the state looking after the welfare of workers. He thought that "le plus essentiel et le plus beau de ses titres, le titre de Providence du peuple" (the most essential and most beautiful of (the state's) functions was that of the Providential (supporter) of the people) and that from time to time "doit agir avec sa tutelle active et bienfaisante en ce qui touche le travail et le salaire des masses" (it must use its active and charitable tutelage in matters which concern the labour and wages of the masses). He denounced the policy of laissez-faire very strongly as the "axiome brutal du système anglais, toutes les fois du moins que le laissez faire et laissez passer veut dire laissez souffrir et laissez mourir " (the brutal principle of the English system, (where) at all times it means nothing less than "let people suffer" and "let people die."). 308

The Economists, on the other hand, defended the idea of "le droit du travail" which is a distinction which turns on French grammar. They distinguished between two different types of "rights" and "liberties" which is clearer in the original French. They distinguished between "le droit de faire quelque chose" (the right to do something) and "le droit à quelque chose" (the right to have something). In the case of "travail" (work or labour) the socialists advocated "le droit au travail" (the right of a worker to a job, especially one guaranteed by the government) whereas the Economists advocated "le droit du travail" or "la liberté du travail" (the right or the freedom of working, or of anybody to engage in work of some kind). The key difference in French is between the use of a noun (le travail) and a verb (travailler). 309

The economists began to counter the socialists' critique in the mid-1840s with a series of works such as Michel Chevalier's long critique of Blanc in the Journal des Debats in August 1844 310 and then the large three volume work by Charles Dunoyer De la liberté du travail (March 1845). 311 What took them by surprise was Lamartine joining the socialists with his article in favour of "the right to work" which he published in his magazine Le Bien Public (The Public Good) in December 1844 on "The Right to Work and the Organisation of Labour" 312 just before the appearance of Dunoyer's book (completed in January 1845 and published probably in March).

Bastiat dons the "economists' hat" to formally reply to Lamartine on behalf of the Journal des Économistes , which is rather odd as he had only recently emerged from the obscurity of Les Landes and had published his first article in JDE only the previous October. 313 He had not yet gone to Paris to be welcomed by the Political Economy Society - that was to come in May 1845. Yet the task fell to Bastiat to take on Lamartine, which suggests how rapidly his star was rising among the ranks of the economists at this time. He provided a similar service in October 1846 with another letter to Lamartine, this time opposing his call for greater regulation of the grain trade during the shortages and high prices caused by the poor harvests in 1846-47. 314 Both of Lamartine's articles dismayed the economists, as is clear from Bastiat's comments in this article. It would not be going to far to say that they felt betrayed by someone they thought was their colleague and political ally in the struggle against both the Monarchy and the socialists. In fact, Bastiat in his second letter to Lamartine in October 1846 calls him "our favorite poet" but demotes him to the past tense as a result of his current views. Bastiat points out how liberal Lamartine was on other matters and how his support for the socialists on this issue contradicts his other positions on things like free trade and reducing the size of government by strictly limiting its power. He also points out that there are two distinct schools of political economy: the one supported by the economists in the Guillaumin network, the liberal or laissez-faire school which is based upon individual liberty and the natural laws which govern all economic activity. The other is the school of arbitrary or despotic government which is based upon coercion by the state and is supported by the socialists and other interventionists who believe that the natural laws of the economy can be ignored by those who wish to create new and "artificial" organisations within society to achieve their social goals. 315 Bastiat not only criticises Lamartine's views because he thinks they are wrong, but also because he thinks he has used his great moral authority as a poet and political reformer to mislead the younger generation who hang on his every word, perhaps as he himself had done when he first read Lamartine's poetry in the 1820s:

I am sorry to have to say this frankly, Sir, but I believe that you have done a disastrous thing and one likely to misdirect the first steps of a young generation full of confidence in the authority of your words, when, dispensing criticism and praise indiscriminately, you violently attacked the most conscientious and in a practical sense Christian school, that has ever come onto the scene of the moral sciences… 316

Another criticism of the socialists which was taken up by Lamartine was their accusation that the economists were "heartless" Malthusians in their contempt for the suffering of the poor. Bastiat himself had began as a strict Malthusian, 317 like the other economists, and we see his first forays in exploring the economic impact of population growth on the well-being of ordinary people in a memorandum he wrote while serving on the General Council of Les Landes on the shifting burden of the land tax on different economic groups earlier that year, 318 and then again in 1846 with another memorandum "On the Bordeaux to Bayonne Railway Line" (May, 1846) 319 and two articles in the JDE on "Thoughts on Share Cropping" (Feb., 1846) and "On Population" (Oct. 1846). 320 The criticisms of the socialists made Bastiat think more deeply about this problem during 1844-46 as these writings show, so that by the time the chapter on population appeared in the posthumous edition of Economic Harmonies (1851) he had radically rethought the problem of population growth. 321 His conclusion was that Malthus and the Malthusians had made several mistakes: they badly underestimated the productive power of a deregulated market economy and international free trade to supply the food needed by ordinary people at prices they could afford, or what he called, borrowing a phrase from Lamartine in fact, "la vie à bon marché" (life at affordable or low prices); they also underestimated the ability of ordinary people, as rational actors, to plan the timing and the size of their families; 322 they did not understand that the higher density of population made possible by urban living lowered the costs of making profitable trades with others and deepened the division of labour which increased productivity; and finally, he had an early notion of human capital which meant that individuals should be be seen as valuable resources in their own right who were able to provide "services" to others and not as a net drain on the economy. Thus this article is an indicator of his changing thoughts on this important topic.

It is also worth noting that in the course of his critique of Lamartine Bastiat refers to several theoretical issues, many for the first time in his writing, which were to become very important to him later on. This suggest that he had been thinking about them for some time and this letter was his first opportunity to bring his scattered thoughts into a more coherent whole. Or perhaps, it might even have been a way to show off, as it were, in front of an audience of other economists his deep knowledge of and innovative thinking about economic theory. These key concepts include the following:

  1. society as a mechanism "(un mécanique sociale) with its own internal "driving force" (moteur) which did not require an external "mechanic" to make it operate effectively and justly. Here is his first use of the expression which is discussed in more detail in "Natural and Artificial Organisatons" (Jan. 1848). 323
  2. the distinction between "la charité volontaire" (voluntary charity) and "la charité légale ou forcée" (coerced or government charity).
  3. a couple of very early uses of the idea of harmony, namely "l'harmonie du monde social" (the harmony of the social world) and the idea that a voluntary activity like charity is an "élément harmonique dans le jeu des lois sociales" (harmonious element in the interplay of social laws). According to Bastiat, a providentially guided "harmony" of interests existed in society in the absence of coercion which meant that there is no inherent reason why the diverse needs and interests of individuals, whether consumers or producers, should be in conflict with each if they have their property rights and liberty respected under the rule of law, and if they are free to trade voluntarily with one another (or not as the case may be). 324
  4. his first pairing of the concepts of "l'harmonie" (harmony) and its opposite "dissonance" (disharmony).
  5. related to this, is his first use of the idea of "les forces perturbatrices" (disturbing forces) which upset the harmony of the free market. He includes among them war, government regulations, privileges, subsidies, and tariffs. This idea would become very important in his treatise Economic Harmonies to which he planned to devote a chapter but which was never completed. 325
  6. his first use of the idea of the self-correcting mechanisms of the free market, or what he called "les forces réparatrices" (repairing or restorative forces) whereby the market attempts to restore equilibrium after it has been upset by "les forces perturbatrices" (disturbing forces).
  7. the first use of the term "organisation artificielle" (artificial organisation) which would become important in his later critique of socialism and would have, along with its opposite "Natural Organisation", a chapter devoted to it at the beginning of Economic Harmonies.
  8. an early use of the idea of the indefinite "perfectibility of man."
  9. the idea of labour and capital being "déplacé" (displaced or distorted) by government interventions in the economy thus causing harm until a new equilibrium can be established.

What is missing from this impressive list is his notion of exchange being the mutual exchange of "service pour service" (one service for another service). 326 He did however discuss it briefly in another piece written at the same time as this one, his unpublished review of Charles Dunoyer's book De la Liberté du travail (On the Freedom of Working) (March, 1845). 327 Thus we can conclude that most of Bastiat's key ideas were floating around in his head by early 1845 before he went to Paris to engage more fully with the main group of political economists.

Bastiat concludes with a very impassioned plea to Lamartine to model himself on Richard Cobden who in 1845 was in the final year of his campaign to repeal the protectionist Corn Laws in Britain (the first bill was passed by the House in January 1846 and came into effect in June that year). Bastiat thought the free trade movement in France would be unbeatable if it could harness Lamartine's great rhetorical skills to the wagon of free trade instead of giving his weight and moral authority to the champions of "a regulated society and big government." He explored these ideas about the strategies needed by a French free trade movement and the role to be played by charismatic speakers to mobilise public opinion at greater length in the introduction he wrote to his first published book, Cobden and the League , which appeared a few months after he wrote this essay on Lamartine. 328 It would turn out that the French free trade movement never could find "its Richard Cobden" although both Bastiat himself and Lamartine were regular speakers at the large public meetings organised by the Association during 1846 and 1847. 329

Text: Letter to Lamartine

Mugron, Les Landes.

January 1845.


After having made you the target of criticism on all sides, the prodigious talent with which nature has endowed you, a talent that enhances a reputation without blemish, has now marked you out as the hope of all the various schools of thought. Your half-concealed opinions left each school hoping to enlist you to its cause. Catholicism, neo-Christianity, the supporters of Liberty, and even the modern oddities that go under the names of Saint-Simonism, 330 Fourierism 331 or Communism counted on you and placed their hopes in you. There is that system which can be summarized by the words coerced concentration /bringing together , the other one is expressed by the words, free competition; there is that theory which seeks to impose an artificial organization on production, on human capacities and on capital, and the other theory that sees no better organization of society's powers than the one to which they naturally gravitate : in a word, every school wishes to have you as an aid and would accept you as its leader.

For there is none of these for which you would not have been the most powerful spokesman. What does an idea that carries within itself the element of triumph that is truth, need? To be known, understood and popularized, and for this, it needs striking forms of speech and brilliant formulae whose novel clarity will revive in every heart the innate feeling for what is true and just that a magnanimous Providence has planted there. This is why those who toil, men of vigilance and learning, would entrust to your word the work of years and centuries, scientific investigations or the corrections born of experiment, in a word, the entire intellectual corpus of their schools so that you might broadcast it to the world. By that happy combination of strength of thought and vividness of image, of which you alone have the secret, by the unparalleled gift granted solely to you, the ability to infuse logic with poetry and poetry with logic, you would have made truth shine out in the scholar's study and the artist's studio and, in drawing rooms and boudoirs, in palaces and thatched cottages. You would have carved a pathway for truth to university chairs and the political rostrum alike.

How many times have I too, Sir, turned my gaze toward you because of my sincere intellectual conviction and the unshakeable faith in my heart! How many times have I not examined the words that fell from your lips or the articles that flowed from your pen to see whether they did not at last unveil the secret of your views or unlock your shadowy and mysterious symbolism! For since I understood or at least sincerely considered that I understood the workings of social life, I said to myself, "This light is of no use as long as it is under a bushel, and it will be revealed only by the powerful voice of a man who is capable of blending the dialectic of the metaphysician, the experience of the Statesman, the eloquence of the tribune, the ardent charity of the Christian, and the delightful accents of the poet."

You have at last given your views. But alas! The expectations of the schools of economics have been dashed. You acknowledge only two of them and you declare that you belong to neither. Such is the rock on which genius founders. It disdains the well-trodden paths and the treasure of knowledge gathered over centuries. It seeks its treasure within itself and wishes to carve out its own path. 332

As you say, there are two schools of political economy. Allow me to describe them so that an assessment may be made of the bitter criticism that, through an inexplicable contradiction, you direct at the one whose principles you ultimately accept and the fulsome praise you give, through a no less inexplicable contradiction, to the one whose vain and subversive theories you reject.

The first of these schools proceeds in a scientific manner. It notes, examines, groups, and classifies the facts and phenomena, it seeks to find their relationships of cause and effect and, from all its observations it deduces the general and providential laws according to which men prosper or perish. It considers that the action of science, qua science, on the human race is limited to setting out and making known these laws , so that each person may know the reward attached to his compliance in their regard and the punishments that follow their violation. 333 It refers back to the human heart for the rest, in the full knowledge that it persistently aspires to the reward and inevitably avoids the punishments, and since this twin motivation, a desire for good things and a horror of bad ones, is the most powerful force for bringing people under the sway of social laws, this school rejects as a curse the intervention of arbitrary forces that tend to alter the just and natural distribution of pleasure and pain. This gives rise to the famous principle " Laissez faire, laissez passer ", 334 against which you show such indignation, and which is just a wretched circumlocution for the word freedom which you have inscribed on your banner as constituting the very principle of your doctrine.

The other school, or rather the other method, which has given rise to and will continue to give rise to countless sects, proceeds through imagination . In its eyes, society is not a subject for observation but matter on which experiments may be carried out. It is not a living body whose organs have to be examined but inert matter that legislators subject to artificial arrangement. This school does not assume that the social body is governed by providential laws; it asserts that it can impose on society laws of its own invention. Plato's Republic , Thomas More's Utopia , 335 Harrington's Oceana , 336 Fénélon's Salente 337 , the protectionist régime, Saint-Simonism, Fourierism, Owenism 338 and a thousand other strange concoctions 339 that have on occasion been set up to the great misfortune of the human race and almost always in dreamlike fashion, served up as if to frightened children: these are just a few of the countless manifestations of this school.

The analytical method should ineluctably lead to unity of doctrine, for there is no reason for the same facts not to appear in the same light to all observers. This is why, except for a few slight differences that revised observations are constantly causing to disappear, it has rallied to an identical faith such men as Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Mill, Jefferson, Bentham, Senior, Cobden, Thompson, Huskisson, Peel, Desttut de Tracy, Say, Comte, Dunoyer, Droz 340 and a host of other illustrious men whose lives were spent not in constructing in their heads an imaginary society populated with imaginary people of their own invention, 341 but in studying men and things and the way they interact in order to recognize and formulate the laws to which God was pleased to subject society.

The method of fanciful invention was bound to lead to intellectual anarchy, because you can bet an infinite number to one that an infinite number of dreamers would not have the same dream. Thus we see that, in order to be at ease in their imaginary world, one has banished property, another inheritance, this one here the family and that one there freedom. Here we find some who take no account of the laws governing population, and there others who set aside the principle of human solidarity, for it was necessary to conjure up chimerical beings in order to achieve a chimerical society.

Thus, the first observes the natural order of things and its conclusion is freedom . 342 The second creates an artificial form of society and its point of departure is coercion . For this reason and for reasons of brevity, I will call the first the economist or liberal school and the other the arbitrary or despotic government school .

Let us see now what judgment you bring to bear on these two doctrines: 343

In political economy there are two schools, an English and materialistic school (this is the liberal school that you are describing in these lines) that treats people as inert quantities, that speaks in figures for fear that an emotion or a thought might slip into its theorizing, that reduces industrial society to a type of stony-faced arithmetic, a heartless mechanism in which humanity is just a silent partner and in which workers are just cogs to be worn down and dispensed with at the lowest price possible, in which everything ends up as a profit or loss at the bottom of a column of figures, with no consideration of the fact that these quantities are men, that these cogs are minds, and these figures have lives, morality, sweat, bodies, and souls, and make up millions of beings like us who have been created by God with the same destiny. This is the school that reigns in France since the import of English economic science. This is the one that has been written and spouted and has governed up to now, with a few major exceptions. This is the one which has forbidden alms and criminalised begging without providing for beggars, criticized the hospitals, condemned the hospices, made fun of charities, made an outlaw of poverty, cursed over-population, forbidden marriages, advised childlessness, shut the centers for abandoned children and which, subjecting everything mercilessly and heartlessly to competition, that very providence of selfishness, has said to the proletariat: 'Get to work.' 'But we cannot find work.' 'Well, then, die! If you cannot earn anything, you have no right to live; society is a well-organized business. …

There is another school that has arisen in France in the last few years from the sufferings of the proletariat, the selfishness of manufacturers, the hard-heartedness of capitalists, the upheaval of the present times, the memories of the Convention 344 , the fellow-feeling of philanthropy, and the anticipated dreams of an age of perfect idealism. This is the one that, prophesying the coming of the industrial Christ to the masses (Fourier), calls them to the religion of association, that substitutes the principle of association through work for all the other principles, instincts and sentiments that God has kneaded into human nature, that believes that it has found the means of organizing labor without turning upside down the free relationships between producers and consumers, of assaulting capital without eliminating it, of regulating wages and distributing them at will with the infallibility and infinite justice of God. This school, which counts among its masters and followers so many men of enlightenment and faith, carries two major treasures within it: a governing principle, association, and a virtue, the charitableness of the masses. However, it seems to push its principles to excess and to fantasize its virtue. Fourierism has thus far been the sublime exaggeration of hope. We do not belong to either of these schools. We believe them both to be in error. One lacks soul and the other lacks only moderation in its passion for good. The difference we see between them is the difference between cruelty and illusion, and to solve the problem of wages we take from one the light of calculation and the other the warmth of charity.

I will not stop to point out the vague and erroneous expressions and the bold assertions that pepper this passage in which it appears that your pen mastered you more than you mastered your pen. Where have you witnessed economists treating people like inert objects , when in truth they see the harmony of the social world precisely in the freedom of their action? 345 Where have you witnessed the predominance of this school in France when it does not have a single voice, at least one that is acknowledged, in the government or Parliament? What is this disdain for figures, calculations, or arithmetic as if the figures are used for anything other than to record results and as if good and harm can be assessed in any other way than through the results which are observed? What scientific value is it possible to find in your indignation against the hard-heartedness of capitalists, the selfishness of manufacturers as such, as though industrial services and capital, any more than wages, could escape the laws of supply and demand that govern them in order to subject themselves to the laws of sentiment and philanthropy?

However, I feel the need to protest with all my strength against the odious insinuations you rain on the heads of all these illustrious scholars, whose venerable names I listed above. No, posterity will not ratify your judgment. It will not agree with you that the abyss that separates cruelty and simple illusion , also divides Smith and Fourier as well as Say and Enfantin. 346 It will not agree that Fourier's only mistake was to push " a great principle to excess and to fantasize virtue ." It will not see in the promiscuity of the sexes a sublime exaggeration of hope . It will not believe that social science owes Fourierism the following three great innovations in belief : "a belief in the infinite progress of the human race, in the principle of association, and in the charitableness of the masses", because the perfectibility of man, a consequence of the principles regulating his intelligence, was recognized a long time before Fourier, because association is as ancient as the family, and because the charitableness of the masses, however you want to consider it, whether from the theoretical or practical point of view, in the case either of individuals or society, has been formally promulgated by Christianity and implemented everywhere, at least to some extent. But posterity will be astonished that you assign such an elevated place and shower so much fulsome praise on a school that at the same time you sully with these eloquent words: it is a monastery in which "a mother is merely a pregnant woman, a father a beggetter of children, and the child a product of the two sexes." 347

But what are you blaming economists for? Could it be for the sometimes arid forms with which they have clad their ideas? This is literary criticism. In this case you would have to acknowledge the services they have rendered to economic science and limit yourself to accusing them of being cold writers. 348 In this regard as well it might be answered that while the severe and accurate language of science has the disadvantage of not hastening its propagation enough, the warm and image-laden language of poets, when transported into the didactic field, has the much greater disadvantage of often misleading the reader after having misled the writer. It is not the form that you are attacking, however, it is the thought and even the intention.

As for the thought, how can it be accused? It may well be erroneous; it cannot be criticized since it can be summed up thus: " There is more harmony in the divine laws than in any human arrangements . " You are free to say like Alphonse 349 that "These laws would be better if I had been called upon to take part in God's counsels." But no, you do not use such impious language. You leave such blasphemy to Utopians. For your part, you take hold of the very doctrine with which you endeavor to sully its exponents and in your entire article, except for a few exceptional views that I will discuss shortly, the great principle of freedom dominates, which implies that you recognize the harmony of divine laws, since it would be puerile to espouse freedom not because it is the true condition for social order and happiness but through a platonic love of freedom itself, setting aside the results which by its very nature it produces.

As for the intention, what perversity can we detect in the deliberate intention of those who choose simply to say:

"The equilibrium of social forces is established spontaneously; do not touch it!"

To reach your conclusion as to the actual intentions of economists, one would have to prove three things:

  1. That the free play of social and providential forces is disastrous for the human race;
  1. That it is possible to paralyze their action by substituting arbitrary forces for them;
  1. That economists reject the latter, fully aware of their alleged superiority to the former.

In the absence of these three proofs, your attacks, if you intended them to include the intentions of the writers of whom I have been speaking, would neither be justified nor justifiable.

But I will never believe that you, whose honor and uprightness are beyond question, would wish to incriminate even the morality of illustrious scholars whose careers preceded yours, who have bequeathed you their doctrines, and whom the human race has absolved in advance through the veneration and respect with which it clothes their memory.

Besides, are there, in what you are pleased to call the English School, as though a science that limits itself to describing the facts and their sequence can be from one country rather than another, as though there could be Russian geometry, Dutch mechanics, Spanish anatomy, and French or English economics, are there, I ask, men in this school who, like the trade prohibitionists , have proclaimed their doctrines in order to mislead people's minds and take advantage of the common error so deliberately and knowingly disseminated? 350 No, you do not quote a single one. It is arguable that no philosophical sect has shown such dignity, moderation, and devotion to the public good and if you think about it you would understand that that is how it must be.

In the 18th century, when astronomy had not yet reached the stage it has now, a a kind of aberration in the movements of the planets was noted. It was noted that some moved closer to each other while others moved away from the center of movement, and the hasty conclusion was reached that the latter were steadily moving into the glacial depths of space while the former were going to be engulfed in the incandescent matter of the sun. Laplace 351 came along and subjected the alleged aberrations to calculation; he demonstrated that when the planets left their orbit, the force pulling them back increased because of this very distancing: "Through the total power of a mathematical formula," said Mr. Arago, 352 "the foundations of the physical world have been strengthened." 353 Do you think that the person who discovered and measured this beautiful harmony would willingly have agreed to misrepresent these admirable laws of gravity for personal interest?

Political economy also has its Laplaces. They have observed that, when social disturbances appear, there also exist providential forces that bring everything back into equilibrium. They have discovered that these restorative forces are proportional to the disturbing forces because the one gives rise to the other. In delighted admiration for this harmony in the moral world, they have conceived a passion for the divine work and they, more than other people, reject everything that might disrupt it. For this reason, as far as I know, there has never been an instance when the attraction of private interest has come to rival in their hearts this eternal object of their admiration and love. This surprised Bonaparte. He was little accustomed to resistance of this nature and honored them with the title Naive Fools because they refused to support his mission to rule in an arbitrary manner, considering it incompatible with the great social laws that they had discovered and proclaimed. 354 They bear this glorious title to this day and none of them can be seen to be active in government affairs because they would only do so if they were able to act according to their own principles.

I am sorry to have to say this frankly, Sir, but I believe that you have done a disastrous thing and one likely to misdirect the first steps of a young generation full of confidence in the authority of your words, when, dispensing criticism and praise indiscriminately, you violently attacked the most conscientious and in a practical sense Christian school, that has ever come onto the scene of the moral sciences, reserving your enthusiasm, sympathy and, pardon me for saying this, your "flirtatious" remarks for the other schools which are not, in your own words, anything other than a negation of freedom, order, property, family, love, domestic affections, and all the sentiments ingrained by God in human nature .

And what makes this unjust evaluation of men totally inexplicable is that, as I have said, you adopt the principles of the economists, free trade, and free competition, this godsend of selfishness .

There is no other way of organizing work, you say, "than freedom for it. There is no other way of distributing wages than through work itself being rewarded for what it does and achieving its own justice, something which your arbitrary systems will not allow. Free will with respect to work for the producer, for the consumer, for wages and workers, is as sacred as free will with respect to conscience in man. When you touch freedom of labor, you kill progress; when you touch freedom of conscience you kill morality. The best governments are those that do not touch them. 355

And elsewhere: "We know of no other possible organization of labour in a free country than the freedom that earns its own reward through competition , ability and morality." 356

It is not enough to say that these words are in line with the ideas of the economists; they embrace and summarize their entire doctrine. They imply that you have full knowledge and clarity of perspective on this great law of competition, 357 which carries within itself the general remedy for the inevitable harm that it may produce in particular cases.

And yet how can we believe that your view embraces all the facts and social forces that result from the principle of freedom when we see you rejecting the key notion of the responsibility of intelligent and free agents? 358

For when you speak of the two major schools, the one of freedom and the other of coercion , you say, "I am borrowing from one the enlightenment of its calculations and from the other the warmth of its charity." To speak accurately, you ought to say: "I am borrowing from one the principle of freedom and from the other that of irresponsibility ."

In fact, the result of the passages I have just quoted is that you have taken from the economists not just calculations but a guiding principle, namely, " Freedom is the best social organization ."

But this is on one condition alone, that the law of responsibility produces its full, total, and natural effect. If human law intervenes and distorts the consequences of actions so that they do not affect those for whom they were intended, not only is freedom no longer a good organization, but it also does not exist.

It is therefore a grave contradiction to say that you are borrowing freedom here and coercion there in order to fashion a monstrous or rather an impossible blend.

I will make myself better understood by going into some detail.

You criticise the liberal school for being cruel and right away you borrow from the arbitrary or despotic school "the warmth of its charity." That is the general approach, and here is its application.

You accuse the economists of forbidding marriage and counseling childlessness and opposing this, you want the State to adopt orphaned children or those who are too numerous .

You accuse the economists of forbidding and making fun of alms and opposing this, you want the State to intervene to help the masses in their poverty.

You accuse the economists of saying to the proletariat, " Work or die " and on the other hand you want society to proclaim the right to a job and the right to a living .

Let us examine these three antitheses, whose number I could have increased; this will be enough to determine whether it is possible to gather doctrines from opposing schools and achieve a sold alliance between them in this way.

I have no wish to burden the terrain of principles on which I am determined to stand with detailed discussion. However, I will make one preliminary remark. It was said a long time ago that the surest but certainly the least fair way of combating one's opponent is to attribute to him outrageous sentiments, false ideas, and words he has never said. I believe you are incapable of intentionally having recourse to such trick but, either because the words used have led to this effect or because of the demands of brevity, it is certain that you attribute to the economists words that were never theirs.

Never have they advised infertility 359 or forbidden marriage ; this criticism could have been more aptly made, and you in fact do make it, to Fourierism . While the economists have not condemned but rather merely deplored over -population, this very word " over " that you use justifies them.

What they have said on this serious subject is:

Man is a free being, who is responsible and intelligent. Since he is free, he uses his will to direct his actions; because he is responsible, he receives the reward or punishment for his actions, depending on whether they conform or not to the laws governing his being. Because he is intelligent his will, and consequently his actions, are constantly progressing, either in the light of his foresight or through the inevitable lessons of experience. It is a fact that people, like all living beings, are able to increase their numbers beyond their current means of subsistence. It is another fact that when the equilibrium is broken between the numbers of people and the resources that sustain life, there is malaise and suffering in society. Therefore, there is no alternative; plans have to be made to maintain the equilibrium or people have to suffer in order for it to be re-established. We conclude that it is desirable for the population as a whole not to grow too fast, and in order to do this that the individuals that make it up should not enter into marriage until they have the likelihood of being able to maintain a family. And as people are free, and as we do not recognize coercive or restrictive legislation in this regard, we call upon their reason, their feelings, and their common sense. The words we make them listen to are not in the slightest utopian or abstract. We tell them, with the wisdom of centuries and sense so common that is practically instinctive, that rashly or prematurely taking on a family that one does not yet have the means to bring up would be to bring unhappy people into the world and to make oneself unhappy. We add: If these individual rash actions become too widespread, society has more children than it can feed and it suffers , for the human race is not subject only to the law of responsibility , but also to that of solidarity , and this is the reason why economists are anxious to set out all the fateful consequences of a reckless increase in the human population, so that public opinion can bring its all-powerful action to bear on it, for they sincerely believe that in the face of this terrible phenomenon society faces nothing other than the alternative of foresight or suffering.

But you, Sir, you provide it with an expedient. You do not think that it has to plan ahead in order not to suffer and you do not want it to suffer for not having thought ahead. You say, " Let the State adopt children that are too numerous ."

This is certainly what will soon be decreed. But with what, if you please, will it bring them up? Doubtless with food, clothes, and products taken from the mass of the people in the form of taxes, for, as far as I know, the State has no resources of its own, none that is that do not stem from national production. 360 Thus the great rule of responsibility will be eluded. Those who, following their personal views perhaps, but in perfect accord with the public interest, in accordance with the rules of prudence, honesty, and reason, have refrained from, or postponed the moment of surrounding themselves with, a family, will be coerced into feeding the children of those who have given in to their brute instincts. But will the harm at least be cured? On the contrary, it will constantly get worse, for at the same time that no reliance can be placed on foresight, which will no longer have a rational dimension, the suffering itself, which continues to have an effect, will no longer act as a punishment, a brake, a lesson, or a stabilizing force. It will lose its attachment to morality, the latter now having nothing left that will explain or justify it. This is when people, without blaspheming, will be able to say to the author of all things: "What is the point of evil on earth, since it has no final purpose?"

The same remarks can be made about charity. First of all, economic science has never forbidden nor made fun of alms. Science does not make fun of or forbid anything; it observes, deduces, and demonstrates.

Next, political economy distinguishes between voluntary charity and state or compulsory charity. The first, for the very reason that it is voluntary , relates to the principles of freedom and is included as an element of harmony 361 in the interplay of social laws; the other, because it is compulsory , belongs to the schools of thought that have adopted the doctrine of coercion and inflict inevitable harm on the social body. Poverty is deserved or undeserved, and only free and spontaneous charity can make this essential distinction. If poverty receives help, even in the case of a degraded soul who has caused his own downfall, that help will be distributed parsimoniously in exactly the measure required, so that the punishment is not too severe, and yet the help does not encourage abject and contemptible sentiments that in the general interest ought not to be encouraged by inappropriate kindnesses. For unmerited and hidden misfortune, charity reserves liberal gifts and the discretion, the shelter, and the consideration to which misfortune is entitled in the name of human dignity.

However, state charity that is coerced, organized, and decreed as a debt on the part of the donor and a positive credit on the part of the receiver, does not nor can it make a distinction like this. Allow me to invoke the authority of a writer too little known and too little consulted on these matters:

Charles Comte states that:

There are several types of vice, whose principal effect is to produce poverty for the person who has adopted them. An institution whose object is to shelter people of every kind from poverty, without distinguishing the causes that have produced it, thereby encourages all the vices that lead to poverty. The courts cannot fine those people guilty of laziness, intemperance, improvidence or other vices of this sort, but nature, which has ordained rules of work, temperance, moderation and careful management for the human race, has taken it upon itself to inflict on the guilty the punishments they deserve . To reduce these punishments to nothing by giving the right to be given help to those who deserve such punishment is to leave in place all the attractions of vice. What is more, it is to allow the harm such vice produces to affect those to whom vice is alien, as well as weakening or destroying the only punishments able to repress it. 362

In this way, governmental charity, aside from the fact that it violates the principles of freedom and property, once again overturns the laws of responsibility, and by establishing a sort of community of entitlements 363 between the prosperous and poor classes it removes from prosperity the character of reward and from poverty the character of punishment stamped on them by the nature of things.

You want the State to intervene to help the masses in their poverty. But with what? With capital. And where will it obtain this? From taxes; it will have a budget for the poor . Therefore, by withdrawing this capital from general circulation, it would merely give back to the masses in the form of alms what they would have received in the form of wages!

Finally, you proclaim the right of the proletariat to a job, to a wage, and to food. And who has ever contested to anyone the right to work and consequently to a fair level of remuneration? Can this right ever be denied in a free society? However, by confronting us with what is a terrible hypothetical case, you are saying, "What if society has insufficient work for all its members, and what if its capital is not enough to give an occupation to all?" In truth, does not this extreme supposition imply that the population has exceeded its means of subsistence? In this case, I can clearly see the procedures that freedom tends to use to re-establish equilibrium; I see earnings and profits decrease, that is to say, I see each person's share of the community's wealth decrease; I see the inducements to marriage weaken, births diminish, and perhaps mortality increase until the proper level has been re-established. I see that these are harms and sufferings, and I both see and deplore them. 364 But what I do not see is that society can avoid these harms by proclaiming a right to work [i.e. to a job] , by decreeing that the State will take from an inadequate capital stock the means of providing employment for those who lack it, for I consider this filling one glass by emptying another. It is to act like that simple man who, wishing to fill a cask, drew from underneath what he put in from above or like a doctor who, to give strength to a sick man, injected into his right arm the blood he had taken from the left.

In my view, in the extreme theoretical case in which we are obliged to reason, such expedients are not only ineffective, but essentially harmful. Not only does the State move capital from one place to another, it withholds part of the capital it gathers and undermines the activities of the capital it does not commandeer. What is more, the new distribution of wages is less fair than the one presided over by freedom, and unlike the latter it is not proportional to the just rights of ability and morality. Finally, far from decreasing social suffering, on the contrary it increases it. These expedients do nothing to re-establish the equilibrium that has been upset between the number of people and their means of existing. Very far from doing so, they increasingly tend to upset this equilibrium.

But if we think that society can be put into a situation in which all it has is a choice of harms, if we think that in this case freedom brings it the most effective and least painful remedies, be warned that we also believe that it acts above all as a means of prevention. Before restoring the equilibrium between people and the food supply, it acts to prevent this equilibrium from being disrupted, because it allows all the reasons for men to be moral, active, temperate and far-sighted to retain their influence. We do not deny that what follows the forgetting of the virtues is suffering, but wishing that this were not so is to want an ignorant and debased people to benefit to the same extent from well-being and happiness as a moral and enlightened one.

It is so true that freedom prevents the harm for which you seek a remedy in the right to a job that you yourself acknowledge that this right does not need to be applied to those industries that enjoy total freedom: "Let us set aside", you say, "shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, coopers, locksmiths, masons, carpenters, joiners, etc. The fate of these people is not in the balance." 365 However the fate of factory workers would not be in the balance either if manufacturing had a natural life, always had its feet on firm ground, expanded only according to need, and did not rely on the artificial and variable prices resulting from protection , one of the fruits of the theory of arbitrary government.

You proclaim the right to a job , you raise it to a principle , but at the same time you show little faith in this principle. See within what narrow limits you in fact circumscribe its action. This right to work can be invoked only in rare instances, in extreme cases, only where life is at stake (propter vitam) 366 and on condition that its application will never create deadly competition from the State against the work of free industries and voluntarily agreed rates of pay.

Reduced to these terms, the measures you announce are within the domaine of state regulation 367 rather than social economy. 368 I consider that I can confirm, on behalf of the economists, that they have no serious objections to the intervention of the State in rare or extreme cases in which, without undermining free industries or changing the rates of voluntarily agreed wages it is possible to come to the aid, propter vitam , to save the lives of workers who are temporarily and abruptly displaced as a result of unexpected crises in production. 369 But, I ask you, to achieve these exceptional measures, was it necessary to rake over all the theories of the schools most in opposition to each other? Was it necessary to raise banner against banner, principle against principle, and trumpet into the ears of the masses those deceiving words: the right to a job or the right to a living ? I say to you in your own words: "These ideas are as resonant as this because all they contain is wind and tempest." 370

Sir, I do not think that Heaven has ever given men more precious gifts than those lavished on you. There is enough warmth in your soul and enough power in your genius for the century to be subject to your influence and, at the sound of your voice, take one more step along the path of civilization. But to do this, you ought not to take bits here and there from the schools that most oppose each other and from principles that cancel each other out. Your prodigious talent is a powerful lever but this lever is powerless if it does not have a principle as its fulcrum. In the past you stood up before the opposition with a sincere heart and eloquent voice. What result did you achieve? None, because you did not make any appeal to a principle . Oh! If only you were a strong supporter of freedom! If only you portrayed it bringing progress to the social world through the action of its two mutually sustaining laws, responsibility and solidarity! If only you rallied people's minds to this truth: "In political economy there is a great deal to be learnt and little to be done!" 371 People would then understand that freedom carries within itself the solution to all the major social problems that trouble our time and "that it provides justice for people that arbitrary governments do not provide." 372 How is it that you have found such fertile truths only to abandon them immediately afterwards? Do you not see that the rational and practical consequence of this doctrine is the reduction in the size of government ? 373 Take courage, then, and follow this shining path! Take no heed of the worthless popularity you are promised elsewhere. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot work to reduce the scope of power and demand that it leaves "both labour and conscience" alone, while on the other hand requiring it to "engage on a lavish scale in education, establish colonies, adopt children that are too numerous and intervene on behalf of the masses and their poverty." If you entrust these varied and sensitive tasks to it, you will make it grow inordinately. You will entrust it with a mission that is not its own. You will substitute its scheming for the economy of social laws. You will transform it into a "Providential agency that not only sees but foresees." You will enable it to impose and redistribute huge taxes. You will make it the object of all forms of ambition, hope, disappointment, and intrigue. You will elevate its executives inordinately and transform the nation into state employees; in a word you are on the path of an bastard, incomplete and illogical form of Fourierism.

These are not the doctrines that you ought to be promulgating in France. Reject their misleading attractions. Adhere to the severe but true principle, the only one that is true, Freedom. Allow your wide-ranging intellect to embrace its laws, its actions, its associated phenomena, the factors that disrupt it, and the restorative forces which it has within itself. 374 Inscribe the words " free society, small government " on your banner, 375 ideas that are deeply interrelated. This banner will perhaps be rejected by the parties, but the nation will embrace it rapturously. But eradicate from it the slightest trace of the motto, " coerced society, big government ". Exceptional measures, applicable in rare circumstances and extreme cases and whose use is in the end highly debatable cannot outweigh the value and authority of a principle for long in your mind. Such a principle is for all time, for everywhere, for all climates and every circumstance. Proclaim freedom, therefore: freedom to work, freedom to trade, and freedom to do business, 376 for this country and all others, for this and every age. If you do this, I dare to promise you if not popularity today at least popularity and the blessings of the centuries to come. A great man has taken on this role in England. 377 There is not a single day in the year nor hour in the day during which the great laws of the social mechanism 378 are not set out before the gaze of the masses. He has gathered around him a travelling university and a group of preachers for the 19 th century, 379 whose life-giving words penetrate every strata of society and are bringing to the surface a powerful, enlightened, peace-loving but indomitable public opinion which will preside shortly over the destiny of Great Britain. For do you know what is happening? More than fifty thousand English people 380 will be given electoral rights by the end of the month to balance the influence of the advocates of arbitrary government power and counteract the efforts of the prohibitionists, false philanthropists, and the aristocracy. Freedom! That is the principle that is going to reign on our doorstep and one man, Mr. Cobden, will have been the instrument of this great and peaceful revolution. Oh! If only you could have a destiny like this, one for which you are so worthy!



2. T.317 "Introduction and Post Script to Economic Sophisms" (March 1845)


T.317 (1845.03) "Introduction and Postscript to Economic Sophisms," JDE , April 1845, T. 11, no. 41, pp. 1, 16. Dated Mugron March, 1845. Written only for JDE article. A new expanded Introduction and Conclusion were written for the book ES1 in November, 1845. Not in OC. Not in CW3.

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat wrote this brief Introduction to the first three "economic sophisms" which were published in the Journal des Économistes in April 1845. They were the first of eleven published during 1845 which were later collected, along with eleven other pieces, into his second book Economic Sophisms (First Series) which was published in January 1846. 381 It was very tentative and even apologetic in nature and this requires some explanation given his later high reputation among the Parisian economists. 382

Bastiat came to the attention of the Paris-based political economists when he sent them an unsolicited article on French and English tariff policy at the end of July which he had been working on over the summer of 1844. 383 After a delay of several months (Molinari later revealed that the editor Hippolyte Dussard had ignored it and left it in the in-tray because Bastiat was an unknown person from the provinces with no letter of introduction) 384 it was eventually published in the October issue of the Journal des Économistes . He had also been translating material published by the Anti-Corn Law League and transcripts of their public speeches which the Guillaumin firm would publish in June 1845. 385 This book, Cobden and the League , contained a very long introduction written by Bastiat which was a combination of a history of the free trade movement in Britain and a work of strategy showing how their ideas and methods might be adapted to France. 386 In it he also presented a radical critique of the landed "oligarchy" (his term) which ruled Britain and which had obvious implications for the domination of French politics by the alliance of large landowners and manufacturers which emerged during the 1820s and who were able to maintain a high tariff wall around the French economy for the next several decades.

Bastiat's work caused quite a stir among the political economists who invited him to Paris to meet them and attend a dinner in his honour hosted by the Political Economy Society on 10 May, 1845. 387 In fact, he ended up staying in Paris for three months (May through July) before moving there permanently in March 1846 to work full-time for the national branch of the French Free Trade Association which he helped establish. In March 1845, before he arrived in Paris, he had begun work on a new project to popularise free market economic ideas and debunk protectionist ones, which would become his most famous book Economic Sophisms . The Journal des Économistes agreed to publish these clever and witty pieces under the title of "Economic Sophisms" beginning with three in the April issue, another two in the July issue, and another six in the October issue. 388 This short "Introduction" appeared at the beginning of the first collection in April and has never been reprinted since. Bastiat also tells us in a letter written at this time that he was not happy with the title "Economic Sophisms" and was looking for an alternative. 389 Clearly he did not find a better title and this is how they have come down to us today.

The Introduction is an interesting piece because it shows his hesitation and uncertainty about entering the fray as a "full member" of the economics fraternity which had gathered around the Guillaumin publishing firm since its founding in 1837. He almost apologizes for publishing in their august journal a series of lighter pieces aimed at a less well-informed readership, people who did not read the heavy theoretical tomes or the collections of economic data normally published by Guillaumin. He defends himself by saying that he wanted to reach a younger audience who had not yet been corrupted by protectionist prejudices, something he would mention in a letter to Richard Cobden on 5 July 1847 390 and again in his introduction "To the Youth of France" which preceded the first volume of his treatise on Economic Harmonies (January 1850). 391

Bastiat need not have worried about how he would be received by the Parisian economists as they began to shower him with accolades and job offers as soon as he arrived in May. His correspondence from Paris to his close friend Félix Coudroy back in Mugron during these three months reveal some interesting things. Firstly, that the economists had read all his articles and were willing to discuss economic matters with him as an equal. He expressed relief to Félix that in spite of their geographical and intellectual isolation in Mugron he had held his own in conversations with them. 392

Secondly, that his articles on "Economic Sophisms" and other economic topics were so highly regarded by the editors of the Journal des Économistes that they were given top billing in the issues in which they appeared, pushing the work by other more established economists down the table of contents. 393 This happened in April, June, July, and December 1845, and again in February, April, October, and December 1846. His articles on "Economic Sophisms" also proved popular with readers and there was a spike in subscriptions for the journal after they appeared in print. 394

Thirdly, that the economists were having negotiations with the government about setting up chairs in political economy in the government funded University and Colleges and that they had asked him, given his obvious writing skills, to write a proposal supporting this which they could submit to the government. A faction within the economists, the businessman Horace Say, the editor of the Journal des Économistes (1843-45) Hippolyte Dussard (who had originally ignored his essay on tariffs), the editor of the vast Collection des Principaux Économistes project Eugène Daire, 395 and the president of the Political Economy Society Charles Dunoyer were actively backing Bastiat for one of these Chairs should they become available. 396 In the meantime, there was also talk of getting Bastiat some money to give a course of lectures in one of the private colleges, something which did not happen until the fall of 1847 in the School of Law. 397 Not surprisingly the textbook he used for his lectures was the first edition of the Economic Sophisms .

Fourthly, that he was offered the position of editor of the main journal of the Paris economists, the Journal des Économistes , which had 500-600 subscribers at that time. This was a remarkable thing to offer someone who had just come to their attention ten months before and shows the very high regard they had for him as an economist and a writer. In a long letter to Félix 398 he lists all the positive aspects of such a position: it would enable him to have an impact on the Chamber of Deputies and other organs of the press when it came to economic matters; he would be able to put his own more radical and consistent free market stamp on the editorial policy of the journal which he thought was run by a group of "well-meaning men;" 399 since the journal's readership also included businessmen, financiers, and reform-minded bureaucrats in the customs service, he hoped he would eventually be seen as their "spokesperson" on free trade issues; and since the position would not take up all of his time he would still have time to research and publish his own material which would improve his chances of getting one of the new Chairs of political economy. 400 In spite of these positives things, he ultimately declined the offer for two reasons. Firstly, the salary of 100 louis (fr, 2,000) per annum was a "wretchedly low salary" 401 and secondly, he had his heart set on creating a French Free Trade Association modeled on Cobden's Anti-Corn Law League. This had been the purpose behind his book on Cobden and the League which was about to appear in print (June 1845), especially the Introduction in which he laid out a coherent strategy for doing just this. It was too soon in his view to give up that dream.

Fifthly, the sons of two of the biggest names in the French classical liberal movement of the early nineteenth century, Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) and Charles Comte (1782-1837), approached Bastiat with offers to make use of or even look after their fathers' personal papers. 402 Both J.B. Say and Comte had profoundly influenced Bastiat's thinking and he mentions them many times in his writings. 403 Perhaps this is why Horace Say and Hippolyte Comte both felt they could trust such a sympathetic person like Bastiat, whose way of thinking about economics as part of a much broader liberal social theory, was very much like their fathers' and much less like the more orthodox political economists who made up the Political Economy Society.

And finally, to top off a remarkable first year in Paris, Bastiat was elected a "corresponding" (or junior) member of the 4th section (Économie politique et Statistique) of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences on 24 January, 1846. 404 He was elected with 20 votes (out of a possible 21) by the other full members of the Academy after Dunoyer had promoted Bastiat's candidature by presenting copies of his two books which had appeared since his arrival in Paris: his book on Cobden and the League (June 1845) and the first series of the Economic Harmonies (January 1846). Bastiat was very proud of this position and included it as part of his credentials on the cover of the books and pamphlets he published subsequently.

So it is the light of this unexpected, rapid, and rather fulsome reception of Bastiat into the circle of the Parisian economists that we should read his touchingly tentative "Introduction" to what would become his most popular and well-known work of economics. Perhaps the reservations he expressed in March 1845 were unwarranted.


If there are still some readers who are willing to pay serious and close attention to works of pure theory concerning the most important economic questions, I have to think that they are to be found particularly among the subscribers to this journal. It is they who have given me the courage, after much hesitation, to publish here a refutation of the main sophisms upon which the prohibitionist or protectionist régime is based. I don't have the foolish presumption to destroy in a few pages the entrenched prejudices which so many good works have scarcely been able weaken, but I hope to instill at least some doubt, especially among those young minds which have not yet become clogged with preconceived ideas. I offer them no ready made solutions but merely some key ideas which they will be able to take up in the future. Even if one cannot force the reader to reach a given end, it is still quite something to put them on the right path. …

P.S. The discussion which has just taken place in the Chamber of Deputies on the subject of the customs legislation 405 provides ample food for thought for this survey of economic sophisms . I ask your permission to continue it in a future article. 406



3. T.20 "On the Book by M. Dunoyer. On The Liberty of Working" (May, 1845)


T.20 (1845.??) "On the Book by M. Dunoyer. On The Liberty of Working " (Sur l'ouvrage de M. Dunoyer, De la Liberté du travail ). Unpublished draft, possibly written in May after Bastiat met Dunoyer for the first time at his welcome dinner and Dunoyer asked him to write an article on it for the Journal des débats . Bastiat never finished it. [OC1.10, pp. 428-33.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862) and his colleague Charles Comte (1782–1837) 407 had a profound and lasting impact on Bastiat's thinking as he reveals in several letters. 408 Dunoyer's latest book De la liberté du travail (On the Liberty of Working) (1845) had been published in February 1845 and we know from a letter Bastiat wrote to Dunoyer on March 7, 1845 that he had received a copy of it in Mugron. 409 This undated draft may well have been written at this time. In his letter, Bastiat thanks Dunoyer for his kind words 410 about his own work as he had written two pieces for the Journal des Économistes in late 1844 and early 1845, and had a book on Cobden and the League about to be published by Guillaumin in June. 411 His essay criticising Lamartine's work on the same topic as Dunoyer's book would have caught Dunoyer's attention. The two men met for the first time at Bastiat's welcome dinner in Paris in May 1845 412 and in his letter to Félix Coudroy relating what happened at the dinner, Bastiat with some excitement tells him that Dunoyer had asked him to write an article on his book for the prestigious Journal des débats because he thought that Bastiat was "éminemment propre à faire apprécier son travail" (eminently qualified to evaluate his work). It is probably with this task in mind that Bastiat wrote this draft. However, Bastiat was still somewhat in awe of the Parisian political economists and was uncertain about his own talents as an economist and never finished the article. Dunoyer's book was however reviewed in the Journal des débats by the economist Michel Chevalier. 413

Charles Dunoyer and Charles Comte were two of the leading liberal social theorists of the Restoration and July Monarchy. Bastiat acknowledged their importance to his own intellectual development in this unpublished book review of Dunoyer's book and in his essay on Mignet's eulogy of Comte given to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death in 1847. 414 After successfully collaborating on one of the key liberal journals of the Restoration period, Le Censeur (1814-15) and its sequel Le Censeur européen (1817-19), both men turned to writing detailed examinations of the social, legal, and economic institutions and ideas which made liberty possible. Comte focused on law and property in the Traité de législation (Treatise on Legislation) (1826) and the Traité de la propriété (Treatise on Property) (1834); 415 while Dunoyer focussed on the historical and economic evolution which society had gone through to get to its current state of emergent industrialism, in a series of books beginning in 1825 and culminating in De la liberté du travail (1845) which is the object of Bastiat's attention in this short review. 416

In the Preface written in January 1845 Dunoyer noted the long gestation period of his ideas, which went back even further than the 20 years quoted by Bastiat in his opening lines. Dunoyer says he began thinking about the deeper social and intellectual reasons behind the existence of authoritarian government even as he was fighting against its current manifestation in the restored Bourbon monarchy in 1815. He came to the conclusion that his and Comte's efforts to change the face of authoritarian government would not be successful unless the underlying reasons why people demanded or tolerated authoritarian governments had been addressed. This began a long and difficult research program lasting nearly 30 years in which he wanted to expand the domain of political economy away from an exclusive focus on the creation and distribution of wealth, which was its inheritance from Adam Smith and J.B. Say, into a new dimension of "social economy." 417

Dunoyer also wanted to shift attention away from an exclusive concern about the form of government, whether monarchical or republican, authoritarian or democratic, to a deeper sociological and intellectual understanding of why societies and economies took the forms they did. He believed that violence on a political or societal level could only be explained (and thus ultimately eliminated) only when it was understood why individuals engaged in violence on an inter-personal level. As he asks at one point: 418

Les excès reprochés au pouvoir, disais-je, sont le fait de la population, de la population considérée dans sa vie publique, dans son activité collective. Mais n'y a-t-il d'oppressions dans un pays que celles que la population y exerce politiquement? Les violences que se font les individus dans leurs rapports mutuels ne sont-elles pas des oppressions aussi, et des oppressions absolument de la même nature et tenant a la même cause, c'est-a-dire a l'imperfection de leurs facultés , au mauvais emploi qu'ils en font les uns à l'égard des autres et à l'état peu avancé de leur morale de relation? Il ne leur suffirait donc pas, pour être libres, de se bien conduire collectivement, politiquement? Il faudrait donc encore que, dans leurs rapports privés, ils sussent mieux régler l'emploi de leurs forces? [vol. 1, p. 3] I would say that the much criticised excesses of power are done by the people, by the people viewed in their public life, in their collective activity. But are the acts of oppression in a country only those which the people exercise politically? Aren't the violent acts done by the people in their relations with each other also acts of oppression, acts which are of the exact same nature and which stem from the exact same cause, that is to say from the imperfect exercise of their abilities (faculties), the bad use that they make of one ability with respect to the others, and to the poorly developed state of their moral beliefs concerning their mutual relations? Therefore, it would not be sufficient for them, in order to become free, to conduct themselves well collectively and politically. Wouldn't it also be necessary that, in their private relationships with each other, they would have to know how to better control the use of their power (strength)?


Dunoyer had a quite different theory of liberty than many of his fellow liberals like Bastiat in that he did not define liberty as the absence of coercion but the ability of individuals to use their powers to achieve the goals they have set themselves. The following statement must have unsettled Bastiat a little, as his view of liberty was very firmly grounded in the theory of natural rights: 419

Ce que j'appelle liberté, dans ce livre, c'est ce pouvoir que l'homme acquiert d'user de ses forces plus facilement à mesure qu'il s'affranchit des obstacles qui en gênaient originairement l'exercice. Je dis qu'il est d'autant plus libre qu'il est plus délivré des causes qui l'empêchaient de s'en servir, qu'il a plus éloigné de lui ces causes, qu'il a plus agrandi et désobstrué la sphère de son action. What I call liberty in this book is the ability that man has acquired to use his powers more easily as he frees himself from the obstacles which ordinarily hinder him. I say that he is free to the extent that he has removed the causes of what was preventing him from making use of them (forces), to the extent that he has been able to keep these causes at bay, to the extent that he has increased his sphere of action and cleared away any obstacles within it.

Perhaps as a result of his frustrations resulting from the failure of the liberals to develop a coherent and effective theory of limited government in the restoration period, Dunoyer had given up the attempt to derive liberty from first principles. He dismisses this as the work of "dogmatic philosophers who only speak about rights and duties." 420 He, on the other hand, wanted to focus instead on "how it happens that men are free, under what conditions can they be free, what combination of knowledge and sound moral habits make it possible for men to carry out private industry, how do they raise themselves up to the point where they can engage in political activity?"

This shift from a moral defence of liberty to a sociological and historical study of how free societies in fact emerged, or were on the cusp of emerging, was later regretted by Bastiat and Molinari when they came to debating socialists during the 1848 Revolution. Both noted that political economy needed to be defended on moral, scientific, and political grounds and by not doing so, writers like Dunoyer had opened up the liberals to damaging criticism from the left and the right. However, the extraordinary historical and sociological detail drawn upon by Dunoyer and the way he blended this with economic analysis, may have inspired Bastiat to plan the writing of his own History of Plunder which would follow the completion of his treatise on economics, the Economic Harmonies .

In a footnote Dunoyer recalls how the first part of his project was published as L'Industrie et la morale considérées dans leurs rapports avec la liberté in 1825 and an enlarged sequel as Nouveau traité d'économie sociale in 1830. Unfortunately, the latter volume did not receive the attention it deserved because the outbreak of revolution in July of that year distracted potential readers and a fire in the bookshop destroyed nearly all the copies except for a handful of review copies. The full and complete version did not see the light of day until early 1845. It quickly became one of the most important books in the arsenal of the political economy movement just as Bastiat was taking up residence in Paris.

It should be noted that in this essay Bastiat uses for the first time the term "harmonique" (harmony) which would become so central to his thinking later. He uses it while criticising socialists for not seeing that " a marvelous, harmonious, and progressive order (can) result from the to and fro of social groups and the free action and reaction of human interests." There is also his first use of another key concept, namely that exchange is the exchange of one service for another ("service pour service") in his statement that "from the economic point of view, society is an exchange of services that are paid for." Thus, in this essay and his "Letter to Lamartine" (January 1845) many of his original economic insights appear for the first time in print. 421


On the Book by M. Dunoyer, On The Liberty of Working

"I had the idea for this book twenty years ago", says Mr. Dunoyer. 422 Certainly, during this twenty year period, there was not one year in which this major work might have been published for the people with more relevance; and I venture to believe that it is destined to bring science back to its proper path. A disastrous theoretical system seems to have taken a dangerous hold over people's minds. A figment of the imagination, welcomed by lazy minds and disseminated by fashion, encouraging praiseworthy but ill thought-out sentiments of philanthropy in some and attracting others by its misleading promise of prompt and easily-obtained enjoyment, this theory has taken hold like some epidemic. It is breathed in with the air and caught by contact with the world; even science no longer has the fortitude to resist it. Science bows before it, salutes it, smiles at it, flatters it and yet it knows that this system could not stand up for one minute to the severe and impartial examination of reason. This system is known as Socialism . It consists in rejecting any providential designs in the governance of the moral world; in supposing that a marvelous, harmonious, 423 and progressive order cannot result from the to and fro of social groups and the free action and reaction of human interests; and in dreaming up artificial forms of organization that need only the consent of the human race to come into force. Will we all become Moravian Brethren ? 424 Will we lock ourselves away in a phalanstery? 425 Will we abolish only heredity, or will we also rid ourselves of property and the family? We have not made up our minds on this and, for the moment, there is only one thing whose exclusion has been unanimously decided upon, and that is freedom.

Away with freedom!

Down with freedom! 426

Everyone agrees on this point. All that is left for the billion people that live on our planet is to make the choice, from the thousand plans that have seen the light of day, of the one to which they would prefer to be subjected unless, however, there is a better one among those that hatch each morning. It is true that this choice presents a few difficulties, for the Socialists are far from all having the same social projects , even though they have taken the same name. Here is Mr. Jobard 427 who thinks that the notion of property does not extend far enough. He wants to extend it to the most fleeting literary or artistic thoughts. Then we have Saint-Simon 428 , who does not accept even material property. Between them we have Mr. Blanc 429 , who duly recognizes property of the goods produced by work (except for the sharing of his invention), while castigating as impious and sacrilegious anyone who draws the slightest profit from a book, painting or musical score - happily submitting himself to current practice until his theory triumphs.

Amidst the countless births of these Social Plans , begot from the over-heated imaginations of our modern would-be Teachers of Nations , reason finds indescribable solace at feeling itself being brought back by Mr. Dunoyer's book to an examination of, yes, another Social Plan , but one created by Providence itself; at seeing the development of the fine harmonies it has inscribed in the heart of man, in his organization and in the laws of his intellectual and moral nature. People can say forever that there is no poetry in experimental science; this is not true, for it would be the same as saying that there is no poetry in the work of God.

Do people think that Cuvier's geological discoveries 430 do not lead us to admire the glimpse they permit us of the Creator's designs and most ingenious inventions, just because they were due to laborious and patient observation, or because they agreed with factual realities?

The obligatory point of departure of modern reformers 431 (whether they acknowledge this or not) is that society is deteriorating under the influence of natural laws and that these laws tend increasingly to introduce poverty and inequality in men; for this reason, with what mournful pictures do they not darken the initial pages of their books! To accept the principle of perfectibility would be to create in advance a blunt rebuttal of their claim to remake the world. If they acknowledged that in the laws of Responsibility and Solidarity there is a force that overwhelmingly tends to make men improve and become equal, why would they rise up against these laws, they who profess to aspire precisely to this result? Their task would be limited to studying them, discovering their harmony, making them known and pointing out and combating the obstacles they still encounter in the errors in men's minds, the vices in their hearts, popular prejudices, and the abuses of power and authority.

The best thing with which to confront the Socialists is therefore a simple description of these laws. This is what Mr. Dunoyer does. But after all, since people often differ over things only because they do not agree on the meaning of words, Mr. Dunoyer begins by defining what he understands by freedom . 432

Freedom is the power to act . Therefore each obstacle that is overcome, each restriction that is overthrown, each morsel of experience gained, each piece of learning that lights up the intellect, each virtue that increases confidence, friendship and strengthen the social bonds is one more freedom conquered in the world, for there is nothing in all these things that is not a power to act , a peaceful power and one that is beneficial and civilizing.

Mr. Dunoyer's first volume is devoted to solving the following question of fact: Has the world made progress under the sway of the law of freedom, or has it not? He then studies in turn the various social states through which it has been man's destiny to pass, the state of the nations that hunt, keep flocks, farm, or carry out industry and to which correspond the states of cannibalism, slavery, servitude, and monopoly. He shows the human race rising up toward well-being and morality as it becomes more free ; he proves that at each phase of its existence the harms that it has endured have been caused by the obstacles that it encountered in its ignorance, errors and vices. He identifies the principle that has enabled it to overcome them and, finally turning toward the future the torch that has shown him the past, he sees society making unceasing progress without having to be subjected to forms of organization that have recently been invented, on the sole condition that it wages unceasing combat against both the fetters that still encumber human production and the ignorance that obstructs men's minds and what remains of lack of foresight, injustice, and evil passions in their habits.

In this way, the author gives short shrift to the old sophism, unworthy of science and recently brought back from the most barbarous of ages, which consists in shoring up error by drawing on isolated and unfortunately only too numerous facts which serve to induce a regression of the human race. Faithful to his method, he works out the progress made, attributes it to its genuine sources and shows that, by developing these and destroying, rather than resurrecting obstacles, extending, and not restricting the principles of responsibility, strengthening, not weakening the resilience of solidarity, and by educating, improving, and liberating ourselves, we will move on toward fresh progress.

Once he has studied the human race through its various stages, Mr. Dunoyer considers it in the light of its various functions.

At this point, he needed to set out systematically the names of these functions. We have no hesitation in saying that those used by the author are more rational, more methodical, and above all more comprehensive than those traditionally used by economic science. 433

If you divide production either into agriculture, manufacturing and commerce or, like Mr. de Tracy, 434 you reduce it to two sectors, production that transforms and production that transports , it is clear that you are leaving outside the scope of economic science, a host of social functions, in particular all those that are carried out between people. From the economic point of view, society is an exchange of services 435 that are paid for and in this respect, lawyers, doctors, soldiers, magistrates, teachers, priests, and civil servants are just as much a part of economic science as traders and farmers. 436

We all work for one another, we all exchange services with each other, and economics is incomplete if it does not include all forms of service and all forms of work.

We therefore believe that political economy owes Mr. Dunoyer a debt for establishing a classification that, without exceeding its natural limits, has the merit of opening new horizons and new fields for research, especially those of an intellectual and moral order, and wresting it from the materialistic confinement in which greater minds do not care to languish for any length of time.

Therefore, when Mr. Dunoyer, after having sought to identify the social states that have been most favorable to the human race, examines the conditions under which each function develops with most power and freedom, one senses that a moral principle has come to assume its proper place in economic science. He shows that intellectual forces and individual virtue or virtuous relationships with others are no less essential to the success of our projects than the forces of industry. The choice of time and place, knowledge of the market, order, foresight, a mind that follows through, probity, and saving, all contribute as genuinely to the swift accumulation, fair distribution, and judicious consumption of wealth as capital, skill and human activity.

We would not be so bold as to say that in the huge tapestry traced by the author there have not crept in a few comments on detail that might be contested or still less that he has exhausted his boundless subject. However, his method is a good one, the limits to the science well established, and the dominant principles clearly defined. In this huge field there is room for many workers, and if we were to express our thoughts in full, we think this area of study is one where both those meticulous minds who have an unshakeable attachment to the imperatives of logic which are required in that part of political economy which is accessible to rigorous demonstrations, and those ardent spirits whose idolatry of beauty and goodness draws them instead to the realms of utopia and fantasy, will be able to come up against each other.



4. T.47 "Thoughts on Sharecropping" (15 Feb. 1846, JDE)


T.47 (1846.02.15) "Thoughts on Sharecropping" (Considérations sur le métayage), JDE , T.13, no. 51, Feb. 1846, pp. 225-239. This article was not included in Paillottet's OC. [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

After Bastiat's first article "On the Influence of French and English Tariffs" appeared in the JDE in October 1844 he wrote many more for that journal before the Revolution of February 1848 broke out, and in the process changing the direction of his life. They consisted of several kinds of material, shorter, more popular pieces which would appear in the collection Economic Sophisms , short reports on various aspects of his free trade activity including summaries of his speeches, a few book reviews, as well as 7 more substantial articles on economic matters written primarily during 1845 and 1846 before he devoted himself almost entirely to his work with the French Free Trade Association and its magazine Le Libre-Échange . Two of them, "On Competition" and "On Population," would be substantially revised and rewritten and would appear in his treatise Economic Harmonies (1850, 1851). 437 These articles were the following:

  1. "The Economic Situation of Great Britain: Financial Reforms and Agitation for Commercial Freedom", JDE , (June 1845) (a shortened version of his Introduction to his book Cobden and the League , which will appear in CW6 (forthcoming)
  2. "On the Future of the Wine Trade between France and England", JDE , (Aug. 1845) (CW6 forthcoming)
  3. "On the Questions submitted to the General Councils of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce", JDE , (Dec. 1845) (CW6 forthcoming)
  4. "Thoughts on Share Cropping", JDE , (Feb. 1846)
  5. "On Competition", JDE , (May 1846) (below, pp. 000)
  6. "On Population", JDE , (Oct. 1846) (below, pp. 000)
  7. "On the Impact of the Protectionist Regime on Agriculture", JDE , (Dec. 1846) (CW6 forthcoming)
  8. "Organisation and Liberty", JDE , (Jan. 1847) (CW6 forthcoming)

The essay on share-cropping came in the middle of this period. In it, Bastiat reflects on his activities as a landowner and farmer, his thoughts on the future of agriculture, how he unsuccessfully tried to reform the work practices of his métayeurs (sharecroppers), his preference for share-cropping over tenant farming, and an early version of his thoughts on issues which he would take up later in a different form, namely Malthusian population theory, the inherent conflict (or harmony) between labour and capital, and the nature of productive and unproductive labour, in particular landowners who rent their land to others. These latter reflections show how much his thinking would change over the coming 2 or 3 years.

There are several passages in this article which are autobiographical in nature. It is not clear exactly how much of his land he worked himself and how much was worked by sharecroppers but it seems he might have had 120-150 sharecroppers and their families working his land which totaled about 250 hectares in size altogether. In his paper "On the Bordeaux to Bayonne Railway Line" (19 May 1846) 438 he notes that "in former times" sharecropper farms were about 2-3 hectares in size and the vines they grew were enough to feed a family as well as other workers in the area. He says this comfortable existence was destroyed by protectionism during the Napoleonic period and the Restoration when wine exports to other parts of Europe were curtailed, as well as increases in indirect taxation on wine sold within France. He states that small farms were no longer economically viable and there were mergers to create farms 5-6 hectares in size which were viable, thus displacing some families. He also describes some of the hardships they faced:

In the village in which I live, thirty sharecropper houses have been demolished, according to the land register, and more than one hundred and fifty in the district whose legal interests have been entrusted to me, 439 and, mark this well, this means as many families that have been plunged into complete destruction. Their fate is to suffer, decline, and disappear. 440

Towards the end of the essay Bastiat's shows himself to have been rather paternalistic towards his sharecroppers. It says he took great care in choosing whom he would allow to work on his land (they had to both be good farmers as well as fit into the voluntary community of sharecroppers that he was fostering), that he would advise them about when was the right time to marry and to have children (which reveals his Malthusian concern about overpopulation of workers in the countryside), and he would take care to invite them all to communal meals on festivities like New Year's Day when his table might be "surrounded by one hundred and twenty heads of farming enterprises."

Concerning land use and ownership, in the first half of the 19th century over half the population of France worked on the land in some capacity. Small-scale famers who owned their own land were known as "laboureurs" or "cultivateurs" and were the most prosperous; larger landowners, especially in the north rented their land out to farmers who were called "fermiers" and the system it gave rise to as "fermage" (land rents); the poorest farmers were concentrated in the south where sharecropping predominated. "Métayers" (sharecroppers) did not own or rent their land but were entitled to a one half share in the final product. The land owner provided the capital, such as land, seed, cattle, and ploughs. The poorest of those who worked the land were the day labourers ("journaliers") who hired out their labour on a daily or seasonal basis. Mounier estimated in 1846 that 43 million hectares of land was under cultivation in France at that time which was divided as follows: 8.47 million hectares by renters (20% of the total area), 14.5m by sharecroppers (34%), and 20m by owners (46% area). 441

A significant problem for French farmers in the 19th century was the retention of farm size which would have enabled them to remain economically viable. The change in inheritance laws during the Revolution was designed to end the old regime practice of primogeniture (passing the entire estate to the eldest son) but it over-reacted by requiring an equal division among all the children, even if the farmer wanted to leave his land to one of his children in order to continue the family business. This gradually led to the problem of "morcellement" or the division of the land into smaller and smaller plots which hampered the growth of more productive agriculture. Bastiat's solution to this problem was to encourage the spread of sharecropping using a new system of agriculture which he called "alternating cultivation" (more details below). His younger friend and colleague Gustave de Molinari thought the solution to this problem was to encourage the formation of large-scale agricultural businesses ("la manufacture agricole" - an agricultural factory) which would be more efficient than small family owned farms, just like large industrial factories were more efficient than the small workshops of artisans (le petit atelier). 442 Molinari argues that industry of all kinds became more productive by replacing the small artisan workshop with large-scale factory production, and that the same thing would happen to agriculture.

Concerning agricultural practices, during the Middle Ages the three-field system of rotation was commonly used in Europe with a winter planting of rye or wheat, followed by a spring planting of oats or barley, and a third period in which the land was left fallow. This was replaced with a more productive four-field system in the 16th century where a soil replenishing crop like legumes was substituted for the fallow period, thus boosting total output. By carefully choosing the types of crops planted the farmer could support both agriculture and livestock on the land with a cash crop, a fodder crop, a grazing crop, and then a crop to replenish the soil. Bastiat's scheme of "alternating cultivation" was a more complex and flexible variation of the four field system of rotation which he thought was better because it would use a greater selection of crops which would allow for more regional and climatic variation, the choice of crops could be made with more regard to current market prices, and by using modern double entry book-keeping the farmer would become more entrepreneurial and scientific in their management of the farm business. The previous year Bastiat would have read Charles Dunoyer's thoughts on the advantages of alternating cultivation over the older triennial rotation system in Liberté du travail (1845), in which he discusses the benefits of this kind of farming for the more profit conscious "l'entrepreneur de culture" (the entrepreneur in the farming business). 443

It was in order to encourage the acquisition of these scientific and accounting skills that two years earlier Bastiat had written a proposal to a local religious Foundation asking for their support in founding a school for the sons of sharecroppers. 444 He had come to realise over the previous 20 years that changing the behaviour of the adult sharecroppers was impossible and that he had to train the younger generation in the possibilities of new agricultural techniques. This document shows that he had been thinking about a "revolution in farming" for some time and believed that his estate was "one of the most suited to major crop rotation in the country." 445 His idea was to use his estate as an experiment to show how the transition from small-scale to large-scale farming, based upon a more scientific system of multi-crop rotation, using modern bookkeeping techniques to manage the shifting economic demand for crops and their different costs of production and rates of return. He was appealing to a religious foundation for assistance in starting a school for potential future share-croppers to work on these new farms he was planning to establish. His hope was the younger generation of farmers, if he could entice them away from traditional farming practices, might make "this major farming and social revolution in our region" possible in the span of 50 years. This proposal led to nothing as far as we can tell.

There were also moral and political reasons why Bastiat preferred the system of share-cropping over other practices like tenant farming and agricultural wage labour. Somewhat out of character with his later thinking about the "harmonious" relationships which existed between economic groups in a free market, here Bastiat thinks that there tenant farmer creates "excessive" competition which is harmful to both the individual farmers concerned and the communities in which they live, by driving rates of return to the bare minimum. In the case of agricultural wage labour he thought this would inevitably result in the creation of an agricultural "proletariat" who would be inclined to violent revolution. This leads him to the conclusion that tenant farming and wage labour should be "excluded" from farm areas (how this would be achieved he does not say), even though he admits that tenant farming produces greater output as the statistics from Flanders clearly show.

Sharecropping was to be preferred in his view because it was a more cooperative economic endeavour, a voluntary association between "capital" (the private landowner) and "labour" (the sharecropping farmer and his family) which produced a "fairer" distribution of output, even though it might be less than that of the tenant farmers. 446 This kind of free market "association" was a direct reply to the socialists' demand, voiced by Victor Considerant and Louis Blanc, that new forms of socialist association, such as social or national workshops backed by state coercion and compulsion, should be introduced. This was a view shared by one of the leading agronomists of the period, Adrien de Gasparin (1783-1862), who wrote the following year after Bastiat penned this essay about the political benefits of the métayage system:

In the principle of the sharing of output between the worker and the capitalist there is the hidden virtue which can be marvellously adapted to the weaknesses of human nature, which puts an end to jealousy and greed, and which seems to be particularly suited to the current situation. In a farming district with sharecroppers (métaires) one doesn't see this blind hatred towards property which animates the spirits of those who are engaged in renting their farms (fermage). By facing the same risks together, sharing the same fear of floods, enjoying the same benefits, weeping at the same losses, they build up a co-fraternity which prevents negative passions from taking hold. In my Memoir I consider sharecropping to be the natural transition from slavery or serfdom to a system of free agricultural production ... 447

Bastiat's "Thought on Sharecropping" also enables Bastiat to explore some ideas which he would take up later in greater detail, namely Malthusian population theory, the inherent conflict (or harmony) between labour and capital, and the nature of productive and unproductive labour, especially in the form of land rent. In this early effort, we see Bastiat taking positions which he would revise or even reject in his treatise Economic Harmonies . For example, he present arguments about the "idle landowner" which seems to contradict other statements Bastiat would make about the productiveness of all voluntary economic activity where there are mutually beneficial exchanges of "service for service." The landowner, to the extent that he makes available land, capital, seeds, etc., would also be productive in this sense. In his debate with Proudhon 448 and other socialists in 1849 Bastiat was to argue vigorously that rent paid for land and interest paid for loans were both justified and productive. Either he changed his mind between February 1846 (when this was written) and then, or he has some other understanding about what "idle landowners" were. 449 There is a hint of the latter in his remark that "landowners ... often have never seen the land that finances their opulent life at court" (below). This suggests Bastiat was referring to aristocratic landowners (propriétaires) and not farmers as such, but it is not very clear. He also believes that "there is an incurable antagonism between the three classes that tend the soil" (landowners, tenant farmers, and illiterate day laborers) which seems to contradict Bastiat's later notion that there is a "harmony of interests" between all consumers and producers when there is an absence of violence and political privilege. And finally, he seems to be a more orthodox Malthusian here than he would later become. He defends Malthus from the criticism of Proudhon, for example, but agrees that the pessimistic conclusions one could draw from his theory of the inevitable squeeze on living standards brought about by overpopulation are essentially correct - "The fact is that over-population has always and will always be the greatest scourge of the human race, because it involves all the others." In his later writings on population ("On Population", Journal des Économistes , (Oct. 1846) and Chap. 16 "On Population" Economic Harmonies (2nd ed. 1851) he would challenge this pessimism on the grounds that human beings were not like unthinking "plants" and could rationally plan their lives so as not to be determined by "the means of subsistence" (the bare minimum needed to survive), and that when left free to function as they wanted to, free markets would be able to indefinitely increase "the means of existence" (the standard of living) and thus break free from the Malthusian population trap for good.

It would seem that when he wrote this essay Bastiat was a supporter of free trade but not yet the advocate of radical, across the board laissez-faire policies he was to become later. It is likely that Bastiat became more radical as he worked full-time for the free trade movement, as he increasingly became active in opposing socialism during the Revolution, and as he rethought his ideas as he worked on his treatise on economic theory.


In putting before the general public a plan for an agricultural establishment which could conceivably become a model for good sharecroppers, I have to admit that, like all designers of projects, I feel toward mine a sort of paternal tenderness. I think that few institutions of this kind would go together as well with the circumstances of our Département (of Les Landes) and hold promise of so many fertile seeds of well-being, education, and moral principles at so little cost.

I have previously criticized sharecropping , 450 but I am now convinced that, while my comments were fair, they were inadequate. I had seen the good that it prevented but not the good that it does or might do. Since my aim is to improve it and to eliminate its disadvantages, allow me to make a few general remarks about this method of (voluntary) association which brings together labor and capital , considerations which will oblige me to tackle some of the most important problems in social economy. 451

That set of activities through which the human race provides for its subsistence, has undergone major revolutions. First of all, people confined themselves to hunting wild animals. Later, by domesticating certain species, they were able to make use of and profit from the grasses that grew spontaneously. Much later, they subjected the land to the plough and, from the earliest times to the present day, appeared to settle on the form of farming known as the three field system of crop rotation . Finally, farming has now entered its fourth phase, that of alternating cultivation .

We can easily imagine the immense progress that each of these stages has enabled the human race to make. Huge stretches of territory were needed to provide hunting tribes with a meager existence. Pastoral tribes were able to increase in number and wealth, comparatively speaking. Similar progress must have followed the conversion of pasture into cultivated fields. 452 Finally, there is no doubt that alternating cultivation is preparing the human race for further progress which will raise it as far above its present state as the system of three year crop rotation raised it above pastoral life, or as herding raised it above its primitive existence.

When we consider how far each of these systems carries within itself the germ of the succeeding system, we are surprised at the time required for the human race to move from one to the other. Between hunting game for food consumed as it was caught and raising the tamest species of animals in one's own vicinity in order to obtain as needed their milk, meat, wool, or leather, seems to be just a step, and this step still seems to be insuperable to the American tribes. People may think that the transition between raising animals around a tent using certain naturally occurring grasses and encouraging these to grow by cultivating them, is easy, and yet it has, never been tried by the nomadic tribes of Tartary or Arabia. The key thing is that the three year system probably coincided with the first experiments in farming. In the event, people had first of all to sow wheat for themselves and oats for their stock on land that had been cleared, and when it did not take long for them to realize that successive harvests encouraged the proliferation of parasitic plants, leaving land fallow must not have taken long to be introduced and thereby complete the system of crop rotation. One might think that in terms of difficulty anyway, from this to the achievement of the same goal through the successive planting of different varieties of crops, there was just a small step to be taken and yet this progression appears to be beyond the powers of the most enlightened of nations, those whose civilization was the most advanced, in spite of the efforts of scholars and the encouragement given by those in power. 453

Be this as it may, this latest revolution is taking place, although slowly, before our eyes. In order to ascertain the part that sharecropping can play in this, it is important that we compare three year crop rotation with alternating cultivation .

In three year crop rotation , each domain is divided into two halves, one devoted to permanent pasture and meadow for stock and the other subject to the plough. Sully's epigram "pasturing and plowing and are the two nourishing breasts of the State" 454 refers to this fundamental division, an epigram in which a vague premonition of alternating cultivation has so awkwardly been seen.

Cultivated land is itself divided into three parts or three fields alternately devoted to the production of two types of cereal with one year fallow, or more accurately, one year of land clearance and preparation.

It is currently fashionable to denigrate this ancient system as being the sorry product of ignorance. Clever minds have judged it very differently;

"I do not think I will be suspected", said Mr. de Dombasle, 455 "of being too zealous an advocate of this system of farming. However, I find it impossible to deny that it appears to be perfectly suited to the circumstances of the time in which it was conceived, a time in which farming operated only on the basis of a few plants taken from the family of cereals. If you consider the extreme simplicity of this system, the harmony that existed between all the parties involved, the equal share it offered at all times of the year, the work it necessitated, and the facility with which it applied to all types of soil situated in a wide variety of climates, you will probably consider that it would have been impossible at that time to conceive a more comprehensive solution to the following problem: to find the most convenient system of farming to produce the items that were the most essential to consumption for a poor nation with little civilization and a population that, although small, was already too large to ensure its food supply with a pastoral system, a system that required the least labor and would be the easiest to implement by people lacking in education and developed finance.

Such in all probability were the givens of the problem in the circumstances that prevailed in the nations of Europe in the Middle Ages and also for a long time afterwards. Considered in this light, the three year rotation system with a fallow period and common grazing land was genuinely an admirable concept, in spite of its serious but inevitable faults." 456

The most striking characteristic of the three year system is its lack of flexibility . It is the same today as it has always been, and because of this it is eminently suited to sharecropping , because it is based upon a wealth of observations and experience which go back to the dawn of time, and which generations have passed down in the name of routine . (Routine, from rota , a wheel, which once it is turned continues to turn by itself.)

But however venerable this ancient form of farming that our fathers have passed down to us, we should not hide the fact that it has served its purpose and come to the end of its useful life. With its narrow limits and its homogeneity, it is powerless to supply modern industry with the abundance and variety of raw materials that are increasingly needed. It is even incapable of ensuring the food supply of a large population, because it excludes a great number of animal and vegetable products, and the variety of products is the best solution we have to the problem of the inconsistency of the seasons.

For this reason, I repeat, a farming revolution is now in the throes of preparation, that is to say, it is being formed in the social body, like all revolutions, at the time when it has become necessary. This revolution is the advent of alternating cultivation . 457

In the same way as lack of flexibility and homogeneity are characteristics of the three year system, flexibility and variety are the distinctive traits of alternating cultivation.

In this system, pasture, the commons, and even permanent meadows. The entire area of traditional land, each divided into a wide variety of fields, is subject to the plough. The infinite diversity of social needs revealed by the market price for food products determines the production of each of the fields that are included in the rotation system, and the head farmer has the function of maintaining within this apparent confusion the order laid down by the rules of crop rotation, the uninterrupted succession of plants that fertilize the soil and those that exhaust it, plants appropriate for animal feed and those for human consumption, with the appropriate insertion of plants that clean and prepare the soil without our resorting to fallow land, in short, never losing sight of the fact that all these crops have to be combined, so that at the end of each rotation cycle the soil is kept at least in the same condition, or preferably maintained with improved value and fertility.

This is the system of alternation. I have no need to point out here how much it encourages mankind's development and well-being through the abundance and variety of its products.

One thing that strikes me is the state of inferiority that threatens the regions that are the last to adopt the system of alternation. It is in the nature of this system not only to deliver to consumers a wide variety of food products, meat, vegetables, root vegetables, or milk products but even to provide cereals themselves at an overall price lower than the one that three year crop rotation can produce. This appears paradoxical, since the ancient system devotes two-thirds of the cultivatable land to this type of production while the new system devotes half at the most.

However, it should be noted that, in alternating cultivation, the estate which is ploughed is increased by the land that three year crop rotation gives over to permanent meadowland and pasture for stock, so that in the end, cereals do not lose any planting area.

On the other hand, in the three year system, the rent relating to the third of the estate that is uncultivated and the considerable costs of land lying fallow increase the debits in the accounts for the two following harvests, which means that it is possible for it to withstand competition from the alternating system only because this latter system is still limited to a tiny number of cantons in France.

In a word, it is doubtful whether the former system will maintain the level of fertility of the soil that the latter increases constantly.

Farming statistics published recently at the order of the administrative authorities 458 shed light on these facts with the irresistible eloquence of figures. Let us compare three departments here, one in French Flanders, the cradle of alternating cultivation, the second in Touraine, 459 where the three year system has reached the pinnacle of perfection, and finally in our own region.

Department of the Nord Department of the Indre-et-Loire Department of Les Landes
Population per ten thousand square meters 18,074 4,971 3,114
Production per hectare
Wheat 20.74 hect. 12.27 8.62
Rye 18.41 15.19 8.23
Oats 39.93 10.08 0.30
Potatoes 169.20 101 27.79
Dry vegetables 22.64 10.01 11.99
Flax 579.1 kilog. 423 140
Natural meadowland/grass land 35.57 quint./met 27 17
Artificial meadowland 43.95 24 18
Number of animals
Cattle 226,338 92,529 62,228
Sheep 210,834 237,793 463,628
Horses 79,177 27,852 23,035

What is more significant than figures like these?

Let us present them in another form to make the results more telling. We will establish the real state of affairs using the Department of Les Landes as the unit of comparison.

Landes Indre-et-Loire Nord
Population 1 1.59 5.80
Value of stock 1 1.30 6.44
W heat per hectare 1 1.41 2.50
Oats 1 1.22 4.85
Artificial meadowland 1 1.30 3.30
Flax 1 2.40 5.16
Potatoes 1 3.29 6.81

Thus, in the Department of the Nord, production is triple what it is in Les Landes for the two plants that are combined both in alternating and in three year cultivation, like wheat and oats. It is five-fold , in the case of plants such as clover, flax, and potatoes, plants which are unable to find a proper place in the three year system. The result of the two systems is shown in a population in the Nord that is more than five times larger than that of Les Landes and which consumes more than six times the value of butchered meat.

It is true that the class of farmers are not alone in benefiting from the surplus of production that is due to their intelligent production. As production costs decrease in relation to output, we see the rate of farm rent and consequently the price of land increasing, so that in the end it is the landowner who reaps the benefit of the superiority of Flemish farmers. This is what restores the balance between the two forms of cultivation. Without this type of moderation, it would be impossible for three-year cultivation to compete with its rival. However the power that exists in this gradual increase in the value of land in attracting to the Nord capital waiting to be invested can be readily understood.

Alternating cultivation is no less powerful in attracting capital that is not seeking capital gains but investment for revenue purposes. Through the abundance and variety of the raw materials it supplies to industry, as well as the increased consumption made possible by densely populated and wealthy regions, it offers manufacturers infinitely greater opportunities than those to be found in regions which are thinly populated, economically deprived, and limited to the production of cereals.

Thus, alternating cultivation attracts everything, population, consumption, capital, education, and industry.

But is not sharecropping an insurmountable obstacle for those countries in which this method of operation has been adopted who now wish to enter the realm of modern agriculture?

As we have already said, sharecropping goes together perfectly with the three year crop rotation system because both of them are inherently inflexible . Action that is always identical does not require a progressive agency. Doubtless a three year farming system implies a great deal of knowledge, but since its procedures are uniform, this knowledge has been readily set and condensed, so to speak, into a series of proverbial rules transmitted, especially by example, from time immemorial to the present day. A sharecropper with no education or general ideas always knows enough to do as his forebears have done, and the mass of observation that grows from century to century even allows for some advance in execution when a system that is on the whole inflexible is followed.

By contrast, the essential characteristic of alternating agriculture is flexibility, or at least diversity. Here the division into fields may vary from period to period in line with consumer needs and has to vary from canton to canton in line with the requirements of the soil. It is then his own experience and not that of his ancestors that a farmer has to consult for the rules governing his decisions.

When you assume that the alternating system based on a simple division of fields was also able, like grazing, or three year crop rotation, to become a new form of routine handed down from father to son to future generations through the sole channel of experience and custom, it is still a fact that the initial example of this cannot be provided by sharecroppers. It was not the slaves who shepherded the herds of the nomadic Tartar tribes to pasture who would have introduced them to three year crop rotation, and no more would sharecroppers, steeped in ancient experience, be the ones to take farming forward into a new phase.

Sharecroppers lack three characteristics to enable them to become the instruments of a revolution like this: knowledge, power, and will .

Alternating cultivation requires more knowledge than three year crop rotation. It involves a greater number of plant varieties, for each of which knowledge of how to prepare the soil, how to sow, grow, harvest, and store them is required. The same holds for the production of fertilizer. Animal husbandry also plays a greater part and has to involve more advanced breeds. Finally, the art of making use of animal products develops on a larger scale. Where do you think sharecroppers can gain such knowledge? In books? They cannot read and do not even speak the language the books are written in. From example? They have no other example to follow than three year crop rotation. Through their relationship with their landowners? They instinctively know that while landowners are superior to them from the point of view of scientific knowledge, they nevertheless know less than sharecroppers do from the practical point of view. Without knowing how to make this distinction, they understand and sense that scientific knowledge is not enough in practical terms.

Even if sharecroppers knew how to change their method of farming, they could not . The exploitation of an estate in line with new procedures requires a considerable increase in capital: the acquisition of more advanced agricultural machinery, a greater stock of seed, an increase in the number of draught animals, and the enlargement and improved distribution of barns and stables. Who will supply this additional capital? Whether it is the landowner or the sharecropper, this change in the ratio of their contributions to the common task is bound to bring about a corresponding change in their agreement in order to ensure a new and equitable relationship. Such accounting is all the more essential in that, without it, the cost prices of a host of products, in particular, animal products, such as meat, milk butter, cheese, wool, etc., which are nevertheless an essential and important sector of income in alternating cultivation, are impossible to estimate. In any event, bookkeeping is beyond the capabilities of all sharecroppers and the majority of landowners.

Finally, that the sharecropper does not have an ever-growing will to innovate is something in no need of proving. We often hear agronomists, and especially the more enthusiastic ones (the so-called agronomaniacs ) 460 bewailing the disinclination and the force of inertia that they encounter in their sharecroppers with regard to their projects for improvement. What is not noted enough is the usefulness, I might even say the necessity, for such resistance. The attachment to old customs that nature has so deeply built into the hearts of this class is the sole guarantee we have against reckless innovation. Without it, changes that are accepted as soon as they are conceived would inevitably undermine the very source of food supplies. And is it not fortunate that will is lacking where, as we have shown, knowledge and power are also lacking?

These are the reasons that have led me to oppose sharecropping in the past, and what I have said above shows that I still consider it incompatible, at least in the way it is organized currently, with the introduction of advanced farming in the country.

Should it then be concluded that it is a matter of urgency that tenant farming replace it? This, it must be said, would be a hasty deduction. First of all, a country does not change its system of organization and its customs as easily as we replace a worn-out garment with a new one. In the majority of Départements, nothing has been set up to accommodate tenant farming, as regards its most advantageous aspects. The class of enterprising and enlightened men who would have, as tenant-farmers, to run the farms, does not exist in our country and the division of the land into very small holdings is not likely to attract them. The day laborers, the people who make up the basic category of agricultural labor, are not increasing in number and it is doubtful, to say the least, that their arrival in the countryside is to be desired. Finally, the practice of landowners receiving their rent in kind has created attitudes that cannot be changed without upsetting all the relationships that, properly speaking, make up the social life of a country.

So, while it might be proved that, from the farming point of view, tenant farming is better than sharecropping, it would be truly utopian to put it forward to the country as being an essential step in achieving alternating cultivation .

But if sharecropping, which is more inflexible by nature than tenant farming, is inferior to it from the technical point of view, if this inferiority becomes even more marked in these critical times in which profound change, we might even say a major revolution in farming methods, calls for the intervention of knowledge and capital, the question has also to be asked whether this inferiority also exists in other aspects, in particular in the social aspect, which is by far the more important. Sharecropping and tenant farming interact in quite different ways with the laws of population and those governing the distribution of wealth. If we concede that tenant farming creates more products, it remains to be seen whether it distributes them as fairly between all those who have contributed to them and whether it puts as powerful a brake on a disruptive increase in population, which all economists and statesmen consider to be the greatest scourge that can afflict the human race since, just in itself, it implies all the others.

It is with distaste that I raise these serious questions. Nevertheless, interest in them is so pressing, in particular for our South of France, that I am obliged to ask for a moment of your attention. Besides, how could I advocate the establishment of a school for sharecroppers after showing this form of organization in its most unfavorable light if I did not also discuss its good, useful, and beneficial aspects with regard to the populations in whose heart it has been so powerful a presence.

The income from production is shared between three sectors of people in farming regions: landowners, tenant farmers and farm laborers.

The proportions of this sharing out are clearly far from being perpetual . In proportion as an intelligently run operation succeeds in improving the soil and increasing production, landowners take advantage of the competition between farmers by raising the rent for the land each time a lease is renewed, so that the farmers benefit from the increase in wealth only temporarily, between one renewal of the lease to the next. In the end, the results of progress come to be realized only in the pockets of the idle landowner, the person who has contributed nothing to it. The situation of the tenant farmer is at a standstill, if it does not actually deteriorate, under excessive competition. 461 Doubtless it will be said that there is also competition between the holdings to be let to tenant farmers, but it is obvious that the number of these is limited, whereas the number of men capable of heading up a farm is bound to increase constantly with the growth of education and capital formation.

This inequality in the distribution of all the products resulting from successive improvements to the soil and advances in farming methods is more disadvantageous still to manual laborers.

Competition by a natural process reduces wages to the level required to support a worker. This is as true for farming as it is for manufacturing. If a well-run spinning mill succeeds in producing better results, it does not follow at all that the wages of the laborers will increase. If the improvement takes place in isolation, it benefits the entrepreneur. If it is common to all spinning mills, it benefits the consumer. As for wages, they do not change. The entrepreneur in fact does not set them in accordance with his profits but in line with the rate at which competition provides him with hands, and if the country offers them to him at one franc a day, then no matter how much his profits increase, this will not persuade him to give two francs out of the goodness of his heart.

Things happen in exactly the same way in farming regions. There is even an additional reason for the situation of manual laborers not improving along with improved farming methods. This reason is that, since all of the surplus wealth produced goes to the landowner, the tenant farmer is not in a better situation even though the farm is more productive. Saving on the costs of production is an essential imperative for him that never slackens, and the first and most important economy, as well as the most obvious, is to reduce the labor force as far as possible and to pay the cost of the labor that cannot be saved upon only at the lowest rate the competition between day laborers allows him to reach.

For wages to increase, therefore, one of two things is needed. 462 The first is that the manpower demanded should increase progressively with output or that the population of laborers should be limited so as to limit the supply of labor, thus raising its price.

But from either point of view we see that this class is put into the most unfavorable situation. In the case of the demand for labor, this tends to decrease rather than increase with the progress in farming methods, for this progress consists precisely in having work done by machines. And, as for supply , there can be no doubt that it tends constantly to increase, for it is in the nature of wage-labor that it gives rise to lack of foresight and encourages a destabilizing increase in population. This is what modern social science has both understood perfectly and shown. In all eras this fact has been vaguely felt, hence the forceful expression, the proletariat , which was applied to the class which lives off wages, long before the laws of population were subjected to the scrutiny of science.

Thus, while accepting that tenant farming was a system of farming more favorable than sharecropping to advancing agriculture and increasing wealth, one cannot deny that with regard to the distribution of products, it contains the greatest of all disadvantages. Far from calling on all classes of labourers to share products equitably, far from enabling them all to share in the benefits of farming progress so that the increase in wealth is nothing other that an increase in well-being that is fairly distributed, on the contrary, it ends up merely by enriching the wealthy and impoverishing the poor, constantly increasing the gap between these two extremes in the social scale, and thus creating that incommensurable distance that separates extreme opulence and extreme poverty.

It is not just well-being that is distributed so unequally under the law of tenant farming, but also education and influence, even though these are not the result of wealth.

A idle landowner who is totally ignorant of farming methods distances himself from the land that provides him with a living, and often has not even visited it. He lives in large towns at the center of civilization and political affairs. 463

The tenant farmer, in truth, has to cultivate his mind and keep abreast of progress in farming. All the expertise is concentrated in him. However, you should note that the positive results of his education, confiscated periodically by the landowner, leave the tenant farmer in the same situation at each renewal of his lease. He is thus enclosed in a circle he cannot break out of, and both his ideas and influence cannot extend beyond his trade .

As for the day laborer, forever reduced to a wage that allows him to live, he is little concerned with the farming methods of which he is a mindless cog. It is even to be doubted whether the sort of subtle education that comes to him externally can be held to be beneficial, since this does not arise from his position, is not likely to improve him, and perhaps will serve only to make him appreciate the horror of it all.

Actually, the whole sector is bound to be affected by the constant absence of landowners and their families in the farming areas. Freed from any personal participation in farming work, they have weakened the links attaching them to the soil as far as they can and they disappear without a backward glance to consume their incomes far away. A quarter, or perhaps a third of the products are thus lost to the region that has produced them, and the vacuum caused by this constant absenteeism is all the more irreparable because it cannot be filled in the long run by the work carried out by tenant farmers and day laborers, since, as we have seen, this work serves only to increase the part played by absenteeism .

For this reason, travelers who go through the rich or rather the fertile regions subject to tenant farming have trouble reconciling the beauty of the crops in the fields and the wealth of products with the poverty of the region: deserted chateaux, farms whose progress is seemingly barred by some inexorable law, and a jumble of hovels in which the race of day laborers swarm. There is an incurable antagonism between the three classes that tend the soil; 464 landowners who often have never seen the land that finances their opulent life at court, tenant farmers who deplore the sight of their rich harvests, a certain sign of the increase in charges that hangs over their heads, and illiterate day laborers without interest in the success of their work, without foresight, and without hope in a future which, for them, holds no seed of improvement. Such is the real situation to which these regions have been reduced by tenant farming, a system very much over extolled because it is too often considered solely from the point of view of production and the interest of the landowner.

At first sight, it appears that there is a slight difference and nothing more between tenant farming and sharecropping . To rent the land the former pays a fixed rental, while the latter hands over a charge in proportion to the products in kind. It is nevertheless certain that from these slight differences two totally separate social orders arise.

Farm leases are essentially temporal. They are renewed every twenty-one, eighteen, or sometimes nine years, and even, as in Ireland, every year. 465 If the tenant farmer becomes rich and succeeds in his business , the farm lease periodically drags him back to his initial situation.

Sharecropping leases 466 are essentially perpetual in nature, or at least their duration depends totally on the activity, the spirit of order, and probity of the sharecropper in question. Provided that he works the land well and faithfully carries out the conditions of his contract, there is no reason he should be thrown out and under no circumstances are his charges increased. There is thus a place for hope in the sharecropper's heart. He will benefit from all of his efforts and each drop of sweat that falls from his brow will be rewarded. He will be able to show off his fields with pride and confidence to his landowner and has no fear that the success of his crops will arouse the latter's greed .

Sharecropping has divided cultivatable land into portions that one family is capable of farming. In sharecropping regions, there are thus no day laborers or proletarians. Whoever puts his hand to the plough has a stake in the result. Moral qualities and intellectual advancement are not useless or perhaps disastrous baggage for anyone. Doing work with greater wisdom and perseverance does not just improve the lot of this kind of farmer in the short run and increase his landowner's fortune in the long run, but it also permanently improves the farmer's own situation and that of his family.

In sharecropping, the distribution of wealth obviously takes place more equitably. The family that supplies the capital and the one that supplies the labor share the result in proportions that, once they have been set, are immutable. Depending on the difficulties of the labor, its share is half, two-thirds, three-fifths, and often three-quarters. This is the real association 467 of capital and labor that has so long been sought by the utopians of our century. Once the share due to labor has been agreed, the farmer just has to act, increase his output, and improve his situation, and his reward will be assured indefinitely.

From the point of view of the population, the sharecropping regions appear to be in a very favorable situation.

There has been a great outcry against the doctrines of Malthus recently. 468 It might be supposed that this famous economist had imposed on the human race the laws that he has merely recorded. You might as well criticize Newton for having set out the laws of gravity, since it is by virtue of these laws that we are hurt by falling bodies or by our own falls.

The fact is that over-population has always and will always be the greatest scourge of the human race, because it involves all the others.

Another equally well-known fact is that a tendency to increase in a disorganized fashion is mainly seen in the class of people that live on wages. The foresight required to postpone marriage has little influence on these people because the damage caused by excessive competition is perceived by them only dimly, and at a future time ostensibly not much to be feared.

It is thus most favorable for a region to be organized so as to exclude wage labor . 469 In sharecropping regions, marriages are arranged principally in accordance with farming needs; they are more frequent when, for some reason, there are vacancies that hamper work and become rarer when these vacancies are filled. Here, the relationship between the extent of the estate and the number of hands, a state of affairs that is easy to observe, operates very much like foresight and does so in a more certain manner. For this reason let us see whether, if nothing occurs to create job opportunities for an excess in population, it remains stationary. Our southern Départements are proof of this.

Is this the same in tenant-farming countries? England and Ireland are there to provide us with an answer. We do not know what is growing faster on the other side of the Channel: production, population, or pauperism . Well, at first glance it seems contradictory for this triple development to occur simultaneously. A growing population can obviously be explained by a gradual increase in production and vice versa, but this increase in poverty is a phenomenon that appears to contradict the two others, for on one hand how can a surplus in products not lead to the well-being of producers, and on the other how does poverty not restrict the population? These apparent anomalies are explained by wage-labor , which factories and farming vie with one another to develop in the British Isles. Wage labour dictates that products are distributed unequally, thus explaining the simultaneous increase in wealth and poverty. It neutralizes consideration of the future with regard to marriage, thus explaining the simultaneous development of the population and pauperism.

Is this result consistent with philanthropy? Is a badly organised expansion of that part of the population which lives precariously on wage-labor, a human resource constantly changing and thrown off balance for a plethora of reasons; such as increasingly vigorous competition in the supply of labor, a steady drop in the value of wages to the point where workers, as in Ireland, are reduced to living on a few potatoes stolen from pigs' troughs, 470 the end point of the human race?

Fortunate then are the regions within which the largest and most general of all industries, the one that occupies the vast majority of workers, is based on an organization that excludes wage labor . Let us refrain from meddling with sharecropping, this association of labour and capital, which closes the door against two of the most terrible scourges of the human race: over-population and pauperism.

From a moral point of view, sharecropping offers certain further incontestable advantages. The common interest it establishes between landowners and sharecroppers, the force that impels them toward an identical goal along parallel pathways, prevents and forestalls feelings of mistrust and envy, the dull but bitter resentment that gnaws away at wage earning working class , exploding from time to time into riots, "Rebecca-ism," 471 or incendiary action, divers symptoms of the same suffering. In regions in which sharecropping predominates, doubtless there are a variety of degrees of wealth, but there is also common opportunities and prospects. Sharecroppers win or lose for the same reasons that enrich or impoverish their master. Each side has an interest in getting on well, joining forces to overcome bad days by helping each other, and devoting the surplus in good years to making improvements. Everyday relationships are established that are almost those of a family connection between the families of landowners and those of sharecroppers. Masters like to find out about the situation of their farmers; they intervene with advice in marriage projects, and accelerate or slow them down depending on the requirements of work or, what amounts to the same thing, social interest. 472 They take account of good reputation when a new worker, who wants to head up a new farm, is introduced into their estate, thus giving a better opportunity of growth and enlargement to those families with the best reputation. When sharecroppers come to offer their landowners the harvest chicken or Easter eggs, their meeting is cordial and affectionate. They have no reason to suspect each other of sinister ulterior motives and sharecroppers are able to indulge in praising the fine harvest and the fertility of the soil without having to fear either enflaming their master's greed or giving him the dreadful idea of changing the clauses of their contract. I have seen a landowner invite his sharecroppers on New Year's Day, in accordance with an ancient custom, and see his table surrounded by one hundred and twenty heads of farming enterprises. 473

I have not traveled, 474 I have not been able to compare tenant farming countries with sharecropping ones, but I think that reason is enough to show that they must offer very different prospects. In the first category, there are a few dilapidated chateaux that absenteeism has left silent and empty with farms situated at a great distance and in which education and prosperity cannot break the iron barrier imposed by the tenant farming system; villages inhabited solely by laborers, in which doubtless misery, filth, a lack of care for the future and the lack of a culture of work are the sad lot of the proletariat. This is not the cold physiognomy that sharecropping imprints on our landscapes. The division of the territory into small estates increases the number of houses, gardens, stands of trees, pastures, fields, vineyards, and woods, and makes the entire landscape attractive through its variety.

The conclusion drawn from all this is that tenant farming favors production more while sharecropping favors the distribution of wealth. One appears superior from the purely agricultural point of view while the other appears to have incontestable advantages from the social one. So if it were possible to extend a proper, sound form of education among the sharecropping class, if sharecropping could be equipped to overcome the barrier separating the three year crop rotation and alternating cultivation, I have no doubt that we would soon see regions in which this form of organization has prevailed come to equal tenant farming ones in the technical sense without exhibiting comparable signs of the triple scourge of absenteeism by landowners, of an inevitable stationary state as regards tenant farmers, and of country labourers being destined to becoming members of the proletariat .



5. T.51 "The Theory of Profit" (26 Feb. 1846, Mem. bord. )


T.51 (1846.02.26) "The Theory of Profit" (Théorie du bénéfice), Mémorial bordelais , 26 February 1846. [OC7.11, p. 50-53.] [CW4] 475

Editor's Introduction

After the success of the English Anti-Corn Law League 476 in getting the protectionist Corn Laws repealed in 1846 (the first reading of the Bill passed in January and the final reading passed in June) the French free traders formed their own Free Trade Association in the port city of Bordeaux in 23 February 1846 and then in Paris with the founding of a national organisation on 1 July 1846. 477 Bastiat was made the secretary of the Advisory Board and then editor of their weekly journal Le Libre-Échange which began in November 1846 and lasted until it was closed on 16 April 1848 after 72 issues . 478 Bastiat gave his first public speech on behalf of free trade in Bordeaux on 23 February 1846 three days before this article appeared in a local paper and he quotes from that speech here. 479

The protectionists countered this move by forming their own national organisation the "Association pour la défense du travail national" (Association for the Defense of National Employment) in October 1846 to defend the interests of the protected industrialists and manufacturers. 480 It was led by Antoine Odier (1766-1853) 481 and Pierre Mimerel de Roubaix (1786-1872) 482 who merged several regional protectionist associations together in order to better organise themselves against the newly formed national French Free Trade Association. The protectionist association's journal was Le Moniteur industrial to which Bastiat refers several times during this article. 483 The Association lobbied successfully between March and July 1847 to defeat a major reform of French tariff policy which was being considered by the Chamber of Deputies.

The format of this article follows that of many of Bastiat's "economic sophisms" where he uses a dialogue between two characters with opposing points of view - here the sceptical Mayor of Bordeaux and an iron industry lobbyist who argues for taxes on iron goods imported into the city so his iron making business can enjoy guaranteed profits. The argument is that firms will not invest in starting businesses which employ French or Bordelais citizens unless they are protected from "foreign" competition and are guaranteed a return on their investment by the government. The Industrialist tries to persuade the sceptical Mayor to use the city tolls (the "octroi"), 484 which are normally used to collect taxes levied on food and other goods brought into a town to pay for public works such as streets and lighting, as a form of local "tariff" protection. This is a line of argument which Bastiat was to use again 485 in "The Mayor of Énios" (6 Feb. 1848) but with the roles reversed: the Mayor of a small town, Énios, is the one who goes to the region's Intendant to get permission to use the octroi taxes in this way. He believes that if tariffs are good for France as a whole, since they are supposed to promote national industry, why wouldn't they also be good for his town as well, in order to promote his town's local industry? The Intendant denies the Mayor permission but is forced into the amusing position of defending free trade within France but not externally - which of course was Bastiat's point in writing the story.

We also see here an early example of Bastiat's decision to avoid euphemisms and use what he called "harsh" or "brutal" language to describe the policy of protectionism. In an article he published in the Journal des Économiste s the month before, "Theft by Subsidy", 486 he 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 Second Series 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. Is this essay on "The Theory of Profit" he uses the word "pillage" repeatedly as part of this revised rhetorical tactic. It is also an indicator of what he was thinking concerning his planned "History of Plunder" in which he regarded the State as engaging in widespread "organised and legal plunder and pillage" of its citizens and taxpayers.


As I was leaving the meeting hall on Monday, 487 a man came up to me and said: I listened to you carefully and you said the following, "At the end of the day, you have to know on what side truth lies. If we are wrong, let protection be taken to its limit. If we are right, let us demand freedom, etc. etc." - Well, Sir, that presumes that freedom and trade restrictions are incompatible.

"I think that this follows from the meaning of the words."

"So you have not read Le Moniteur Industriel ? It shows clearly that freedom, protection, and prohibition can be accommodated very well together according to the theory of profit ."

"What is this theory, then?"

"It is this, in short. Man wants to consume. In order to consume, he has to produce. In order to produce, he has to work, and in order to work he has to have the likelihood of making a profit , or better still, a guaranteed one."

"Very good, and what is the conclusion?"

"The conclusion is very simple; listen to Le Moniteur ! 'What measures should a nation adopt in order to produce a particular good at the highest level of production and by the shortest route possible, in order to have the maximum amount of consumption and well-being? Obviously it has to guarantee the profits for anyone who undertakes such an industry as this. It has to guarantee the profits of the producers.' "

"And how is this to be done?"

"Listen to Le Moniteur again: 'To develop production as far as possible sometimes calls for trade prohibitions, sometimes for tariff protection, and sometimes for free trade.' So you see that Le Moniteur Industriel is no more in favor of prohibition than it is for protection or for freedom."

"In other words, all industries have to gain one way or another. One that naturally yields a profit has to have liberty and competition, and one that naturally produces a loss, has the right to convert this loss into a profit through organized pillage. 488 We could say quite a lot about that. But you remind me of an event that I witnessed recently. Allow me to tell you about it."

"Go on."

"I was with the Mayor when an industry lobbyist came along and this is the conversation I overheard:

The Industrialist: "Mr. Mayor, I have discovered a reddish earth in my garden which appeared to contain iron, and I intend to set up a blast furnace in my home in the center of the town."

The Mayor : "You will ruin yourself."

The Industrialist : "Not at all, I am sure of making money out of it."

The Mayor : "How?"

The Industrialist : "Simply by making a profit."

The Mayor : "Where will the profit lie if you are forced to sell iron at the market rate of say, 12 or 15 francs, that perhaps will cost you 100 or even perhaps 1,000 francs to produce."

The Industrialist : "This is the reason I have come to see you. Give me the power to hold your town's people to ransom, not only until my losses are covered but well beyond that, and you will guarantee a profit for my industry."

The Mayor : "My authority does not extend that far."

The Industrialist : "I beg your pardon, Mr. Mayor, but do you not have a city toll?"

The Mayor : "Yes, and incidentally, I would like to base the town's income on another means of raising revenue."

The Industrialist : " Well then! Put the city toll to work for me; don't allow a single batch of iron to cross the toll booth. The people of Bordeaux will certainly be forced to buy my iron and at my price. "

The Mayor : "All the other producers will object."

The Industrialist : "Give them all the same legal favours.

The Mayor : "Very well. The outcome will be that, just as you will sell very little iron, we will also have very little bread, clothing, or anything else. It will be a regime of the least quantity ."

The Industrialist "What does it matter, if we all make a profit by pillaging each other legally and in an orderly manner?"

The Mayor : "Sir, your plan is a fine one, but the people of Bordeaux will not submit to it.

The Industrialist : "Why not? The French will submit willingly to it. I am asking from the city toll only what others are asking from the Customs Service."

The Mayor : "Well then! If the Customs Service is so obliging, go and talk to it and stop bothering me. The city toll is responsible for raising a tax and not for providing profits for manufacturers."

The Industrialist : "Mr. Mayor, just one more word. Suppose that my request had been successful twenty years ago; you would now have a blast furnace in the town center which would provide a living for at least thirty workers."

The Mayor : "Yes, and Bordeaux would perhaps be reduced to two thousand inhabitants." 489

The Industrialist : "You do understand that, if my proposal had come about, and you repealed the city toll, my thirty workers would now be without a job."

The Mayor : "And Bordeaux would be moving towards becoming once more what it is, a splendid city of one hundred thousand inhabitants."

The Industrialist, going away: ""What it is to deal with a theorist! 490 Not to understand the theory of profit ! But I will go and find the Head of the Customs Service, and my cause may not yet be lost."



6. T.58 & T.49 "Two Articles on Postal Reform II" (April 1846, Mem. bord .)


T. 58 (1846.04.23) "Postal Reform" (Réforme postale), Mémorial bordelais , 23 Apr. 1846. [OC7.17, pp. 78-83.] [CW4]

T.49 (1846.04.30) "Postal Reform. 2nd article" (Réforme postale. 2e article), Mémorial bordelais , 30 Apr. 1846. [OC7.18, pp. 83-91.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

For information about Bastiat's interest in postal reform, see the Editor's Introduction to "Two Articles on Postal Reform I", 3 & 6 Aug. 1844, Sentinelle des Pyrénées (above).

First Article (23 April 1846, Mem. bord .) (T2, FN)

What has become of France's energy, her audacity and initiative, which so struck the rest of the world with admiration? Have we all shrunk to the size of Lilliputians? Has the intrepid giant turned into a timid and wavering dwarf? Is our national pride content for people to say of us: "they were once the premier swordsmen in the world?" Have we decided to turn our backs on the great glory of bravely marching down the path of reforms based solidly upon truth and justice?

We might be tempted to believe this on reading the inadequate program published by the Commission of the Chamber, emphatically entitled: Postal Reform . 491

The State has seized control of the transport and delivery of letters. I do not intend to dispute its taking over this sensitive service, on the grounds of the individual's right to engage in various activities, since the State carries it out with everyone's consent.

However doesn't it follow from the fact that since, for reasons of order and security, the State has decided to deprive its citizens of the ability to send each other messages as they please, it should not ask them to pay anything over and above the service provided?

Let us take the roads. They are used in the circulation of people and goods and such a high value has been attached to them that, after devoting huge sums to constructing them, the State hands them over at no cost for citizens to use.

Can it really be maintained that the circulation of ideas, the exchange of feelings, the transmission of news and relations between father and son, brother and sister, mother and daughter, are less valuable in our eyes?

Yet not only does the State get paid for the service of delivering letters, but it also subjects this delivery to an unequal and exorbitant tax.

I accept that the Treasury needs revenue. However, it will also be agreed that relationships between parents and their children, the outpourings of friendships, or the anxieties in families ought to be the last things to be the subject of taxation .

How very odd! As a result of a double inconsistency, a fiscal character is given to the Post Office but not to the Customs Service, 492 with the result that both are diverted from their rational objective.

A citizen certainly has the right to say to the State: "You cannot, without infringing my dearest-held rights, rob me of the ability to send in any way I choose a letter on which perhaps my fortune, my life, my honor, or my peace of mind depends. All that you can in justice do is to persuade me to turn to you voluntarily , by offering me the means of correspondence that are fastest, safest, and most economical."

If the principle were laid down (I ask for your indulgence for this very unparliamentary expression) that the State should not profit from the delivery of letters, the solution to all the problems raised by postal reform would be found with the greatest ease, for I have heard only one objection to a lower and uniform rate: the Treasury would lose so many millions of francs (to lose, in administrative language, is to fail to earn).

Genuine recovery of the costs incurred and a uniform charge for delivery, 493 these are the two subjects to which I will try to call the reader's attention.

But above all, I consider that I have to pay my full respects to the postal authorities. It is said that in England, it is in the Post Office that resistance to reform is organized. In France, on the contrary, reform seems to have arisen within the postal bureaucracy itself, if it is true that the first publication in which this subject has been discussed has to be attributed to a senior civil servant in the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 494 Never have I read a work that is freer of fiscal and bureaucratic attitudes, more imbued with ideas that are elevated, generous, or philanthropic and in which from each page emanates a love of progress and the public good.

Genuine recovery of the costs incurred. — If I am to be faithful to the principle that I laid down above, I have to ascertain first of all what the charge or rather the cost of each letter ought to be.

In 1844, 108 million letters were in circulation and, with a reduced charge, it would be impossible for this not to exceed 200 million.

Expences increased to fr. 30,000,000

From which should be deducted:

Packet ships to the Levant 495 fr. 5,200,000

Revenue from seats on mail coaches fr. 2,300,000

Transfers of money fr. 1,100,000

Payments from continental offices fr. 400,000

Revenue from journals fr. 2,000,000

Total: fr. 11,000,000

Remainder attributable to letters fr. 19,000,000

Furthermore, the administrative costs have to be charged rigorously in the ratio of one third of the additional services.

It remains true that 200 million letters at 10 centimes, produce 20 million, more than cover their cost.

We should note that at this price, letters would still pay a tax of 5 centimes, or 100 percent, since they would defray the cost of transporting government letters that equal their weight for free.

In view of this latter consideration, I say openly that if we did not live in an age in which we appear to fear the good when it appears to us in a slightly absolute form and to be quite relaxed about the dose of pain which would make it acceptable to us, I would say that a simple letter should cost only 5 centimes, 496 and certainly the advantages of the reform would then be so total that we should perhaps not have any hesitation. But let us make it 10 centimes, half to pay for the cost and half to pay for the tax.

The first advantage of this reasonable pricing, I hardly need to say, would be the quite proper satisfaction given to the most refined and worthy of people's needs concerning the moral order.

The second, to increase the number of transactions and business dealings far in excess of what would be necessary to make up, through other channels, for the loss of the current net revenue from the Post Office to the Treasury.

The third, to bring the sending of letters within the reach of all. The Chamber's Commission sets the cost of letters to soldiers at 10 centimes. 497 It is forgetting one thing, which is that, out of 34 million inhabitants, there are 8 million who are also soldiers, the soldiers of industry, 498 who once they have met the basic necessities of life, have not a sou left in their pockets.

Finally, a fourth and invaluable advantage would be to return to each French citizen the right to deliver letters and not to to create arbitrarily an entire category of artificial crimes.

I am surprised that people are not struck by the serious harm that there always is in legally defining actions that are innocent in themselves and often praiseworthy as misdemeanors and crimes. And in this case, see what a series of absurd and immoral actions you are forced to engage in when you base the Post Office on the principle of raising revenue.

The duty paid on letters is fiscal and is therefore bound to exceed by far the cost of the service provide d; therefore individuals will be encouraged to compete with the State; therefore the State will deprive them of an innocent and sometimes invaluable freedom; and therefore the State will have to impose a criminal penalty.

And what a penalty! Is it possible to read Article 7 of the Commission's draft legislation without feeling overwhelming disgust? 499 An act of simple kindness punished as though it were a heinous crime! Carrying a letter liable to a fine that may reach 6,000 francs! How many crimes are there against property or even against persons which carry penalties like this?

With a charge of 10 centimes, or better, one of 5 centimes, you have no need to create crimes. The list of these is long enough already. You are able to give everyone his freedom back. People will not take the trouble of looking for unreliable opportunities to send mail when the ones they have available to them are the most economic, convenient, direct, certain, and rapid.

Since I have mentioned punishments, I want to emphasise something in the Commission's draft which I am certain will outrage public feelings.

A person is engaged in delivering a letter. In itself, this act is not a criminal act. It is not the nature of things but the law, and the law alone, which has made it so. This person can be punished by a 6,000 franc fine and what is more, by another piece of legal fiction, the punishment may fall upon a third party who is not even aware of the fact (under article 8). 500

A civil servant uses his counter-signature improperly. This is also fraud, and what is worse, fraud of the worst possible kind, as it is premeditated, calculated, and intentional. What is more, there is falsification committed by a public official in public records. There is abuse of confidence and violation of an oath of office. The fine for this is 25 francs! What should I say about article 10: 501 the authorities may come to an agreement or compromise concerning any offense against these regulations both before and following a verdict, etc. ? Statements like this carry their own commentary.

So, transactions made difficult, feelings upset, family ties loosened, business dealings hampered, freedom restricted, grossly unequal charges, fictional crimes, and arbitrary punishment: these are the inevitable consequences of the principle of revenue raising introduced into the law on postal services.

For this reason recourse has to be made to this other principle, that the Post Office ought to provide the service for which it is intended and at the lowest price possible, that is to say, one that covers its costs.

It remains for me to discuss the uniform charge for delivery, together with the means of covering the Treasury's deficit. This will be the subject of another article.

Second Article (30 April 1846, Mem. bord.)

The uniform charge of delivery for letters has so many incontestable and obvious advantages that you have to close your eyes deliberately in order not to see them.

The following objection is raised: "A uniform charge is contrary to the very principle you have stated, that of simply paying for the service received, because it is fair to pay more in proportion to the extra cost involved.

Apparent equality would be none other than actual inequality."

However, do not we all, in everyday life, write letters to destinations that are sometimes distant and sometimes quite close? Equality is based on this notion, and nothing stops an average being taken of all the distances a letter may be considered to have covered. 502

Wherever, in similar cases, a uniform charge is established for the delivery of journals or money, the correct formula must have been found, since nobody objects to it.

What is more, there comes a point at which, in practice everything has to come to a halt, even the strictest justice, and this is when such microscopic differences, such infinitely tiny and minute divisions are reached, that putting them into practice is a burden for everyone. Does the Commission's system claim to achieve mathematical equality? Are letters delivered at eight o'clock charged at a higher price than those delivered at nine? Is it governed by the ratio existing between one recipient who lives at a distance of 39 kilometers and another at 40?

Therefore when we speak of equality, what must be understood is an equality that is possible and practicable and which, for example, does not require change to be given for a centime.

And this is precisely what would happen with a system of graduated charges if account were taken of the minutely scaled, unreal conception of fairness it hides behind.

For it has been proved that the cost of transport, the cost that affects letters in different ways, alters the cost from one zone to another by a mere ½ centime. 503

But since it is in the name of equality and equity that the Commission has decided in favor of a graduated charge, let us examine its system from this point of view.

First of all, it is based on the principle that the Post Office ought to be a fiscal instrument and that, while the State exhausts its revenues in facilitating the circulation of goods, it ought to create a source of revenue for itself from the circulation of sentiment, affection, and ideas.

It follows from this that there are three elements in the delivery of a letter:

1. A tax.

2. The recovery of costs common to all letters.

3. The covering of costs that vary with distance.

It is clear that, with regard to the first two elements, the charge for all letters should be uniform and that a graduated payment can arise equitably, only in the case of the third.

It is therefore necessary to determine its size.

The general costs common to all letters, administration, inspection, monitoring, etc. come to 12 million, which we can reduce to 10 since part of these costs is absorbed by services outside the subject with which we are dealing, such as the transport of fifty thousand travelers, the transport of money, packet ships, etc. 504

Transport costs come to 17,800,000 francs, which can also be reduced to 10 million, as we have seen in the previous article, if those not related to mail are deducted, as they should be.

These costs have to be spread over:

875,000 kilograms of letters amounting to 116 million ordinary letters

1,000,000 kilograms of newspapers and printed matter, 133 million letters

1,000,000 kilograms of business documents, 133 million letters

Total 382 million letters

Or in round numbers 400 million ordinary letters.

So we have 10 million francs of fixed costs spread over 400 million letters, which gives for each 2½ centimes

10 million francs of graduated costs add to the cost price an average of 2½ centimes

Total 5 centimes

Finally, as the average cost of a letter today is 42½ centimes, it follows that the proportion of each of the three elements in this cost is as follows:

Fixed costs 2½ centimes

Graduated costs 2½

Tax 37½

Total 42 ½ centimes

If, as the partisans of the radical reform demand, the purely fiscal element is eliminated, delivery would be set at 5 centimes, the cost price. In this case, the State would have to subsidize the delivery of official correspondence.

Or, if 10 centimes were adopted, letters from individuals would still pay a tax sufficient to cover the cost of the public service.

In either case, a uniform charge is obligatory since the transport costs, the only ones that could possibly justify a graduated charge, average only ½ centime. The result is that the shortest distance costs 1¼ centimes and the longest 5 centimes.

The rate based on this principle should therefore be as follows:

Fixed costs Graduated costs Total or rate charged

Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

Zone 4

Zone 5

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

1 ¼

1 6/8

2 ½

3 ¾


3 ¾

4 3/8


6 ¼

7 ½

This rate is obviously unrealizable. It would be no less so if a fiscal charge were added, since it would have to be immutable, for example, 20 centimes. And in this case, we would have the monstrous rate of:

Zone 1: 23 ½ centimes;

Zone 2: 24 3/8 centimes;

Zone 3: 25 centimes, etc.

Well, what has the Commission done, in the name of equality? It has made the tax unequal, and its rate when broken down gives the following results:

General costs Graduated costs Tax Total charge proposed

Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

Zone 4

Zone 5

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

1 ¼

1 3/8

2 ½

5 ¼


6 ¼

15 5/8


33 ¾

42 ½






Was I not right to say that the Commission's system established a tax that was as unequal as it was exorbitant, since for some people it was twice and for others ten times the cost of the service provided?

Thus serious equality exists only in uniformity. However, a uniform charge implies a nominal charge and, so to speak, one that is reduced to a practical minimum.

Twenty centimes has been bandied about. But at this rate a category of letters at 10 centimes would be needed (those that circulate within the radius of a post office), hence the requirement of sorting, assessing duty, and consequently the impossibility of ever achieving a system based upon compulsory stamping.

I have just uttered the word compulsory stamping. 505 It is possible only with a charge of 10 centimes, or better still 5 centimes, and the advantages of this are so obvious that it ought to be a matter of surprise if the objection of the loss to the Treasury prevailed, as though the Treasury were not the general public.

Let us calculate what the current work of the Post Office is and what it would be after the reform as proposed to us by the Commission. One hundred letters are posted. Each of them, in terms of distance, may come into eleven zones and, with regard to weight, nine classes, which raises the number of combinations to ninety-nine for each letter. Here we have the Post Master, consulting his table and his scales in turn for each letter, required to check 9,900 possible alternatives in a few minutes. After this, he notes the weight on one corner and the charge in the center of the address. 506

Is postage needed? He will take the money and give change, note the address in I do not know how many registers, wrap the letter in a form that states, for the third or fourth time, the name of the recipient, the place of departure, the place of arrival, the weight, the charge, and the number.

Then comes delivery. There are other interminable accounting procedures between the Post Master and the postman, the postman and the recipient, and a continuous series of inspections and more paperwork upon paperwork.

What should I say with regard to the work resulting from rejections, overcharging and undercharging, and general accounting; this masterpiece of complication, intended to ensure the compliance of postal workers at all levels,? Is this really necessary?

Is it not odd that millions are spent to save one hour by speeding up mail delivered by coaches and yet more millions are spent to have the distributors of mail waste this hour?

With compulsory stamping, all this slowness, complication, and paperwork, all these rejections, the overpayments and underpayments found, the sorting, the charges, the accounting that takes a prodigious amount of material and finance will all suddenly disappear in a trice. The Post Office and registration will sell envelopes and stamps at 5 or 10 centimes and that will be the end of it.

The objection will be made that it would be arbitrary to deprive senders of the ability to send a letter that is not stamped.

They will not be prevented from doing this. Let us remember that, under these arrangements, they are entitled to send their letters in any way they like, and therefore they cannot complain if the Post Office is determined to remain in control of the means in order to make the service as rapid and economical as possible.

Let us be frank. From a moral point of view, and the point of view of civilization, business, and personal sentiment as regards convenience, simplicity, and the speed of the service, in a word, in the interest of justice and true equality, there can be no possible objection to a uniform and moderate charge.

The loss of revenue! That is the sole and unique obstacle.

The loss of revenue! That is why a huge and unequal tax strikes at the communication of ideas, the transmission of news, anxieties of the heart, and the torment of absence! That is why our Law Codes are swollen with fictional crimes and real punishments. That is why the time gained with the speed of the mail coaches is lost in the delivery of letters. That is why the service is overloaded with intractable complications! That is why it is subject to a system of accounts based on 40 million divided into amounts of 40 centimes, each of which gives rise to at least a dozen book keeping entries! 507

But in the end, what is the amount of this loss?

Let us take it to be 20 million francs.

People will doubtless agree that this sum, left in the hands of taxpayers, would be used to buy sugar, tobacco, and salt and that this would reduce the loss to the Treasury.

They will also agree that the frequency and ease of communications, by increasing business, will have a favorable effect on all the sources of public revenue.

Moreover, the number of letters cannot fail to increase from year to year.

Finally, once the service is simplified to a such a degree, it will certainly enable considerable savings to be made.

Once all these savings have been taken into account, let us suppose there is still a loss of 10 million francs.

The question is to know whether you can use 10 million more usefully, and I am bold enough to challenge you to show me in the budget, as huge as it is, 508 an item of expenditure that is better understood.

Seriously then, at a time when you are spending 1 billion to facilitate the circulation of people and goods, are you really hesitant to sacrifice 10 million to facilitate the circulation of ideas!

Will you not ask yourself whether it is wise to overlook revenue of 10 million when it is a question of giving the general public so many inestimable advantages?

For if the number of letters merely doubles, who would be able to put a figure on the value of the business carried out, the human longings satisfied, or the anxiety dispelled by this increase in correspondence?

And is it a negligible matter to remove from your law codes illusionary crimes, arbitrary punishments, and the immoral manoeuverings between administrative caprice and the decrees of the courts?

Is it a negligible matter to hand over to a poor laborer the letter from his son for which he has waited so long, without snatching from him the profit from fifteen hours of heavy work, almost all of it for tax?

Is it a negligible matter to refrain from reducing a destitute widow to leaving the letter that will tell her whether her daughter is still alive at the post office for two weeks, so as to scrape together the 24 sous demanded (of which 22 are pure tax)?

This very day, I read in Le Moniteur that the figure for public revenue was increasing each quarter.

Why is it then that the time is never right for the most urgent reforms not to be postponed or spoiled by this eternal consideration: the loss of revenue?

Above all, do you absolutely need 10 million francs? You have one easy way of raising this sum. Return to the true nature of things by doing these two things. At the same time as you remove the fiscal nature of the postal tax, restore it to the Customs Service. Merely reduce duties on iron, coal, cattle and flax by one quarter.

The Treasury and the general public will benefit from this. Each of these reforms will facilitate the other; you will have paid homage to two principles of eternal justice and your future electoral manifestos will at least be based on something more substantial than "order with freedom" and "peace with honor", those commonplace sentiments which, if they make no commitment to anything, will not mislead anyone either.



7. T.64 "On Competition" (JDE, May 1846)


T.281 (1846.??) "Competition" (Concurrence), Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle: répertoire universel des sciences, des lettres et des arts avec la biographie de tous les hommes célèbres , ed. Ange de Saint-Priest (Paris: Au bureau de l'Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, Impr. Beaulé, Lacour, Renoud et Maulde, 1846). Tome huitième, pp. 389-400. Probably early 1846. Republished as "On Competition" in JDE, May, 1846. See T. 64. Not in OC. Revised for EH, 1st ed. chap. 10.

T.64 (1846.05.15) "On Competition" (De la concurrence), JDE , May 1846, T. XIV, no. 54, pp. 106-22; also EH chap. 10. 2nd half very similar, 1st half quite different. A note states that this article was written for l'Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle (no date given). [DMH] [CW4]??

Editor's Introduction

We know that Bastiat had ambitious plans to write a treatise on economic and social theory before he came to Paris. 509 These plans firmed up at the beginning of 1846 when he began to get some recognition from his colleagues and peers with the successful publication of his second book, Economic Sophisms , in January 1846, and his appointment to the Academy of of Moral and Political Sciences on 24 January. Although he became increasingly busy setting up a Free Trade Association, first with a regional one in Bordeaux in February and then a national one in Paris in May, he also found time to begin publishing articles which would eventually be turned into chapters in the treatise Economic Harmonies (Jan. 1850). In 1846 he published two articles, one "On Competition" in the first half of the year (which would become the final chapter 10 in the first edition), and a second "On Population" in the second half of the year (which he would substantially rewrite and which would become chapter 16 in the expanded second edition which was published by his friends in July 1851 after his death).

Both articles were written for an Encyclopedia edited by Ange de Saint-Priest 510 before they were revised slightly and republished in the JDE also in 1846 (May and October). They were then revised again, this time more substantially, probably over the summer of 1849, as Bastiat was working hard getting the manuscript of volume 1 of the Economic Harmonies ready for printing in December 1849. It should be noted that this is another example of Bastiat attempting to popularize economic ideas for a broader audience. Both articles were written while he was also writing what were to become his "economic sophisms."

Bastiat would not return to working on his book until late 1847, no doubt because for much of 1846 and 1847 he was working full-time for the FFTA especially after the launch of its journal Le Libre-Échange in November 1846 which he edited and largely wrote. He would complete three more chapters during 1848 which he published in the JDE, two of which were explicitly called "Economic Harmonies: "Natural and Artificial Organisation" (Jan., 1848) which would become chapter 1; "Economic Harmonies: I, II, and III. The Needs of Man" (Sept., 1848) and "Economic Harmonies IV" (Dec. 1848) which would become chapter 2 "Needs, Effort, and Satisfaction" and chapter 3 "The Needs of Man". 511

After getting distracted again by his political and journalistic duties in early 1849 he was persuaded by his friends and supporters Hortense and Casimir Cheuvreux to use an exclusive lodge in some woods outside Paris (possibly with their financial assistance) over the summer so he could work undisturbed on the project. An early biographer of Bastiat, Ronce, believes that he was able to complete the rest of volume 1 (6 chapters on Exchange, Value, Wealth, Capital, Property and Community, Landed Property) because it was already largely written "in his head" many years before. 512 After writing an impassioned plea "to the youth of France" as an introduction and a rather apologetic conclusion, the book was finally published in late December. 513 He must have secretly known at this time that he would not live to see the work completed as his health was rapidly failing.

We are including this essay here because it was substantially revised for the book and the changes he made are interesting to show how his thinking was evolving during this period. It should also be noted that this is the first part of the book he ever wrote and it appeared as the final chapter in volume 1.

Things to note in this essay include the following.

It was written to counter the growing socialist criticism of competition that it is very destructive and harmful to the interests of workers and that it should be replaced by not-for-profit, worker-run "organisations" and "associations." Bastiat countered by arguing that competition creates a "genuine community" among people and not an "artificial" and "forced" one which the socialists wanted to impose on society. He called competition a "beneficent force" since producers are forced to compete with each other to supply more useful things to consumers at lower cost, thus saving them labour, effort, and discomfort. Furthermore, the accumulation of capital, especially in form of tools, reduces the amount of hard physical labour workers have to do and replaces it with more "intelligent", educated, and productive labour which eventually results in higher wages for workers.

Bastiat provides here for the the first time the story about what things an ordinary worker has in his home or workshop which come from around the world as a result of international trade and open markets. Here he visits a member of the "industrial class" and describes what he sees. Elsewhere, he talks about a "village carpenter" and all the things others, both domestic and foreign, have provided him with to make his life easier and more comfortable. 514

He points out that every person is both a producer and a consumer at the same time, and that the forces of competition are at work in both areas. As a consumer, the worker benefits from the competition between producers to create more things and sell them at the lowest possible prices. As a producer or seller of labour, the worker is also competing with other workers to sell their labour. Any calculation of a person's total welfare has to include the positives and negatives on both sides of the competitive process. Bastiat thought the balance was definitely in the workers' favour.

One of the important additions he would make for the EH1 version of this article was a new section on what he called "les causes perturbatrices" (disturbing factors) 515 which prevent the natural harmony of the market and competition from creating as much wealth as it might in their absence. In this article here, Bastiat points out that " in modern societies, competition is far from fulfilling its natural role; our laws hinder it at least as much as they favor it" and mentions in particular "conquest, monopolies, trade restrictions, privileged positions, high government posts and influence, the trafficking in administrative deals, and loans from public funds" as examples of things which prevent the beneficent effects of competition being felt. He does not yet use the term "disturbing factors," although he had referred to it a few times since his first use in his "Letter to Lamartine" (JDE, Feb. 1845), 516 probably as he had not yet fully incorporated it into his thinking.

In the new introduction he wrote for the EH1 version he argues that the socialists falsely accuse competition of causing the harms which he believes results from these disturbing factors:

While the Socialists see Competition as the cause of all harm, it is in the violations it (competition) receives that one has to look for the disturbing factor which (harms) all the good.

In the four new pages of material he inserted he observes that:

I will now set out general laws that I believe to be harmonious, and I am confident that the reader also will begin to guess at the existence of these laws, that they act in favor of the community and consequently of equality. However, I have not denied that the action of these laws has been profoundly disrupted by disturbing factors. Therefore, if we now find some shocking example of inequality, how can we judge it without being conversant with both the regular laws of social order and the disturbing factors which distort these laws?

Bastiat's use of the term "ceteris paribus" (or "all other things being equal") 517 was not common among political economists of his period. John Stuart Mill used it as early as 1836 in "On the Definition and Method of Political Economy" and in A System of Logic (1843) but there is no evidence that Bastiat was aware of his work. 518 He first used it in a paper he wrote in 1834 on "Reflections on the Petitions from Bordeaux, Le Havre, and Lyons Relating to the Customs Service" (April 1834), 519 and began using it in earnest in 1846 and thereafter. Thus, it appears that Bastiat was an independent early adopter of the phrase and it reveals the depth and growing sophistication of his thinking about economic problems and their solution.

There is also here an early reference to a concept which Bastiat will develop much further in the article "Natural and Artificial Organisation" (January 1848) and an unfinished chapter in EH2 Chapter 22 "Le moteur social", namely "le mécanisme social" (the social mechanism) By this Bastiat meant that society was a "mechanism" (le mécanisme social) or what we might today call a "process," which had moving parts, like a watch or a clock, which consisted of "les rouages" (cogs and wheels), "les ressorts" (springs), and "les mobiles" (the movement, or driving or motive force). Bastiat described the social mechanism as "a prodigiously ingenious mechanism (which) is the subject of study of political economy." Here he mentions it but does not go into much detail except to assert that competition was the driving force of this social mechanism. 520

One of Bastiat's innovations in economic theory was to stress the importance of consumptions as "the end" or purpose of economic activity and that production was "the means" to attain that end, thus turning classical economic theory on its head. We can see several references to this new way of thinking in this essay, particularly in the passage where he states unequivocally that "the real focus of economic science" were "the laws of consumption, and what promotes it, equalizes it, and makes int moral" 521 and chastises the classical economist Pellegrino Rossi for ignoring it.

Related to this stress on consumption was Bastiat's view about the importance of leisure which increasing prosperity made possible. He will return to this question later in 1849 in two important publications, his pamphlet on Capital and Rent (Feb. 1849) and in "Letter No. 4: F. Bastiat to P. J. Proudhon" (26 November 1849) in his debate with Proudhon on Free Credit . 522 In Capital and Rent where he says:

And here we can glimpse one of the finest harmonies in the social world. I am referring to Leisure, not that leisure that the warlike and dominating castes organized for themselves through the plundering of the workers, but the leisure that is the legitimate and innocent fruit of past activity and saving. 523

And in a virtual hymn to the befits of leisure made possible by the accumulated wealth and general prosperity made possible by the free market, he states:

Whatever sincere admiration I have for the admirable laws of social economy, whatever period of my life I have devoted to studying this science, whatever confidence is inspired in me by its solutions, I am not one of those who believe that it embraces the entire destiny of man. Production, distribution, circulation, and the consumption of wealth are not the sum of all things for man. There is nothing in nature that does not have a final aim, and man also has to have a goal other than that of providing for his material existence. Everything tells us this. Where do the sensitivity of his feelings and the ardor of his aspirations, his ability to admire and experience enchantment come from? Whence comes his ability to find in the slightest flower a subject of contemplation, or the excitement with which his senses receive and transmit to his spirit, like bees to the hive, all the treasures of beauty and harmony that nature and art have spread around him? How shall we explain the tears that moisten his eyes when he hears about the slightest act of devotion? What is the origin of that ebb and flow of feeling which his heart fashions, much as it directs his life-blood? Where does his love of humanity and his reaching out for the infinite come from? These are the marks of a noble destiny, which is not limited by the narrow bounds of industrial production. There is a purpose to man's existence. What is it? This is not the place to raise this question. But, whatever it is, what we can say is that he cannot achieve it if, bowed under the yoke of inexorable and constant work, he has no leisure to develop his senses, his affections, his mind, his sense of the beautiful, and what is purest and most elevated in his nature; the germ of which is in all men but in a latent and inert form because of a lack of leisure in all too many of them. 524

There are several significant differences between the two versions of the essay which should be noted. The revised chapter in EH1 is 50% longer (12,000 vs. 8,000 words) than the JDE article. The original Introduction of 21 paragraphs (2,100 words) was replaced in the EH version with a new introduction of 4,000 words in which Bastiat more directly replied to the socialists' criticism, which had been amplified by the February Revolution, that competition was "anarchic" and harmed the interests of the workers. A short new section of 648 words was added with a more detailed discussion of how many people laboured to produce simple everyday objects in order to show that all labour is "cooperative labour." And finally, he added a new section of 1,895 words on the justice of the monetary return to capital, the mutually dependent relationship between the two classes of capitalists and workers, the effect of competition on wages, and the idea that there was a "centrifugal" as well as a "centripetal" force at work in competition. Socialists focussed on the centrifugal force which acted to pull things apart and ignored the centripetal force which drew things together. Bastiat believed both forces needed to be taken into account in order to understand the true impact which competition had on society.


I am going to discuss 525 the effects of one of the laws to which Providence has entrusted the progress of human society, a law which has as its purpose to equalise well-being and material circumstances among the members of the great family of mankind; to bring to the realm of the community the enjoyment of goods which nature seems to have reserved for certain countries, and the conquests of which (nature) have led to the hard work of each century to increase the wealth of the generations which follow; a law rich with social harmonies, 526 huge in its general impact, but often harsh in its operation; a law misunderstood in our time, and which, more than any other, attests to the unmeasurable superiority of the designs of God over the vain and powerless associations of men.

What is this fatal power against which we have struggled in vain ever since the carefree days of our youth began to pass us by? which leaves us no time to learn what is indispensable to know? which flings us onto the tumultuous byways of the world, and which, as it frustrates our desires for the things we hope for, never stops shouting at us: "March! March! He who does not run over other people will get run over"?

My goodness! The response which rises up is immense and unanimous from all corners of the globe, from the palace and the humble cottage, from the largest farms and the sharecroppers, from the construction site and the workshop, from the department store and the corner shop, from the office and the study, from the bank and the office, from the great hall of the stock exchange and the antechambers of government : It is Competition ! Competition !

But what is this beneficent force which achieves this surprising miracle of which my eyes are the witness? I am admitted into the home of one of these men from the industrial class 527 who is annoyed by competition, and what do I see? I see that he consumes in one day what he couldn't manage to produce during the entire span of his life, even if 10,000 lives came to be added to his end-to-end. And when I try to calculate how much time, effort, capital, tools, and vehicles are needed so that his office gets the simple furnishings that I find there; so that these carpets, armchairs, curtains, porcelain china, bronze statues, and crystal ware came to be gathered in this narrow space; 528 when I consider that what is there is only one one thousandth part of what my host has obtained from the general market place of the world; 529 that nevertheless he has stolen nothing from anybody, nor robbed anything from anyone; that he has really produced the value of of these innumerable things without busying his hands with anything else but using a pen, a needle, a shuttle, or a plane; when I come to think of this apparently huge disproportion I have just mentioned between the production and consumption of an individual, that this surprising miracle is becoming a reality, to some degree or another, for the benefit of all mankind scattered across the surface of the globe, how extraordinary, how contradictory even, that this could come to be; then I am struck with astonishment at the beauty, majesty, and the power of this social mechanism which has competition as its driving force, 530 and leaving for others the ambition of inventing a more ingenious organisation , 531 I will limit mine to studying, understanding, and admiring it, and I hope, if I can, to describe what has come ready made out of the hands of eternal wisdom.

Therefore, because man has two very distinct relationships with labor, because he is in turn a producer of useful things which he does not consume, and a consumer of useful things which he does not produce, relative to him competition must be seen from two different perspectives.

From the first point of view, from the individualistic point of view, the private, inveterate, and eternal thought of all workers is the solution of this problem: " To make sure that the useful things which I bring to society are as sought after and as rare as possible. " And this is why the producer, as producer, reacts against his competitors, disapproves of them, attempts to destroy them as much as he able to, and calls to his aid the use of force, fraud, the law, sophisms, 532 tariffs, monopoly, trade protection, and restrictions.

But the social problem is this: " To make sure that, for any given work which an individual brings to the general market, they get from it a sum of useful things which tends constantly to INCREASE and be MADE MORE EQUAL ." We will see that this is the task of competition .

To begin we have to establish the fact that the utility which every object contains has been put there by the cooperation of two forces, nature and labour .

Wheat owes its utility in part to the bounty of nature, air, light, warmth, and to the nutrients which nature has made available to us. On the other hand, it needed to be worked on, sown, harrowed, and harvested. When it comes to turning this wheat into flour, nature supplies the force of gravitation which is put to work with the falling water, the hardness of the mill stone, and man contributes to the final result by supervising and regulating the action of these forces, by directing them to a given end. — This is how it is for all industry.

Of these two forces which cooperate in the production of useful things, one of them, that of nature, is free ; the other, that of labour, is alone the subject of exchange, payment, and value .

However valuable a service provided by nature might be, if the hand or genius of man is not part of it, it is free, it is devoid of value in the economic sense of the word. Human industry has never produced and never will produce anything as useful, necessary, and indispensable to us as water, air, warmth, light, and yet we enjoy them for free when our bodies receive them immediately from nature, without the intervention of any effort. But, in order to have water it is necessary to go looking for it at a great distance, it is an effort which one has to undertake oneself or pay for. 533 If we wish to separate the air we breathe into its component parts, for example hydrogen gas to fill a balloon, there is work to carry out; and here is the reason why hydrogen gas, which is only part of the air has a value , while breathable air, which is the whole, does not.

Were we to review all the objects we buy and sell we would always find that they have a composite utility: one part has been supplied by nature and that is free , the other part has been supplied by labour and that is the object of exchange, for the very simple reason that in order to enjoy a useful thing which has cost some effort to obtain, one has to undertake the effort oneself or pay back in one form or another the person who undertook the effort for you.

The desire which all men feel to improve their condition leads him to increase as much as he can the cooperation of nature in the production of utility. It is here that the field is wide open to human genius. 534 Water, wind, heat, light, gravitation, electricity, all the laws of the physical world are increasingly used to make their contribution. From this it follows that from one generation to the next a given quantity of human labour can, so to speak, serve as a vehicle for a much greater sum of the services of nature and this shows us that there is nothing about the social problem which is insoluble or contradictory, which I stated earlier in these terms: "To make sure that human consumption increases more rapidly than his labour."

Not only is progress, thus defined, possible, but it is necessary, it is inevitable, and it is a providential consequence of the perfectibility of our faculties; and we will see well-being spread rapidly among the human species, if, by another law which we will not concern ourselves with here, 535 it does not increase in number at the same rate as it capacity for production.

I needed to briefly discuss these general ideas here in order to show the social action of competition in all its power and in all its harmonies.

What is exchanged, what forms the basis of our transactions, I have said, is labour, is discomfort, is effort, such that one could, in more common language, define political economy as the theory of the services which men provide each other, like "I owe you one!" or in tit-for-tat fashion. 536

But labour is not a homogeneous quality, an absolute quantity which can be weighed or numbered, which can be measured by a chronometer or a dynamometer. 537 There is only labour which is more or less preferred in the social context in which it is carried out; more or less clever, difficult, dangerous, risky, or even enjoyable. Besides, one must not lose sight of the fact that it is only given up 538 voluntarily, that each person remains the judge of the pain which he demands in return for the pain which one gives up, as well as the circumstances which can determine whether it is demanding or easy. Thus there is no reason to be surprised that there might be a great inequality in payment for labour and, ultimately in the well-being of human beings.

Lets us now examine the principle circumstances which influence this inequality and how it tends to disappear under the action of competition.

One of the most obvious is the possibility of seizing control of one of the natural resources which I mentioned earlier. These resources are not distributed equally across the globe. In one place the soil is more fertile; in another place the heat of the sun is more intense; in such and such a place there are large deposits of coal; yet in another there are rivers full of fish.

Without competition , those who are within reach of these natural advantages would only allow other people to share in them by making them pay an excessive and permanent amount; with the result that we would pay the producer not only for his effort but for the gifts of nature. A man who lives in the tropics could say to a European, "Thanks to my hot sun, I can get a bail of cotton with an effort equal to ten, while you could do it only with an effort equal to 100 . Now, for you to sell this cotton, it is not my effort which is the measure of my demands, but yours. God did not give a climate with high temperature to you but to me. So, here is my cotton, give me in exchange for it something on which you have expended an effort equal to a hundred or there about. If not, grow the cotton yourself." But competition does not permit these intolerable kinds of markets to exist. It doesn't allow a man to be paid for an effort which he did not make, for labour which he has not done, and it tends to make common and free for all men these natural goods which appear to be the exclusive privilege of a few.

Men in the tropics have not been able to impose their claim to measure the value of their wages by the amount of my effort and not by that of their own. If their efforts are too highly paid it will not fail to encourage rivals to enter the market. Competition has entered the picture; cotton has been offered at a discount to the point where the European pays, with an effort equal to ten, what the Indian produces with an effort equal to 10. Now, when things have reached this point, when I am prepared to give for a bail of cotton only an effort equal to one tenth of that which I would have taken to produce it in France, then will I demand it, and isn't there then an exchange of labour for labour, and, as far as I am concerned as a European consumer, don't I get into the bargain , the cooperation of the tropical climate? Thus, thanks to competition , I have become, and all men have become, just like the Indians and the Americans, that is to say, participants in the generosity of nature as far as the production of cotton is concerned, and are able to get it for free . It is the same for all products imaginable. 539

There is a country, England, which has numerous coal mines. Obviously this is a considerable local advantage, especially if we assume, as I will, to keep the argument simple, that there is no coal on the continent. As long as it is not traded, the advantage to the English is to have a greater abundance of fuel than other nations, which they can get without much effort and without taking too much of their valuable time. As soon as trade appears, on the assumption that there is no competition, the exclusive possession of the mines makes it possible for them to ask for high prices and to set a high price on their efforts. As we can neither make these efforts ourselves nor go elsewhere, we will have to put up with this. English labor as applied to this type of activity will be very well paid; in other words coal will be expensive, and nature's bounty may be thought of as having been conferred on one nation rather than on the human race.

This state of affairs, however, cannot last. There is a great natural and social law which opposes it, namely competition. For the very reason that this type of work is very well paid in England, it will be much sought-after, for people are always looking for high earnings. The number of miners will increase both through addition and through the birth of children. They will offer themselves at a discount and will be content with constantly declining pay until it reaches the normal rate, the level paid generally in the country for all similar work. This means that the price of English coal will decrease in France and that a given quantity of French labor will obtain an increasingly large quantity of English coal, or rather of the English labor that is bound up in the coal. In the end, it means, and this is what I ask you to note, that the gift that nature appears to have given to England has in reality been given to the entire human race. Coal from Newcastle is generously given free of charge to all men. This does not constitute either a paradox or an exaggeration: it is generously given to them freely, like the water from a stream, on the sole condition that people take the trouble to go in search of it or that those who take this trouble on our behalf are compensated for this. When we buy coal, it is not the coal that we are paying for but the labor required to extract it and transport it. We limit ourselves to returning an equal quantity of labor that we have attached to our wine or silk. It is so true that the generosity of nature has been extended to France that the work we return is no greater than the work we would have needed to do if the deposit of coal had been in France. Competition has brought about equality between the two nations with regard to coal, except for the inevitable and slight difference that arises from distance and transport. 540

I have cited two examples. My aim was to elucidate my thoughts. But lets us not lose sight of the fact that since the law of competition applies to all the gifts that nature has unequally distributed across the globe, it is necessary to consider it as the principle of a just and natural process of equalisation; it is necessary to admire it, praise it, as the most obvious expression of the impartial concern God has for all his creatures.

I regret that space does not permit me to draw out the consequence of this theory which I have just introduced. I will limit myself to drawing your attention to one. If it is true, as it appears to me to be unquestionable, that the diverse peoples around the globe are led by competition to exchange among themselves only the labour and effort which is becoming more and more equalized or evened out; and to mutually give each other, into the bargain , the services of nature that each one of them has closest within reach; then how blind and absurd they must be when they reject by means of legislation products which embody an enormous quantity of free utility ?

Another circumstance that puts certain individuals in an exceptionally favorable situation with regard to their payment is the exclusive knowledge of the processes by which it is possible to seize control of natural resources . What we call an invention is an advance made by human genius. We have to see how these fine and peaceful conquests, which at the outset are a source of wealth for those who make them, soon become, under the influence of competition, the common and free heritage of all mankind.

The forces of nature really do belong to everybody. Gravity, for example, is a common property; it surrounds us, penetrates us, and dominates us. However, if there is just one way of making it contribute to a useful and planned result, and one man knows this way, this man is able to set a high price on his efforts or refuse to make them except for a very considerable payment. His claims in this regard will have no other limit than the point at which he demands from consumers a sacrifice that is greater than that imposed on them by the old process. For example, he may have succeeded in eliminating nine-tenths of the labor required to produce a product X . But X currently has a price that is determined by the effort required for its production using the standard method. The inventor sells X at the market price; in other words, he is paid ten times as much for his effort as his rivals are paid for theirs. This is the initial phase of invention.

Let us note first of all that this does not violate justice. It is just that the person who reveals a useful process to the world should be rewarded for this: To each according to his ability . 541

Let us also note that up to now the human race, apart from the inventor, has made only a potential gain, one in prospect so to speak, since, in order to acquire product X it is obliged to make the same sacrifices as it made in the past.

Nevertheless, the invention enters its second phase, that of imitation . It is in the nature of excessive rewards to arouse envy. The new process becomes widespread, the price of X keeps decreasing and payment for it decreases also, especially as the imitation becomes distant from the time of the invention, that is to say, as it becomes easier, less risky, and because of this, less attractive. Indeed, there is nothing in this that cannot be allowed by the most ingenious and impartial legislation. 542

Finally the invention reaches its third phase, its definitive period, that of its universal diffusion , common availability, and freedom from cost . It comes full circle when competition has brought payment to producers of X back to the general and normal rate for all similar production. At this point the nine-tenths of the efforts saved by the invention in these circumstances are a victory for the benefit of the entire human race. The utility of X is the same but the nine-tenths have been added to it by gravity, which in the past was common to all in principle and which has become common to all in this particular application. This is so true that all the consumers on the planet are allowed to purchase X for the sacrifice of one-tenth of the effort it cost in the past. The surplus has been totally eliminated by the new process.

If you are willing to consider that there is not one human invention that has not gone through this cycle, that X in this instance is an algebraic sign representing wheat, clothing, books, or ships whose production has caused an incalculable mass of effort to be eliminated by the plough, the loom, the printing press, and sails, and that this observation applies to the humblest of tools just as it does to the most complicated mechanism, to nails, wedges and levers, just as to steam engines and the electric telegraph, 543 I hope that you will understand how the following major problem is solved in the context of the human race: A huge quantity of useful things or things which can be enjoyed, that is forever growing and ever more equally distributed, comes along to reward each given quantity of human labor .

I have shown that competition serves to move both the forces of nature and the processes by which these are harnessed into the domain of common availability, and freedom from cost . All that I still have to do is to make clear that it fulfills the same function with regard to the tools we use to set these forces in motion.

It is not enough for there to be forces in nature such as heat, light, gravity, and electricity. It is not enough for the mind to conceive the means of making use of these; you also need tools to transform mere intellectual conceptions into a physical reality and supplies to keep alive the people while they are undertaking the work.

There is a third factor that favors an individual or a class of people with regard to remuneration, and that is to possess capital . He who holds the tool that is essential to the workers, the materials on which the labor is to be done, and the means of existence 544 that are to be consumed during the production, can determine his rate of remuneration. This principle is certainly fair, for capital is merely effort made previously, which has not yet been rewarded. The capitalist is doubtless in a good position to impose his will, but we should note that, even without competition, there is a limit that his demands can never exceed. This limit is the point at which his remuneration would absorb all the advantages of the service he is providing. In this case, it is not right to talk, as often happens, about the tyranny of capital , since even in the most extreme cases its presence can never be more damaging than its absence to the situation of the worker. All that capitalists can do, like the people in the tropics who have an intensity of heat that nature has denied to others or the inventor who holds the secret to an industrial process that is unknown to his fellow-men, is to say to them: "If you wish to make use of my efforts, this is my price; if you find it too high, do as you have done in the past and do without it."

However, competition intervenes among the capitalists. Tools, materials, and provisions succeed in creating useful things only if they are used. Therefore there is a fight 545 among the capitalists to find a use for their capital. The extent to which this fight forces them to reduce their extreme demands, whose limits I have just set out, thus resulting in a reduction of the price, is therefore a net profit, a gratuitous gain for consumers and therefore for the human race!

In this instance, it is clear that something which is free of cost can never be absolute; since all capital represents past efforts made, it always contains with it the principle that a payment will be made. 546

We have seen that there is an upper limit beyond which one would no longer borrow. This limit is where there is " zero service " for the borrower. Furthermore, there is a limit, well short of which one would not make loans, and this limit is where there is " zero payment" for the lender. Competition between borrowers pushes the remuneration of capital to the upper limit; competition between lenders pulls it back towards the lower limit. It fluctuates between these two points, rising when it is just and necessary when capital is scarce, dropping when it is abundant.

This subject is immense and I cannot deal with it here. 547 I will limit my remarks by stating a fact which nullifies many of the assertions which are fashionable at the moment, that civilisation tends to lower the return on capital - one pays 20% in Brazil, 10% in Algeria, 8% in Spain, 6% in Italy, 5% in Germany, 4% in France, 3% in England, and even lower in Holland. Now, everything that the passage of time does to wipe out the price of capital is a loss for the capitalists, but it is not a loss for the human race. It is a force which, like the forces of nature , like more efficient industrial processes , results in greater abundance , in equalisation , and thus raises the general level of the human race. 548

It remains for me to study the competition which occurs between labor itself, a subject which is much larger than than what I have just sketched out. It would require a whole book to follow the future of capital in all its metamorphoses, and it would require ten books perhaps to correct all the errors which the "sentimentalist" schools of thought 549 have spread during the past few years concerning the fate of the workers. The requirements of the present work in which I am publishing this sketch force me to limit myself to a few simple outlines. 550

A host of circumstances contributes to making the remuneration for labor unequal (here I am referring only to labor that is free and subject to competition). If you examine it closely, you see that this alleged inequality is almost always just and necessary, and is in fact nothing other than genuine equality.

All other things being equal, 551 moreover, there is more profit in dangerous projects than in ones that are not, in trades that require long apprenticeships, and outlays that are unproductive for long periods of time, which assumes the long-term exercise within the family of certain virtues, than in trades where physical strength is all that is needed, or in occupations that require development of the mind and give rise to refined tastes than in those that just require manual labor. Is all this not just? Well, competition of necessity establishes these distinctions; society does not need a Fourier 552 or a father-figure like Enfantin 553 to decide this.

Among these circumstances, the one that has the most general effect is inequality of education. Here, as elsewhere, we see competition exercising its twin effect of leveling classes and raising the level of society.

If you think of society as being composed of two superimposed strata, 554 in one of which the principle of the mind is foremost and in the other brute force; and if you examine the natural relationship between these two social strata, you can clearly see a force of attraction in the first and a force of aspiration in the second which contribute to their merging. The very inequality of profit generates an inextinguishable desire in the lower stratum to reach the region of well-being and leisure, and this desire is supported by the influence of the enlightenment that illuminates the upper classes. The methods of teaching are improved, the price of books is decreasing, education is acquired in less time and at less cost, science, monopolized by one class and even one caste 555 and obfuscated by a language that is dead or embedded in hieroglyphic script, 556 is now written and printed in the common tongue and penetrates, so to speak, the atmosphere and is breathed in like air.

But that is not all. At the same time as a more universal and egalitarian form of education is drawing the two social strata together, weighty economic phenomena linked to the great law of competition are accelerating their fusion. Progress in engineering is constantly reducing the part played by manual labor. The division of labor that simplifies and isolates each productive operation, makes trades originally manageable only by a few, open to all. There is more: a group of tasks that originally assumed a wide range of knowledge has, through the mere passage of centuries, become routine in the area of activity of the least educated classes; this is what has happened to farming. Agricultural processes, which in antiquity gained those who revealed them to the world the highest of honors, are now the heritage and almost completely dominated by the commonest of men, to such an extent that this very important area of human activity is, so to speak, entirely removed from the well-educated classes.

From what has gone before, one may draw a false conclusion and say: "We can clearly see that competition decreases pay in all countries, in all kinds of careers, in all ranks, and levels them downwards , but in this case it is the wages for manual labor that will become the type and standard for all wages."

I will not have been understood if people do not see that c ompetition , which works to reduce all excessive pay to an average that is increasingly uniform, is bound to raise this average. I agree that this upsets people in their capacity as producers, but this is in order to improve the general situation of the human race in the only form reasonably able to improve it, that of well-being, prosperity, leisure, and intellectual and moral advancement, in a word, from the point of view of consumption .

Will it be said that in the event the human race has not made the progress that this theory appears to imply?

My first response is that, in modern societies, competition is far from fulfilling its natural role; our laws hinder it at least as much as they favor it, 557 and when the question is put as to whether the inequality of the situation of individuals is due to its presence or absence, we have only to see which men are at the top of the pile and can dazzle us with the glamour of their scandalous wealth, to be convinced that inequality, in so far as it is artificial and unjust, is based upon conquest, monopolies, trade restrictions, privileged positions, high government posts and influence, the trafficking in administrative deals, and loans from public funds; all things that have no connection with competition.

Subsequently, I believe that people fail to realize the genuine progress that the human race has made since the very recent period when the partial emancipation of labour began to take place. It has been said, and rightly so, that a great deal of philosophizing was needed to identify the facts that are constantly being witnessed. What a respectable and hard-working family of the working class consumes does not surprise us, because habit has accustomed us to this strange phenomenon. If, however, we were to compare the well-being this family has achieved with the situation that would be its lot under a social order in which competition was excluded, if statisticians, armed with accurate instruments, were able to measure as though with a dynamometer the relationship between the work of this family and the composition of its consumption at two different periods, we would recognize that freedom, as restricted as it still is, has achieved something extraordinary for this family, something whose very duration makes it pass unnoticed. The amount of human effort needed to produce a given result has been drastically cut and is truly incalculable. 558 For a native inhabitant of Canada who needed an object which weighed a quintal (100 kg) located 300 leagues away he would have to go looking for it, perhaps at a cost to him of 6 months of hard work. Today an artisan from the Bayonne region 559 who sends to Paris an object of equal weight pays 4 francs, or the equivalent of a day's wages. Thus 179/180 of the effort needed by the Canadian native has been wiped out. This portion of the effort is no longer undertaken by anybody, and nobody has to be paid for it; it is the amount taken care of by the forces of nature, the strength of animals, industrial processes, and tools, the use of which have become common and free of charge . As a result of competition, a single day of work is enough to cover the cost of the transportation, for the present effort which is required as well as for the previous efforts embodied in the mechanical tools or animals (which we term capital ) which contribute to the end result. There is not a single one of our consumption goods to which the same remarks do not apply.

Finally, that ever-increasing flow of useful things which work generates and which is in turn distributed by competition through all the veins of the social body, is not wholly defined by well-being. Most of it is absorbed in the flood of ever more numerous generations. It results in an increase in population in accordance with laws that are closely connected with the subject under discussion and which will be set out in another article. 560

Let us stop awhile and cast a rapid glance over the ground we have just covered.

Man has needs that have no limit. He develops desires that are insatiable. To meet them he has materials and forces which are supplied to him by nature, capabilities, and tools, and all the things that labor produces. Labor is the resource that has been the most equally shared out among all; each person instinctively and inevitably seeks to join to it as much of the forces of nature, as much innate or acquired capability, and as much capital as possible, so that the result of all this co-operation is as many useful things produced as possible, or what amounts to the same, as much satisfaction achieved as possible. Thus the ever-increasing contribution made by the forces of nature, the indefinite development of knowledge, and the gradual increase in capital produce this phenomenon, strange at first sight, that a given quantity of labor supplies an ever-increasing sum of useful things and that each person may, without depriving anyone else, achieve a mass of consumption out of all proportion to what his own efforts could produce.

But this phenomenon, the result of the divine harmony that Providence has spread throughout the mechanism of society, would have turned against society itself by planting in it the seed of endless inequality, if it were not combined with another kind of harmony no less admirable, namely competition, which is one of the branches of the great law of human solidarity .

Indeed, if it were possible for an individual, a family, a classe, or a nation that found themselves within reach of certain natural advantages, which had made an important industrial discovery, or acquired the tools of production through saving, to be cut off permanently from the law of of competition, if such a thing were possible, I repeat, it is clear that this individual, this family, or nation would be in permanent possession of a monopoly of extraordinary remuneration at the expense of the human race. Where would we be if the inhabitants of the equatorial regions, freed from any competition with each other, were able, in exchange for their sugar, coffee, cotton, or spices, to demand from us, not repayment in the form of an effort equal to theirs, but an effort equal to that which we would have had to take ourselves to produce these things in our harsh climate? What incalculable distance would separate the diverse situations of people if the race of Cadmus 561 were the only one that knew how to read, if nobody was allowed to use a plow unless he could prove that he descended directly from Triptolemus, 562 if the descendents of Gutenberg 563 were the only ones allowed to print, the sons of Arkwright 564 to use a spinning jenny, or the nephews of Watt 565 to get the chimney of a locomotive smoking!

However, Providence did not will this to be so. It placed within the social machine a spring, such that nothing is more astonishing than its power, except perhaps its simplicity. Through the operation of this spring, any productive force, any superiority of industrial process in short any advantage not due to his own labor , slips through the fingers 566 of the producer, stops there in the form of exceptional reward just long enough to arouse his enthusiasm and after a while goes on to enlarge the communal and free heritage of the human race before finally issuing an ever-growing quantity of individual satisfaction constantly being shared more equally. This spring is c ompetition . We have seen its economic effects; all that remains for us to do is to cast a rapid glance over a few of its political and moral consequences. I will limit myself to indicating the most important of these.

Some superficial minds have accused competition of introducing antagonism among men. This is true and inevitable as long as men are considered only in their capacity as producers; if you take the point of view of consumption, you will see that competition itself draws individuals, families, classes, nations, and races together through the bonds of universal brotherhood.

Since goods that at first sight appear to be the privilege of the few become, through an admirable decree of divine beneficence, a heritage common to all; since the natural advantages of location, fertility, temperature, mineral wealth, and even industrial aptitude, seem just to slip through the hands of the producers, given the competition which they enter into with each other, and turn exclusively to the advantage of consumers, it follows that there is no country that does not have a stake in the progress of all the others. Every progress achieved in the East is wealth in prospect for the West. If fuel is discovered in the South, the people of the North are warmed. Great Britain can make all the progress she likes with her spinning mills; her capitalists will not reap the benefit, for the interest on their money does not increase. The benefit does not go to her workers since their earnings remain the same, but in the long run it is Russia, France, Spain - in a word the human race - which gets the same satisfactions with less effort or, which amounts to the same thing, greater satisfaction for the same effort.

I have spoken only of benefits, but I could have said as much about the harms, that afflict certain nations or regions. The very nature of competition is to make general that which was once particular. It acts precisely on the principle of insurance . If a plague ravages farmland, it is those who eat bread who suffer. If an unjust tax is levied on French vines, it results in expensive wine for drinkers the world over; thus benefits and harms of the long-lasting kind just slip through the hands of individuals, classes, and nations. Their providential destiny is to affect the entire human race in the long run and improve or worsen its situation. This being so, to envy a particular nation for the fertility of its soil, the beauty of its ports or rivers, or the warmth of its sun is to fail to recognize the advantages in which we are all destined to have our share. It is to reject the abundance 567 offered to us and to miss the toil we have been spared. This being so, national jealousies are not just perverse sentiments, they are sentiments that are absurd into the bargain. To harm others is to harm yourself. To place obstacles in the path of others, 568 whether these are customs tariffs, foreign alliances, or wars, is to obstruct your own path. Consequently, harmful passions are punished, just as generous ones are rewarded. The inevitable sanction of accurate, distributive justice appeals to one's self-interest, enlightens public opinion, and in the end proclaims and secures the upholding by people of the eternally true maxim: The useful is only one aspect of the just, liberty is the most beautiful of the social harmonies, 569 and justice is the best policy.

Christianity introduced the great principle of human brotherhood to the world. It spoke to the heart, the emotions, and the instincts that were noble. Political economy seeks to have the same principle prevail in cold reasoning and, by showing the link between cause and effect, reconciles the calculations of the most attentive self-interest with the inspiration of the most sublime morality in one reassuring agreement.

A second consequence of this doctrine is that society is a genuine community . Messrs. Owen 570 and Pierre Leroux 571 may save themselves the trouble of looking for a solution to the great problem of c ommunism ; it has already been found. It results not from their despotic schemes but from the organization that God has given to man and society. Natural forces, more efficient industrial processes, and tools of production, all these are common to man or are tending to become so. This is true for everything, except for the trouble people incur , and the labor and individual effort put in. Between men there is only one and there can be only one inequality , one that the most dyed in the wool communists acknowledge, and that is the inequality that results from the inequality of effort. These are the efforts exchanged between people for a freely negotiated price. All the utility that nature, the genius of past centuries, and human foresight have imparted to the products being exchanged is therefore available into the bargain. Reciprocal payment relates only to their respective efforts, either present effort in the form of labor or preparatory effort in the shape of capital. (This) is therefore a community in the strictest sense of the word, unless you wish to claim that each person's share in the satisfaction has to be equal, while the share of effort exerted is not. This would indeed be the most unjust and monstrous of inequalities and, I would add, the most disastrous, for it would not kill competition but merely cause its action to be inverted. People would still fight, but they would fight 572 to excel in laziness, lack of intelligence, and lack of foresight.

Finally, the doctrine that we have developed, so simple and, we are convinced, so true, forces the emergence of the great principle of human perfectibility out of the domain of oratory and into that of rigorous proof. From this internal motive, which never rests in a person's breast and which leads that person to improve his or her situation, is born the advance of technology, an advance that is nothing other than the gradual cooperation of forces, which by their very nature are unconcerned with any remuneration. Competition gives rise to the granting to the community those benefits which were originally acquired by individuals. The intensity of the effort required for any given result is constantly reduced for the benefit of the human race, which sees its range of satisfactions and leisure increase from one generation to another and the level of its physical, intellectual, and moral progress advance, and through this arrangement, so worthy of our study and eternal admiration, we clearly see the human race rising up out of its degradation.

I hope my words will not be misunderstood. I am not saying that all brotherhood, all community, and all human perfectibility are contained in competition itself. What I am saying is that it is linked and allied to these three great social social concepts, that it is part of them, that it makes them manifest, and that it is one of the most powerful agents of their sublime realization.

I have concentrated on describing the general and consequently beneficial effects of competition, for it would be sacrilege to suppose that any great law of nature could produce effects that were both harmful and permanent, but I am far from denying that its action can be accompanied by a great deal of hardship and suffering. I even consider that the theory that has just been set out, explains both these sufferings and the inevitable complaints they generate. Since the work of competition is to level out , of necessity it is bound to upset anyone who raises his proud head above this level. We can understand that each producer strives to retain the exclusive use of a resource , an industrial process, or a tool of production for as long as possible in order to keep the highest price for his work. Well, since the purpose as well as the result of competition is precisely to remove this exclusive use from individuals in order to make it common property, it is inevitable that men, insofar as they are producers, will unite in a chorus of curses against c ompetition . 573 They can become reconciled to it, only by appreciating their relationship to consumption, by thinking of themselves not as members of a clique or a privileged corporation, but as individual men.

It has to be said that political economy has not done enough to dispel this disastrous illusion, 574 which is the source of so much hatred and resentment, and so many disasters and wars. It has worn itself out, given its very unscientific orientation, analyzing the phenomena of production; even its nomenclature, as convenient as it is, is not in harmony with its subject-matter. Farming, manufacturing, or commerce are perhaps excellent headings when it is a question of describing the processes involved in these technical arts, but such description, though of vital significance in technology, is scarcely relevant in social economy, 575 and I would actually say that it is essentially dangerous in this context. When people have been classified as farmers, manufacturers, and merchants, what can you talk to them about, other than their class interests, those special interests that conflict with competition and oppose the general good? It is not for farmers that farming exists, for manufacturers that there are factories, or for merchants that exchanges take place, but in order for people to have access to the greatest possible number of products of all kinds. The laws of consumption , and what promotes it, equalizes it, and makes it moral: that is the true social and humanitarian interest; that is the real focus of economic science; that is on what it should focus its sharpest thinking. For this is where the bond between classes, nations, and races is - the principle and the explanation of human brotherhood. It is therefore with regret that we see economists devoting their powerful minds and dispensing a prodigious wealth of wisdom, in pursuit of the anatomy of production, relegating to appendices at the ends of their books a few brief commonplaces on the phenomena of consumption. What is that I am saying? Not long ago, we saw a justifiably famous professor 576 suppressing this part of economic science totally and devoting himself to the means without ever mentioning the ends , and banishing from his lectures anything relating to the consumption of wealth as belonging, so he said, to the realm of moral philosophy and not to political economy. Should we be surprised that the general public are more struck by the disadvantages of competition than its advantages, since the disadvantages affect it from the particular point of view of production , about which they are constantly being informed, and the advantages from the general point of view of consumption, about which they are never told anything?

What is more, and I repeat and do not deny it, I clearly recognize and deplore as much as others do, the pain that competition inflicts on people, but is this a reason to close one's eyes to the good it does? This good, which I believe competition to be, is indestructible like all the great laws of nature. And how consoling it is to note this fact! If competition could die, it would doubtless have succumbed to the universal resistance of all the men who have ever contributed to the creation of a product since the dawn of time, and especially to the national call to arms which all the modern reformers have promoted. But although they have been crazy enough, they have not been strong enough to do this.

And what progressive principle has there been in the world whose beneficial action has not been mixed up with a great deal of pain and misery, especially at the beginning? The great urban centers created by human beings have encouraged the flourishing of thought, but they often shield private life from the corrective of public opinion and act as a shelter to debauchery and crime. Wealth allied with leisure generates the life of the mind, but it also generates ostentation and arrogance in the great, and resentment and envy in the lowly. Printing shines enlightenment and truth on all the social stratas of society, but it also conveys painful doubt and subversive error. Political freedom has unleashed enough storms and revolutions around the planet, it has modified the simple and naïve habits of primitive nations profoundly enough for serious minds to have asked themselves the question as to whether they did not prefer peace in the shadow of despotism. And Christianity itself has scattered the great seed of love and charity on land soaked with the blood of martyrs.

How has it become part of the plans of infinite goodness and justice that the good fortune of one region or century is bought by the suffering of another region or century? What divine thought is hidden under this great and indisputable law of solidarity of which c ompetition is just one of its mysterious aspects? Human science does not know this. What it does know is that good is constantly expanding and evil constantly shrinking. From the very beginning of the social order, an order created out of conquest, where there were only masters and slaves and in which inequality of condition was extreme, competition was not able to do its work of drawing men of different ranks, fortunes, or minds closer together, without inflicting some individual hardship, the intensity of which constantly lessens as the work progresses, much like the vibrations of sound and the swings of a pendulum gradually diminish over time. To the suffering that is still inflicted, the human race learns daily to apply two powerful remedies, foresight , the fruit of experience and enlightenment, and association , which is organized foresight . 577



8. T.68 " On the Redistribution of Wealth by M. Vidal" (15 June 1846, JDE)


T.68 (1846.06.15) " On the Redistribution of Wealth by M. Vidal" ( De la répartition des richesses. Par M. Vidal), JDE , June 1846, T. 14, No. 55, pp. 243-49. [OC1.12, pp. 440-51.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

François Vidal (1812-1872) was a lawyer, writer, and politician who was active in socialist circles during the 1840s. He was particularly interested in political economy and wrote for several socialist magazines such as Victor Considerant's La démocratie pacifique and Pierre Leroux's La Revue indépendante . In the early months of the February Revolution he was the Secretary of the Luxembourg Commission which introduced the state funded unemployment program known as the National Workshops. 578 His book De la répartition des richesses, ou De la justice distributive en économie sociale (On the Redistribution of Wealth, or Distributive Justice in Social Economy) (1846) 579 was published at a time when the political economists began to counter the socialist critique of their views in a more methodical fashion.

Socialists had began their critique of free market economic thought in earnest in the late 1830s with the appearance of several works such as Louis Blanc's L'Organisation du travail (The Organisation of Work) (1839); 580 Victor Considerant's Théorie du droit de propriété (Theory of the Right of Property) (1839); 581 and Proudhon's Qu'est-ce que la propriété? (What is Property?) (1840). 582 These books sparked a debate which continued throughout the 1840s reaching a climax in the months immediately following the Revolution in February 1848 when many policies advocated by these socialist were put into practice. Louis Blanc advocated new co-operative ways of "organising" labour in "social workshops" which existed outside of privately owned factories and workshops where workers were paid wages. As head of the National Workshops program after the Revolution he was able to put these ideas into practice between February and June 1848. Victor Considerant advocated the universal "droit au travail"(right to a job) which would be guaranteed by the State. Socialists and their supporters in the Chamber tried hard to get a clause guaranteeing this right inserted into the new constitution of the Second Republic which was being debated over the summer of 1848 but was ultimately defeated. 583 Proudhon challenged the very idea of property itself and the justice of charging interest on loans and attempted to get the Chamber to support the creation of a People's Bank which would provide zero or low interest rate loans to workers. These socialist experiments came to a bloody end in June 1848 following the riots sparked by the closure of the National Workshops. Socialist activists were arrested in their hundreds, their magazines and political clubs were shut down by the police, and the country was placed under marital law under General Cavaignac.

The political economists began their response to the socialist challenge with Michel Chevalier's long critique of Louis Blanc in the Journal des Débats in August 1844. 584 This was followed by a very long three volume work De la Liberté du travail (On the Freedom of Working) (1845) by the doyen of the economists Charles Dunoyer (the permanent president of the Political Economy Society), 585 of which Bastiat wrote a brief review (see above, pp. 000); and Bastiat himself entered the fray with a series of articles and letters over the next two years: his letter to Lamartine on the right to work (Jan. 1845), his brief review of Dunoyer's book (March 1845), his review of Vidal's book (June 1846), his second letter to Lamartine (Oct. 1846), his essay "On Communism" (June 1847), and his reply to Considerant (Dec. 1847). 586 This first phase of criticism of socialist ideas was followed by a second anti-socialist campaign initiated by the Guillaumin publishing firm in mid-1848 in which Bastiat played a very important role with his series of 12 "Petits Pamphlets" which appeared until shortly before his death. 587

Of particular note in this review are Bastiat's thoughts on the following topics. First, his clear statement of his views about the distinction between "artificial" organisations and associations which are based upon coercion and state compulsion and which the socialists often modeled on the military; and "natural" ones which were based upon non-violent and cooperative agreements between individuals. This was a topic Bastiat would return to in his treatise Economic Harmonies (1850) in the very first chapter "Natural and Artificial Organisation." 588 Secondly, his rejection of the socialists's accusation that the political economists were "fatalists" because they accepted the idea that the world, including the world of economics, was governed by natural laws such as the law of supply and demand and their impact on prices. Bastiat's colleague Gustave de Molinari was to write an entire book on this matter, "Discussions of Economic Laws and the Right to Property", in 1849 as part of the Guillaumin anti-socialist campaign. 589 And thirdly, his critique of the idea of organising labour in state funded or controlled "workshops." This would occupy much of Bastiat's time in the first half of 1848 when he served as Vice-President of the National Assembly's Finance Committee from which he lobbied hard to shut down the National Workshops run by Louis Blanc and François Vidal.


This book has been published under sorry auspices. Its appearance in the world has revived in the depths of literary caverns - "how hatred deepens in the hearts of our great journals" - an echo of insults more intended to sadden than annoy those to whom they are addressed and which heaps damaging prejudice, not only on the journalists but also the authors who have inspired them.

By a strange coincidence, on the very day on which I read in La Démocratie Pacifique 590 the following words of abuse which had been heaped on the heads of our most illustrious economists: ignorant and arrogant men, cursed heretics, idiots, impious beings, fatalists, plagiarists, puppets, traitors , etc. etc., I chanced to see a gallery of handwritten letters in which the greatest men of our century and the greatest friends of the human race, such as Jefferson, Madison, Bentham, Bernadotte, Chateaubriand, Benjamin Constant, 591 and even Saint-Simon 592 were seen to come forward to pay the most sincere and spontaneous homage to the science and philanthropy of J. B. Say. 593

But let us not seek a painful solidarity between Mr. Vidal and his incriminating critic who, I hope, will blush one day at his injustice and his heated remarks.

I think that it is evidence of overweening pride, when one is dealing with matters of any kind of science, to start by saying: "My predecessors knew nothing and saw nothing. In vain did men like Smith, Malthus, or Say devote their lives and powerful abilities to the study of a subject; they never achieved any understanding of it. As for me, here I am, I am just twenty years old and I have engaged in real science."

Would more confidence not be inspired in the general public if one said: "Science is of its very nature progressive. My predecessors have taken it forward, and with the help of their work I hope to advance it still further. They were obliged to delve into fundamental ideas and analyze the notions of labor, utility, value, capital, production , etc. but I do not think that they have studied sufficiently the phenomenon of the distribution of wealth. I come after them and, taking advantage of the knowledge they have passed on to us, taking up the baton of economic science where they left it, I am trying to take it one step further." 594

However, for Mr. Vidal to be able to say something like this, he would have needed to conform to the method used by his predecessors, observing the way things happen and are linked together. He rejects this method. According to him, limiting science in this way makes it merely an object of pure curiosity. He considers that his mission is to give advice, to teach, and perhaps even to impose rules of conduct. "A fine brand of science", he cries, "which can be summed up by a single negative statement: do nothing !" 595

Mr. Vidal is mistaken. Science never imposes on anyone a duty of inertia or, as we would say nowadays, immobility. It shines on all paths, both those that lead to good and those that lead to evil, and considers that its task is limited to this, since the propensity to action does not lie within it but in men. If the natural inclination of man propels him toward what is harmful, shining light on the consequences of such habits is certain to encourage this sorry direction. However, if man is inclined toward good, it is enough for science to show this, and unnecessary for it to invoke coercion or even duty in order to induce him to follow this path.

What separates us totally from the so-called Socialist, Fourierist, Communist or Saint-Simonian, etc. schools is exactly this. They situate the source of action in the observer while we leave it where it is, in the subject being observed, man.

What is strange is that they accuse us of seeing only figures and abstract quantities in man. "They should cease making an abstraction of man in a science whose aim is the happiness of man," says Mr. Vidal. 596

But it is you who make an abstraction of man and what he possesses in the way of intelligence, morality, life, initiative, and perfectibility, for in your view what is humanity if not an inert matter or clay that scholars under the cloak of being reformers and organizers can and ought to knead at will?

Political economy, as its very name implies, acknowledges that man is a feeling and thinking being and that he possesses the faculties of comparison, judgment, and decision making, that foresight warns him, experience corrects him, and that he carries within himself the idea of progress.

This is why political economy limits itself to describing phenomena, their causes and their effects, in the certain knowledge that men will be capable of choosing.

This is why, like the person who installs signposts at the start of each road, it is content to say: "This is where this one leads; that is where the other leads."

But as for you, all you see in men is matter for experiment, machines that produce and consume, and although, admittedly, in all fairness, you do want wealth to be shared equitably among them, you allocate this function to yourself, convinced that you can step in to do what Providence has not.

"In order to invent a machine, " says Mr. Vidal, "is it enough for an engineer to gather facts and then leave natural forces to act? Absolutely not; he would have to find the means of harnessing these forces and inventing his machine …" 597

"In the same way, in economics …, a particular mode of production and consumption or an economic system can be invented ." 598

Elsewhere he compares society to a regiment:

"Should we then leave each person free to carry out manoeuvres as he will, allow each officer or each soldier to carry out and follow his own little plan of campaign? etc." 599

And also, to an orchestra:

"Like the musicians of a disciplined orchestra, each of us has a useful and essential role …; but for there to be accord and unity, all the performers have to obey the vision of the composer and the direction of the conductor." 600

But when an engineer has cogwheels and springs in his hand, he is holding inert matter and his intervention is essential. Are men then just cogwheels and springs in the hands of a Socialist?

By contrast, although these soldiers whom you give as an example are men, qua soldiers they are no longer men but merely machines. The source of action is no longer with them. Subject, as the very arresting term has it, to passive obedience, they are no longer autonomous; they turn right or left at the slightest signal. Not surprisingly, one has to to draw the lucky straw to avoid being a soldier. 601 Believe me, the human race will not easily let itself be reduced to the passive role to which you assign it.

As to the other case, I happily agree that your musicians will achieve accord and harmony if the conductor imposes his direction.

For goodness sake, though, this is just not true in economics. Who can say that in every case infallible despotism would be the best solution?

But where is this orchestra conductor of society who is able to have his claim to infallibility and his right to power acknowledged?

In his absence, I prefer to leave the musicians to organize themselves by themselves, for, as you say, they are too intelligent not to understand that without this, harmony would be impossible!

You can thus clearly see that we are beginning to understand one another and that you have been led, like us and whether you like it or not, to leave the source of action where God has placed it, within the human race and not in the person studying it.

When we explain phenomena, their causes and their consequences, when we are content to show how a particular harmful act inevitably leads to a particular disastrous consequence; when for example, we say that laziness leads to poverty, over-population to a reduction in and a poor sharing of economic well-being, you cry that we are fatalists .

Let us understand one another. Yes, we are fatalists, in the way physicists are when they say, "If a stone is unsupported, it is bound to fall."

We are fatalists the way doctors are when they say, "If you over-eat, you are bound to have indigestion."

But is the acknowledgement of inexorable laws really fatalism? After all, did we make these laws, as you accuse us of doing when you criticise economists for all the ills of society, irrespectively of the bad habits, preconceived ideas, errors, and vices by means of which this society has drawn these harms upon itself?

True fatalism , I think, is at the root of all of the intellectual systems you employ, in that, however opposed they may be to each other, they agree only in this: the degree of happiness or unhappiness in men, insofar as this is independent of their vices and virtues and something over which, consequently, they have no control, depends solely on an arbitrary invention, on an imaginary organisation, which happens to have been conceived by Mr. Vidal, in the year of grace 1846.

It is very true that in 1845 Mr. Blanc imagined another quite different system. 602 Fortunately, however, the three billion men who cover the earth did not accept it, otherwise they would no longer be in time to try Mr. Vidal's.

What would have happened if the human race had bowed to the model invented by Fourier, which offered a 24 percent return to capital 603 instead of the 5 percent that the new invention guarantees? 604

To gain an idea of the spirit of despotism that is at the root of all these dreams one has only to notice how many formulae come pouring out as in the following examples:

"Production will have to be in proportion to the means of consumption."

"Work will have to be powerfully organized."

"All activities, minds, etc. will have to be called upon."

"Products will have to be distributed in accordance with justice."

"Each worker will have to be raised to the rank of a shareholder."

"He will have to be provided with the means of satisfying his needs, etc."

"A balance will have to be established between production, consumption, and the population."

" It is possible to contrive a proper industrial mechanism."

" It is possible to invent a particular mode of production and consumption."

"Above all, effective solidarity has to be established."

All of this is easily said. But when Socialists are asked: Who, then, will do all these things? If the human race is so passive, who, then, will breathe into it the breath of life? Each of them answers: Me.

We have to be fair to Mr. Vidal. He does not say Me ; he says: The government, the authorities .

However, this is just displacing the difficulty, for if all men are springs, soldiers, and inert matter, if every notion of order and organization emanates from one authority, what are the signs by which we can recognize it?

This is a major problem, and Mr. Vidal needed to take the trouble to solve it.

This is what he has to say:

We assume a priori that a normal government has been properly constituted. We leave to each person right to include under this name any system of government an individual prefers, wants, conceives of, or dreams about. Government, in whatever form , is in our view the source of protection, social support, and representative order for all and in the interests of all, etc. 605

If you assume a priori a normal and infallible government, we agree. Only show me its guarantee of infallibility and I will be ready to let myself be organized.

But if, because of the problem of finding this paragon of government, you recognize any form of authority, one that each person prefers, wants, conceives of, or dreams about , I very much fear that we will have as many forms of authority as there are men, which will take us right back to our starting point.

Here, Mr. Vidal has recourse to the major resource of Socialism, organization . It is just a question of organizing the government.

A bad government, he says, may abuse its use of power, that is true. But a good government, far from hindering true freedom in any way, may encourage its development …; it is therefore not a question of reducing or abolishing the government, but of giving it a proper organization . 606

That is all very good. But who will organize the government? Society, doubtless. But this will not do, since it is the government that ought to be organizing society. I see it now; Mr. Vidal, or any other Socialist who prefers, wants, conceives of, or dreams about it, will organize the government that will organize society. So it still remains to be seen how the first organizer will be organized.

In Mr. Vidal's book, there is a chapter that attracts the reader because of its alluring title: Practical conclusion . 607 We have wanted to see the Socialists formulate a conclusion for so long! At last!, I said to myself, the new social invention will be unveiled to us in full detail, together with the means of execution that enable the structure to be operated.

Unfortunately, basing himself on the premise that we are not in a fit state to understand this, Mr. Vidal tells us nothing.

Current society is a hovel, which we stubbornly refuse to abandon . He really does have the plan for new buildings in his pocket, but what is the use of showing them to us since we will not hear a word of it and we persist in keeping this tumbledown house, this worm-eaten structure? There is therefore no restoration work possible right now. The most that can be done is to install buttresses outside it and cover the cracks with plaster .

Our stubbornness thus deprives us of the advantage of knowing about the new social structure imagined by Mr. Vidal. All that he will let us see are a few props and a bit of plaster which he is quite willing to apply to postpone the collapse of the old building.

Having defined the problem thus, Mr. Vidal returns to his favorite formulae:

In every corner of the kingdom, in every department, we must organise the following:

Workshops in which every man of goodwill is always able to find work with which to earn his living, in which any unemployed worker who has been ousted by mechanization can use his hands; workshops that do not compete with existing workshops, for if this were so the numbers of poor people created on the one hand would be equivalent to the numbers assisted on the other.

Permanent workshops, which will be sheltered from unemployment and off-seasons and commercial crises as well as crises in production and politics.

Workshops in which the introduction of an advanced machine will benefit the workers, with no possibility of causing them harm …

Workshops in which a constant balance can be established between production and the needs of consumption, workshops to which the surplus population in towns can be diverted.

Workshops in which workers will find well-being, independence and security, a permanent job, and decent pay that is always assured. 608

We certainly give Mr. Vidal credit for his good intentions, and we would like to see his philanthropic views realized. 609 Like him, we would like there to be no man on earth who is not always assured of work, well-being, security, and independence and who would not be sheltered from commercial crises, crises in production and politics and even climatic ones, just as we would like there to be a perfect balance between production, consumption, and the population.

But instead of thinking, as Mr. Vidal does, that there is an abstract being called the State that has the means of bringing these fine dreams to fruition, instead of having individual happiness derived exclusively from an organization invented by a journalist and imposed externally on workers, we believe that it depends above all on the habits and virtues of the workers themselves. If some are industrious and others lazy, if among them there are some who are spendthrifts, others thrifty, and yet others who are miserly, some who live an ordered life and others who are profligate, if some marry at sixteen years of age and are responsible for families at an age when others are starting out in life, we cannot see what form of organization can prevent inequality from creeping into your community.

If there are some people who venture into risky enterprises, people who borrow without knowing how they will repay the loan, and others who lend without knowing how they will be repaid, if, for example, the community is seized with a passion for war which makes it hostile to the human race, we do not see how your organization will shelter it from commercial and political crises.

You can repeat ad nauseam that we are fatalists because we believe that harm itself has a purpose, namely to check the vice that has produced them; yes, we have to admit, we believe in the existence of these harms. We do not only believe in them, we see them, and in both the physical and moral sense we have no other alternative to offer the human race than to avoid them through foresight or to endure them though suffering.

Unless, therefore, you make your organizer responsible for having enough prudence for everyone, and enough order, economy, activity, education, and virtue for everyone too, you will have to allow us to continue to believe that the human race can be happy only to the extent that it possesses within itself these causes of happiness.

And certainly, if you allow me to assume the existence of just one vice in the community whose outline you sketch, if we suppose that it is afflicted with laziness, or profligacy, or ostentation, or ambition, or an overweening temperament, according to your reasoning you will understand that this community will soon suffer the fate common to all, it not lying in the power of the most ingenious organization to prevent the effect from following the cause.

Thus the social orders that each of you conceive on a daily basis assume perfection, firstly in the minds of their inventors and then in humanity itself, that same inert matter with which your fertile imagination is playing.

Well, Sir, if you grant us the assumption of human perfection as well, you may be sure that we economists will produce social plans just as attractive as yours.

Socialists criticise us for rejecting association . For our part, we ask them: What form of association are you talking about? Is it a voluntary association or is it a coerced or compulsory association .

If it is voluntary association, how can we be criticised for rejecting it, we who believe that society is one large association and that it is for this reason that it is called society ?

Do people merely want to talk about a few special arrangements that workers in the same industry might want to make among themselves? Good Heavens! We do not oppose any arrangement like this, whether it be a simple society or a business, an association of silent partners, a limited company, a company with shareholders, or even a phalanstery. 610 People may associate as they think fit; who is stopping you? We know full well that there are conventions that are more or less conducive to the progress of the human race and the proper distribution of wealth. For example, have we ever said for farming that farm rents and sharecropping, by the very fact that they exist, have the same effects on all classes of farmers? 611 However, we consider that science has fulfilled its role when it has set out these effects since, once again, we believe that the principle of action and the aspiration for something better exists not in science but in the human race.

You, on the other hand, who see the human race as merely pliable wax in the hands of an organizer, are proposing a coerced association, a form of association that takes away from every individual, except for one, any form of morality and any initiative, that is to say it is the most absolute despotism that has ever existed, not only in the annals of history but also in the imagination of mankind.

I will not end without granting Mr. Vidal the justice due to him. Although he has espoused the theories of the Socialists , he has not borrowed their style. His book is written in French and even good French. There is an occasional neologism but it is not excessive. Mr. Vidal spares us Fourierist vocabulary, with its arpeggios and central dramatic figures, its friendships in flattened fifths, and love stories in diminished thirds. 612 While he views science from an angle different from that of his predecessors, at least he takes it seriously, and does not despise his readers to the point of wanting to impose it on them using verses from the Apocalypse. This is a good sign, and if ever he publishes a second edition of his book I have no doubt that he will take out, if not what is mistaken in the section on theory, at least what is exaggerated or even unjust in the section he devotes to criticism.



9. T.288 "A Light-Hearted Look at Free Trade" (mid or late 1846)


T.288 (1846.06.??) "A Light-Hearted Look at Free Trade" (Libre-échange Gai) (mid or late 1846). Unpublished pieces found in his papers. It is in three parts:

  • 1. "One has to see it to believe it" (Il faut le voir pour le croire), pp. 297-99;
  • 2. "The World turned upside down again" (Encore le monde renversé), pp. 299-300;
  • 3. "A Simple Dialog (between a Protectionist and a Free Trader)" (Simple dialogue), p. 301.

In Ronce, Appendix V, pp. 297-301. [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

These short pieces were not published in Bastiat's Collected Works (1862-64) but appeared in an Appendix to Ronce's book (1905). They are not dated but were most likely written during 1845 when he was experimenting with different ways to make economics appealing and understandable to ordinary people. He published several such pieces in the JDE beginning in May with "Economic Sophisms: I Abundance and Scarcity" which was followed by 10 more during the rest of the year. They were published, along with an additional 11 pieces, in January 1846 in the first collection of Economic Sophisms . 613 The short pieces published here did not make the cut. Part of the reason might be that he was unsure about how "gai" (light-hearted) he thought they should be. After he was criticised in a review of ES1 for being too serious he made a concerted effort for the next collection to be both more light-hearted and hard-hitting in its "harsh language."

We can see here good examples of the style of writing Bastiat would use in his many of his sophisms. In "The World turned upside down again" we see a dialog between two unnamed individuals concerning the contradictory positions taken towards government subsidies by certain newspapers, which is the format he would use on many other occasions. 614 In "A Simple Dialog between a Protectionist and a Free Trader" we see another conversation between two stock characters, a "Free-Trader" and a "Protectionist." In later sophisms Bastiat would often use the character Jacques Bonhomme, 615 a kind of French everyman, as the voice of free trade and scepticism about government intervention in the economy.


1. "One has to see it to believe it"

Newspapers which present themselves as the sole defenders of liberty, as the fierce voice of democracy, but which nevertheless support with all their might legal privileges and monopolies. You have to see it to believe it!

A public which closes its eyes to this astonishing inconsistency and does not look for the hidden cause of this. You have to see it to believe it!

A man obtains a concession to open a mine. Every penny which he puts into it costs him sacks of gold because he himself helps to make the laws which bans the import of foreign coal. 616 Meanwhile, the people shiver from the cold. Someone comes along and says to the people "The law is bad." The concession holder of the mine exclaims that "the law is excellent." The shivering people repeat this "The law is excellent." You have to see it to believe it!

I know of a product which is produced in only one factory in France. The factory owner sets whatever price he wants for his goods and becomes a millionaire because he managed to prohibit similar products entering from abroad. I wanted to tell the workers that this measure, besides being unjust, harmed them. But the millionaire factory owner goes out among his workers everyday telling them that "You see that man over there? He is a utopian and a troublemaker who wants to ruin you." 617 And the workers repeat as if in a chorus, "He is a troublemaker and wants to ruin us." The law is kept on the books and the man with 1 million, seeing that before long he will soon be the man with two million, laughs under his hat. You have to see it to believe it!

Someone says to a Minister before the entire Chamber: "You have embezzled funds. You have engaged in the buying and selling of public functions. You are the embodiment of immorality ." The Minister rises to his feet and replies: "I am delighted to see that the Chamber is outraged at my immorality. That is good, very good. Fellow Deputies I am pleased with you. Wipe out immorality. If you go down this excellent path I will support you. This is how we create a good government." You have to see it to believe it!

The Journal des Débats standing for liberty and Le National standing for privilege. 618 You have to see it to believe it!

The press says: "Workers, you don't eat enough meat. Doubtless this is because you don't know what is good for you and that is the fault of the government which ought to teach you this." The workers reply: "We know we should eat meat but the government prevents its importation. That is why we are so thin." The press replies: "You are deluding yourselves. If you are not eating more meat it is because of sheer ignorance. As for letting more meat enter the country, you should oppose this with all your might. And so the workers do what the press advises them to do. You have to see it to believe it!

There are some writers 619 who have acquired considerable renown and broad influence who repeat every day, in the style of the Book of the Apocalypse, that what our country lacks is "property without property" and "liberty without liberty." It is surprising how this discovery is making them a fortune. You have to see it to believe it!

Other writers become popular by calling for the abolition of all taxes and the increasing of all kinds of government spending. Free us, they say to the Ministers, of the tax on salt, that on sending letters, the octroi tax, and customs duties, etc. 620 Increase spending on the army, the building of ships and the navy, the fortifications around our towns, 621 exert the supremacy which belongs to France over all of Europe, give charity to all the unfortunate people, give work and bread to everyone, bring up their children for free. This is called the genius of the organiser. 622 You have to see it to believe it!

2. "The World turned upside down again" (Encore le monde renversé), pp. 299-300; (T1)

Some time ago a question was posed in this way:

Does the law give a subsidy to those who sell meat by making others pay a higher price for it, which is paid by those who eat it?

Le me paint you a picture of the deep surprise felt by a young naval officer who, returning from a long voyage, learns that the Journal des Débats was against and Le National was in favour of the subsidy.

Today another question comes to mind:

Would the farm worker from the South or the textile worker from the North pay a tax to increase the profits of the dancers at the Opéra? 623

A serious-minded magistrate and a popular newspaper have given us their opinion.

— Ah! No doubt the popular newspaper rejected this ridiculous injustice and the serious-minded magistrate defended it?

— Not at all! It is the exact opposite.

— What the hell! That is too much. Either the performers at the Opéra have some talent or they do not. If they have any, their profits would be quite honest ones, and one knows all about those who make 100,000 francs in income and flaunt the most scandalous luxury. If they do not have any talent why should they be subsidised to such an extent by the peasant and the textile worker who will never see them? Isn't it quite natural for those who go to the Opéra to cover there costs?

— That is what the magistrate said.

— So why did Le National support the subsidy?

— Perhaps because the magistrate criticised it?

— There must be some other reason. Give me your thoughts.

— When one is a popular newspaper one has to chase after popularity. Now, there are two infallible means of achieving this? The first is to push up one's expences; the other is to fight against raising the price of the paper.

— But that is contradictory.

— That doesn't matter! The world is made up of two classes: 624 those who can live off abuses and those who pay for them. By pushing up their expences they win over the former; by fighting against increasing their revenue one wins over the latter.

3. "A Simple Dialog between a Protectionist and a Free Trader"

A Protectionist: What do you do when someone treads on you your foot?

A Free Trader: I cry out.

Protectionist: You Englishman! And what if no one hears you?

Free Trader: I scream even louder.

Protectionist: So very English! So very English! Oh come on! What if no one comes to help you?

Free Trader: I would look for other people who were in a similar situation, see if they understood what was happening, and get them to cry out with me.

Protectionist: You Anglophile! 625 And what if they don't understand?

Free Trader: I would make it my task to make them understand.

Protectionist: You Anglo-maniac! And how would you do this?

Free Trader: I would talk, I would write, I would invite those who had a good turn of phrase and a sharp pen to speak and write.

Protectionist: Just like John Bull! God damn it! 626 I no longer recognise who you are. You are no longer French.

Free Trader: However, it seems to me that what I am doing is the most natural thing there is, and I don't see that I could do otherwise.

Protectionist: No doubt, but the English do just that.

Free Trader: Well now, Monsieur, and what do you do when you are hungry?

Protectionist: I eat.

Free Trader: You Englishman! You copycat! And what do you do when are thirsty?

Protectionist: I drink.

Free Trader: You Englishman! That is pure Cobden! 627 And what do you do when your nose is blocked up?

Protectionist: I blow it.

Free Trader: What a mimic! Such a parody! What a lot of monkey business!



10. T.80 "Second Letter to M. de Lamartine (on price controls on food)" (Oct. 1846, JDE)


T.80 (1846.10.15) "Second Letter to M. de Lamartine (on price controls on food)" (Seconde lettre à Monsieur de Lamartine), JDE , Oct. 1846, T. 15, No. 59, pp. 265-70. [OC1.13, pp. 452-60.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Although the liberal-minded monarchist politician Alphonse Lamartine 628 supported free trade and economic deregulation most of the time and even lent his assistance to the French Free Trade Association by giving speeches on their behalf at public meetings, 629 he had his lapses from economic orthodoxy as this angry and frustrated letter from Bastiat shows. See also Bastiat's "First Letter to Lamartine" (Jan. 1845) (above, pp. 000) for another lapse concerning the right to a job which upset Bastiat considerably.

Here Bastiat objects to Lamartine's call for a suspension of free trade in order to alleviate the suffering caused by the high prices and shortages which resulted from the crop failures of 1846 and which extended into 1847. The problem had begun with the potato blight in Ireland in 1845 which led to crop failures and food shortages. Poor weather in Europe led to similar crises on the continent in 1846. These crop failures caused considerable hardship and a rise in food prices in 1847 across Europe. Some historians believe this was a contributing factor to the outbreak of revolution in 1848. The average price of wheat in France was 18 fr. 93 c. per hectolitre in 1845; which rose to 23 fr. 84 c. in 1846. Prices were even higher in the last half of 1846 and the first half of 1847 when the shortage was most acutely felt. In December 1846 it rose to 28 fr. 41 c; and reached a maximum of 37 fr. 98 c. in May 1847. Lamartine wrote an essay for his magazine on "The Food Crisis" in Oct. 1846 630 as the crisis was reaching its height and called for the government to introduce price controls (which Bastiat refers to as the "Maximum" in a reference to the disastrous prices controls introduced during the Terror).

The response of Richard Cobden and the free traders in England to the Irish famine was to call for deregulation and international free trade so that surpluses from other parts of Britain and Europe, such as Odessa in Russia, could be brought in to feed the Irish. The plight of the hungry Irish was an important part of free trade propaganda in England which led to the repeal of the Corn Laws between January and June 1846. The situation in France was complicated by the fact that the country was divided into regional zones which were required by the government to have their own government funded grain storage centres and bans or limits on exporting grain to other parts of France depending upon prices and supplies. Thus, France had a double problem of restrictions on both internal and external movement of grain in times of shortages.

The result of Lamartine siding with the large grain growers and the protectionists in late 1846 was his "demotion" by Bastiat from the pantheon of semi-official poet to the liberal movement:

You fulfill this sublime mission entirely and this, Lamartine, is why you were our favorite poet. And now, will we be condemned to being the witnesses of your downfall, to seeing you descend in your lifetime from the height of your glory and to doubting whether those delicious emotions with which you calmed our youth were anything other than misleading illusions? (emphasis added)

The layout and style of this essays, with a quotation from Lamartine on the left and a reply by Bastiat on the right, much like a "free trade catechism," follows that of one of the leading spokesmen for the Anti-Corn Law League, Thomas Perronet Thompson, who used it in several of much reprinted pamphlets. 631



I have just read the article which originally appeared in the Bien Public in Mâcon and has now been republished in all the Paris journals. It would be impossible to express to you how much of what I have read has surprised and saddened me.

It is, then, only too true! No one on earth has the privilege of intellectual universality. There are even mutually excluding abilities and it appears that the arid domain of political economy is all the more forbidden to you because you possess to the highest degree the enchanting and supreme art "Of thinking in images as well as naturally."

Why have you disdained this art, or rather this divine gift? Ah! No matter what you say, you had received the most noble and holy mission of genius in this world. What has become of the period in which, with minds that were cold and methodical and natures still weighed down by the burden of materialism, we tore ourselves with delight from this positive world to follow your flight in the misty and poetic regions of idealism? You revealed to us then thoughts, doubts, desires, and hopes that slumbered within our hearts, like the echoes that slumber in the grottoes of our Pyrenees as long as the voices of our shepherds do not awaken them. Who will now reveal other horizons and other skies to us, adored places in which Love, Prayer and Harmony live? 632 How many times, when you gave me glimpses of these misty domains, did I not cry: "No, this world does not embrace everything; science does not reveal everything. The infinite exists beyond them and imagination also has its torch!"

Oh! How great is the power of the poet! I do not mean a mere "versifier" who tolerates whatever license or tyranny he may come across. But that perception of what is Beautiful and Sublime in nature, that strong emotion that is awoken in the soul when they are seen, this gift of clothing them in a language that is melodious in order for commonplace souls to be included, that is Poetry. And as it rises, it breaks free from any element of selfishness or perversity, for it could never share the sad infirmities here below without losing the sentiment of what is true, lovable, and great, that is to say, without ceasing to be Poetry. As long as the divine light shines on his brow, his aspiration will be to purify, make more spiritual, illuminate, and elevate. Thus, a true poet, whether or not he is aware of this, is the friend of the human race par excellence, the defender of its rights, its privileges, and progress. 633 What am I saying? No one carries it more than he along the path of progress. Is it not he in fact who, by constantly presenting ideal perfection to us, makes us love it, pours into our hearts an aspiration to Beauty and thus raises the pitch of our souls until it feels in union with the eternal models with which it composes its celestial harmony?

You fulfill this sublime mission entirely and this, Lamartine, is why you were our favorite poet. And now, will we be condemned to being the witnesses of your downfall, to seeing you descend in your lifetime from the height of your glory and to doubting whether those delicious emotions with which you calmed our youth were anything other than misleading illusions?

Just look what you are up to. Because you seek to emulate the kingdom of science, you have abdicated your own kingdom, the kingdom of poetry. You wanted to base your way of thinking on your imagination and your analysis on numerical figures. Where has this got you? To resurrecting the economic empiricism of imperial Rome, to exhuming theories that have been condemned by experience a hundred times over, and been thought buried forever in the depths of oblivion. At the point of giving way, yield, when, if I may use a common expression, it is natural to clutch at any supports, even the monopoly land interest did not attempt, through its mouthpieces, Bentinck 634 and Buckingham 635 , to ask for salvation or a temporary respite on the basis of these worm-eaten theories; and so the world will be astonished that it is you, the great poet of the century who has disinterred them from who knows where in order to set them out once more, clad in magnificent language, to the accompaniment of public ridicule.

Your muse has definitely become an economist; it was not terrified by this strange transformation. For one moment I thought that your whim was going to succeed; it was when you said: "Leave capital, industries and wages to achieve a level of justice for themselves by way of freedom that our arbitrary and despotic laws could never achieve for them."

I think that no thought as true as this, in such a precise form, could have been uttered by anyone who had not traced out the long sequence of effects of arbitrary and despotic government and freedom alike. And I said to my serious colleagues: A miracle! A triumph! The great poet is on our side!

Alas! I see now that you owed this passing light of truth to your powerful and generous instincts and I am tempted to ask you:

(Whether) when you wrote that charming whate'er they say, Did you yourself fully understand its power? 636

For here, with a stroke of the pen, you have today turned upside down your economic doctrines of last year.

Here in some detail is what you are replacing it with this year.

[NOTE TO LAURA: I can't put footnotes in tables, so I have marked it accordingly]

"The question of cereals is one of the most sensitive, we would say, one of the most insoluble ones that can face economists."

The question of cereals insoluble ! In this case, we should spend no more time on it than we do on squaring the circle . This word therefore should not be taken literally and you wished to speak of "An unsolved problem but not an insoluble one." [see FN]

Note that from the outset you have denied yourself the right to reason.

FN: "An unsolved problem but not an insoluble one." 637

"Through its mass and weight, it escapes the hands of science." Yes, if 200 and 200 do not make 400 as surely as 2 and 2 make 4; yes, if by its mass and weight one hundredweight escapes the laws of gravity more than one pound does.
"Theory can obviously do nothing. This is a question of experimentation ."

Is there incompatibility between theory and practice, then? I thought that theory was merely experience set out methodically. [FN]

Note that this is already the second time that you have denied yourself the right to reason.

FN: "incompatibility between theory and practice" 638

"Total freedom to trade is a general truth with regard to products, commerce, and trade." This is a fine maxim. Do you take it from theory or experience?
" Laissez faire, laissez passer has become a proverb with writers." According to the preceding sentence, you appear to take this proverb for the truth. According to the following sentence, you appear to take this proverb for a falsehood.
"But when it is a question of applying this alleged truth to imports, exports , and the grain trade, it is instantly clear that, while it is not a lie , it is at least a supreme danger, and the theory gives way to practice, since wheat is the lifeblood of the people, and you do not play with life. Lives come first; that is the irrefutable truth. Theories come after the life's necessities, that is common sense."

Here in effect is a general truth that is no longer anything more than alleged truth. In a short time, it will become a lie .

If gravity is a general truth , it is important to respect it at all times, but especially when it is a question of life.

I would not have been surprised if you had not acknowledged freedom as a general truth in commerce, but once you had recognized this, your deduction ought, in my view, to have been formulated as follows:

"When it is a question of the import or export of something superfluous, we might yield to the application of general truth . However, with regard to wheat there should be no hesitation, for wheat is the lifeblood of the people. Well, we do not play with life; life comes first; that is the irrefutable truth. Government experiments should come after life's necessities, that is common sense."

"Well, why does the TRUTH of free trade, free exports, and free imports cause fear and trembling in economists? For example, relating to France, here it is:" Either freedom is the best way of ensuring abundance and the proper distribution of products (it is only on this condition that it is a general truth ), and in this case it should be applied to everything, and a fortiori to wheat, or there are more certain ways of achieving this work, in which case it is not a general truth , either for toys or for wheat.
"First of all, since wheat is the lifeblood of an entire nation and a passion for life is the most legitimate and fearful passion in people, the slightest fault of commerce, the slightest error in calculation in the imports and exports of wheat, the slightest serious anxiety in the population with regard to life will produce a level of unrest and shortages to which no humane and wise legislator would wish to expose his country." Since wheat is the lifeblood, and since the slightest error in calculation in the import or export of wheat can produce shortages; since no wise and humane legislator can take the responsibility of exposing his country to it, commerce should then be left free, since, besides, freedom is a general truth , that is to say, the least risky means of ensuring abundance and proper distribution. Is it not clear that an error in calculation, whose consequences can be so fearful, is infinitely more probable in a minister who is not directly involved and has many other concerns than in one hundred thousand traders who spend their lives doing these calculations on whose accuracy their own existence depends?
"Next, as wheat is the largest agricultural product, totaling revenue of two or three billion in the production of the country, if the free import of foreign wheat was able to compete with French wheat without limit at all times and at a price in a ratio to ours of ten to thirty , France would instantly stop producing wheat that nobody would want to buy at that price and three billion of national revenue and ten million farmers would be wiped out simultaneously. What would happen to income? What would happen to taxes? What would become of landowners? What would become of those who work the land? We tremble to think. It would be the suicide of French landowning and the population. This remedy that is being put before us is thus not a remedy but murder."

If what you say about free imports is true for wheat, it has to be true to some extent for anything else, for, Sir, traders do indeed import wheat when they are allowed to, from places where it is cheaper than in France; they do not have the habit of acting differently with regard to other products nor buy them expensively in order to sell them cheaply. For this reason, the free import of iron would be suicide for our forges and the workers they employ. Free imports of fabrics would be suicide for our factories and the populations that they employ. In a word, freedom would result in universal carnage or, as you put it, the murder of every French citizen. In this case, I do not clearly see the reason for your calling it a general truth . To insert some harmony between your premises and your conclusions, you should have begun by establishing that freedom is the general lie in commerce . However, in this case, you would not have had a foot in each camp, a precaution that many people take just now, but one that is unworthy of you. I take the liberty of saying to you that this cowardly tactic has run its course. Let the person who is unfamiliar with the laws of trade either examine them or hold his tongue, but don't let him think that he can obtain the twin advantage of being thought of as a great mind and pleasing everyone by saying to one person: "You are in favor , which makes you a good logician" and to another: "you are against , which makes you a good practical man". Too many people see the inconsistency and denounce it.

As for refuting your sad picture of freedom in agriculture, you yourself have done so in the following paragraph.

"Finally, as wheat is one of the most bulky products, it would be physically impossible commercially to import and distribute throughout the empire all the wheat required for consumption in France. Calculations made in 1816, a year of shortage that was much more alarming than the present one, proves this sad truth through figures: if by an impossible coincidence all the merchant shipping in Europe was devoted to importing wheat for France, it could have imported enough for only fifteen to seventeen days' consumption. Tell me something about unlimited freedom of commerce after that!"

Be afraid of unlimited freedom after that, say I in turn! Come and tell us then that foreigners will sell their wheat into our market for a trivial amount, for almost nothing or perhaps for nothing at all! Come and paint us a picture of every French citizen dying of hunger with folded arms, leaving their cattle to ruminate, their ploughs to rust, their capital idle, and their land unworked while relying on foreign wheat that it is physically impossible to import!

Oh! Let us thank heaven that among our 34 million fellow-citizens someone has been found who has foreseen this, that this should precisely have been a statesman and that he has been able to anticipate all of our deaths by setting this happy Maximum price [ insert FN] that has never been known in Switzerland and that has just been abolished in England.

FN: Maximum price. 639

But perhaps it would be improper to continue this discussion step by step. Sometimes I ask myself how it can be possible for two minds to reach such opposing solutions to the same question. Is it self-interest that blinds me? Certainly not. I do not have other means of existence than one piece of land and this land produces only cereals. 640 If foreign cereals were allowed to enter, I do not think my land would lose its value and do not fear that my hands would remain idle. No, I do not fear this would happen even if the foreign wheat is sold, as you claim, for a price in a ratio to ours of ten to thirty , as you say, or even if it were given away for NOTHING, for in that extreme hypothesis, what the people spend today on bread they would spend on meat, butter, vegetables, yarn, wool, and other farming products. My land would no more be valueless because each person had free bread to fill his stomach than it is valueless now because each person has free air to fill his lungs.

And after all, what right have we, the landowners, over the stomachs of those who are not? Is their hunger made for our wheat or our wheat made for their hunger? Let us not turn the world upside down. Living is the aim, cultivating the land is just a means to this end; it is up to us to subordinate the convenience of our production to the lives of our fellow-citizens and not on the contrary to let ourselves subject their lives to our properly or improperly considered convenience. I find it very comforting that the doctrine of freedom reveals to me only harmony among these various interests and, with your soul, you must be very unhappy, since you see in them just an unavoidable dissonance. 641 As a landowner, you now invoke the generosity of the owners of land. You should in truth be calling on their sense of justice ! You have written a page on charity that I, like everyone else, admires. But I would admire it a great deal more if I did not see it end with the bitter conclusion that "wheat is life; let the law maintain a Maximum price level for it that gives value to our land!" 642 And whose hand has written these lines? The same that was raised in the Chamber in favor of the Maximum and which will then open to receive from the poor the pennies which have been unjustly taken from them. Believe you me, understood this way, charity loses a great deal of its luster. When people demand that foreign wheat should be kept out so that theirs can be sold at a better price, it is no use their speaking of charity, 643 it is no use their carrying this word before them like a banner, they have no right to popularity or at least popularity worth anything. No, they have no right to this, even when they declaim before an anxious population banal indictments of the murderous doctrines of the friends of freedom, of the faults and crimes of the government and the Chambers and of the greed of speculators and the selfishness of commerce . Before broadcasting such dangerous and, I dare to say, unjust popular prejudices, they should at least not come and say: "Let the law increase the people's hunger by a few degrees by keeping out foreign wheat, so that we, the landowner-legislators, can gain a better margin for our wheat."

God forbid, Sir, that I call into question the purity of your intentions. It shines forth from all of your writings. Reading your words, I see clearly that you love the people. It is you, I believe, who were the first to use the expression: "la vie à bon marché" (life at low prices), words that might be the title of our Free Trade association, 644 for life at low prices, is life that is easier, sweeter, and less fraught with tiredness and anguish, more dignified, more intellectual, and more moral. Life at low prices is the result that trade, and above all free trade, tends to produce. On this question, a considerable number of monopolists have tried to mislead the people, which is easy, for any obstacle to progress 645 which happens to employ a sizeable part of the national labor force can readily serve to turn the feelings of the masses against progress, in whatever form it occurs, whether the case be Freedom, Inventions, or Savings. You, Sir, who know how to talk to the people, to whom they listen and whom they love, please help us to dissuade them. But do not be surprised that zeal against monopoly carries us away when what we have to fear is that it has found a champion of your caliber.

I am, Sir, your devoted servant,



11. T.81 "On Population" (JDE, 15 Oct. 1846)


T.282 (1846.06.??) "Population", Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle: répertoire universel des sciences, des lettres et des arts avec la biographie de tous les hommes célèbres, ed. Ange de Saint-Priest (Impr. Beaulé, Lacour, Renoud et Maulde, 1846), vol. XX, pp. 110-120. Probably mid-1846. Republished as "On Population" in JDE, Oct. 1846. See T.81. [Not in the OC. DMH] [CW4]

T.81 (1846.10.15) "On Population" (De la population), JDE , 15 Oct., 1846, T. XV, no. 59, pp. 217-234. A revised version of this article appeared as chap. 16 in the 2nd, posthumous edition of Economic Harmonies (1851), with explanatory notes by Fontenay. Not in the OC. [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Six chapters of what would become Bastiat's book Economic Harmonies were published in other locations between early 1846 and July 1851 when the expanded posthumous second edition was published. These were "On Competition" (Encyc. & JDE, May 1846),"On Population" (Encyc. & JDE, 15 Oct. 1846), "Natural and Artificial Organisation" (JDE, 15 Jan., 1848),"Economic Harmonies: I, II, and III. The Needs of Man" (1 Sept., 1848, JDE), "Economic Harmonies IV" (JDE, 15 Dec. 1848), and "Producers and Consumers" (JDE, 15 June 1851). The most heavily rewritten and revised early chapter was "On Population" which first appeared as an encyclopedia article in early 1846, as a slightly revised article in JDE (Oct. 1846), as a extensively rewritten chapter in the 2nd posthumous edition of EH (July 1851) along with a lengthy Note by Fontenay, and finally the same chapter as written by Bastiat (with one large paragraph cut) but with most of Fontenay's Note cut for volume 6 of the Oeuvres complètes which was published in 1855. We have indicated in the notes below where changes were made and in what version they appeared using the following abbreviations: "E version" (Encyclopedia version), "JDE version" (article in the JDE), and "EH2 version" (the second edition of EH).

To begin with the differences between the E version and the JDE version, there were ten minor corrections and new insertions of words in the JDE version, two longer insertions of new material dealing with the Bureau of Longitudes and the spiritualist and materialist schools of thought, and one new footnote on J.B. Say's theory of the means of existence. The most significant addition was a new ending for the JDE version of 900 words dealing with social harmonies, foresight and planning, sharecropping, the means of existence, philanthropy, progress, and the perfectibility of man.

The differences between the JDE and the EH2 versions were much more significant. There were several minor cuts; a new paragraph in which Bastiat criticised Malthus for underestimating the power of progress to alleviate the economic condition of mankind; and a couple of sentences on J.B. Say's theory of the "means of existence" were inserted; and a couple of sentences were cut which dealt with the right of workers to take advantage of circumstances which might improve the value of their services. However the major change was a new 2,000 word introduction which replaced the first couple of pages of the JDE version. About half of this new introduction was devoted to a defence of Malthus against his critics (Godwin, Sismondi, Leroux) who accused him of being too pessimistic and uncaring about the poor. Bastiat argued that Malthus was largely correct in theory but made the mistake of underestimating the capacity of the free market and human initiative to improve mankind's condition and the ability of people to have some control over the size of their families. Malthus also did not discuss how the actions of other human beings made other people worse off, namely by means of "plunder." Drawing upon what he had written on plunder in the first two chapters of ES2 (published January 1848) Bastiat added here the following very important paragraph to the EH2 version:

I believe that there are several (causes of poverty). One is plunder , or if you prefer, injustice . Economists have mentioned this only incidentally and in so far as it implies some error or erroneous scientific notion. When setting out general laws, they considered that they did not have to take notice of the effect of these laws when they do not work or when they are violated. However, plunder has played and still plays too great a role in the world for us, even as economists, to feel free to disregard it. It is not just a question of casual theft, larceny and isolated crime. War, slavery, theocratic deception, privilege, monopoly, trade restrictions, tax abuses, are all the most obvious examples of plunder. It is easy to understand the influence that such wide-ranging disturbing forces must have had and still have on the inequality of situations by their very presence or the deep-rooted traces they leave. Later, we will endeavor to measure their huge effect.

Bastiat had been developing this idea of "disturbing forces or factors" 646 which upset the harmony and wealth creating function of the free market since early 1845 when he first broached it in his "Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine" (JDE, Feb. 1845). 647 In this essay he also contrasted it with its opposite, "les forces réparatrices" (restorative forces or factors), by which the free market attempted to repair itself and return to equilibrium after having been disturbed by various interventions. He planned to have an entire chapter in Economic Harmonies devoted to this topic but did not complete it before he died. 648

One can only speculate on why Bastiat made so many changes and revisions to this essay (more than any other). His more optimistic view about the ability of markets to produce sufficient food and of people to plan the size of their own families put him at loggerheads with the more orthodox political economists, some of whom like Joseph Garnier and Gustave de Molinari were ardent Malthusians. Perhaps Bastiat was trying to answer their objections in his later versions of the essay. He also seems to be thinking more about J.B. Say's idea of a flexible and ever-upwardly expandable "means of existence" (or "standard of living" as we would say today) and how this might be used to answer some of Malthus' concerns. The other side of the coin, was his new idea of "disturbing factors" which prevented many people from producing and keeping what wealth they had acquired out of the hands of various "plunderers", whether "legal" or "extra-legal." The combination of unfettered wealth creation and protection of property rights Bastiat thought would go a long way towards solving the "population problem."

Some of the other topics Bastiat deals with in this essay include the following.

  1. There is a difference between the "means of subsistence" (bare survival) which is biologically determined and the "means of subsistance" (the standard of living) which depends on the level of economic development and the amount of capital in any given society.
  2. There is a difference between the "theoretical" or "potential" growth of a population, which was applicable to plants or animals which are unable to plan for the future, and the "actual" or "historical" growth of human populations.
  3. Human will and foresight play an important role in influencing how the "law of population limits" applies to human populations.
  4. He is optimistic about human perfectibility and the possibilities for almost unlimited progress in the future.
  5. He introduces his theory of exchange as the exchange of "service for service" and contrasts this with Say's narrower theory that one exchanges "products for products." 649
  6. He discusses the nature of labour and the utility it produces and examines the impact competition will have on workers' wages in different "social strata."

Other places where Bastiat discussed Malthus and the problem of population growth:

  1. T.17 "On the Allocation of the Land Tax in the Department of Les Landes" (July, 1844) - a discussion of the impact of the land tax on population levels and the standard of living in Les Landes.
  2. T.23 "Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine" (JDE, Feb. 1845) - criticises Lamartine for accusing the economists for being heartless Malthusians.
  3. T.47"Thoughts on Share Cropping" (JDE, Feb. 1846) where he argues that sharecroppers who have the economic incentive to do so, show that individuals can rationally plan the size of their families.
  4. T.66 "On the Railway between Bordeaux and Bayonne" (19 May, 1846) where he talks about population fluctuations and tax burdens.
  5. T.68 "On the Redistribution of Wealth by M. Vidal" (JDE, June 1846) where he argues that men are rational creatures who plan their lives and prosper.
  6. T.282 "On Population" (Encyc. 1846)
  7. T.81 "On Population" (JDE, October 1846)
  8. T.166 ES1 "Physiology of Plunder" (Jan. 1848) where he develops a Malthusian law which governs the maximum size to which the state can grow before popular resistance grows to resist it.
  9. T.244 "Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (12 December 1849) where he develops a Malthusian law which governs the number of civil servants and state employees.
  10. T.249 First edition of EH (Jan. 1850)
  11. "To the Youth of France" where he wants to replace Malthus's "false law" with a new law: "All other things being equal, the increasing density of population is equal to an increasing capacity to produce."
  12. Chap. 4 Exchange where he claims he has found the solution to the population problem in the "perfecting of the commercial and exchange mechanisms"; and that increasing population density and concentration of people in cities increases the division of labour and the opportunities for mutually beneficial trade.
  13. Chap. 7 "Capital" where he argues that the value of all things increases along with increases in population density.
  14. Chap. 9 "Landed Property" where, according to his "law of prices," as population pressure increases the price of food, more food will be produced.
  15. T.260 Second edition EH:
  16. Chap. 16 "On Population" where the productive power of economies will increase as population grows.
  17. Chap. 18 "Disturbing Factors" where, once these disturbing factors are removed, significant barriers to wealth creation will also be removed which will allow more people to prosper.


The law which governs mankind relative to their numbers has been formulated in these terms:

Populations tend to adjust themselves to the level of the means of subsistence.

It is difficult to explain why the honour or responsibility for creating this expression has been attributed to Malthus. I don't know of a single author who concerned themselves with this material writing before the English economist who did not express the same thought in other or even in identical terms. For example, M. Say substituted the words "the means of existence" (les moyens d'existence) for the words "the means of subsistence" (les moyens de subsistance) 650 based upon his work examining how much food was sufficient for a family to survive , according to the country in which they lived, the social rank to which they belonged, the customs they had adopted, and the various needs the satisfaction of which was important for the maintenance of their lives. 651 The majority of economists have adopted M. Say's expression. But these formulas, one must say, and M. Say would agree, need so many explanations and commentaries of a rigorous and absolute kind and are so contrary to the facts, that their scientific usefulness is at the very least quite debatable. The size of a population is determined by the production of food according to Malthus; by production in general following M. Say, and by income after Sismondi. 652 But, if this is indeed the case, is is hard to see how mankind could ever make any progress if it weren't for the number of its people. As production or revenue increases for a nation or a class, if the number of people who make up this class or nation increase exactly in the same proportion, then the condition of human beings is unchangeable. Ten times more production in the 19th century compared to the 5th century; ten times more income in an industrious nation than in a primitive people; this implies a ten-fold increase in population for the century or the country which has become civilised, but this excludes any notion of individual improvement or progress. This is certainly not what the economists intended to say but it is the logical consequence of their formulas. They are thus more or less incomplete. What is important is to explain the laws of population growth and if it is then possible to summarise them in a brief phrase it would certainly be a happy moment for the advancement and spread of economic science. But if, because of the number and changing nature of the data we find that these laws resist being encapsulated in a formula with the logical rigor which science demands, we would have to give up this attempt and accept the inconvenience of having to use an inevitable wordiness instead of a deceptive concision to explain the problem.

The first fact to determine is the physiological power of the human race to multiply. It is clear that this is the upper limit in all cases beyond which any real growth of a population cannot go. Here we would like to be very clear and not encourage the accusations which, in our view, have been so inappropriately leveled against Malthus. This line of reasoning has been attributed to him: "Population increases in geometric progression; food production increases in arithmetic progression; therefore poverty, sickness, and death have to intervene in order to re-establish equilibrium." Malthus never made this foolish assumption: that people multiply in a geometric progression. He examined from a physiological perspective what the natural power of reproduction was for the human race, how much time it took for a given population to double in size on the assumption that the satisfaction of all its needs did not meet with any obstacle , 653 and concluded that this was a period of 25 years. 654 He came to this conclusion because direct observation of a people which most closely approximated his hypothesis (although still very far away geographically) had shown him. This was the example of the American people. Once he had found this period, and as it was always a matter of the theoretical power of growth, he said that a population tended to increase in a geometric progression. This, most certainly, is a veritable truism , since, according to the assumptions of the author , where the satisfaction of needs were completely assured in advance, there was no reason to believe that 2 thousand, 100 thousand, 1 million couples would not multiply in the same proportion as one thousand. In fact, this will not happen. Why? Because people, according to Malthus' hypothesis, are not like this; because their needs are not satisfied as soon as they appear; because it is necessary to create food so that these new generations imagined in theory can survive, 655 or, if you will, to create the means of existence so that they might live. Well, food cannot be doubled everywhere every 25 years. In fact, this is why populations do not double every 25 years. But what stands in the way of this power of nature, this theoretical force, this abstract principle of population growth? What makes a population, in all countries, instead of following the possible growth of this natural power, only and always follow the growth in food supplies? Obviously, it is because in reality fewer people are born and more people die than in this hypothesis. It is because people abstain from having children when they foresee that their needs will not be indefinitely and immediately be satisfied; or by not foreseeing this, they die. Since births and deaths are the only factors which can change the number of human beings, Malthus' division of checks to population into preventive and repressive ones must be complete.

That is Malthus' theory. I would like to observe here that this economist was wrong to adopt as the limit of human fertility this period of 25 years which was observed in the United States. By doing this he believed he could avoid any criticism of exaggerating and being too theoretical. How, he might say to himself, could anyone dare claim that I give too much latitude to what is theoretically possible if I base my conclusions on what is real ? Thus by mixing the real and the theoretical, by measuring the law of population growth (which was an abstraction which came from the law of population limits) by a period of time based upon facts which came from an historical example where these two laws operated together, he did not take care to avoid being misunderstood, which is what happened. He was mocked for his geometric and arithmetic progressions; he was criticised for taking the United States as being typical of the rest of the world. In a word, people used the confusion which arose from his use of two distinct laws in order to challenge him by pitting one law against the other.

But let it be well understood that when we examine what the power of reproduction means for the human race, we put aside for the moment all obstacles, physical or moral, which arise from the lack of space or food, and it is necessary to begin by recognising what the upper limit to the reproduction 656 of the species is, which human organisation makes theoretically possible. The first question we ask is therefore the following: given the age of puberty and the length of time a woman is fertile, what kind of progression could the reproduction of life follow, if it was not necessary to sustain it? With the human race, as with all other living creatures, this power is such that it is truly unnecessary to determine it exactly. It is sufficient to say that it exceeds by a huge amount all the examples of rapid population growth which one has observed in the past or which might be shown to exist in the future. In the case of wheat, assuming there are 5 stalks per seed and 20 grains per stalk, a single seed has the theoretical power to produce 10 billion in 5 years. For dogs, by reasoning from these two assumptions - that there are 4 pups per litter and 6 fertile years per bitch - that one pair would give birth over 12 years to 8 million offspring. For humans, setting the age of puberty at 16 and the length of child-bearing years at 30, each couple could give birth to 8 children. It is not necessary to reduce this number by half because of infant mortality, since we are reasoning, by hypothesis, that the needs of all kinds are satisfied as soon as they appear, a fact which greatly restricts the empire of death. Even so, these premises give us the following progression with a period of 17 years:

2 — 4 — 8 — 16 — 64 —256 —512, etc. 657

Thus we have more than 50 million people in 2 centuries.

What if we want to set puberty at 16 years and reduce to 6 the number of children that each couple can raise? One would have the following progression with a period of 21 years:

2 — 6 — 18 — 54 — 162 — 486 — 1,458, etc. 658

If one does the calculations according to the method used by Euler 659 the period for doubling will be every 12 and a half years, there will 8 periods in a century, and the growth during this period of time will be in the ratio of 512:2.

It is not useful to pursue this research any further. It is sufficient to recognise that in in our species, as in all others, the power of nature to multiply is greater than actual reproduction. Besides, it implies that there is a contradiction, that the actual exceeds the theoretical, and this is all that we wanted to establish.

In no historical period, in no country, have we seen the number of people increase with this frightening speed. According to Genesis , the Hebrews entering Egypt numbered seventy couples; in the Book of Numbers, two centuries later, we find that the census taken by Moses listed six hundred thousand men twenty-one years of age and over; hence, a total population of at least two million. 660 We may thus reckon that the population had doubled every fourteen years. 661 The statistical tables of the Bureau des Longitudes 662 are scarcely qualified to check biblical facts. Can we say that six hundred thousand fighting men implies a population greater than two million, and conclude from that a doubling period which is less than that calculated by Euler? We are entitled to cast doubt on Moses' census or Euler's calculations, but it certainly cannot be claimed that the Hebrews multiplied in numbers faster than it is possible to multiply. That is all that we ask.

After this example, which appears to be the one in which actual fertility most nearly approximated theoretical fertility, we have that of the United States. Here we know that, over the past three centuries, the doubling of the population takes place in less than twenty-five years. According to the research of M. Moreau de Jonnès, 663 who took as a starting point the growth of population which is taking place in our own time, the same phenomenon of doubling would take 43 years in Russia and England, 76 in Germany, 100 in Holland, 106 in Spain, 135 in Italy, 138 in France, 227 in Switzerland, 238 in Portugal, and 555 in Turkey. Thus there is a force which limits, restricts, and suspends to some degree the action of the physiological power which we have noted, and that this force is no doubt complex since it sets limits, which vary according to time and place, and are thus quite different to a power which had been considered to be uniform. The components of this force, the general factors which prevent all living creatures from reaching the law of doubling in their reproduction (a law which is a theoretical one for them), is also a law (if it is possible to recognise them and put them into a formula). I call it the law of population limits 664 and it is clear that the growth of the population in each country, in each class, is the result of the combined action of these two laws. But what does the law of population limits consist of? I think that one can say in a very general way that the reproduction of life is held back or prevented by the difficulty of sustaining life. It is important to deepen our understanding of this idea. It would be true to say that it constitutes the most important part of our subject.

Organisms that are alive but have no feeling, are entirely passive in this conflict between the two forces. For plants it is true in the most exact sense, that in each species numbers are limited by the means of subsistence. While there is a profusion of seeds, the resources of space and the fertility of the soil are finite. Seeds come to harm and destroy one another; they may fail to mature and if in the end they succeed, only in the numbers the soil can feed. Animals have feelings, but in general they appear to be without foresight; they reproduce, swarm, and breed rapidly, without a thought for their posterity. Only death, premature death, can limit their increase in numbers and maintain the balance between their numbers and their means of existence. 665 Mr. de Lamennais, when addressing the people in his inimitable style, said: 666

"There is a place for all on this earth, and God has made it sufficiently fertile to provide abundantly for the needs of all," And later: "The Author of the universe has not put man in a worse situation than that of the animals; are all not invited to the rich banquet of nature? Is a single one of them excluded?" And again: "Plants in the fields close to one another extend their roots in the soil that nourishes them all and all grow peacefully; none absorbs the sap of another.

It is possible to see this as merely fallacious oratory, which becomes the premises for dangerous conclusions, and to regret that such admirable eloquence should be devoted to popularizing the most disastrous errors. It is certainly not true that no plant steals the sap of another and that all extend their roots in the soil without hurting each other. Billions of plant seeds fall on the earth each year, start to sprout, and die, stifled by stronger and more vigorous plants. It is not true that all the animals that are born are invited to the banquet of nature and that none is excluded. 667 Among the wild species, animals prey on one another, and in the case of domesticated species man eliminates a considerable number. Indeed, nothing is more apt to show the existence of and relationship between these two principles, that of the growth of population and that of the limitation of population. Why are there in France so many bulls and sheep in spite of the massacres they suffer? Why are there so few bears and wolves, although fewer are killed and they organize their lives in ways consistent with their numbers increasing very substantially? It is because man provides food for the first group and removes it from the second. He uses the law of population limits with respect to them in such a way as to leave greater or lesser latitude to the law of fertility. Thus, for plants as for animals, the limiting force appears to show itself in one single form only, destruction . But man is endowed with reason and foresight, and this new element modifies and even changes the way this force acts with regard to him.

Doubtless, as a being equipped with physical organs and, to put it plainly, as an animal, he too is subject to the law of population limits by way of destruction. It is no longer possible for the number of people to exceed the means of existence: 668 that would mean that there would be more people than could exist, which implies a contradiction. Therefore, if reason and foresight have become dulled in man, he is vegetating and becoming brutish and this being so, while it is inevitable that he will increase in numbers given the great physiological law that dominates every species, it is equally inevitable that he should be destroyed by virtue of the law of population limits, of whose action he remains in this instance unaware. But if he is prudent, this second 669 law comes within the bounds of his will; he modifies it and directs it. Its nature changes; it is no longer a blind force, but one that is intelligent. It is no longer just a law of nature, but in addition a social law. Man is the point at which these two forces, matter and mind blend and merge; he does not belong exclusively to either. Therefore, for the human race, the law of population limits reveals itself through two influences and maintains the population at the required level through the twin action of foresight and destruction. These two effects do not have a uniform intensity. On the contrary, one expands as the other shrinks. There is one result that has to be achieved, population limits, and this is achieved more or less by repression or prevention , depending on whether man becomes more brutish or more thoughtful, depending on whether he is more physical or intellectual, and depending on whether he adopts more of a vegetative or moral way of living. The law is more or less external to him or within him, but it has to be somewhere.

We do not fully appreciate here in France how large a role foresight played in Malthus' thinking since the translator of Malthus greatly limited it by using this vague and quite inadequate expression "contrainte morale" (moral restraint), 670 which he further restricted by the definition he has given it; he says: "It is the virtue that consists in not marrying when you do not have the means to support a family and always to live in a chaste manner." 671 The obstacles that an intelligent human society places in the path of a possible increase in its numbers takes on many more forms than that of moral constraint as thus defined. And, for example, what is this revered ignorance of childhood, probably the sole form of ignorance that it would be a criminal act to dissipate, that everyone respects and over which a fearful mother watches as over a treasure? What is the modesty that succeeds ignorance, the mysterious weapon of young girls, which enchants and intimidates lovers and prolongs and embellishes the period of innocent love? Are the veils thus cast initially over ignorance and truth and the magic obstacles subsequently placed between truth and happiness not wonderful things, which would be absurd in any other context? What is the power of opinion that imposes laws that are so severe on the relationships of persons of different sex, stains the slightest infringement of these laws and pursues weakness, the person who yields to it, and those who are its sad offspring from generation to generation? What is this honor that is so fragile and this rigid reserve, so widely admired even by those who are emancipated from it, and what are the institutions, the problematic proprieties, and these precautions of all kinds, if not the action of the law of population limits as manifested in an order that is intelligent, moral, preventive, and consequently exclusively human? If these barriers are overthrown, and the human species takes no notice of convention, fortune, the future, public opinion, or customs, with regard to the union of the sexes, and returns to the condition of plant or animal species, is there any doubt that, for the human as for the plant and animal species, the power of reproduction would become so strong as to require the rapid intervention of the law of population limits , revealed this time in the physical world, one that is brutal, repressive , that is to say by the ministry of poverty, disease, and death? Is it possible to deny that, in the absence of any foresight or morality, there is enough attraction in the idea of the coming-together of the sexes to produce one, in our species as in all the others, from the outset of puberty? If we set the latter at sixteen years and if the civil records prove that people do not marry before the age of twenty-four in a given country, there are thus eight years subtracted by the moral and preventive aspect of the law of population limits from the workings of the law of population growth, and if you add to this figure what has to be attributed to absolute celibacy, you will be convinced that the intelligent human race has not been treated by the Creator like the brutal animal world, and that it is within its power to transform repressive limits into preventive limits. 672 It is rather strange that the spiritualist and materialist schools 673 should, so to speak, have changed roles on this major question. The spiritualist outlook, thundering against foresight, endeavors to have the brutish principle predominate, while the materialist view, exalting the moral aspect of man, exhorts the empire of reason over passions and appetites.

There is in all this a genuine misunderstanding. If the father of a family consults the most orthodox of priests over the management of his family, 674 he will certainly in specific instances receive advice that totally conforms to ideas that science has elevated into principles and that this same priest rejects as such. 675

"Hide your daughter", the old priest will say, "save her as far as you can from worldly attractions. Cultivate as far as you can and as you would a precious flower, the blessed ignorance, and the heavenly modesty which are both her charm and defense. Wait until an honorable and presentable suitor comes forward but nevertheless work to ensure her a reasonable fate. Remember that marriage in poverty brings a great deal of suffering and even greater dangers. Keep in mind the old proverbs that encompass the wisdom of nations and that warn us that prosperity is the surest guarantee of union and peace. Why be in a hurry? Do you want your daughter at the age of twenty-five to have a family that she is unable to raise and instruct in accordance with your social rank and position? Do you want her husband, incapable of overcoming the inadequacy of his wages, to succumb initially to financial distress, then fall into despair, and perhaps finally into misconduct? The project occupying your mind is the most serious of all those to which you can give your attention. Weigh it up, let it mellow, and avoid all haste, etc."

Suppose the father, imitating the style of Mr. de Lamennais, replies: "In the beginning, God gave this commandment to all men: Increase and multiply, fill the earth and subjugate it." And you, you tell a girl: "Renounce the family, the chaste attractions of marriage, and the holy joys of maternity, abstain and live alone; what would you have to increase other than your woes?" Do you think that the old priest would have anything to say against this line of reasoning?

God, he would say, has not ordered people to increase in number thoughtlessly and without measure, nor to couple like beasts with no thought for the future. He has not given his favorite creature reason in order to forbid him its use in the most solemn of circumstances. He has certainly ordered man to increase, but in order to do this he has to live, and in order to live he has to have the means. Therefore, in the order to increase in number is implied the order to provide the means of existence for the younger generations. Religion has not placed virginity in the category of crimes; far from it, it has made a virtue of virginity, honored, sanctified, and glorified it. It is therefore not to be believed that God's commandment is being violated because it is being prepared for prudently with a view to the good, the happiness, and the dignity of the family. Well, this line of reasoning and other similar ones dictated by experience, which we hear repeated daily around the world, which regulate the conduct of all moral and enlightened families, are they anything other than the application in individual cases of a general doctrine? Or rather, what is this doctrine, if not the generalization of a line of reasoning that recurs in all individual instances? 676 The partisan of the spiritualist tendency, who rejects in principle the intervention of preventive limitation, is like a physicist who says to people: "Act in all encounters as though weight existed but do not accept weight in theory."

We are going to see from this reason alone, 677 that man is a rational and moral creature, endowed with the faculty of judging the future by what happened in the past, and in changing his own destiny, that the law of population limits , which has only one component for other living creatures, namely the repressive check, has for mankind a second component, namely the preventive check, which is destined to reduce, neutralize, and absorb the first. Up until now, we have not departed from the Malthusian theory, but there is an attribute of the human race to which I think the majority of writers have not given the attention warranted by its importance, one which plays a huge role in the phenomena relating to population, one which solves several of the problems raised by this great question, and which regenerates in the souls of philanthropists a serenity and confidence that a deficient science seemed to have banished. This attribute, which is included, moreover, in the notions of reason and foresight, is perfectibility . Man is perfectible, he is capable of improvement or becoming worse. If it is called for, he may remain stationary. He is also capable, however, of ascending or descending the numberless steps of civilization. This is true for individuals, families, nations, or races. 678

It is said that the population tends to adjust to the level of the means of existence, 679 but are these means something which is fixed, absolute, and uniform? 680 Certainly not: as man becomes more civilized, the circle of his needs expands and this can even be said of simple subsistence . Considered from the point of view of a perfectible being, the means of existence , which have to be understood to include the satisfaction of physical, intellectual, and moral needs, have as many gradations as there are in civilization itself, that is to say that they are infinite. Doubtless there is a lower limit: to assuage hunger and protect yourself from a certain degree of cold is a condition of life, and we can glimpse this limit in the condition of the primitive peoples of America and the poor in Europe. I do not know, however, of an upper limit: there is none. Once natural needs have been met, they give rise to others, artificial at first, 681 if you like, but which habit makes second nature in turn, and these are followed by others and still more, without assignable limits. 682

Thus at each step that man takes along the path of civilization his needs encompass a circle that is ever-wider, and the means of existence , that meeting point of the two great laws of population growth and population limits, shift position in order to rise. This is because man, while as much subject to regression as to perfection, rejects the former and aspires to the latter. His efforts tend to keep him at the social rank he has achieved and advance him further, while habit , which we have so aptly called second nature, operating in the same way as the valves in our arteries, 683 erects obstacles to any retrograde step. It is therefore very easy for the intelligent and moral action that he exerts on his own reproduction to feel the effects of, be steeped in, and be inspired by these efforts, and combine them with these progressive habits.

The consequences of mankind being constituted in this way are legion: we will limit ourselves to mentioning just a few. First of all, we fully agree with the economists that population and the means of existence balance each other, but since the second of these terms is infinitely changeable and varies with the degree of civilization and with habits, we cannot accept, when it comes to comparing nations and classes, that population is proportional to production , as J. B. Say says, 684 or to income as Mr. de Sismondi claims. 685 Next, with each higher level of culture requiring more foresight, moral and preventive checks ought to neutralize the effect of brutal and repressive ones, at each stage of improvement which is achieved in society as a whole or in some of its parts. From this it follows that any social progress contains the seed of fresh progress, vires acquirit eundo, 686 since well-being and foresight build upon each other in an indefinite upward succession. In the same way, when, for whatever reason, the human race follows a downward path, ill-feeling and lack of foresight are cause and effect reciprocally and the downward spiral would have no end if society were not in possession of this curative force, vis medicatrix, 687 that Providence has placed in all living things. Indeed, we should note that at each period of decline, the effect of population limits in its destructive mode becomes both more painful and easier to discern. First of all, it is just a question of a deterioration and a worsening of conditions; this is followed by poverty, famine, disruption, war, and death, all sorry but unerring methods of teaching. 688

We would like to be able to pause here to show how far the theory explains the facts and how far in turn the facts justify the theory. When, for a nation or a class, the means of existence have dropped to the threshold at which they become confused with the means of mere subsistence, as in China, Ireland, and the lowest classes in all countries, the slightest variations in population or food supplies result in death, and the facts in this respect confirm scientific inference. Famine has not been seen in Europe for many years, 689 and the elimination of this scourge has been attributed to a host of causes. There are probably several, but the most general cause is that, because of social progress, the means of existence have risen high above the means of subsistence. When years of scarcity occur, a great many forms of satisfaction may be sacrificed before we have to cut back on food itself. This is not true in China and Ireland: when people have nothing in the world other than a little rice or potatoes, what will they use to buy other foods if this rice and these potatoes are no longer there?

Finally, there is a third consequence of human perfectibility, which we have to point out here because it contradicts the distressing aspects of Malthus's doctrine. We have attributed the following formula to this economist: "Population tends to adjust to the level of the means of subsistence." We ought to have said that he went far beyond this and that his true formula, the one from which he drew such distressing conclusions is this: "Population tends to exceed the means of subsistence." 690 If Malthus, by saying this, had simply wanted to propose that the human power to propagate life is greater than the power to sustain it, there would be no grounds for our objection possible. But this is not what his thinking is: he claims that, taking into consideration absolute fertility on the one hand and on the other the limitation of population shown by its two modes, repressive and preventive, the result is still a tendency of the population to exceed the means of staying alive. This is true for all living things except the human race. Man is intelligent, and is able to make unlimited use of the preventive limits to population. He is perfectible, he aspires to perfection, and he repudiates the idea of going backwards; progress is his normal condition and progress implies an increasingly enlightened use of preventive limits to population: therefore the means of existence increase faster than the population . Not only does this result derive from the principle of perfectibility but it is also confirmed by the facts , since the circle of satisfactions expands everywhere. If it were true, as Malthus says, that for each increase in the means of existence there will be a greater increase in the size of the population, then the poverty of our race would be doomed to increase, and civilization would be found at the beginning of time and barbarism at its end. The contrary has occurred, and therefore the law of population limits has had sufficient power to keep the flood of increasing numbers of people below the increase in the number of products.

All this shows us how vast and difficult the question of population is. Doubtless, it is regrettable that an accurate formula has not been given for it, and naturally I regret even more that I cannot give it myself. But can it not be seen how far the subject rebels against the narrow limits of a dogmatic axiom? And is it not totally pointless to wish to express the ratios of essentially variable data by an inflexible equation? Let us recall these data.

1. The law of population growth . The absolute, theoretical, and physiological power which exists in the human race to propagate itself, leaving aside the difficulty of maintaining it. This first given, the only one susceptible to a degree of precision, is the only one for which accuracy is likely to be unnecessary, for what does it matter where the upper limit of population growth is in theory if it can never be achieved in the actual situation of man, which is to maintain life by the sweat of his brow?

2. There is therefore a limit to the law of population growth. What is this limit? The means of existence, it is said. But what are the means of existence? They are a collection of satisfactions which are difficult to define. They vary and consequently move the limit being sought, depending on the place, time, race, social rank, customs, public opinion, and habits.

3. Finally, in what does the force that restrains the population within this movable limit consist? It is broken down into two parts with regard to man: the part that represses and the part that prevents. Well, the effect of the first, which in itself is not accessible to any form of rigorous assessment is, in addition, totally subordinated to the effect of the second, which depends on the level of civilization that exists, the force of habit, the inclinations of religious and political institutions, the organization of property, of labor and the family, etc. etc. It is therefore not possible to establish an equation between the law of population growth and the law of population limits that enables us to deduce the actual figure for the population. In algebra, a and b represent given quantities that are numbered and measured and whose proportions can be set, but the means of existence, the moral empire of the will, and the inexorable effect of mortality are three sets of data relating to the problem of population, data that are inherently flexible and which, in addition, take on something of the astonishing flexibility of the subject they regulate, namely man, that being, according to Montaigne, who is so marvelously changeable and diverse. 691 It is therefore not surprising that, by wishing to give this equation an accuracy it does not possess, economists have divided minds more than they have united them, for there is not one of the terms of their formulae that does not lay itself open to a host of objections based on reason and fact.

Let us now enter the field of application; application, apart from helping to elucidate doctrine, is the true fruit of the tree of knowledge. Here we are obliged to sketch out in broad strokes the theory which we have put forward under the term "Competition," a subject which has a close connection to what we are saying here. 692

As we have said, labor is the sole object of exchange. In order to acquire a useful thing (unless nature has given it to us free of charge), effort is required to produce it or to compensate someone for the trouble they have taken on our behalf. Man creates absolutely nothing: he organizes, arranges, and moves things about for a purpose. He does none of these things without effort, and the result of the trouble he takes is his property. If he hands it over to somebody, he has the right to restitution in the form of a service judged to be comparable in value, following free negotiation. Such is the basis of value, remuneration, and exchange, a basis no less true for being simple. In what we refer to as products , are various amounts of natural utility and various amounts of artificial utility , 693 only the latter involves the use of labor and it alone is the subject of human transactions. Without contradicting in any way J. B. Say's famous and fruitful formula: "Products are exchanged for other products," 694 I see as more strictly scientific the following one: " Labor is exchanged for other labor ", or better still, " Services are exchanged for other services ". 695

By this it should not be understood that labor is exchanged for other labor on the basis of duration or intensity, or that the person who hands over one hour of effort or the one whose effort sends the needle of a dynamometer 696 to 100 degrees is always able to demand that a similar effort is made in his favor. Duration and intensity are two elements that influence the evaluation of work, 697 but they are not the only ones: there is work that is more or less repellent, dangerous, difficult, intelligent, farsighted, and even successful. Where free and voluntary transactions prevail, where property is totally assured, each person is master of his own efforts and consequently master of the right not to hand anything over unless it is at his price. There is a limit to what he will agree to do, the point at which it is more advantageous for him to keep his labor rather than exchange it, and also a limit to his claims, the point at which it is to the benefit of the other contracting party to refuse the barter. Workers seek, 698 and it is their right to do so, to take advantage of any circumstances which might increase the value of their efforts; one calls to his aid a natural resource; another an ingenious industrial process, or a tool which he has had the foresight to acquire. The truly harmonious 699 task of competition, that egalitarian force against which people rise up in our time in such a casual manner, is to prevent anyone having a monopoly of these circumstances and to keep within the bounds of justice all excessive claims.

In society there are as many social strata, 700 if I may put it this way, as there are grades in rates of pay. The least well paid of all types of work is the one that is closest to physical and mindless labor. This is an arrangement of providence which is simultaneously just, useful, and inevitable. The ordinary manual laborer rapidly reaches this limit of his claims of which I have just spoken, since there is nobody who cannot carry out the mechanical type of work he offers, and he himself is pushed by the limit of what he will agree to do because he is incapable of taking on the intelligent effort which this demands. Duration and intensity , which are properties of a material nature, are really the only determinants of pay for this type of physical labor and this is why he is generally paid by the day . All the progress made by industry is encapsulated in this: the replacement of a certain sum of artificial utility in each product that consequently has to be paid for, by the same amount of natural utility that is free of charge for this reason. It follows from this that if there is one class in society that has the most interest in free competition, it is above all the working class. What would be its fate if the forces of nature, industrial processes, and the tools of production were not constantly obliged by competition to give the results of their cooperation to everyone free of charge ? It is not the simple day laborer who knows how to take advantage of heat, gravity, and elasticity, or who invents the processes and owns the tools through which these forces are harnessed. When these discoveries are first made, the work of inventors, people of the highest intelligence, is very highly paid; in other words, it is the equivalent of a vast amount of brute, physical labor, or to put it another way, its product is expensive . But competition intervenes, the product decreases in price, the cooperation of the services of nature no longer benefits the producer but the consumer, and the labor that uses these services comes closer in terms of pay to the work whose pay is calculated by its duration. In this way, the common fund of free wealth increases constantly. Products of all sorts tend over time to become more and more like our supply of water, air, and light, which are offered to us free of charge. Therefore the level of the human race is drawn upward and becomes more equal and therefore, if we leave aside the law of population, the lowest class in society is the one whose improvement is the fastest. However, we did say this is so if we leave aside the law of population, which brings us back to our subject.

Let us imagine a basin in which a channel that is growing ever wider brings in water that is ever more abundant. If you take account only of this fact, the level must rise constantly, but if the walls of the basin are mobile and can move backward and forward, it is clear that the height of the water will depend on the way this new situation works in conjunction with the first. The water level will decrease, however rapidly the volume of the water filling the basin increases, if the capacity of the basin increases faster still; it will rise if the perimeter of the reservoir expands proportionally only very slowly, even more if it remains static and, above all, if it gets smaller.

This is the image of the social stratum whose lot we are seeking to ascertain, a group, it has to be said, which constitutes the majority of the human race. Its remuneration, facilitating the purchase of the objects required to satisfy its needs, and to maintain life, is the water entering through the expandable channel. The mobility of the walls of the basin represents the movement of population. As we have shown in our article on "Competition", 701 it is certain that the means of existence reach this population in an ever growing progression; but it is also certain that their numbers can be enlarged by following an even faster progression. In this class, therefore, life will be more or less happy and more or less decent depending on whether the moral, intelligent, and preventive functions of the law of population limits will circumscribe to a greater or lesser degree the absolute principle of population growth. There is a limit to the increase in numbers of the working class, and that is when the growing funds for their pay become nevertheless insufficient to keep them alive. There is no improvement possible for them in this situation, because of the two elements that constitute this improvement, one, namely wealth, is constantly growing, while the other, population, is subject to their will.

All that we have just said about the lowest social stratum, the one that does the heaviest physical work, also applies to all the other social strata lying one above the other, and classified among themselves in inverse order, so to speak, to their respective coarseness and unskilled character. Taking each class by itself, all are subject to the same general laws. In all there is conflict between the physiological power of population growth and the moral power of limiting that growth. The only thing that differs from one class to the next is the point at which these two forces meet, that is the total number of people which their income will support and the habits and customs which limit this number. This limit between the two laws is what we call the means of existence.

But if we consider the various social strata, not in isolation but in their mutual relationships, I think that we can glimpse the influence of two forces pulling in opposite directions and this is certainly where the explanation of the actual situation of the human race lies. We have established how all economic phenomena, and in particular the law of competition, tend to lead to the equality of conditions; that does not seem theoretically deniable. Since no natural advantage, no ingenious industrial process, and none of the tools by which these processes are implemented, can permanently be limited to producers as producers; since , by an unstoppable gift of Providence, the results tend to become part of the common, free, and consequently equal heritage of all people, it is clear that the poorest class is the one that gains the greatest relative benefit from the admirable operation of the laws of social economy. 702 Just as poor people are as liberally treated as the rich with regard to the air we breathe, so they likewise become equal to the rich with regard to that part of the price of things that progress is constantly eliminating. There is therefore in the depths of the human race a prodigious tendency toward equality . I am not speaking here of a tendency at the level of aspiration but of one that is achieved. Nevertheless, equality is not achieved, or else it is achieved so slowly that when you compare a society over a period two centuries you scarcely notice its progress. It is actually so hard to discern that many fine minds deny it, although certainly mistakenly. What is the cause of this delay in merging the classes at a level that is common and constantly rising?

I do not think that we need to seek it anywhere else than in the varying degrees of the foresight present in each social stratum with regard to population. The law of population limits, as we have said, is at the disposal of men with regard to its moral and preventive aspects. Man, as we have also said, is perfectible, and as he advances he uses this law more intelligently. It is therefore natural that as they become more enlightened, these classes know how to subject themselves to more effective efforts and impose on themselves sacrifices that are better understood, in order to maintain their respective population at the level of the means of existence suited to them.

If statistics were sufficiently advanced, they would probably convert this theoretical reasoning into certainty by showing that marriages occur later in the higher levels than in the lower levels of society. Well, if this is so, it is easy to understand why, in the great market 703 to which all the classes bring their respective services and in which labor of a variety of kinds is exchanged, manual labor is in most abundant supply compared to intellectual labor, which explains the persistence of this inequality of situations that so many powerful causes of a different nature unceasingly tend to erase. 704

The theory that we have just set out briefly leads to the practical result that the best forms of philanthropy and the best social institutions are those that, when they operate in line with the Providential plan as revealed to us by the social harmonies, 705 that is to say, equality in progress, 706 spread knowledge, reason, morality, and foresight throughout all of the social strata of humanity, especially the lowest.

We mention institutions because in fact foresight results as much from the requirements of one's situation as from purely intellectual reflection. There is a particular organization of property, or to put it better, a particular way of using property, which encourages more than anything else what economists call knowledge of the market, 707 and consequently planning for the future? It seems certain for example that sharecropping is much more efficient than tenant farming 708 as a preventive check to excessive increases in population among the lower classes. A family of sharecroppers is much more capable than a family of day laborers of seeing the disadvantages of early marriage and uncontrolled increases in their numbers.

We also mention the forms of philanthropy. Indeed, alms may do some good at a specific time and place, but they can have only a very restricted influence on the well-being of the working class as a whole, if in fact they are not disastrous, for they do not develop, and perhaps even paralyze, the virtue that is most likely to improve the condition of this class, which is foresight . Disseminating sound ideas, and above all, habits marked by the spirit of a certain dignity, is the greatest and longest lasting good that can be done for the lower classes.

We cannot repeat too often that the means of existence are not a fixed quantity; they depend on customs, public opinion, and habits . 709 On all the rungs of the social ladder the same repugnance is felt at dropping down from the social position to which one is accustomed, as others may feel about being on the lowest rung of all. Perhaps this suffering may even be greater in the aristocrat whose noble offspring become lost among the bourgeoisie, than in the bourgeois whose sons become day-laborers, or in the day-labourers whose children are reduced to begging. The habit of enjoying a certain standard of living and having some dignity in life is thus the strongest incentive to the practice of foresight, and if ever the working class raises itself up in order to enjoy certain pleasures, it will not wish to fall back down and have to relinquish them. 710 In opposition to the actions of the upper classes to force it to do this, the working class will soon resort to an infallible remedy, namely the law of preventive limitation. It will then have to be given a wage which is in harmony with its new habits, without which it will cease increasing in numbers. This is why I regard as one of the finest demonstrations of philanthropy the decision that appears to have been taken in England by a great many landowners and owners of factories to tear down mud and thatch cottages and replace them with brick-built houses, which are clean, spacious, well-lit, well ventilated, and properly furnished. If this measure were to be generally followed, it would raise the level of the working class, convert into genuine needs what is currently a relative luxury, and would raise this limit which we call the means of existence and consequently the rate of pay at its lower level. Why not? The lowest class in civilized nations is at a level well above that of the lowest class in primitive societies. It has raised itself up; why should it not continue to do so?

However we should be under no illusions; progress is necessarily extremely slow, because it has to be general to some degree. We might imagine it happening rapidly in one part of the world if nations had no influence on one another, but this is not so. There is a great law of solidarity that governs the human race, both with regard to progress and to decline. If, for example, in England the situation of the workers improved considerably as a result of a general increase in wages, French industry would have more opportunity of getting the better of its rival and, through its expansion, would slow the movement toward progress that had arisen on the other side of the Channel. It seems that Providence has not wanted one nation to raise itself over others beyond a certain limit. Thus, both in the larger picture and in the detail of human society, we always find that admirable and inflexible forces tend in the end to confer individual or collective benefits on the masses and to harness all instances of temporary superiority and bring them back to a shared level that, like the ocean at high tide, is constantly spreading out evenly and constantly rising.

To conclude, if we assume as given that perfectibility is the distinctive characteristic of man, and that the effects of competition and the law of population limits are also known, the fate of the human race solely from the point of view of its destiny on earth, seems to us to be able to be summarized in this way. There will be : 1. an improvement of all social strata simultaneously, or of the general level of the human race; 2. a constant convergence of all social levels and the successive elimination of the distance separating the classes up to a limit established by absolute justice; 3. the relative reduction in terms of the numbers of the lowest and highest social strata and an expansion of the middle strata. People will say that these laws are bound to bring about absolute equality. No more than the eternal convergence of a straight line and an asymptote is bound to lead to their intersecting. 711



12. T.105 "To M. de Noailles in the Chamber of Peers (on Perfidious Albion)" (24 Jan. 1847, LE)


T.105 (1847.01.24) "M. de Noailles to the Chamber of Peers (on Perfidious Albion)" (M. de Noailles à la Chambre des Pairs), LE , 24 Jan. 1847, no. 9, p. 66. [OC2.38, pp. 216-19.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

In this short essay from his free trade journal Le Libre-Échange Bastiat returns to a topic which greatly interested him, the idea that in general free trade benefits one party at the expense of another, and in particular that England ("Perfidious Albion") stood to benefit from a policy of free trade at the expense of the other European nations, especially France. Bastiat referred to "Perfidious Albion" repeatedly in the Economic Sophisms and very wittily coined his own term "Perfidious Normandy" to make fun of the idea that farmers in Normandy were deliberately trying to destroy the economy of Paris by selling them cheap butter. 712 Both the Normandy farmers and British manufacturers were just selling the things they produced best at prices which were very attractive to Parisian consumers, and both parties benefited from the transaction.

Bastiat thought that Montaigne was partly responsible for the widespread belief that "One Man's gain is another Man's loss." This was the title of one of Montaigne's Essays and Bastiat thought it was the "classical example of a sophism, the root stock sophism from which comes multitudes of sophisms." He planned to write a sophism specifically to refute this idea but did not go beyond writing a draft. 713


M. de Noailles in the Chamber of Peers 714

24 January 1847

Our mission is to combat the mistaken and dangerous form of political economy that promotes the belief that the prosperity of one nation is incompatible with the prosperity of another, that lumps together trade and conquest, and production and domination. For as long as these ideas persist the world will never be able to count on twenty-four hours of peace. Worse: peace would be an absurdity and an irrelevance.

This is what we read in the speech given by Mr. de Noailles recently in the Chamber of Peers:

We know that England's interests lie in the destruction of Spain's trade so that England is in a position to swamp Spain with her own . Anarchy promotes weakness and poverty and England finds it profitable for Spain to be weak and poor . In a word, in the nature of things, England's policy entails her wishing to possess Spain in order to annihilate it, so that she has a populous nation to feed and clothe . (Hear, hear) 715

Of course, we will set aside the questions of Spain and diplomacy. We will limit ourselves to pointing out the absurdity and danger of the theory professed here by the noble Lord.

To say that a commercial and industrial country is interested in destroying all the others in order to flood them 716 with its products and to feed, clothe, house, and lodge their inhabitants is to summarize in two lines so many contradictions that we scarcely know where to begin simply to point them out.

What is at the root of a trader's wealth is the wealth of his customers, and when Mr. de Noailles states that England wants to impoverish those who buy her goods I would be equally gratified to hear him say that our neighbor, the Delisle Company, 717 is waiting for Paris to be ruined, for no more balls to be held, and for women to stop dressing up, in order to make its fortune.

On the other hand, it appears that, according to Mr. Noailles, one nation in particular aspires to feed and clothe all the others, and that in this respect this nation has calculated, and what is very strange, that it has calculated correctly. This nation wants nobody to work anywhere in order to work for everyone. Its aim is to make available to all both food and shelter without ever accepting anything from anyone, since anything it accepted would be a loss for it. Finally, and this is the greatest marvel, Mr. de Noailles believes and says, with a straight face, that England, by giving a great deal and receiving little, is impoverishing others and enriching herself.

Truly, it is high time that a tissue of banalities like this should cease to be the standard intellectual fare of our country. For our part, we are determined to harshly criticize these doctrines whenever they dare to appear, no matter from whose mouth they issue, for they are not only absurd in the extreme, they are above all anarchic and anti-social. In effect, short of gratuitously limiting yourself to puerile outbursts, it has to be acknowledged that the motive behind the actions of the producers is the same in all countries. If therefore the interest of English workers is to reduce prosperity and ruin the world, it is also the same for all Belgian, French, Spanish, and German workers, and then we would live in a world in which nobody can better himself without destroying the entire human race.

But, people will say, Mr. de Noailles is merely expressing a view that is widely held. Is it not true that the English are above all seeking markets and that consequently their main aim is to sell, not to buy?

No, that is not true, and it would not be true even if the English believed it themselves. We admit that, to their misfortune and that of the world, this mistaken principle, which is also that of the protectionist regime, entirely directed their policy for centuries, which explains the universally held distrust of which Mr. de Noailles is the mouthpiece. However, England came in the end to be influenced by a diametrically opposite principle, that of freedom, a system of ideas in which the following truth is much simpler and very much more comforting:

The English want to enjoy a host of things that do not come from their island, or which come only in insufficient quantity. They want sugar, tea, coffee, cotton, wood, fruit, wheat, butter, meat, etc. In order to obtain these things abroad they have to pay for them, and they pay for them with the fruit of their labor. The imports of a nation are the satisfactions it acquires for itself and its exports are the payment for these satisfactions. The real aim of any nation (whatever it thinks itself) is to import the most possible and export the least possible, just as the aim of every man in his business dealings is to acquire a great deal and give away as little as possible.

How much trouble it takes to have such a simple truth understood! And yet it has to be understood. The peace of the world depends on it.



13. T.111 "A Curious Economic Phenomenon. Financial Reform in England" (21 Feb. 1847, LE)


T.111 (1847.02.21) "A Curious Economic Phenomenon. Financial Reform in England" (Curieux phénomène économique. La Réforme financière en Angleterre), LE , 21 Feb. 1847, no. 13, pp. 97-98. [OC2.32, pp. 186-93.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

In this article Bastiat provides an early account of what today is known as the "Laffer curve" which describes how cutting high marginal tax rates may increase the tax base so much that tax revenues increase in the long term. 718 He also returned to this topic in the pamphlet Peace and Liberty or the Republican Budget (February 1849). 719 Bastiat attributes the discovery of this seemingly strange idea that cutting tax rates might increase government revenue to the economic journalist James Wilson 720 who described it for the first time in commenting upon the tax reforms which Sir Robert Peel introduced in England between 1842 and 1846. 721

The background to these tax reforms were the two rebellions which broke out in Canada in 1837 in protest against corruption in the local government. The first one broke out in Lower Canada (Québec) in November and was followed shortly afterwards by one in Upper Canada (Ontario). Several of the ringleaders were hanged and others were transported to the British penal colony in Australia. The rebellion led to an Inquiry by Lord Durham which produced a Report on the Affairs of British Canada and then to the British North America Act of 1840. This in turn led to reforms enabling greater autonomy and self-government in many of the British colonies. Repressing the rebellion cost a great a deal and the British government experienced a fiscal crisis which was dealt with by Sir Robert Peel who was Prime Minister between August 1841 until his defeat on 29 June 1846 shortly after the repeal of the Corn Laws. His solution to the budget deficit was to impose an income tax of about 3% which allowed him to raise revenue, cover the deficit, and cut tariffs on many hundreds of items. The income tax had first been introduced in Britain during the war against Napoleon in 1798 by William Pitt (the Younger). It was progressive in that incomes above 60 pounds per annum were taxed at 2 pence in the pound (1/120) up to 2 shillings in the pound (10%) over 200 pounds. It was abolished in 1802 during a lull in the fighting but introduced again in 1803 and lasted until after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) in 1816. The tax was re-introduced by Peel in 1842 to cover the growing budget deficit. It was levied on annual incomes above 150 pounds. Although it was intended to be temporary it became a permanent feature of the British tax system.

The struggles of the British government to balance its budget were observed with great interest by the supporters of free trade, especially the economic journalist (and later politician) James Wilson. Wilson founded the magazine The Economist in 1843, and was elected to Parliament in 1847. His pamphlet on Peel's economic and tax reforms The Revenue; Or, What Should the Chancellor Do? (1841) was the source for much of Bastiat's data in this article. 722

It is interesting to see here Bastiat punning on the phrase "le bon marché" in his discussion at the end of the article about what "a good price" means for sellers and for consumers. Sellers want "un bon prix" (a good or high price) so they can make profits, while consumers want to to buy goods "au bon marché" (at bargain or basement prices). The protectionist system made it possible for sellers to have high prices as a result of government privileges; free and open markets made it possible for consumers to have their low prices. Consumers were also beginning to benefit from important innovations in shopping which were taking place in the late 1830s and 1840s in England and France, namely the invention of the "department store" in which a wide variety of goods were sold inside one building, at fixed prices, and with guarantees for returns and refunds if the customer was not happy with their purchase. One of the pioneers in this field in Paris was Aristide Boucicaut who founded a store called "Le Bon Marché" in Paris in 1838. The phrase "la vie à bon marché" (life at bargain prices, or life when things are cheap) was used by Bastiat as one of the three mottoes underneath the title banner of his free trade magazine Le Libre-Échange which appeared between November 1846 and April 1848. He defines what he means by this expression in a letter published in October 1846 thanking Lamartine for inventing it: "It is you, I believe, who were the first to use the expression: "Life when things are cheap," words that might be the motto of our Free Trade association, for life when things are cheap, is life that is easier, sweeter, and less fraught with tiredness and anguish, more dignified, more intellectual and more moral. Life when things are cheap is the result that trade, and above all free trade, tends to produce." (See below p. 000.) The first occurrence of this expression in print can be found in Lamartine's "Speech to the Marseilles Free Trade Association" on 24 August 1847. 723


In the session on the 9 th of February, Mr. Léon Faucher 724 called the Chamber's attention to the financial circumstances that hastened the arrival of the trade reforms in England. There was a whole series of facts, as interesting as they were instructive, which we consider to be deserving of the serious consideration of our readers, in particular those who operate industries which receive government privileges. Perhaps they will learn that monopolies do not always deliver what they appear to promise, any more than high taxes do.

In 1837, when the insurrection in Canada had brought about an increase in expenditure, which was coupled with a decrease in revenue, financial equilibrium was destroyed in England and there was an initial deficit of 16 million francs.

The following year, there was a second deficit of 10 million; 1839 left an overdraft of 37 million and 1840 one of 40 million.

The government thought seriously about how to end this ever-increasing calamity. It had a choice of two methods: reducing expenditure or increasing revenue. Either because, in the view of the government, the round of reforms conducive to reducing expenditure had already been in operation since 1815 or because, according to the way of all governments, it considered itself obliged to exhaust the nation before touching the established rights 725 of the civil servants, the fact remains that its initial thought was the one that comes to all governments: squeeze whatever one can out of taxes.

Consequently, Russell's cabinet 726 instigated and the Commons duly passed a bill that authorized an additional charge of 10 percent to be imposed on land tax, 5 percent on Customs and Excise, and 4 pence per gallon on spirits.

Before going any further, it would be a good thing to cast an eye on the manner in which public taxes were apportioned in the United Kingdom at that time. 727

The figure for revenue was approximately 47 million pounds sterling.

This was drawn from three sources: Customs and Excise , a type of tax that affected everyone more or less equally, that is to say, it fell in huge proportion on the working classes; assessed taxes , 728 or land tax that affected the rich, especially in England, and Stamp Duty which has a mixed character.

The tax on the people produced 36 million or 9/12 of the total;

The tax on the rich, 4 million or 1/12 of the total;

The mixed tax 7 million or 2/12.

From which it follows that commerce, private enterprise, and labor, that is the middle and poor classes in society, paid five-sixths of the public charges, which doubtless caused Mr. Cobden 729 to say, "If our financial code reached the moon with no comment, the inhabitants of this satellite would need no other document to be persuaded that England is governed by an aristocracy that is the master of the land and the legislative process." 730

Let us note in passing, and to France's honor, that while landowners in England pay only a total of 8 percent in taxes, in this country they account for 33 percent, 731 and in addition they pay a much larger share of consumption tax in view of their numbers.

As a result of the issues discussed above, the additional charges thought up by the Whigs were meant to produce:

1,426,040 pounds sterling, being 5 percent for Customs and Excise, not including spirits;

186,000 pounds sterling, being 4 pence per gallon on spirits;

400,000 pounds sterling, being 10 percent on land tax.

Here again the nation was called upon, in a ratio of 4:5, to make good the deficit brought about through the errors of the oligarchy. 732

The bill was implemented at the beginning of 1840. On 5 April 1841, the balance was examined anxiously and it was not without surprise mingled with terror that it was seen that, instead of the expected increase of 2,200,000 pounds sterling, there was a decrease in revenue compared with the previous year, of a few hundred thousand pounds.

This was an unexpected revelation. It was therefore in vain that the nation had been subjected to new taxes, and it would be equally pointless to have recourse to this solution in the future. Experience had just revealed a significant fact, that England had reached the extreme limit of its tax potential, and in future it would be impossible to extract from it another shilling through taxes. Nevertheless, the deficit was still a gaping hole.

The "Theorists," 733 as they are called, started to examine this threatening phenomenon. The idea occurred to them that they might perhaps increase revenue by decreasing taxes, an idea that appeared to imply a shocking contradiction. Apart from the theoretical reasons they put forward to support their view, some previous experiences provided a certain support for their opinion. However, for those people who, although committed to the cult of the facts , are not unduly averse to the reasons behind those facts , we must say how they supported their views.

"The yield of a tax on a consumer item", they said, "depends on the rate of tax and the quantity consumed. For example, if the tax is one and ten pounds of sugar is consumed, the revenue will be ten. This revenue will increase either because the rate of tax is raised with consumption remaining the same, or consumption increases with the rate of tax remaining the same. It will decrease if one or other of these elements changes and will still decrease if, although one of them increases, the other decreases to a greater extent. Thus, even if you raise the tax to 2, if consumption decreases to 4, revenue will be only 8. In this last case, the hardship for the people will be enormous, with no advantage, indeed much worse, with a loss to the Treasury."

This having been established, are the multiplier and the multiplicand independent of each other, or is it possible to increase one only at the expense of the other? The answer of the Theorists was:

"Tax acts just like all production costs, it raises the price of things and puts them out of range of a certain number of people. From this we obtain the following mathematical conclusion: if a tax is gradually and indefinitely raised, for the very reason that at each degree of elevation consumption of the taxable material is gradually further restricted, there will of necessity arrive a time at which the slightest addition to the tax will reduce revenue."

Let sincere protectionists, of whom there are many, allow us to call this phenomenon to their attention. We will see later that overdoing protection will put them in the same position as the Treasury when it imposes excessive taxation.

The Theorists did not stop at this arithmetical theorem. Delving deeper into the question, they said: "If the government were more conscious of the deplorable state of the nation's resources, it would not have taken a step which creates such confusion."

In fact, if the individual situation of its citizens were stationary, the revenue from indirect taxation would increase exactly in line with the population. What is more, if national capital and with it general well-being, increased, revenue ought to increase faster than the number of people. Finally, if the ability to consume is reduced, the Treasury must suffer. It follows from this that when you have before you the twin phenomenon of an increase in population and a decrease in revenue, there is a double reason for concluding that the people are being subjected to gradually increasing hardship. In these circumstances, to increase the price of things is to subject the citizens to additional hardship, with no tax advantage.

Well, from this point of view, what was the situation in 1840?

It had been noted that the population was increasing by 360,361 inhabitants per year.

In this case, assuming only that individual resources remained stationary, what ought the product of Customs and Excise to have been and what was it in fact? The following table will show us this: 734

Year Population Expected tax revenue Actual tax revenue













£ sterling






£ sterling






So even in the absence of any progress in production, and solely because of the force of numbers, the revenue, which in 1836 had been 36 million, ought to have been 38 million in 1840. It fell to 35 million, in spite of the surtax of 5 percent, a result which the downturn of the previous years ought to have predicted. What is strange is that in the five previous years the opposite happened. As Customs and Excise duties were reduced, public revenue increased more than proportionately to population growth.

Perhaps readers will guess the consequences that the Theorists drew from these observations. They told the government: "You can no longer usefully increase the multiplier (the rate of tax) without changing the multiplicand (the taxable material) to a greater extent; by lowering the tax, try to allow the nation's resources to increase."

But this was an enterprise fraught with danger. Even if they admitted that in the distant future it might be crowned with success, it is well known that time is needed for reductions in tax to fill the void they create and, let us not forget, they were facing a deficit.

It was a question, therefore, of doing no less than digging this abyss ever deeper, of compromising the credit of the England of old and opening the gate to incalculable catastrophe.

The problems were pressing. They brought down the Whig government. Peel assumed office.

We know how he solved the problem. He began by imposing a tax on the wealthy. In this way, he created for himself the resources not only to cover the deficit but also to meet the temporary deficits that the reforms he was contemplating were bound to cause.

Through income tax , 735 he relieved the nation of the burden of excise and, in line with the dissemination by the League 736 of healthy economic ideas, of Customs restrictions. At present, in spite of the abolition of a great many taxes and the reduction of all the others, the Exchequer would be flourishing were it not for the unforeseen calamities that have overwhelmed Great Britain. 737

We have to agree that Mr. Peel has led this financial revolution with astonishing energy and force. It is not without reason that he often described these measures as " Bold experiments. " 738 Far be it for us to wish to undermine the reputation of this Statesman and belittle the gratitude of the English working classes and, it might be said, of every country. However, having done it is enough for his glory, and we have to say in all justice that the invention in its entirety is the work of a Theorist, a simple journalist named Mr. James Wilson, whose advice, if it were followed, might perhaps be able to save Ireland in 1847 just as it saved England in 1840.

Now the men who seek the success of their businesses in monopoly will be asking us what analogy there is between the facts we have just recalled and the protectionist regime.

We ask them to look closely at the situation and to see whether they are not in the same rather ridiculous position that the Exchequer was in 1840.

What is protectionism? A tax on consumers. You say that it benefits you. Well, probably, much as taxes benefit the Treasury. However, you cannot prevent these taxes from reducing the economic wherewithal of the consumer, his power to buy, pay for, and consume products. Certainly, he will consume less wheat and woolen cloth than he would have if these products had come to him from all over the world. This is already very harmful, and we would even say a great injustice, but with regard to you and your interests, the question is to establish whether you will not experience the same fate as the tax authorities, whether there will not come a time when this destruction of the power of consumption will not deprive you of markets to such an extent that this outweighs the value of the protection you receive. In other words, if in this conflict between the artificial raising of prices resulting from protectionist duties and the reduction of prices caused by the inability of buyers to pay, the latter element does not outweigh the former, in which case you would obviously lose both on the sales price and on the quantity sold.

To this you will reply that there is a contradiction. That since the powerlessness of consumers to pay can be attributed to the level of prices, it cannot be granted that, under a regime of liberty, prices might rise unless we also grant by the same token that markets might shrink and that, for the same reason, an increase in sales implies a decrease in prices, since one is the effect and the other the cause.

The answer to this is that you are deceiving yourself. A country may certainly be imagined in which everyone is sufficiently prosperous for things to be be sold even at high prices, and another (country) where everyone is so destitute that sales cannot be made even at bargain basement prices. 739 It is to this second state that we are being led, both by the heavy taxes that go to the Treasury and the heavy taxes that go to the manufacturers, and there will come a time when the Treasury and the manufacturers have only one means left to maintain and increase their revenues, and that is to reduce the rates of taxation and allow the general public to breathe.

Moreover, this is not an unsupported argument. Every time the pressure of a protectionist duty has been lifted from a nation, two opposing trends emerge which influence the price. The absence of protection has certainly caused it to drop but the increase in demand has just as certainly driven it up, so that the price is at the very least maintained and the net advantage of the operation is increased consumption. You say that this is not possible. We say that it is, and if you will only check the current prices of coffee, silk, sugar and wool in England in the years following the reduction in protectionist duties, you will be convinced of this. 740



14. T.118 "Two Methods of Equalizing Taxes" (4 April 1847, LE)


T.118 (1847.04.04) "Two Methods of Equalizing Taxes" (Deux modes d'égalisation de taxes); original title: "Le libre échange demontré par l'example du sucre de betteraves" (Free Trade makes its point with the example of Beet Sugar), LE , 4 April 1847, no. 19, p. 152. [OC2.40, pp. 222-25.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat mentioned sugar several times in his writings 741 because of two factors. Firstly, it was an important source of revenue for the French government. The taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and sugar raised 308 million Fr. in 1848 or 19% of all revenue and these fell most heavily on the poor. And secondly, the sugar industry was in the unique position of being divided into two powerful groups who fought each other for better tax treatment, or what Horace Say called "la rivalité des deux sucres" (the rivalry of the two kinds of sugar). 742 This battle was between domestically produced sugar from sugar beets and foreign produced sugar from sugar cane grown in the French and other countries' colonies, often by slave labour. The domestic sugar beet industry had grown up in France as a result of Napoleon's Continental Blockade which had guaranteed French producers a monopoly for their product. Throughout the Restoration and the July Monarchy the two branches of the sugar industry fought each other in the Chamber over tax and tariff policy.

Originally the sugar beet industry was exempt from paying duties and taxes whereas foreign produced sugar suffered from a nearly prohibitive duty of 45 Fr. per 100 kg. The foreign sugar producers fought back between 1837 and 1839 and were able to get the Chamber to impose a duty of 25 fr per 100 kg on sugar produced from sugar beet in July 1840. Not surprisingly the sugar beet industry formed its own lobby group, the "Comité central des fabricants de sucre de betterave" (Central Committee of Sugar Beet Producers), in May 1840 which was too late to prevent the new tax but they were able to retain the much higher tax on foreign cane sugar at 45 Fr., thus enjoying a 20 Fr differential in duties. However, this differential did not stay for long. The Chamber agreed in principle in July 1843 that there should be "l'égalité des taxes" (equal taxes) placed on the two branches of the sugar industry. This came into effect in August 1847 (so soon after Bastiat wrote this piece) with a common duty of 45 Fr per 100 kg of premium sugar from any source.

This French debate might be likened to contemporary debates about the need for governments to ensure "a level playing field" before introducing a policy of free trade. Bastiat addressed the issue of "equalisation" in this article on the "Equalisation of Taxation" and in an earlier article on "Equalizing the Conditions of Production" in July 1845. 743

Slave produced sugar came to an end when slavery was abolished by the Constituent Assembly on 27 April after the February Revolution of 1848.


Those in favor of free trade have used what has happened to beet sugar as an argument to prove that the fear of competition is often an illusion.

"Everything that has been forecast with regard to foreign competition for iron, woolen cloth, and animals", they say, "has also been forecast with regard to the sugar beet industry from colonial competition. The protected industries are not invoking a single argument that domestic sugar did not invoke when it was faced with a regime of equal taxation. Setting up the two forms of sugar in competition was to condemn the weaker to death. What has happened, however? Under the goad of necessity, manufacturers have made considerable efforts in the fields of knowledge, good administration, and making savings. In doing this, they have recovered more than they lost with regard to protection; in a word, they are more prosperous than ever. Does analogy not tell us that this would also be true for other kinds of industry? Is the path of progress closed to them? Would our manufacturers not make any effort to combat their rivals and, through their adroitness, regain more than they owed to legal privilege."

This form of reasoning places free trade in an unfavorable position. It removes two-thirds of the strength of its case by implying that a reduction in taxes on foreign products and an increase in those on domestic products are the same thing. It tends to make people think that, apart from sudden and unforeseen progress, there is no salvation for our protected industries if competition is allowed. It discourages those whose faith in all this progress is less than total and who, it must be said, may well not be as quick to adapt in other branches of production as was the case in the sugar industry.

People should not be encouraged to think that the maintenance of our industries in a regime of liberty is dependent upon some vague possibility of progress the extent of which nobody is able to precisely predict.

What people have to be made to see is this: the experience of leveling the playing field through taxes is far more dangerous that that of leveling the playing field through free trade, and consequently, if domestic sugar does well from the former, a fortiori , domestic production will do well from the latter.

Two circumstances make these experiences fundamentally different form each other.

The first is obvious to all and we will not dwell on it. This is that Customs reform by its very nature brings a degree of success and economy to every enterprise. At the same time as free trade deprives certain businesses of protection, it supplies them with raw materials, fuel, machines, and food products at a lower price. This constitutes an initial form of compensation that taxes and excise duty certainly did not offer beet sugar.

The second circumstance is less obvious, although far more important. We beg our friends and even more our opponents to weigh its full importance, for the day they take the economic phenomenon to which we refer into consideration they will cease to be our opponents. At least, this is our profound conviction.

Everyone knows that when the price of a product decreases, consumption increases. Well, an increase in consumption implies an increase in demand, and consequently an increase in price.

Let us take an object whose cost price (including the producer's profit) is 100 francs, and which is subjected to a tax of 100 francs; its market price will be 200 francs.

If the tax is removed, the market price will be 100 francs, if consumption remains the same . But consumption will increase, and consequently prices will tend to rise. Industries which produce this good will get higher profits.

This shows that where two similar industries are unequally taxed, it is a matter of importance whether one attempts to achieve a level playing field by increasing taxes on one industry or by cutting taxes on another. In the first case, sales are reduced while in the second they are increased for both.

It is very clear that if the situation of the two forms of sugar had been equalized by reducing the tax on sugar from the colonies instead of taxing domestic sugar, the latter would have been able to sustain the struggle more advantageously than it did, for the reduction in tax would have reduced the market price, expanded consumption, stimulated demand, and in the end, increased the return for both forms of sugar.

The free traders who base their argument on what happened to beet sugar in order to deduce what would happen to other industries if protection were removed from them, deprive their argument of its strength, for they combine two methods for leveling the playing field, one of which one is always advantageous while the other may be fatal.

With free trade, domestic industry has three paths open to it to reach the level of foreign industry:

1. The injection of a greater degree of skill stimulated by competition;

2. A decrease in the costs of raw materials, machinery, food, etc.;

3. An increase in consumption and demand , with its effect on the rate of return.

Beet sugar had only the first of these resources with which to fight, and this was enough. Commercial freedom would place all three at the disposal of our industries. Should we seriously fear that they will fail?

From this observation an economic theory may be deduced to which we will frequently return, and for this reason we will limit ourselves for the moment to outlining it here.

The restrictive trade system claims to raise the price of the product for the benefit of the producer, but it cannot do this without putting this product out of reach of a certain number of people, without paralyzing their ability to consume, without reducing demand , and without in the end tending to reduce the very price it hopes to raise. 744

Its initial tendency , we agree, is to increase the price by favoring the producer while its subsequent tendency is to decrease it by driving consumers away, and this second tendency may even overcome the first.

And when this happens, the public loses by being prevented from consuming goods because of the higher prices caused by the measure, without the producer gaining anything from that higher price.

The producer is then in the ridiculous position in which we have shown the English tax authorities to be. You will remember that, in a situation in which tax was constantly increasing and consumption decreasing in the same proportion, there came a time when, by adding 5 percent to tax rates, the authorities received 5 percent less revenue. 745



15. T.136 "The Salt Tax" (20 June 1847, LE)


T.136 (1847.06.20) "The Salt Tax" (L'impôt du sel), LE , 20 June 1847, no. 30, p. 237. Not signed by Bastiat. [OC2.41, pp. 225-28.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

The tax on salt, or "gabelle" as it was known under the old regime, was a much hated tax on an item essential for preserving and flavouring food. It was abolished during the Revolution but revived during the Restoration. In 1816 it was set at 30 centimes per kilogramme and in 1847 it raised fr. 70.4 million for the government. 746 On the eve of the elections of August 1846, the Chamber of Deputies, on the initiative of Philippe Demesmay, had adopted a 2/3 reduction of the tax, down to 10 centimes per kilo. However, the measure was rejected by the Chamber of Peers. 747 Bastiat supported its reduction or even abolition twice the following year - the first time in January 1847 in a very speculative article he wrote for Le Libre-Échange (17 Jan. 1847) 748 on what a radical liberal politician, called in the essay "The Utopian," would do if he somehow got into power, in this case he would cut the tax to 10 centimes per kilogramme; and again in June 1847 with this article in its defence when the measure came up for debate again. Early on in the Revolution of 1848 the salt tax was initially abolished in a decree of 15 April, 1848 to take effect on 1 January 1849, but because of the government's dependency on this tax for revenue it was revoked on 28 December 1848 and a tax of 10c per kg. was imposed, which is what Bastiat's "utopian politician" had advocated the previous year, and what Bastiat himself voted for at the end of 1848.

However during the first half of 1848 Bastiat continued to push for its complete abolition as a way of relieving the economic hardship of ordinary working people. In his first revolutionary street magazine, La République française , in an article called "The Immediate Relief of the People" (12 March, 1848), Bastiat calls for its immediate abolition, along with the city tolls (octroi), and the taxes on cattle, wheat, and wine. 749 These demands were part of a poster which was plastered onto the walls of Paris during the second week of the Revolution as part of the economists' attempt to appeal to the people:

People, be more alert; do as the Republicans of America do: give the State only what is strictly necessary and keep the rest for yourself.

Demand the abolition of useless functions, a reduction of huge salaries, the abolition of special privileges, monopolies and deliberate obstructions and the simplification of the wheels of bureaucracy.

With these savings, insist on the abolition of city tolls, the salt tax, the tax on cattle and on wheat ...

Then, oh people, you will have solved the problem, that of earning more sous and obtaining more things for each sou. 750

Also in March, he wrote an article for the Journal des Économistes in which he stated the official position of the Economists calling for the abolition of all taxes on the working people including, interestingly, on their tools of trade:

The school of thought known as the Economist School proposes the immediate dismantling of all privileges and all monopolies, the immediate elimination of all non-useful state functions, the immediate reduction of all excessive salaries, deep reductions in public expenditure, and the reorganization of taxes so that those that weigh heavily on public consumption, those that hamper their movement and paralyze their work, are got rid of. For example, this school demands that city tolls, the salt tax, the duties on the import of subsistence items and working tools to be abolished forthwith … 751

The salt tax was also referred to repeatedly in his second revolutionary street magazine, Jacques Bonhomme , which he and his economist friends published for a month during June 1848. Apparently he thought their opposition to indirect taxes would make their message appealing to ordinary workers, such as the following. In "A Hoax" a fictional Minister of Finance ominously named "Mr. Budget" tells the worker how things really are:

This was when I invented indirect taxation. Now, each time that workers buy two sous' worth of wine, one sou goes to me. I am taking something on tobacco, something on salt, something on meat and something on bread. I am taking from everything, and all the time. I am thus gathering, not thirty but one hundred million at the expense of the workers. I strut in grand hotels, I lounge in fine carriages, I have myself served by fine servants, up to ten million's worth. I give twenty to my agents to keep an eye on wine, salt, tobacco, meat, etc., and with what remains of their own money I set to work the workers. 752

In "Taking Five and Returning Four is not Giving" the character of Jacques Bonhomme argues that:

I am not a scholar but a poor devil called Jacques Bonhomme, who is and never has been anything other than a worker.

Well, as a worker who pays tax on my bread, wine, meat, salt, my windows and doors, on the iron and steel in my tools, on my tobacco, etc., I attach great importance to this question and repeat:

Do civil servants enable workers to live or do workers enable civil servants to live? 753

When the reduction of the salt tax to 10c per kg. finally became law on January 1, 1849 Bastiat pointed out in an article in the prestigious Journal des Débats that the government was in disarray as the expences of the Republican government continued to escalate while taxes like the one on salt fell. He thought that this provided a great opportunity for reformers like him to force the government into a wholesale rethinking of taxation and expenditure and to get the new regime onto a completely new path. It was an opportunity to slash spending on public welfare (what he called "false philanthropy') as well as the army and the navy (what he called the "warlike passions") and pursue his preferred policy of "peace and freedom":

This is a wonderful, and one might say providential, opportunity to go down a new path, to put an end to false philanthropy and warlike passions and, converting its failure into triumph, to deliver security, confidence, credit, and prosperity from a vote that appeared to compromise it and at last to found a republican politics on these two great principles, peace and freedom. 754

There are two other issues which Bastiat discusses in this article which should be mentioned. The first is the elasticity of demand for salt, and the second is his conception of the proper role of government. Many defenders of the salt tax argued that it provided a good example of a highly inelastic commodity which had no substitutes and which was so essential for life that the state could increase the tax almost without limit and consumers would still have to pay. Thus, the tax on salt was the perfect tax and explains why it was imposed all across Europe as well as in India and China. Critics of the tax on the other hand believed that lowering the tax would help the poor as well as increase the sales of salt and eventually, in the long run, lead to greater revenues for the state in an early version of the "Laffer curve" argument. Bastiat's argument against the tax was simpler and more complicated at the same time. He wanted to abolish it outright on the simple grounds of morality - because it was so essential for life it should be available at the lowest cost possible immediately.

His more complex and sophisticated argument against it was a result of his understanding of "opportunity cost," the idea of which he was perhaps the inventor. Because people would pay so much for an essential item in their diet, they were making considerable sacrifices to their standard of living by cutting back on purchases of other items, like clothes or furniture, which had a flow on effect on other sectors of the economy. Bastiat called this "flow on effect" caused by government interventions in the economy the "ricochet effect" on which he had hoped to write on at length but was never able to. The French editor Paillottet mentions this in a footnote towards the end of the article. In a speech he gave in January 1848 for the Free Trade Association in Paris, Bastiat says he intended to devote an entire article (or Sophism) to it. By "ricochet" he meant the many indirect and longer term consequences of some intervention in the economy, such as a tax on salt or a tariff on manufactured goods. These consequences were like the ripples on a pond which spread out in expanding concentric circles when a stone is bounced across its surface. Initially, he viewed the ricochet effect in purely negative terms (e.g. the impact of a tariff) but later came to see another version of it having positive effects, for example the impact of the invention of printing in dramatically lowering the cost of the dissemination of information, the introduction of railways in lowering the cost of transport across the board. 755 In the case of the tax on salt, he thought the bad effects on consumers were even worse than those of protective tariffs in the "flow on effect" they had on the rest of the economy.

The second remaining issue is Bastiat's conception of the proper size of government in a free society. Bastiat concludes his call for the abolition of the tax on salt by reminding the reader that taxes can't be cut until the functions of government have been cut first. Once it has been limited to its proper duties, then a whole range of onerous taxes can be abolished or drastically cut. As he states:

Moderate excessive public services , merely leaving the State its proper functions; it will then be easy to reduce expenditure, and subsequently, taxes.

But what functions Bastiat reserved to the state is not explained here. Elsewhere it is made clear that he is an advocate of a very strictly limited government along the lines of the "nightwatchman state" whose only functions were the supplying of police and defense services, along with a very limited number of public goods. Paillottet refers to two essays by Bastiat where he goes into more detail on this question. I would also add "The Utopian" mentioned above. A good summary of his views can be found in his "Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (12 Dec., 1849):

The number of things included in the essential functions of the government is very limited: to ensure order and security, to keep each person within the limits of justice, that is to say, to repress misdemeanors and crimes, and to carry out a few major public works of national utility. These are, I believe, its essential functions, and we will have no peace, no financial wherewithal, and we will not destroy the hydra of revolution if we do not regain, little by little if you like, this limited governance toward which we should be aiming. 756

Before taxes could be cut to this level he believed a number of entire areas of government expenditure could and should be cut first, such as publicly funded education, subsidies to religion, the departments in the Ministry of the Interior which dealt with agriculture and commerce, the colony in Algeria, the virtual army of bureaucrats who administer the collection of tariffs and other internal trade regulations, and the abolition of the standing army and its replacement by local militias. Once these measures had been introduced Bastiat believed that the total annual expenditure of the French state could be reduced from over 1.5 billion fr. to only 200 or 300 million fr., in other words a reduction of over 80%. This would then make it possible to replace the burden of indirect taxes (such as salt) which lay so heavily on ordinary workers, with a fairer system of very low direct taxes along with some "fiscal tariffs" of 5%. He concluded his speech with the optimistic claim that:

I will suppose for the sake of argument that France has been governed for a long time according to my proposals, which would consist in the government's keeping each citizen within the limits of his rights and of justice and abandoning everything else to the responsibility of each person. This is my starting point. It is easy to see that in this case France could be governed with two hundred or three hundred million. It is clear that if France were governed with two hundred million, it would be easy to establish a single, proportional tax. 757


For the second time, a motion to reduce the salt tax has been passed almost unanimously by the Chamber of Deputies and the only consequence of this, it appears, will be that the government will instruct the minister concerned to study the matter next year.

Among the arguments used in the debate, there is one that comes up with regard to any reduction in taxes and in particular in connection with Customs duty. For this reason, we think it will be useful to put straight the ideas expressed on this subject.

The deputies who supported the proposal by Mr. Demesmay 758 believed they had to assume that there would be an increase in consumption, from which they concluded that the Treasury deficit would soon be almost wiped out.

Those who rejected the measure asserted on the contrary that the consumption of salt, with regard to its direct use by people, was currently as high as it could be, that it would never be changed by a reduction in the tax, not even if the salt were free, from which the conclusion was drawn that the Treasury deficit would be exactly in proportion to the reduction of the tax.

At this point we consider that we have to make a rapid and general examination of the following question:

"Does a reduction in tax, and consequently in the market price of the object being taxed, have the invariable result of increasing consumption?"

It is certain that the phenomenon at issue has happened so often that it can almost be considered a general law.

However, a distinction must be made.

If the object subject to the tax is so essential that it is one of the last things people agree to do without, consumption will always be at the highest possible level, whatever the tax. In this case, as the tax increases its price, people may well deprive themselves of everything except for the object they think is essential. In the same way, if its price decreases as a result of a reduction in tax, it is not the consumption of the object that will increase, but that of the things of which people had been obliged to deprive themselves in order not to do without this essential object.

In order to breathe, people require a certain quantity of air. Let us assume that it becomes possible to inflict a high tax on this; people will obviously do everything they can to continue to have the quantity of air without which they cannot live. They will do without their tools, clothes, and even food before depriving themselves of air, and if this abominable tax were to be decreased, it is not the consumption of air that would increase, but that of clothing, tools, food, etc.

We therefore consider that those deputies who rejected the reduction of the salt tax on the premise that consumption is at its maximum level, in spite of the tax, have unconsciously produced the strongest argument imaginable against an increase in this tax. It is as though they said: "Salt is so indispensable to life that, in all walks of life, in every class, it will always be consumed in a quantity that is determined and invariable, whatever its price. Keep it at a high price, that makes no difference; workers will be clothed in rags, do without drugs when ill, deprive themselves of wine and even bread rather than give up any portion of the salt that they need. If we decrease its price, we will see workers better clad and fed, but no increase in the consumption of salt."

It is therefore impossible to escape the following dilemma:

The consumption of salt will either increase following a reduction in its price, in which case the Treasury will not suffer the loss forecast,

Or it will not increase, which will prove that salt is an object so necessary to life that even the most onerous tax will not induce people, even the poorest, from consuming any less of it.

And, for our part, we cannot imagine any more potent argument against this tax.

It is true that the Treasury's needs are always present, like some insurmountable legal impediment . What does that prove? Alas, something very simple, although it appears to be little understood. It is that, if people want to vote for tax reductions like this, they should not start by constantly voting for increases in expenditure. How much longer does the constitutional education of a nation have to go before it finally makes the discovery or at least the application of this trivial truth? This is a problem that is not easy to solve.

Reduce excessive public works , cried the elder Mr. Dupin 759 who, moreover, seems to us to have given this debate its proper perspective. We will repeat this phrase with a slight alteration. Reduce excessive public services , merely leaving the State its proper functions; it will then be easy to reduce expenditure, and subsequently, taxes.



16. T.139 "Mr. Ewart's Proposal for a Single Tax in England" (LE, 27 June, 1847)


T.139 (1847.06.27) "The Single-Tax in England. The Proposal of Mr. Ewart" (La taxe unique en Angleterre, proposition de M. Ewart), LE , 27 June 1847, no. 31, pp. 245-46. [OC2.37, pp. 209-16.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat had a complex relationship with England. On the one hand he opposed what he called the "l'Angleterre oligarchique et monopoliste" (oligarchic and monopolistic England) but admired and wanted to emulate in France "l'Angleterre démocratique et laborieuse" (democratic and hard working England). 760 Of the things he admired, mention should be made of the free trade movement (1838-1846) organised by Richard Cobden and John Bright, the reform of the postal system (1842), and these proposals for a simplification of the tax system being put forward by William Ewart.

William Ewart (1798–1869) was a British liberal politician who represented Liverpool (1830-1837), Wigan (1839-1841), and then Dumfries Burghs (1841-1868) in Scotland. He agitated for the repeal of capital punishment, the creation of public free libraries, the Reform Act of 1832, and was a member of the Anti-Corn Law League. A speech he gave in the House of Commons on 28 May, 1847 urging a reduction of indirect taxes (especially tariffs) which harmed the poor, and a broadening of the tax base to include a direct tax on property, which would be felt more strongly by the wealthy, caught Bastiat's attention. 761 In the speech Ewart criticised "the effect of the present excessive amount of indirect taxation on the trade and labour of this country." He argued that "The present system of indirect taxation was oppressive to the labouring classes of this country, not only because it taxed trade, the principal source of their employment, but because the mode of its imposition was, towards them, unjust." His solution was to broaden the base of taxation with a direct tax on property and a reduction in indirect taxes such as duties on imports. His call for a reduction in duties on French wine would have caught Bastiat's attention as well. In the course of the Speech Ewart quotes very approvingly an address of the Free Trade Association of Bordeaux to Lord John Russell, one which Bastiat probably gave. He concluded his speech by putting forward the following motion:

"That it is expedient that a more direct system of Taxation on property should (as far as possible) be substituted for the indirect system (by Customs and Excise Duties) now in use:" "That such a change would, by removing restrictions caused by the Excise, encourage trade, and the free application of science to trade:" "That, by removing the restrictions caused by Customs Duties, it Would extend commerce, and be the most natural means of prolonging the peace, by promoting the intercourse, of the world:" "That it would be highly beneficial to the poor, (who now pay the great mass of indirect Taxation,) by giving them more abundant means of subsistence and of employment; and would tend generally and finally to the good of all classes of the community."

Bastiat also agitated for a simplification of the French tax system. 762 He wanted to see the abolition of direct taxes, such as the tax on salt and drink, and doors and windows; as well as protective duties and tariffs which kept out of France cheaper food and clothing, all of which hurt the poor the most; and their replacement by a very low direct tax of some kind and much lower "fiscal" tariffs of 5% on imported, and interestingly, on exported goods. The overall level of tax would be much lower as he also planned to abolish a very large part of what the French state did outside of its core duties of protecting citizens lives, liberties, and property. He gave several important speeches in the Chamber during 1848 and 1849 on tax matters, such as calling for the abolition of the tax on letters, salt, and alcohol. 763 In other writings he called for drastically cutting the size of the military to a quarter of its existing strength and its replacement by local militias. His essay on "The Utopian" (Jan. 1847) provides a good indication of what he would do if he were made "dictator of France." 764


A few newspapers, interested in turning national prejudice against us, point out that we often draw facts and lessons from across the Channel. The Moniteur industriel 765 even goes so far as to call us an English newspaper , an insult which the good sense of the public will treat as it deserves.

Nevertheless, we owe it to our dignity to explain why we follow the development of ideas and of the legislation in England attentively, on subjects that are linked to the particular aim of this publication.

However one judges England's policies and the role that country has assumed in the world, it is impossible not to acknowledge that in everything concerning trade, industry, finance, and taxation, it has been through experiments that other nations can and should study for their own benefit.

In no other country have the various systems been more rigorously put into practice. When England wanted to protect its navy, it devised a Navigation Act 766 that was much stricter than all the imitations made of it elsewhere. England's Corn Laws 767 are far more restrictive than those applied in our country, its colonial system is far more widespread. Government expenditure there has reached prodigious levels for a long time, and consequently every conceivable form of taxation has been tried out there. Banks, savings-banks, and poor laws are already old institutions over there.

Thence it follows that the effects, whether good or bad, of all those measures must be more apparent in England than in any other country; firstly because they were taken in a more absolute manner, secondly because they have been applied for longer over there.

Furthermore, the representative system, debate, publicity, the practice of surveys and statistics have established the facts more clearly than in any other country.

So it is in England first of all that the reaction of public opinion against false systems must have occurred - against legislative practices that were in contradiction with the laws of social economy, against institutions that seemed attractive in their immediate effects, but were disastrous in their long-term consequences.

Under these circumstances, we should feel that we were failing in our duty and showing proof of cowardice, if, allowing ourselves to be impressed by the strategy of the Moniteur industriel and of the protectionist party, we were to deprive ourselves of a source so rich in information. It has been rightly said, experience is the best teacher; and if the example of others can preserve us from a few mistakes, why should we not try to take advantage of the tests and trials carried out elsewhere for the guidance of our own country?

A tendency well worthy of note, is the inclination that has been apparent in England for some time to solve problems of economy through principles, which does not mean that reforms are carried out overnight, but that they are designed to implement comprehensively an idea that is judged to be founded on justice and on the general interest.

While in other countries it is traditionally considered that when it comes to taxation, finance, and trade there are no principles, 768 that one must be content to grope, to patch up, and to alter from day to day, in view of the most immediate result, it seems that, across the Channel, the Reform Party 769 accepts as indisputable the fact that the general interest is to be found in justice. Consequently, everything comes down to examining whether a reform is in keeping with justice; and once that point has been accepted by public opinion, the reform is vigorously put into action without people bothering too much about the drawbacks that are inherent in any transition, knowing full well that there are eventually more benefits than harms to be expected from substituting what is just for what is not.

That is how the abolition of slavery was brought about. 770

That is how the postal reform was carried out. 771 Once it had been recognized that affectionate or business relations through correspondence were not taxable material , postage was reduced, as according to principle, to the cost of the service rendered.

The same conformity with a principle governs the reform of commerce. Having clearly established that protection is a deception in that it only benefits some at the expense of others, with a dead loss for the community into the bargain, the following words were set up as a principle: No more tariff protection. That principle is destined to bring about the downfall of the Corn Laws, of the Navigation Act, of the colonial system, - the complete overthrow of the old political and diplomatic traditions of Great Britain. 772 No matter, it will be pursued to the end.

A process is taking place in people's minds at the moment to found religious life, 773 education, 774 and banking 775 on the principle of freedom. These questions have not fully matured yet; but of one thing we may be sure, which is that if, on the above subjects, freedom emerges triumphant from the debate, it will not be long before it is achieved in fact.

And now a member of the League, Mr. Ewart, has brought forward a motion in Parliament to convert all taxes into a single tax on property, meaning thereby capital of whatever nature. It is the idea of the Physiocrats, 776 corrected, completed, broadened, and made practicable.

Readers may imagine that such an extraordinary proposal, conducive to nothing less than the outright suppression of all indirect taxes (including customs), 777 must have been rejected and considered by everyone, and particularly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to be the work of a dreamer, of a crackpot, or at the very least of a man too far ahead of his time. Not at all. Here is the Chancellor of the Exchequer's answer: 778

The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER felt confident that he expressed the opinion of the whole House when he said that it was quite unnecessary for the hon. Member (Mr. Ewart) to say anything in defence of the purity of his motives. He believed that there was no man who stood less in need of any defence on that score, as every one knew the disinterested motives which always actuated his hon. Friend; and certainly it was impossible to overrate the importance of the subject he had brought before the House. At the same time, he hoped his hon. Friend would not consider it any disrespect to him if he declined to follow his hon. Friend into the details of the various points he had brought under the notice of the House, relating to almost every article of taxation in the Customs, the Excise, and the Stamps and Taxes. It was evident that in the course of next Session it would be his duty to bring before the House the subject of taxation—that it would be indispensably necessary to deal one way or another with one great item of taxation—he meant the income tax; and that it would then be for the House to consider the question of the permanence, and perhaps the increase of the system of direct, as contradistinguished from indirect taxation. It would be obvious, therefore, to every one, that it would not be proper on the present occasion to say anything which would indicate the course which—supposing that he continued to hold his present situation—he might consider it his duty to take on this question. His hon. Friend had satisfactorily proved that there was no tax against which some plausible objection might not he made; and he was certainly not sanguine enough to expect that he would be able to do what so many of his predecessors had failed in doing—he meant make taxation of any kind palatable. He assured the House, however, that it was his anxious desire to see our taxation put on a footing the least oppressive to those who paid the taxes; and to foster industry and commerce to the greatest degree of which they were susceptible. Beyond this general explanation he thought it better to abstain from saying more on the present occasion; and after the full and able way in which the hon. Member had submitted his views on the subject of taxation, he thought it very desirable that the subject should not be prolonged.

No doubt, what may have induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to receive Mr. Ewart's motion so favorably, was the desire to ensure the definitive triumph of income tax 779 for next year, that measure having always been hitherto presented as temporary. 780 In every country, the minister of finance proceeds in this way with regard to new taxes. It is a tithe for war , an income tax ; it is this or that, born of the occasion, and certainly destined to disappear with it, but which nonetheless never disappears. So it is possible that the Chancellor of the Exchequer merely displayed skill and foresight regarding taxation. But if income tax only develops along with corresponding abolition of indirect taxes, it will still be true to say, whatever the intentions were, that a great step has been taken towards the advent of the single tax. 781

Whatever the case may be, the question has been raised; it will not be dropped.

It is not our intention to come to a conclusion on so serious and still so controversial a matter. We shall limit ourselves to putting a few considerations before our readers.

Here is what the advocates of the single tax say:

However one goes about it, tax eventually always falls on the consumer. It is therefore indifferent to him, when it comes to the amount, whether the tax be levied by the Fisc (Inland Revenue) at the time of production or at the time of consumption. But the former system has the advantage of having lower collection costs, and of freeing the taxpayer from a mass of inconveniences that hinder the movement of labour, the circulation of goods, and commercial transactions. An inventory of all capital should therefore be drawn up: land, factories, railways, public funds, ships, houses, machines, etc., etc., and a proportional tax levied. As nothing can be done without the intervention of capital, and as the capitalist will incorporate the tax in his cost price, it would so happen that the tax would be spread throughout the whole economy; and all subsequent transactions, whether at home or abroad, as long as they were honest, would enjoy the most complete freedom.

The supporters of indirect taxes do not lack good reasons either. The main one is that in the latter system the tax is so merged with the market price, that the taxpayer can no longer tell one from the other, and pays tax without realizing it; which cannot fail to be convenient, especially for the Fisc (Inland Revenue), which thus progressively manages to extract some five or six francs from an item that is not worth 20 sous (or 1 franc).

Eventually, if ever the single tax is achieved, it will only be after a prolonged debate or a widespread propagation of knowledge in economics; for it depends on the triumph of other reforms that are still further from gaining public assent.

For example, we believe it to be incompatible with a costly administration, which consequently meddles with many things.

When a government needs one, two, or three billion francs, 782 it is reduced to squeezing them out of the population by trickery , 783 so to speak. The question is how to take from people half, two thirds, three quarters of their income, drop by drop, hour by hour, and without their understanding a thing. That is the beauty of indirect taxes. The tax is so intimately merged with the price of goods that it is absolutely impossible to disentangle them. If one is careful to institute only a moderate tax at first, as was the policy during the Empire, in order not to cause too visible a variation in prices, one can afterwards achieve surprising results. With each fresh increase, the Fisc (Inland Revenue) says: "What is a cent or two per person on average ?" or else: "Who can claim that the increase does not result from other causes?"

It is improbable that with the single tax , which cannot surround itself with all those subtleties, a government could ever succeed in absorbing half its citizens' wealth.

The first effect of Mr. Ewart's proposal will therefore very likely be to turn public opinion in England in favor of a serious reduction in expenditure, that is to say, in favor of the non-intervention of the State in all matters in which its intervention is not part of its essential nature.

It seems to me impossible not to be struck by the probable effect of the new direction imparted to the taxation system in Great Britain, combined with the reform of trade.

If, on the one hand, the colonial system collapses, 784 as it must necessarily collapse in the face of free trade; if, on the other hand, the government is reduced to being unable to seize anything from the public beyond what is strictly necessary for the administration of the country, the unfailing result must surely be to strike at the very root of our neighbors' traditional policy, which, under the names of intervention, influence, supremacy, and dominance, has sown into the world such causes of war and discord, and has subjected all nations and the English nation more than any other, to so crushing a burden of debt and taxation.



17. T.143 "On Mignet's Eulogy of M. Charles Comte" (11 July 1847, LE)


T.143 (1847.07.11) "On Mignet's Eulogy of M. Charles Comte" (Sur l'éloge de Ch. Comte. Par M. Mignet). Original title: "Variétés: Notice sur M. Charles Comte. Par M. Mignet", LE , 11 July 1847, no. 33, p. 264. [OC1.11, pp. 434-39.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Soon after the tenth anniversary of the death of Charles Comte (he died on 13 April, 1837) Bastiat published a tribute to him in his free trade magazine Le Libre-Échange . Charles Comte (1782-1837) was one of the four most important French classical liberals in the first third of the 19th century, along with the economist Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832), the political philosopher Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), and his friend and colleague the economist and social theorist Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862). 785 Comte had been a lawyer, a critic of the repressive policies of Napoleon and then the restored monarchy, and the son-in-law of the economist Jean-Baptiste Say. He founded, with Charles Dunoyer, the journal Le Censeur in 1814 and Le Censeur européen in 1817 and was prosecuted many times for challenging the press censorship laws and criticizing the government. He came across the economic ideas of Say in 1817 786 during a period of enforced inactivity when their journal had been suspended by the government, and discussed them at length in the magazine's successor Le Censeur européen . After his conviction for again violating the censorship laws in 1820 he spent 5 years in exile in Switzerland and England, before returning to France where he published two important books on liberal social theory, Traité de législation (1826-27) and Traité de la propriété (1834). Following the Revolution of 1830 he became a deputy representing La Sarthe and permanent secretary of the Académie des sciences morales et politiques (Academy of Moral and Political Sciences) in 1832.

In this tribute Bastiat reflected upon Comte's belated eulogy which had been given by François Mignet, the Permanent Secretary of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, the previous year. 787 This was a curious thing to do as Comte, although an important figure in the classical liberal movement in France during the Restoration, had been trained as a lawyer and had written important works on the political issues of his day, namely censorship, the rule of law, the National Guard, and constitutional limits to government power, as well as several original works on liberal social theory, such as the theory of property, the historical emergence of free institutions in Europe, and classical liberal class theory. Thus, his connection to the free trade movement in 1847 was rather tenuous. Nevertheless, Bastiat must have been thinking about him in July 1847 and included these theoretical reflections in the "Variety" section at the end of a typical issue of his magazine with its standard articles on the grain trade, coal exports, the American tariff, British customs revenue, and debates with the protectionist press.

A clue to why he did this can be found in his correspondence earlier that month with Richard Cobden who was travelling in Italy as part of his celebratory tour of Europe following the repeal of the English Corn Laws in June of 1846. (As part of this, the Parisian economists had hosted a dinner in Paris in August 1846 to celebrate Cobden's great victory and Bastiat had given one of the toasts.) As the defeat of the French free trade movement to get the Chamber of Deputies to reform France's protectionist laws became apparent over the summer of 1847 perhaps Bastiat was returning to theoretical issues after a hiatus of a couple of years. In his letter to Cobden of 5 July (Letter 80) 788 he thanks him for purchasing and sending him a 50 volume, a "precious collection," of classic works of Italian political economy (edited by Custodi) 789 and he talks about his own plans to give lectures on economics to students in the law and medical faculties in Paris, and to write his own treatise on what he called "la vraie théorie sociale" (true social theory) the first part of which later became his treatise on political economy, the Economic Harmonies . It is possible that, as Bastiat began thinking about how to explain classical liberal economic ideas to young students in a lecture series, 790 he returned to thinking about the people who had most influenced his own thinking when he was a young man, i.e. Jean-Baptiste Say, Charles Comte, and Charles Dunoyer. As he noted in his "Draft Preface":

We (in the Preface Bastiat is ironically talking to himself) used to say: "It is useful and fortunate that patient and indefatigable geniuses, like Say, concentrated on observing, classifying, and setting out in a methodical order all the facts that make up this fine science. From now on, knowledge can stand securely on this unshakeable base and lift itself to new horizons." How much did we also admire the work of Dunoyer and Comte, who, without ever deviating from the rigorously scientific line drawn by M. Say, mobilize these acquired truths with such felicity in the domains of morality and legislation. 791

The man who gave Comte's eulogy, François Mignet (1796-1884), was a liberal lawyer, journalist, and historian who was an editor of the Courrier français , a magazine which published several of Bastiat's articles in 1846. He was also an important figure in the Academy of Moral and Political Science which had been abolished by Napoléon in 1803 because of the opposition to his rule by many of its members, and then resurrected in 1832 by King Louis Philippe. Several liberals were founding members of the new Academy, including Destutt de Tracy (Philosophy), Charles Comte (Political Economy), Charles Dunoyer (Moral Philosophy), and Mignet (History), and many more were to become members in the coming years. This made the Academy an important institution for the encouragement and spread of liberal scholarship and ideas. Bastiat came into contact with Dunoyer when he was welcomed to Paris by the Political Economy Society in May 1845 (Dunoyer was the Society's president) and then Mignet when he began writing for his magazine the Courrier français in 1846. Both men no doubt used their position in the Academy to assist Bastiat in being elected a "corresponding" (or junior) member of the 4th section (Political Economy) on 24 January, 1846 on the basis of the two books which had appeared since Bastiat's arrival in Paris: his book on Cobden and the League (1845) and the first series of the Economic Harmonies (January 1846).

Bastiat's reflections on Comte focus on the first part of what was to have been his magnum opus in four volumes published after his return to France after his exile in Switzerland and England. Comte originally conceived his project as a multi-part work covering jurisprudence, law, history, anthropology, political theory, and economics. The writing of it was interrupted several times by political events which distracted Comte in 1814, 1820, 1824, and 1830. The work was finally published in two parts, the 4 volume Traité de législation in 1826-27 and the 2 volume Traité de la propriété in 1834. 792 The entire work was conceived as a whole and his plan had been to publish them one after the other between 1826 and 1830 but events again intervened to prevent this from happening. In the Preface Comte states that he wanted to combine a theoretical analysis of jurisprudence and natural law with an empirical and historical study of how law had been created and carried out in practice and to explore its impact on wealth creation:

The double purpose I set myself was to introduce philosophical considerations into the study of the law, and at the same time to introduce into the assessment of legislative or political theories the knowledge which had been acquired in practice. This method of verifying one thing against another, things which had almost always been kept separate, pleased me even more since it was the only way to reconcile a profession which I had adopted by choice, with a taste which had become a passion.

The subtitle he gave the work, with echoes of the titles of both Adam Smith's and Say's great works on economics, gives a better idea of his intentions, "exposition des lois générales suivant lesquelles les peuples prospèrent, dépérissent ou restent stationnaire" (an exposition of the general laws under which nations prosper, perish, or remain in a stationary state). It is also a hint of what Bastiat himself had in mind for his own multi-volume treatise on social theory which went under the working title of Social Harmonies , or Economic Harmonies .

The first part of the book, Traité de législation , was awarded the Prix Montyon from the Académie française in 1828 for its contribution to moral philosophy. 793 Bastiat shared the sentiments of the Academy and mentions the importance of Comte in the development of his ideas in several letters, for example "I refer to M. Charles Dunoyer … together with those (articles) by M. Comte … (who) settled the direction of my thought and even my political actions a long time ago" (Letter 33). 794 So it is not surprising when he states at the end of the essay that a friend told him that, if he were to choose a "desert island" book, it would be this one by Comte. One senses that Bastiat might have agreed with that choice.


Life, it has been said, is a tissue of illusions and deceit. This is true, but life also includes a few memories which permeate it like some exquisite perfume.

This was how the day of 30 May 1846 was for me.

Dragged from the depths of the provinces by an unexpected caprice of fortune, I was attending a public session of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, for the first time.

Around the chair of the President, Mr. Dunoyer, were all the members of the illustrious company. Opposite, the rostrums, galleries, and amphitheatre were scarcely sufficient to contain the intellectual elite of Paris society.

The permanent secretary was due to give the eulogy on his predecessor, Mr. Charles Comte.

People were anxiously wondering: "How will Mr. Mignet, whatever his talent, succeed in holding the attention of the audience? What is there that is striking about the life of a writer whose every day was taken up by a now forgotten controversy and by detailed work on the philosophy of legislation, a man who was also an upright, conscientious and meticulous journalist, virtuous to the point of brusqueness, a hard-working and profound writer but one who in his work appears to have voluntarily renounced that touch of art which, although it adds nothing to the truth of his ideas and sometimes even undermines it, is nevertheless the sole element adding brilliance, popularity and the power to spread its message to the works of the intellect?"

Nevertheless, Mr. Mignet began his speech. His words, spoken neither too slowly nor too fast, reached the far corners of the hall. He varied his theme with musings at once pertinent and true; he lightened it with judicious interjections of that piquant Attic style whose traditional use is alleged, probably wrongly, to be disappearing in France. His delivery was always clear, his intonation true and conveying every subtlety of the speech and every one of the orator's intentions. For an hour, the audience hung onto every word of this account, so poor in arresting facts but so rich in noble and pure emotion.

Why the fascination? Was it the apposite, elegant and incisive phrases used by the orator, was it his fine diction that held the assembly captive and sent a shiver of enthusiasm rippling along the benches, uniting every heart in a common sentiment of pure joy and rapt admiration?

No. But Mr. Mignet had perceived and was showing everyone the fine side of his subject. The picture he painted was of an upright man, of manly resolution, of athletic vigor, an intrepid defender of public freedoms, an unwavering political journalist whom neither the temptation of corruption, nor threats, nor persecution, nor the appeal of popularity, nor need for rest nor, in short, any human consideration, could lure away from the righteous path mapped out for him by his profound and stubborn sense of his own virtue.

It appeared that this warm picture of such a fine life, contrasting with the selfishness and indifference that characterizes modern times, touched the hearts of all those in the assembly and moved them all the more powerfully given that they might have been expected to have dozed off long since. The audience might have been described as one of Plutarch's, their sensibilities still fresh and innocent, listening to Plutarch recounting the tale of one of the noblest lives of the heroes of antiquity. With what truly French discernment did the auditorium seize and applaud the traits of courage, sacrifice, and proud independence found so abundantly in the journalist's noble career. Each of us went back to the long-gone time of our youth when the orator said:

The time in which Mr. Comte distinguished himself is already long gone. Far from us is the memory of these generous convictions, these dogged struggles, this intrepid devotion, which sparked so many doughty spirits and inspired so much noble conduct. At that time, ideas were believed in with a faith that was fervent and the public good was loved with disinterested passion. These fine beliefs that are the honor of the human intellect, Mr. Comte had in abundance. These strong virtues, which are just as necessary for a nation to remain free as it is to become free, Mr. Comte expressed with straightforward bluntness. 795

So what are we to make of this? That in spite of the sad and discouraging sights all around us, that although we no longer perceive any strongly-held convictions, civic courage, or resistance to corruption, we cannot despair, nevertheless, of a country in which the simple narration of the life of Mr. Comte arouses so much lively and unanimous satisfaction! No, skepticism has not permeated, changed, or debased everything in a place where this anchor of the nation's salvation remains visible, along with the intelligence to honor that which is honorable, and where the power of admiration is still alive!

Two circumstances contributed to adding a touching and almost dramatic interest to this literary solemnity. Behind the orator, the President's chair was occupied by Mr. Dunoyer. Everyone felt that the eulogy by Mr. Mignet and the enthusiasm of the assembly was addressed indirectly to the colleague and friend of Mr. Comte, the person who had shared the same projects, suffered the same persecution, and shown the same devotion. In the first row of the audience could be seen Mr. Comte's four children, clad in mourning for the father whom a premature death through overwork and persecution had taken from them. 796 After ten long years, they were finally receiving the sole but precious inheritance that a man of this caliber can leave: a solemn homage of admiration made to his memory by an eloquent speaker and sanctioned by its favorable and enthusiastic reception by an enlightened audience.

However, I must say that, while the honorable permanent secretary gave a fair account of the man with regard to his actions, character, courage, and virtues, for me he did not allot the author his true stature. Perhaps in this connection his verdict has been too influenced by the opinion of the general public, who appear not to have appreciated the philosophic value of Mr. Comte's work adequately, very far from it. We might understand this judgment if it related solely to style. I have already said that in a work that deals, in scientific fashion, with the huge canvases on which Rousseau and Montesquieu spread the hues of their brilliant imagination, Mr. Comte does not appear to have taken the trouble to highlight his thoughts through the vividness of form, the variety of tone, the unexpectedness of the antitheses, and all the resources of studied rhetoric. It can be imagined that a man such as described by Mr. Mignet might have rejected these vain ornaments which, to his way of thinking, are traps for the reader if not for the writer. The closer Mr. Comte came to simplicity of expression, the further he believed that he was keeping his work away from possible error, and Truth was the sole object of his worship, the object to which he was prepared to sacrifice much more than his literary reputation, if need be.

Nonetheless, we should not believe that his work is devoid of eloquence. "Although he wished to apply a rigorous and dry analytic method", said Mr. Mignet, "Mr. Comte was too resolute in spirit and his soul too ardent for him to set out the long journeys made by the human race dispassionately, and I praise him for this." 797 And elsewhere, "Under the guise of a somewhat harsh attitude and slightly cold appearance was a heart of gold, a warm soul and the lofty sentiments and lively convictions that can be seen both in his writings and his life." 798

But if Mr. Comte often rises to eloquence (taking this word in its usual meaning), when he castigates injustice and the abuse of force in lively language, 799 I am bold enough to say that eloquence of quite a different nature that is just as true presides over all the pages of his writings. Reading his work, the reader always senses the forming of light in his mind. He feels lost in admiration of the harmonious simplicity of the laws 800 set out by the author, and this sentiment is all the more vivid in that it is always allied with that of certainty. For my part, I know of no trick of rhetoric capable of filling the soul with such delicious emotions. Is there not eloquence, the truest of all forms of eloquence, in the simple, clear exposition of the harmony that governs the movement of the heavenly bodies? When a subject has beauty and grandeur, the more the author succeeds in concentrating your attention on the picture and making himself invisible, the more, I am bold enough to say, does he attain the pure sources of art.

Mr. Comte has one single aim: to lay things out. However, he lays out the consequences of human action so clearly that by addressing only the mind he speaks to the heart. Few writers communicate such a sincere level of admiration for what is good and such a great hatred for injustice and tyranny to the soul. Not that he declaims; he is content to describe. But the impression that he is not acting as a counselor comes from his prose and I even believe that, if true eloquence can be felt on every one of his pages, it is because declamation is strictly banished from them. When the reader clearly sees the sequence of cause and effect, positive and negative feelings arise inextinguishably in his mind without his knowing and without its being necessary to tell him what ought to be hated and what loved.

I will not discuss whether the Treatise on Legislation ought to have been conceptualized on a more methodical basis. When you have read it you understand that it is just the foreword of an immense work interrupted by death and forever lost to the ardent souls of those who love the human race.

What I can say is this: I do not know of any book that makes one think more, which affords one newer and more fertile views both of man and society, or which produces in one to the same extent a feeling for the evidence. In view of the unjust way that young students appear to have abandoned this magnificent monument of genius, I would perhaps not have the courage to say such things aloud, knowing how careful I have to be of my own actions, if I were not able to rally to this opinion the patronage of two authorities; one is the Academy, which has acclaimed Mr. Comte's work, and the other a man of the highest merit to whom I put the question that book-lovers often ask each other: If you were condemned to solitude and were allowed only one modern work, which would you choose? The Treatise on Legislation by Mr. Comte, he told me, for if this is not the book that has the most in it, it is the one that most makes you think.



18. T.151 "A Letter (to Hippolyte Castille) (on intellectual property)" (9 Sept. 1847, Travail Intel.)


T.151 (1847.09.09) "A Letter (to Hippolyte Castille) (on intellectual property)" (Lettre), Mugron, 9 Sept. 1847; originally published in Castille's Le Travail intellectuel , no. 2, 15 Sept. 1847, p. 3, in a section called "Nouvelles adhésions" (new supporters). [OC2.49b, pp. 340-42.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

This is the first of three pieces on literary and intellectual property rights Bastiat wrote. The first was this "Letter to Hippolyte Castille" in Castille's journal Le Travail intellectual , no. 2, 15 Sept. 1847, in which he strongly endorsed the new journal and its mission; the second was his "Speech to the Publishers' Circle", 16 Dec. 1847 (below, pp. 000) in which he outlined his thoughts on literary property rights as part of a more general theory of the natural right to property of all kinds (also published in Castille's journal); and a "Letter to Jobard", 22 Jan., 1848 (below, pp. 000) on intellectual property as it applied to inventions (which was not published in his lifetime).

Hippolyte Castille (1820-1886) 801 was a journalist who wrote for the Courrier français , 802 as did Gustave de Molinari and, after his arrival in Paris in 1845 occasionally also Bastiat. Bastiat and Molinari shared several interests with Castille. One was Castille's regular "soirée" which was held in his large home on the rue Saint-Lazare, no. 79 (the old residence of Cardinal Fesch) where radicals of various kinds met to discuss politics and economic ideas. Castille had links to left leaning radicals and was also able to reach out to some of the liberal political economists, such as Bastiat, Molinari, Joseph Garnier, Alcide Fonteyraud, and Charles Coquelin, who also attended his soirée which met regularly between 1844 and early 1848. It was Castille's home which supplied the name for Molinari's book, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (1849), and the various attendees from both the left and the right no doubt supplied Molinari with the arguments which he used in his "conversations" between a Socialist, a Conservative, and an Economist. 803

The second shared interest was the question of intellectual property. Castille began a journal devoted to this issue in August 1847, Le Travail intellectuel , which lasted for 7 issues until it closed on 15 February 1848 just before the Revolution broke out. 804 Molinari is mentioned as a "collaborator" and other leading economists, such as Frédéric Bastiat, Charles Dunoyer, Horace Say, Michel Chevalier, Joseph Garnier, were listed as "supporters", although they did not appear to contribute much in the way of articles. The economists were deeply divided on the question of intellectual property, with some being "absolutists" in defending the right of authors and inventors to a perpetual property right in their creations, such as Molinari, Laboulaye, Frédéric Passy, Modeste, and Paillottet; while others such as Wolowski, Renouard, de Lavergne, Foucher, and Dupuit, believed that it should be a limited right of short duration, that it was a "license" for first use but not an absolute and eternal property right. 805 Bastiat wrote this piece as a letter of support and endorsement for Castille's new journal and it appeared in the second issue of 15 Sept. 1847, p. 3, in a section called "Nouvelles adhésions" (new supporters). It seems from his remarks in this letter that he was closer in his views to the absolutists like Molinari than to the advocates of a limited "license."

A third shared interest was in starting a daily newspaper, La République française , the day after the Revolution broke out on 26 February, 1848. Castille joined Frédéric Bastiat and Gustave de Molinari in writing and editing the paper which appeared in 30 issues between 26 February and 28 March. The format of the magazine was only one or two pages which could be handed out on street corners or in a larger format pasted to walls so that passers by could read them. By mid-1848 Castille had gradually drifted apart from his economist friends and eventually sided with the left-leaning radical republicans.


Mugron, 9 September 1847


It is with great satisfaction that I have learnt of the arrival in this world of the journal which you are publishing with the aim of defending intellectual property .

My entire economic doctrine is summed up in these words: Services are exchanged for other services 806 or, in more vulgar idiom: Do this for me and I will do that for you , which applies to intellectual property just as much as to material property.

I believe that both the efforts made by men, in whatever form, and the results of these efforts belong to them, and that this gives them the right to dispose of them for their own use or to exchange them. Like anyone else, I admire those who make voluntary sacrifices for their fellow men, but I cannot see any morality or justice in having the law impose this sacrifice on them systematically. It is on this principle that I defend free trade, since I sincerely see in restrictive regimes an attack of the most burdensome kind on property in general and in particular on the most respectable, the most immediate and generally essential of properties, the property which comes from our labor.

I am therefore, in principle, a fervent partisan of literary property. In practice, it may be difficult to guarantee this type of property. However, this difficulty is not an insurmountable legal impediment for the claimants involved.

The right to property of what one has produced through one's own labour and the exercise of one's own faculties is the essence of society. The right to property exists prior to the law and, far from law having any obligation to impede its enjoyment, it has no other purpose in the world than to guarantee it.

I consider that the most illogical of all laws is the one that regulates literary property in our country. It gives it a reign of twenty years following the death of the author. 807 Why not fifteen or sixty? On what principle has this arbitrary number been selected? On the unfortunate principle that the law creates property, a principle that has the power to turn the world upside down.

'What is just is useful' is an axiom the truth of which political economy often has the opportunity of acknowledging. It has one more application in this question. When literary property has a very limited legal life, it may happen that the law itself places the full weight of self-interest on the side of short-lived works, shallow novels or articles that encourage the passions of the moment and satisfy current fashion. Sales are sought among the current reading public given to you by the law and not in the future reading public of which it deprives you. Why would people devote time to a long-lasting work if all that they can leave their children is some literary wreckage? Do you plant oaks on common land for which you have received a short concession? An author would be strongly encouraged to add to, correct, and polish his work if he were able to say to his son, "It is possible that this book will not be appreciated in my lifetime. However, it will gain an audience through its intrinsic value. It is the oak that will shelter you and your children and give you shade."

I know, Sir, that these ideas appear very mercenary to many people. It is the fashion today to base everything on the principle of the disinterestedness of others . If those who make this claim were willing to examine their consciences a little, perhaps they would not be so quick to forbid writers from caring about their future and their family or the sentiment of self-interest , since it has to be given its proper name. Some time ago, I spent an entire night reading a brief work in which the author denounced energetically anyone who obtained the slightest reward from intellectual work. 808 The next day, I opened a journal and, by a strange coincidence, the first thing I read was that this same author had just sold his works for a considerable amount. This encapsulates selflessness in this century, the moral code we impose on each other without observing it ourselves. In any case, such selflessness, admirable as it is, is not worth its name if it is required by law, and the law is very unjust if it demands this solely from those who work with ideas.

For my part, persuaded as I am, through constant observation and by the actions of the very people who rail against it, that self-interest is an indestructible individual motive and an essential social stimulus. 809 I am happy to see that, in this circumstance as in many others, its general effects coincide with justice and universal well-being of the highest order, and for this reason, I am a wholehearted supporter of your worthwhile enterprise.

Your devoted servant,

Frédéric Bastiat.

Editor in Chief of Le Libre-Échange



19. T.299 (late 1847) "The Difference between doing Business and an Act of Charity"


T.299 (late 1847) "The Difference between doing Business and an Act of Charity" (late 1847). This previously unpublished sketch was discovered by the original French editor Paillottet among Bastiat's papers and inserted in a footnote to "Justice and Fraternity". He dated it late-1847. [OC4, p. 311] [CW2, p. 70] </titles/2450#lf1573-02_label_163>

Editor's Introduction

This short piece was found among Bastiat's papers by the French editor Paillottet who included it in a footnote to one of Bastiat's anti-socialist pamphlets, "Justice and Fraternity" (June 1848), 810 which Paillottet republished in Bastiat's Collected Works in 1854. 811 Paillottet thought Bastiat had written it in late 1847 before the revolution had broken out in February 1848 but included in with this pamphlet which was first published just a few days before one of the bloodiest moments of the 1848 Revolution, namely the June Days uprising. The link between the sketch and the essay was the topic of "fraternity" which was a major part of the socialist critique of the free market system which Louis Blanc and his followers had been making throughout the late 1840s. When the monarchy of Louis Philippe was overthrown, Louis Blanc moved swiftly to implement socialist reforms in the workplace by means of the National Workshops program which he established and ran from the Luxembourg Palace. In addition to requiring the state to provide a guaranteed job for everybody, the socialists wanted to replace wage labour with a more "cooperative" and "fraternal" way of organising labour which would also be encouraged and possibly even established and enforced by the state. Bastiat denounced this as "the dogma of fraternity":

I believe that what radically divides us is this: political economy reaches the conclusion that only universal justice should be demanded of the law. Socialism, in its various branches and through applications whose number is of course unlimited, demands in addition that the law should put into practice the dogma of fraternity. 812

In this short sketch Bastiat makes the argument that business transactions are different from acts of charity and that it is a mistake to conflate the two, even though the same person may engage in both. According to Bastiat's theory of exchange the two parties to an exchange enter it voluntarily and both expect to benefit, not out of a sense of charity towards each other, but out of personal self-interest. As with "legal" or state-imposed charity, "legal" or state-imposed fraternity along the lines proposed by socialists like Louis Blanc, would destroy the true fraternity which springs from voluntary cooperation among individuals.


In practical terms, men have always distinguished between a business transaction and an act of pure benevolence. I have on occasion been pleased to observe the most charitable man, the most selfless heart, and the most fraternal soul that I know. The parish priest of my village 813 raises love for his fellow men and particularly for the poor to an exceptional level. It goes so far that when he has to extract money from the rich in order to assist the poor, this fine man is not very scrupulous in his choice of means.

He had taken in a nun in her seventies as a lodger in his house, one of those people that the Revolution had scattered around the world. In order to give an hour's entertainment to his lodger he, who had never touched a playing card, learned to play piquet, 814 and it was a sight for sore eyes to see him pretending to be enthusiastic about the game so that the nun was persuaded that she was being helpful to her benefactor. This lasted for fifteen years. But here is what turned an act of simple charity into one of heroism. The good nun was suffering from a generalized cancer that caused an abominable odor to emanate from her and of which she was unconscious. In spite of this, the priest was never seen to take tobacco during the game for fear of making the unfortunate patient aware of her situation. How many people who received the cross this past May 1 would be capable of doing for one day what my old priest did for fifteen years?

Well then! I observed this priest and was able to ascertain that when he engaged in business , he was as vigilant as any trader in the Marais. 815 He defended his territory, watched out for the weight, the measure, the quality, and the price, and at no time ever thought of combining charity and fraternity in the matter.

Let us therefore strip the word fraternity of all the false, puerile, and high-flown trappings that have lately been added to it.



20. T.300 (1847.11.28) "On the Difference between Illegal and Immoral Acts" (LE, 28 Nov. 1847)


T.300 (1847.11.28) "On the Difference between Illegal and Immoral Acts" (LE, 28 Nov. 1847, no. 1, 2e année, pp. 1-2). The piece in LE had no title so we have given it one. The original French editor Paillottet inserted a shortened version of it in a footnote to "Plunder and Law". We include the complete article in CW4. [OC5, pp. 2-4] [CW2, pp. 267-68] and [CW4] </titles/2450#lf1573-02_footnote_nt243>.

Editor's Introduction

The original French editor Paillottet cut four paragraphs from the beginning of Bastiat's essay and one and half paragraphs from the end and inserted the shortened piece in a footnote to the pamphlet Plunder and Law (May 1850). We have translated the full version of the original article here.

Bastiat here is replying to criticism levelled at Le Libre-Échange by the Le Moniteur industriel which was the journal of the protectionist "Association for the Defense of National Employment" (also known as the Mimerel Committee) and the arch-foe of the free traders. 816 They accused Le Libre-Échange of defending smugglers who broke the law by selling goods which were either banned by the state or heavily protected and taxed for the benefit of special interests. The Moniteur industriel even went as far as accusing the free traders of "sedition". 817 This accusation was partly true as the language used by the free traders like Bastiat had increased in intensity and "harshness" over the previous two years. Ironically, Bastiat had started the ball rolling with his call for more direct and even "hash" language in "Theft by Subsidy" (Jan. 1846) in which he described subsidies to protected industries as a form of theft and told his readers that "Frankly, my good people, you are being robbed." 818 He gradually developed an entire vocabulary to describe the actions of the government in protecting and subsidising domestic industry. This included words such as "spolier" (to plunder),"dépouiller"(to dispossess), "voler" (to steal); "piller" (to loot or pillage), "filouter" (filching), and "violer" (rape). This of course offended those farmers and manufacturers being protected who argued in reply that what they were doing was perfectly legal. In turn, Bastiat retorted that there was a distinction between "la spoliation extra-légale" (extra-legal plunder), committed by highway robbers, which was universally condemned, and "la spoliation légale" (legal plunder) 819 committed by landowners and manufacturers who used their influence in the Chamber of Deputies to get laws passed in their favour, and even "la spoliation gouvernementale" (plunder by government), an expression he used in late 1847. 820 It would seem to be a small step to go from denouncing government actions as criminal theft, to urging people to avoid it as best they can, or to take steps to combat it, and perhaps then praising those who did so.

An example of the latter can be found in some of the speeches given at the Congrès des Économistes hosted by the Belgian Association for Commercial Freedom held in Brussels 16-18 September 1847, 821 which so incensed the members of the Association for the Defense of National Employment. Adolphe Blanqui, 822 who taught political economy at the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers and was elected Deputy representing the Gironde from 1846-48, argued that the smugglers he had met in Spain were "un être très-positif" (good people), who were overall very good businessmen, who carried a large stock of items which they could deliver on time to their customers, who employed many people of all ages, both men and women, and who were quite professional in their dealings with their customers. Blanqui concluded from this that "I then realised that the protectionist system had a canker within itself which would end up killing it without the economists getting involved." This produced considerable laughter and applause from those economists in attendance. 823

This was followed by a speech by Joseph Garnier, 824 the editor of the Journal des Économistes , who literally sang the praises of the goguettier (political song writer) Jean-Pierre Béranger 825 who had written "cette chanson qui est réellement libre échangiste" (this really free trade song) "Les Contrebandiers" (The Smugglers). The verse he quoted has an interesting pun on the phrase "the balance of trade" and he very much likes the verse which shows the smugglers' utter disregard for artificial national borders:

Aux échanges l'homme s'exerce.

Mais l'impôt barre les chemins.

Passons; c'est nous qui du commerce

Tiendrons la balance en nos mains.

Men are busy engaged in trade,

But taxes block the roads.

Lets us pass; it is we who hold

The balance of trade in our hands.

À la frontière où l'oiseau vole,

Rien ne lui dit: Suis d'autre lois.

L'été vient tarir la rigole,

Qui sert de limite à deux rois.

At the frontier where the birds fly above,

Nothing says to them: Obey another law.

Summer comes to dry up the stream,

Which serves as the border between two kings.

Prix du sang qu'ils répandent,

Là leurs droits sont perçus.

Ces bornes qu'ils défendent,

Nous sautons par-dessus.

They demand a price in blood,

Here where their duties are collected.

These borders that they defend,

We (just) jump over them.

[Source] 826

Le Moniteur industriel responded angrily to these pro-smuggler sentiments expressed at the Congress of Economists and this in turn prompted an equally angry rebuttal by an unnamed author in Le Libre-Échange on 21 November 1847 entitled "Always Smuggling." Normally, unsigned articles in Le Libre-Échange should be attributed to the pen of Bastiat, and since the word "la ruse" (fraud, trickery) appeared in the essay and was one commonly used by him in his theory of plunder, his authorship would be plausible. However, in the essay below he denies it was him, or any "professor of political economy," thus ruling out Garnier and Blanqui. Hence it may have been written by Gustave de Molinari who was the more radical of the two on the issue of the immediacy of introducing free trade (he wanted it introduced immediately with no phasing in period, while the FFTA wanted a lengthy one); and he firmly believed protectionist duties were a form of theft as bad as "brigandage on the back roads of Calabria" and that doing deals with the protectionists on the Odier Committee was like paying protection money to Italian criminals. 827 Whoever the author may have been, perhaps Bastiat was forced to retract the radical piece under pressure from the more moderate backers of the FFTA.

The main argument of both the author of "Always Smuggling" and Bastiat in the piece below is that there is a difference between something being immoral and something being illegal, that smuggling was an illegal activity, but that protectionism was "a much greater (act of) immorality" than smuggling, even though it was technically legal.


The mouth-piece of the committee run by Odier-Mimerel, Leboeuf, and company - the Moniteur industriel - commands us to assume responsibility for the article on smuggling which appeared in the previous issue of Libre-Échange . This article was not written by any professor of political economy, nor by the director of the journal (i.e. Bastiat), but M. Bastiat assumes full responsibility for it.

In its zeal to find us responsible, even criminal, the Moniteur asserts that we support a socially disruptive thesis, that we are justifying a revolt which is permanent, constant, organised, armed, and which is against the law and the constitution of the country . At the same time, the Moniteur quotes our own words: smuggling is immoral because it is a violation of the laws of the State .

We declare in the most formal manner possible that obedience to the laws of the State is in our eyes a sacred principle. As long as citizens have under the constitution a means, however imperfect, of obtaining redress from bad laws, it is for them not only a duty but good politics to resort exclusively to this means. Our Association, all our efforts, all our words and deeds attest to the fact that obedience to the law has always been our rule, our limit, and our hope. We appeal to the majority. We announce in advance that we have the patience to wait for its verdict. So how can the Moniteur industriel have the audacity to say that, according to us, the first person who comes along can declare that such and such a law is immoral and thus immediately has the right to engage in permanent revolt ?

Where does this confusion of the Moniteur industriel come from when it attempts to introduce into this debate the idea that we consider trade restrictions more immoral than smuggling? But to say that one act is more immoral than another, does this exonerate the lesser? In particular, does it allow one to say that one can carry it out by force of arms? 828

We would ask the reader to forgive us if we become casuists for a moment. Our opponents oblige us to put on our doctor's mortarboard. This is appropriate since it often pleases them to refer to us as doctors .

An illegal act is always immoral for the sole reason that it disobeys the law, but it does not follow that it is immoral in itself. When a mason (we apologize to our colleague for drawing his attention to such a small point) exchanges his wages from a hard day's work for a length of Belgian cloth, 829 his action is not intrinsically immoral. It is not the action that is immoral in itself; it is the violation of the law. And the proof of this is that, should the law be changed, no one would find anything wrong with this exchange. It is not immoral in Switzerland. But what is immoral in itself is immoral everywhere and at all times. Will Le Moniteur industriel claim that the morality of acts depends on their time and place?

If some acts can be illegal without being immoral , others are immoral without being illegal . When our colleague changes our words by trying to find a meaning in them that is not there, when certain people, after privately declaring that they are in favor of freedom, write and vote publicly against it, when a master makes his slave work by beating him, it is possible that the Code is not violated, but the consciences of all honest men are revolted. It is at the head of this category of actions that we place these trade restrictions. A Frenchman says to another Frenchman who is his equal or ought to be, "I forbid you to buy Belgian cloth because I want you to be forced to come to my shop. That may upset you but it suits my purpose. You will lose four francs but I will gain two and that is enough." We would say that this action is immoral. If someone is bold enough to carry it out himself by force or by means of the law, this does not change the character of the act. It is immoral by nature, in essence; it would have been so ten thousand years ago and would be in the Antipodes or on the moon, since whatever Le Moniteur industriel says, the law, which can do a great deal, cannot, however, turn something that is bad into good.

We are not even afraid to say that the contribution of the law increases the immorality of the act. If it were not involved, if for example the manufacturer had his wish for trade restrictions executed by those in his pay, the immorality would be blindingly obvious to Le Moniteur industriel itself. 830 What then! Because this manufacturer was able to spare himself this effort, because he was able to make use of the services of the power of the State and saddle those oppressed with part of the costs of repression, what was immoral has become praiseworthy!

It is true that the people thus trampled on may imagine that it is for their own good and that oppression results from an error common to both oppressors and those oppressed. This is enough to justify the intention and remove from the act the heinous character that it would otherwise have. Where this happens, the majority approves of the law. We have to accept this and would never say otherwise. However, nothing will stop us from telling the majority that in our opinion, it is mistaken. 831 After all, we must have considered trade restrictions to be immoral since we are attempting to destroy them. Isn't the Moniteur doing just as much with regard to freed trade?

We cannot end the discussion without thanking our esteemed colleague for the opportunity he has given us to clarify these questions which are still troubling to the majority. Without him we would not always have known what objections we had to respond to, and in doing so he assuredly provides us with a valuable service to our cause.



21. T.161 "On the Export of Gold Bullion" (LE, 12 Dec. 1847)


T.161 (1847.12.12) "On the Export of Gold Bullion" (Sur l'exportation du numéraire), LE , 12 Dec. 1847, no. 3 (2nd year), p. 13. [OC2.21, pp. 112-16.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

During the eighteen months prior to the publication of this essay in the journal of the French Free Trade Association, Le Libre-Échange , Bastiat had written or spoken about the balance of trade on several occasions. He first touched upon it in the Introduction he wrote to his first book on Cobden and the League (July 1845) and then in the article "Balance of Trade" in JDE Oct. 1845 (which was later republished in ES1 6 under the same title). 832 Over the course of 1846 and 1847 when he began working full-time for the free trade movement he mentioned it in letters he wrote to the editors of newspapers, wrote articles on it for Le Libre-Échange , and discussed it in public speeches he gave for the Association. This essay on "The Export of Gold" was the last time he mentioned it except in passing for the next two years as the events of the Revolution of 1848 overtook him. He would not return to the topic until March 1850 when he wro