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The Works of Bastiat in Chronological Order 2: The Paris Writings I 1844-1848

Part 2: The “Paris” Writings I: Bastiat and the Free Trade Movement (Nov. 1844 - Feb. 1848)

[Updated: 22 June, 2017 of a "work in progress"]

Note: We have added final draft versions of material which will appear in the Collected Works, vol.3 "Economic Sophisms and WSWNS"; and vol. 4 "Miscellaneous Writings on Economics."

Rue Richelieu and the Molière fountain, Paris where the Guillaumin publishers were located


Map of Paris in 1841 showing the Octrois customs gates which were built in the 1780s (pink) and the planned military walls and forts (orange and red) which were constructed between 1841-44. Thus, when FB came to Paris in May 1845 they would have only recently been completed.


Introduction to the Collected Works in Chronological Order

Frédéric Bastiat’s 6 volume Collected Works published by Liberty Fund is a thematic collection.

  • Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011). /titles/2393.
  • Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, Jacques de Guenin, General Editor. Translated from the French by Jane Willems and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Pascal Salin. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation Editor Dennis O’Keeffe. Academic Editor, David M. Hart (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012). /titles/2450.
  • Vol. 3: Economic Sophisms and “What is Seen and What is Not Seen”. Jacques de Guenin, General Editor. Translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with a foreword by Robert McTeer, and an introduction and appendices by the Academic Editor David M. Hart. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation Editor Dennis O'Keeffe. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2017). (Not yet online.)
  • Vol. 4: Miscellaneous Works on Economics (forthcoming)
  • Vol. 5: Economic Harmonies (forthcoming)
  • Vol. 6: The Struggle Against Protectionism: The English and French Free-Trade Movements (forthcoming)

We are also creating a chronological version of Bastiat’s writings which only be available online. As the printed version becomes available in digital form we will add it to the chronological version. Thus, this is a work in progress. There is a complete list of all of Bastiat’s writings in order of appearance here. We have divided Bastiat’s works into 4 parts based upon the key periods and events in his life:

  1. Early Writings: The Bayonne and Mugron Years, 1819–1844
  2. The “Paris” Writings I: Bastiat and the Free Trade Movement (Oct. 1844 - Feb. 1848)
  3. The “Paris” Writings II: Bastiat the Politician, Anti-Socialist, and Economist (Feb. 1848 - Dec. 1850)
  4. The Unfinished Treatises: The Social and Economic Harmonies and The History of Plunder (1850–51)

For further information, see:

The abbreviations used in this paper:

  • 1847.02.14 = the work was published on Feb. 14, 1847
  • ACLL = the English Anti-Corn Law League (1838-46)
  • AEPS = L'Annuaire de l'économie politique et statistique (published by Guillaumin)
  • ASEP = Annales de la Société d'Économie Politique. Publiées sous la direction de Alph. Courtois fils, secrétaire perpétuel, Tome premier 1846-1853 (Paris: Guillaumin,1889).
  • CRANC = Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale Constituante
  • CRANL = Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale Législative
  • CF = Le Courrier française
  • CH = Letters from Lettres d'un habitant des Landes, Frédéric Bastiat. Edited by Mme Cheuvreux. (1877)
  • CW = the Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat (Liberty Fund edition)
  • CW1 = volume 1 of The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat
  • OC = Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat (Paillottet/Guillaumin edition)
  • OC1.9 = the 9th article in vol. 1 of the Oeuvres complètes
  • DEP = Dictionnaire d'économie politique
  • DMH = text discovered by David M. Hart which is not in Paillottet's OC
  • EH = Economic Harmonies
  • EH1 = Economic Harmonies - the incomplete edtion publlished by FB during his lifetime in Jan. 1850 (11 chaps.)
  • EH2 = Economic Harmonies - the expanded edtion with 22 chaps. publlished by Paillottet and Fontenay in July 1851
  • Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle (1846) = 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)
  • ES1 = Economic Sophisms. First Series (published Jan. 1846)
  • ES1.10 = the tenth essay in ES1
  • ES2 = Economic Sophisms. Second Series (published Jan. 1848)
  • ES3 = Economic Sophisms. Third Series (compiled and published by LF in 2017 in CW3)
  • FEE = Foundation for Economic Education
  • JB = the journal Jacques Bonhomme (June 1848)
  • JCPD = the original document was unpublished and is in the possession of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean
  • JDD = Journal des débats
  • JDE = Journal des Économistes
  • LÉ = Le Libre-Échange
  • n.d. = no date of publication is known
  • OC1 = Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, ed. Prosper Paillottet in 6 vols. (1854–55)
  • OC2 = 2nd edition of Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, ed. Prosper Paillottet in 7 vols. (1862–64)
  • PES = Political Economy Society (Société d'économie politique)
  • PP = Prosper Paillottet, the editor of FB's OC
  • RF = La République française Feb.-March 1848)
  • Ronce = P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905).
  • SP = La Sentinelle des Pyrénées
  • PES = Political Economy Society (Société d'Économie Politique)
  • T = either means "volume" (tome) or "Text" ID number (as in T.28)
  • T.1 = text number one in the chronological table of contents of his writings
  • WSWNS = What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

The full method of citation for Bastiat’s writings (which is sometimes abbreviated in this article for reasons of space):

  • T.102 (1847.01.17) "L'utopiste" (The Utopian) [Le Libre-Échange, 17 January 1847] [OC4.2.11, pp. 203–12] [ES2 11, CW3, pp. 187-98]
  • text number in chronological ToC, date, French title, English title, place and date of original publication, location in French OC, location in ES, location in LF's CW volume.
  • Letter 3. Bayonne, 18 March 1820. To Victor Calmètes [OC1, p. 3] [CW1, pp. 28-30]
  • letter number in CW1, place and date letter written, recipient, location in OC, location in LF CW


Table of Contents

Recently added items are in BOLD [from CW4 draft 16 June, 2017].

Introduction to Part 2


Articles and Essays

Bastiat's Writings in 1845

Bastiat's Writings in 1846

Bastiat's Writings in 1847

Bastiat's Writings in Early 1848 (before the Feb. Revolution)

Books and Pamphlets



Introduction to Part 2: The “Paris” Writings I: Bastiat and the Free Trade Movement (Oct. 1844 - Feb. 1848)

[Updated; 21 June, 2017.]

Trade is a natural right, like property. Every citizen who has created or acquired a product should have the option either of using it immediately or of selling it to someone anywhere in the world who is willing to give him what he wants in exchange. Depriving him of this faculty, when he is not using it for a purpose contrary to public order or morals, and solely to satisfy the convenience of another citizen is to justify plunder and violate the laws of justice.
(Declaration of Principles of the French Free Trade Association, 10 May 1846 (CW6))

Key works from this period:

  • the article which first brought him to the attention of the Parisian economists: T.19 "On the Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two People", Journal des Économistes, October 1844. (CW6 forthcoming)
  • his first book on T.27 Cobden and The League (1845) - in the long “Introduction” Bastiat deals with the strategy adopted by the ACLL and how it might be applied to France (CW6 forthcoming)
  • many articles crticising protectionism and subsidies in the Journal des Économistes and the weekly journal of the French Free Trade Association, Le Libre-Échange which would be collected in the two volumes of his economic journalism Economic Sophisms series I (Jan. 1846) and II (Jan. 1848), such as:
    • ES1 7 "Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles, etc." (JDE, October 1845), in CW3, pp. 49–53.
    • ES1 17 "A Negative Railway" (c. 1845), in CW3, pp. 81–83.
    • ES2 11 “The Utopian” (LE, 17 Jan., 1847), in CW3, pp. 187–98.
    • ES2 10 “The Tax Collector” (c. 1847), in CW3, pp. 179–87.
    • ES3 16 “Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill” (c. 1847), in CW3, pp. 343–50.
    • ES3 18 “The Mayor of Énios” (LE, 6 Feb. 1848), in CW3, pp. 355–65.
  • a parallel series of articles of a more theoretical nature in which Bastiat develops his innovative ideas which will become his future economic treatise Economic Harmonies
    • T.23 “Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine” (Feb. 1845, JDE) (CW4 forthcoming)
    • T.64 “On Competition” (May 1846, JDE) (CW4 forthcoming)
    • T.81 “On Population” (Oct. 1846, JDE) (CW4 forthcoming)
    • T.149 “Draft Preface for the Harmonies” (Sept. 1847) CW1, pp. 316–20.
    • T.176 “Natural and Artificial Organisation” (Jan., 1848, JDE) (CW4 forthcoming)
  • scattered works in which he explores the nature and history of plunder, ES2 1 “The Physiology of Plunder” (late 1847), CW3, pp. 113–30.

Not all the works from this period were written in Paris but they reflect his entry into the orbit of the Guillaumin network[20] of economists and free traders who were based largely in Paris, where he eventually took up residence. (The population of Paris in 1846 was just over 1 million people, thus dwarfing the small world of Mugron from which Bastiat had come). Urbain Guillaumin (1801–1864) was the same age as Bastiat and his publishing firm had become the centre of the political economy movement in Paris. He published most of their books (including nearly all of Bastiat’s), the main journal, the Journal des Économistes (founded 1841), and provided a home for the Political Economy Society (founded 1842) which held monthly meetings which Bastiat attended whenever he could.[21] Most importantly, Guillaumin had developed a network of intellectuals, academics, businessmen, politicians, and journalists which provided Bastiat with important contacts and sources of funding when he came to Paris in May, 1845 when the Political Economy Society hosted a dinner in his honour.[22]

Bastiat’s growing interest in free trade in 1844 led to him doing extensive research on Richard Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League, which resulted in a long article which was published in the October issue of the Journal des Économistes and material which the following year would be published as a book on Cobden and the League.[23] These two works provided him with the entrée into the Parisian political economy movement which he needed in order to make a career as a free trade activist and then an economist. In the article on “On the Influence of French and English Tariffs” (Oct. 1844) Bastiat explains to French readers some of the profound changes which were sweeping the world as a result of a new climate of opinion in favour of free trade in England which he thinks will also eventually reach France. He wanted to tell them about the activities of the Anti-Corn Law League which the French press had largely ignored, and how free trade is not only an economic issue which will affect the prosperity of all people, but also a political issue in that it was challenging the power and privileges of the industrial and landowning elites which controlled the British government. He predicted something similar would happen in France. In this early article Bastiat shows his typical approach to economic problems which is to combine his solid grasp of economic data with tables of data to back up his arguments, and a strong moral component in which he argues that tariffs and protection are not only economically damaging to ordinary consumers but also violate their rights to liberty and property. The two approaches are tied together with a writing style which is both direct and very engaging.

Cobden and the League (June 1845) was Bastiat’s first book and it was published by Guillaumin which shows how quickly Bastiat was accepted into the free market group in Paris. In the long, nearly 100 page introduction, Bastiat took up a new theme which he had not addressed in his first article, namely, explaining to French readers the ideas and strategies of the Anti-Corn Law League. In his mind the Leaguers had developed an entirely new strategy of peaceful, mass agitation for radical reform from which the French free market movement could learn a great deal. This is why he translated so many of the speeches of the League’s coterie of travelling lecturers as examples for the French to copy. He also pointed out the important role that women played in the behind the scenes organisation of the League, thus demonstrating the depth of support the free trade agitators had been able to acquire since they began operating in 1838. We also see in this piece the beginnings of Bastiat’s interest in the notion of “plunder” (la spoliation) which was to become so important to his thinking over the next couple of years. He would return to this topic in the opening chapter of ES2 on “The Physiology of Plunder” (written late 1847).[24]

In the “Introduction” to Cobden and the League Bastiat linked the policy of tariffs and indirect taxation of consumer goods to the control of the British government by the English aristocracy, or “Oligarchy” as he called them, which had its roots in the Norman Conquest of Britain. These “plunderers” had skewed tax policy so that the burden of taxes was paid by the “industrious class”, the “plundered”, or the ordinary farmers, workers, and shop keepers. By striking at the lynchpin of their power, tariffs, which maintained their incomes at the expence of consumers, the Anti-Corn Law League was striking a blow for democracy and freedom in a “quiet revolution” which would change the entire world. Bastiat took it upon himself at this moment in history to hasten the arrival of this revolution in France by exposing the “sophisms” or the false arguments used by these plunderers to bolster their privileged position in society. The reforms advocated by Bastiat were modeled on those of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, namely to abolish tariffs, to dismantle the colonial system, and to abolish all taxes except for a single, low direct tax like a tariff of 5% or a very low income tax which everyone would pay. [25] The demands he articulated in 1845 remained constant for the rest of his life. Bastiat concluded the introduction with a piece of impassioned rhetoric where he called for “Liberty for all! Free trade with the entire world! Peace with the entire world!”

Over the course of the following three years Bastiat published 21 articles in the JDE (8 in 1845, 10 in 1846, and 3 in 1847),[26] including many academic ones on trade policy and the negative impact of protectionism on France and England, as well as other more popularly written articles which would be included in his collections known as Economic Sophisms (Series I appeared in Jan. 1846, Series II in Jan. 1848).[27] Examples of his more substantial articles on trade policy include, “The Economic Situation of Great Britain: Financial Reforms and Agitation for Commercial Freedom” (June 1845);[28] “On the Future of the Wine Trade between France and England” (Aug. 1845);[29] and “On the Impact of the Protectionist Regime on Agriculture” (Dec. 1846).[30]

No one had ever seen anything like the Economic Sophisms before. In them, Bastiat perfected his “rhetoric of liberty”[31] in defence of free trade and free markets designed for a more popular audience. He used satire, mockery, sarcasm, jokes and puns, fake petitions to government officials, dialogues between stock characters, and sometimes even little plays in which some characters played defenders of tariffs and others their critics.[32] He wrote over 70 of them over a period of three years and produced two published collections (Jan. 1846 and Jan. 1848) which sold very well for Guillaumin and were quickly translated into English and several other European languages. The common aim of these very diverse pieces was to correct commonly held “fallacies” about economics (ideas that were wrong in theory or fact) and to expose and debunk another set of commonly held “sophisms” or partly true and partly false beliefs which were used to advance the private interests of the beneficiaries of tariffs and government privileges. Some of the fallacies he rebutted were the following: that the interests of the producers are the real interest of the nation; real wealth is measured by the amount of labor or effort expended to create goods and services; free trade harms the interests of the nation; and the state can and should provide all the needs of the people. The sophisms Bastiat attacked were very numerous but can be summarised under the following broad categories: “the seen and the unseen” - the idea that one should also look for the hidden or later appearing consequences of any intervention in the economy; positive and negative “ricochet” or flow on effects[33] - this is an early formulation of the Keynesian idea of the “multiplier effect” or that an intervention or subsidy will have a positive flow on effect to others; and the use of euphemisms and frightening language to make one's arguments - that critics of free market talk about trade “wars”, or the market being “flooded” with foreign goods.

Some examples of Bastiat’s best “economic sophisms” are the following. Perhaps his best in the First Series was the “Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles” (Oct. 1845),[34] a fictitious appeal for government assistance by the manufacturers of candles and other forms of artificial light against a foreign competitor, the sun, who undercut their prices and made it hard for them to make a living during daylight hours; and “A Negative Railway” (late 1845)[35] which is a hilarious story based on things Bastiat had observed in his home town when the General Council was debating where stops should be made on the new leg of the Bordeaux to Bayonne railway - the absurdity comes from the fact that if all the vested interests were satisfied the train would be forced to stop an infinite number of times in order to maximise the benefits to each town from overnight stays for passengers en route and the trans-shipping costs of moving luggage and cargo from one train to the next.

In the Second Series, “The Tax Collector” (late 1847)[36] contains a witty dialog between a tax collector, whom Bastiat mockingly calls “Mr. Blockhead”, and a sceptical wine producer, Jacques Bonhomme, who refuses to believe the tax collector’s claims that Jacques’ political “representatives” either represent him in any way or spend his hard earned money wisely in the public interest. In “The Utopian” (Jan. 1847)[37] an unnamed politician (perhaps Bastiat himself) is asked by the King to form a government which has dictatorial powers to enact reforms. The “utopian” politician dreams of all the cuts he could make to government programs and taxation, how many regulations he would abolish, and even how he would abolish the army and replace it with local militias. The story concludes with the utopian politician resigning because he realises his reforms would not work if they were imposed from above on a people who did not believe in their value. This returns to an idea he expressed in the “Introduction” to Cobden and the League that the battle for free trade would be won only after a revolution in thinking had taken place in the minds of voters and consumers.

In the Third Series, which Liberty Fund is publishing for the first time as Bastiat never found the time to publish his own edition before he died, Bastiat uses his stock device of the reductio ad absurdum in “The Mayor of Énios” (Feb. 1848).[38] The Mayor of a small town decides that if tariffs are good for France as a whole then they would also be good for his small town. He makes all the standard arguments in favour of tariffs to the townspeople and persuades them to let him impose tariffs on all goods, French or foreign, which are brought into the town. Trade grinds to a halt for most consumers but not for some privileged local producers within the town. Then the Prefect of the Département summons the mayor to the capital to inform him that only the nation state had the right to impose tariffs and that small towns like his should enjoy the many benefits of free trade and competition with its neighbours. The joke of course is that Bastiat has the Prefect defend free trade on the communal level while at the same time opposing it on the national and international level. In "Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill" (c. 1847)[39] Bastiat for the first time introduces the figure of Robinson Crusoe[40] shipwrecked on his Island of Despair to explore the nature of individual economic action and choice in its simplest and most abstract form. Bastiat would make much greater use of the Crusoe and Friday “thought experiment” in his treatise Economic Harmonies a couple of years later. This might be the first time any economist has done this and it is doubly noteworthy because it had a profound impact on the Austrian economist Murray N. Rothbard who used Bastiat’s innovation in creating the foundations of his theory of economics in Man, Economy, and State (1962) which he was writing during the 1950s.[41]

For most of 1845–47 Bastiat threw himself whole-heartedly into the French Free Trade movement until his health gave out in early 1848, firstly by writing and perfecting the style of his “economic sophisms” during 1845; helping launch a French Free Trade Association beginning with an Association based in the port city of Bordeaux near where he lived (Feb. 1846) and then a national association in Paris (May 1846); and then founding, editing, and largely writing the Association’s weekly journal Le Libre-Échange in November 1846.[42] The president of the FFTA was the Duc d'Harcourt and Bastiat was the secretary of the Board. Other members of the Board were a “who’s who” of the Parisian economists.

During this period he wrote the “Declaration of Principles” of the FFTA (May 1846)[43], weekly editorials and articles for LE,[44] and crisscrossed the country organising mass meetings at which he and other leading figures in the free trade movement would give speeches. He gave 8 major speeches between Feb. 1846 and Aug. 1847 in Bordeaux, Marseilles, Lyon, and Paris. These will be published in CW6 (forthcoming). The “Declaration of Principles” of the FFTA is an important statement of his belief that free trade was a natural right of individuals just like their right to own property. Although he was not a charismatic public speaking he was very effective with his ability to mix his deep knowledge of the economic data, his skill at satirizing the arguments of his opponents, and his penchant for drawing upon well-known classics of French literature (like the playwright Molière or the writers of fables La Fontaine) to make complex economic ideas understandable to ordinary people. It is quite likely that in his public speeches he entertained the audience with versions of his sophisms which he recited and possibly even acted out for them on the stage. In his journal Libre-Échange, “The People and the Bourgeoisie” (May 1847),[45] he tried to appeal to workers by arguing that they had a property in themselves and their labour which was just as sacred as the property in things so beloved of the bourgeoisie and therefore they should pay no heed to the socialists who were calling for the abolition of property.

There were great hopes during the first year of operation of the Association as the English legislation to repeal the protectionist corn laws made its way through various readings of the bill which finally became law in June 1846. Also, large crowds attended the many public meetings the French free traders held in cities like Bordeaux and Paris at which Bastiat and others spoke. There was even a hint that the French Chamber of Deputies would consider tariff reform but these hopes began to fade in mid–1847 when the Chamber buried any chance for tariff reforms in committee and attendance at the free trade meetings began to fall off. The final blow to the Association came with the outbreak of revolution in February 1848 when the Association’s Board decided to close down the Association as they concluded that socialism posed a greater problem at that moment than tariff policy. By then Bastiat’s health was getting worse and he had to withdraw from the position of editor of Le Libre-Échange.

In addition to his articles on trade policy and his more popular sophisms, Bastiat also wrote articles of a more theoretical nature, some of which would later be included in his treatise Economic Harmonies (1st ed. Jan. 1850, 2nd expanded ed. July 1851). These were on topics such as sharecropping, competition, taxation, population theory, and the nature of economic organisation. It appears that Bastiat already had conceived most of his original and important theoretical ideas before he came to Paris in May 1845 for a welcome dinner hosted by the PES. These were revealed in a very important article he wrote for the JDE in February before he moved to Paris. It was written in the form of a “letter from an Economist” to Alphonse Lamartine,[46] one of the leading literary figures, politicians, and classical liberals of his day, criticising him for his support for the idea that workers had “a right to a job”. It is interesting that at this very moment only a few months after he became known to the Parisian economists he was speaking on their behalf to one of the most eminent men of the period. Some of the important ideas he presented in this article would become very important in his treatise Economic Harmonies and they include the idea that society is 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; that there was a providentially guided ”harmony“ of interests which existed in society in the absence of coercion; that there were ”les forces perturbatrices“ (disturbing forces), such as war, government regulations, privileges, subsidies, and tariffs which upset the harmony of the free market; that the free market had within it self-correcting mechanisms which 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); and his first use of the term ”organisation artificielle" (artificial organisation) which would become important in his later critique of socialism.

Another very original and provocative article was the one “On Population” (Oct. 1846)[47] in which he challenged the pessimism of Malthus’s theory by arguing that he had seriously underestimated two things: the productive power of the free market once its shackles had been removed, and the ability and willingness of rational people to plan the size of their families. The article created quite a stir among the economists who did not like the fact that an outsider from the provinces like Bastiat was challenging one of the core beliefs of orthodox political economy. Bastiat’s career as an theoretical economist began in the late fall of 1847 when he was able to give a series of lectures at the Taranne Hall in Paris. His “draft preface” to his lectures[48] gives some idea of how important this was to him, but the lecture series was cut short when revolution broke out at the end of February 1848.

By the end of this period, Bastiat had shown himself to be a gifted economic journalist (perhaps one of the greatest who has ever lived), a successful author, a committed and hardworking free trade activist, and an aspiring economic theorist who had become an important part of the Guillaumin network of economists in Paris.


  1. Minart discusses the “Guillaumin network” in Gérard Minart, Gustave de Molinari (1819–1912), pour un gouvernement à bon marché dans un milieu libre (Paris: Institut Charles Coquelin, 2012), p. 56.  ↩

  2. On Guillaumin, see Lucette Levan-Lemesle, "Guillaumin, Éditeur d'Économie politique 1801–1864," Revue d'économie politique, 96e année, No. 2, 1985, pp. 134–149. On the Political Economy Society, see Breton, Yves. "The Société d'économie politique of Paris (1842–1914)." In The Spread of Political Economy and the Professionalisation of Economists: Economic Societies in Europe, America and Japan in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Massimo M. Augello and Marco E. L. Guidi. London: Routledge, 2001. On the JDE, see Lutfalla, Michel. "Aux origines du libéralisme économique en France: Le 'Journal des économistes.'" Revue d'histoire économique et sociale, 50, no. 4, 1972, pp. 494–517.  ↩

  3. He describes his welcome dinner to Félix Coudroy in Letter 37 to Félix Coudroy, Paris, May 1845, in CW1, pp. 59–61.  ↩

  4. Bastiat, T.27 Cobden et la Ligue, ou l'agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845). The book consisted of Bastiat’s translations and summaries of League speeches and articles from the British press, along with his lengthy introduction, pp. i-xcvi.  ↩

  5. T.166 “The Physiology of Plunder” (late 1847), ES2 1, CW3, pp. 113–30.  ↩

  6. See, "Bastiat's Policy on Tariffs" in Further Aspects of Bastiat's Thought, in CW3, p. 455.  ↩

  7. A full list of the articles Bastiat published in the JDE can be found here (to come).  ↩

  8. Bastiat, Sophismes économiques. Première série. (Paris: Guillaumin, 1846) and Sophismes économiques. Deuxième série. (Paris: Guillaumin, 1848). He also wrote enough for a Third Series which were not published as a separate volume in his lifetime. All three can be found in CW3 final draft version. FEE ed. of Series I and II only  ↩

  9. T.28 "Situation économique de la Grande-Bretagne. Réformes financières. Agitation pour la liberté commerciale" (The Economic Situation of Great Britain: Financial Reforms and Agitation for Commercial Freedom), JDE, Juin 1845, T. XI, 233–265. This was adapted from his introduction to his book Cobden and the League, pp. vii ff.  ↩

  10. T.31 "De l’avenir du commerce des vins entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne" (On the Future of the Wine Trade between France and England), Journal des Économistes, Aug. 1845 in CW6 (forthcoming).  ↩

  11. T.91 "De l’influence du régime protecteur sur l’agriculture" (On the Impact of the Protectionist Regime on Agriculture), Journal des Économistes, Décembre 1846 in CW6 (forthcoming).  ↩

  12. See David M. Hart, "Bastiat’s Rhetoric of Liberty: Satire and the 'Sting of Ridicule'," in the Introduction to CW3, pp. lviii-lxiv.  ↩

  13. See, "The Format of the Economic Sophisms," in the Introduction to CW3, pp. li-lii; and "Bastiat and Conversations about Liberty" in Further Aspects of Bastiat's Thought, in CW3, pp. 470–73.  ↩

  14. "The Sophism Bastiat never wrote: The Sophism of the Ricochet Effect" in Further Aspects of Bastiat's Thought, in CW3, pp. 457–61.  ↩

  15. T.33 ES1 7 "Pétition des fabricants de chandelles, etc." (Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles, etc.), Journal des Économistes, October 1845, T. 12, p. 204–07 in CW3, pp. 49–53. FEE ed.  ↩

  16. T.38 ES1 17 "Un chemin de fer négatif" (A Negative Railway) (c. 1845) in CW3, pp. 81–83. FEE ed.  ↩

  17. T.166 ES210 "Le percepteur" (The Tax Collector) (c. 1847), in CW3, pp. 179–87. FEE ed.  ↩

  18. T.102 ES211 "L’utopiste (The Utopian), Libre-Échange, 17 January 1847 in CW3, pp. 187–98. FEE ed.  ↩

  19. T.181 ES3 18 "Le maire d’Énios" (The Mayor of Énios), Libre-Échange, 6 February 1848, in CW3, pp. 355–65.  ↩

  20. T.96 ES3 16 "Midi à quatorze heures" (Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill) (c. 1847) in CW3, pp. 343–50.  ↩

  21. See "Bastiat’s Invention of 'Crusoe Economics'," in the Introduction to CW3, pp. lxiv-lxvii.  ↩

  22. Murray N. Rothbard, “6. A Crusoe Social Philosophy,” in The Ethics of Liberty (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982), p. 29–34; and Rothbard, Man, Economy and State: A Treatise on Economic Principles, with Power and Market: Government and the Economy. Second Edition. Scholar’s Edition (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009), especially Chapter 2. “Direct Exchange”.  ↩

  23. The first year of the journal was republished in book form by Guillaumin: Le Libre-Échange. Journal de l’Association pour la liberté des échanges. 1er année. 1846–1847. (Paris: Guillaumin and Chaix, 1847).  ↩

  24. T.62 (1846.05.10) “Declaration of Principles of the Free Trade Association” (Déclaration de principes (Association pour la liberté des échanges)) 10 May, 1846; reprinted in LE 25 Apr. 1847, no. 22, p. 169; along with the Association’s new programme. [OC2.1, pp. 1–4.][CW6]  ↩

  25. These free trade editorials and articles will appear in CW6 (forthcoming).  ↩

  26. T.129 ES3 6 "Peuple et Bourgeoisie" (The People and the Bourgeoisie), Libre-Échange, 22 May 1847, in CW3, pp. 281–87.  ↩

  27. 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 forthcoming]  ↩

  28. T.81 "De la population," (On Population), JDE, 15 Octobre 1846, T. XV, pp. 217–234, in CW4 (forthcoming). A revised version of this article appeared as chapter 16 of the second, expanded edition of Economic Harmonies (1851) which was published after his death. FEE ed.  ↩

  29. T.149 (Sept. 1847) “Draft Preface for the Harmonies” (Projet de préface pour les Harmonies) in CW1, pp. 316–20. (/titles/2393#lf1573–01_label_689).  ↩




Letter 32. Mugron, 24 Nov. 1844. To Richard Cobden


Letter 32. Mugron, 24 Nov. 1844. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 106-9) [CW1, pp. 50-53].



Steeped in the schools of your Adam Smith and our J. B. Say, I was beginning to believe that this doctrine that was so simple and clear had no chance of becoming popular, at least for a long time, since, over here, it is completely [51] stifled by the specious fallacies57 that you refuted so well and which are disseminated by the Fourierist, communist, and other sects with which our country is for the moment infatuated, and also by the disastrous alliance of the party newspapers with those newspapers paid for by committees of manufacturers.

It was in this state of total discouragement in which these sad circumstances had cast me that, as I happened to have taken out a subscription to the Globe and Traveller,58 I learned both of the existence of the League and the struggle between free trade and monopoly in England. As I am an enthusiastic admirer of your powerful and very moral association and in particular of the man who appears to give it such forceful and wise direction in the face of countless difficulties, I have been unable to contemplate this sight without wanting to do something for the noble cause of the liberation of work and commerce. Your honorable secretary, Mr. Hickin, was good enough to send me the issue of the League, dated January 1844, together with a number of documents relating to the campaign.

Equipped with these documents, I have tried to draw public attention to your proceedings, on which French newspapers have maintained a calculated and systematic silence. I have written articles in the newspapers of Bayonne and Bordeaux, two towns naturally positioned to become the cradle of the movement. In addition, recently I had published in Le Journal des économistes (issue no. 35, Paris, October 1844) an article which I recommend to you. What has been the result? Newspapers in Paris, on which our laws confer the monopoly of opinion, have considered discussion to be more dangerous than silence. They have therefore created silence around me, totally sure that these arrangements would reduce me to impotence.

In Bordeaux, I have tried to organize an association for trade liberalization, but I have failed because, although there are a few souls who instinctively would like freedom to a certain extent, there are none who understand it in principle.

What is more, an association functions only through publicity, and it needs money. I am not rich enough to endow it on my own, and asking for money would have created the insurmountable obstacle of suspicion.

I have thought of founding in Paris a daily newspaper based on these two concepts, free trade and the elimination of a partisan spirit. Here again, I [52] have encountered money and other problems, which I will not go into. I will regret it for the rest of my life, because I am convinced that a newspaper like this, which fills a public need, would have a chance of success. (I have not given up on this.)

Lastly, I wanted to know whether I had any chance of being elected a deputy, and I have become certain that my fellow citizens would give me their vote, since I almost achieved a majority at the last elections. However, personal considerations prevent me from aspiring to this position, which I might have used to the advantage of our cause.

Obliged to limit my action, I began to translate your sessions59 in Drury Lane and Covent Garden. Next May, I will submit this translation for publication. I expect it to have a good effect.

  • 1. It will be necessary for France to become acquainted with the existence of the spirited campaign in England against monopolies.
  • 2. It will be necessary for people to stop thinking that freedom is just a trap set by England for other nations.
  • 3. The arguments in favor of free trade would perhaps have more effect if they were in the lively, varied, and popular form of your speeches rather than in the methodical works of economists.60
  • 4. Your tactic that is so well directed downward to the people and upward to Parliament will teach us to act in the same way and inform us on the benefit we may gain from constitutional institutions.
  • 5. This publication will be a forceful blow to the two major plagues of our time, the partisan spirit and national hatreds.
  • 6. France will see that in England there are two entirely conflicting opinions and that, consequently, it is absurd and contradictory to envelop the whole of England in the same hatred.

In order for this work to be complete, I would have liked to obtain a few documents on the origin and beginnings of the League. A short history of this association would be a suitable preface to the translation of your speeches.61 I have asked Mr. Hickin for these documents, but doubtless he has been too [53] busy to reply to me. My documents go back only to January 1843; I would at least need the debate in Parliament on the 1842 tariff and in particular the speech in which Mr. Peel proclaimed the economic truth in the form that has become so popular, “We must be allowed to buy in the cheapest market, etc.”

I would also like you to tell me which of your speeches, either at meetings or in Parliament, you think most appropriate to translate. Lastly, I would like my book to contain one or two free-trade discussions in the House of Commons and ask that you would be good enough to tell me which ones.

I would be most honored to receive a letter from the man of our time for whom I have the keenest and most sincere admiration.



Letter 33. Mugron, 24 Nov. 1844. To Horace Say


Letter 33. Mugron, 24 Nov. 1844. To Horace Say (OC7, pp. 377-80) [CW1, pp. 53-55].



Please allow me to express to you the feeling of deep satisfaction I had on reading your kind letter of the 19th of this month. Without the sentiments contained in this most valued letter, how would we, men of solitude who are deprived of the useful warnings received through contact with the rest of the world, know whether or not we are in the group of dreamers, all too common in the country, who have allowed themselves to be obsessed by a single idea? Do not tell me, sir, that your approval can merely have limited value in my eyes. Since France and humanity lost your illustrious father, whom I also venerate as my intellectual father, what sentiments can be more precious to me than yours, especially when your own writings and the expressions of confidence which the population of Paris have heaped on you give such authority to your judgments?

Among the authors of your father’s school whom death has respected, there is one above all whose agreement is of inestimable value to me, although I would not have dared to solicit it. I refer to M. Charles Dunoyer. His first two articles in Le Censeur européen (“On the Equilibrium Between Nations”),62 together with those by M. Comte which precede them,63 settled [54] the direction of my thought and even my political actions a long time ago.64 Since then the economist school65 appears to have given way before the host of socialist sects which seek to achieve the universal good, not in the laws of human nature but in artificial organizations which are the products of their imagination. This is a disastrous mistake, which M. Dunoyer has been campaigning against for a long time with a perseverance that can almost be called prophetic. I therefore could not prevent the rise of a feeling almost of pride when I learned from your letter that M. Dunoyer has approved of the spirit of the text you have had the goodness to include in your esteemed collection.

You are kind enough, sir, to encourage me to send you a further text. I am now devoting the little time I have at my disposal to a work of patience, the usefulness of which I consider to be unquestionable, even though it consists only of simple translations. In England there is a major movement in support of free trade. This movement has been kept carefully hidden by our newspapers and where, from time to time, they are obliged to mention it, it is to distort its nature and influence. I would like to put documents relating to it before the French public and show that on the other side of the Channel there is a party with many members that is powerful, honest, judicious, ready to become the national party, and ready to direct the policy of England, and it is to this party that we should extend a hand of friendship. The public would then be capable of judging whether it is reasonable to envelop the whole of England in the wild hatred that the press is trying to whip up with such obstinacy and success.

I am expecting other benefits from this publication. Readers will find in it an attack on the very root of the partisan spirit, the undermining of the basis of national hatred, the theory of markets set out not methodically but using forms that are popular and striking, and finally, they will see in action the energy, the demonstration tactics which now mean that in England, when genuine abuse is attacked, it is possible to forecast the day it will be [55] abolished, just as our military engineers forecast the time at which besiegers will seize a citadel.

I am planning to come to Paris in April next to supervise the printing of this publication,66 and if I had any hesitations in doing this your kind offer and the desire to make your acquaintance and those of the distinguished men whom you meet would be enough to persuade me.

Your colleague, M. Dupérier, was also good enough to write to me about my article. “It is good in theory,” he said; and I am tempted to reply to him by your esteemed father’s quip, “My God, what is no good in practice is good for nothing.” M. Dupérier and I follow very different paths in politics. My esteem for him is all the higher for his frankness and the frankness of his letter. These days, there are very few candidates who tell their opponents what they think.

I forgot to say that if the time and my health permit, following your encouraging invitation I will send another article to Le Journal des économistes.67

I would be grateful, sir, if you would convey to MM Dussard, Fix, and Blanqui my thanks for their kindness and assure them that I wholeheartedly support their noble and useful work.

P.S. I am taking the liberty of sending you a text published in 1842 relating to the elections written by one of my friends, M. Félix Coudroy. You will see that the doctrines of MM Say, Comte, and Dunoyer have generated some green shoots in places on the arid soil of the Landes. I thought you would be pleased to learn that the sacred fire is not quite extinguished. As long as there is still a spark, we should not lose hope.



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?


47 Félix Coudroy (1801-74) was the son of a doctor from Mugron and was a boyhood friend and eventually a neighbour of Bastiat's in Mugron. He studied law in Toulouse and Paris but a long illness prevented him from practicing. Coudroy and Bastiat were both members of a local discussion group in Mugron, "The Academy," where they pursued their intellectual interests for over 20 years.

48 Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862) was a journalist; an academic (a professor of political economy); a politician; the author of numerous works on politics, political economy, and history; a founding member of the PES (1842) of which he was the permanent president; and a key figure in the French classical liberal movement of the first half of the nineteenth century.

49 Félix Coudroy, "De l'influence de l'esprit et des procédés de la Ligue sur les progrès de la civilisation," JDE, T. 12, N° 48, Novembre 1845, pp. 349-368.



Letter 34. Mugron, 7 March 1845. To M. Ch. Dunoyer


Letter 34. Mugron, 7 March 1845. To M. Ch. Dunoyer, membre de l'Institut (OC7, pp. 371-72) [CW1, pp. 55-56].



Of all the testimonials I might have hoped to receive, that which I have just received from you is certainly the most precious. Even allowing for kindness [56] in the very flattering references to me on the first page of your book,69 I cannot help being certain that I have your vote, knowing how much you are in the habit of matching your utterances to your thought.

When I was very young, sir, a happy chance made me pick up Le Censeur européen and I owe the direction of my studies and outlook to this circumstance. In the time that has elapsed since this period, I am unable to distinguish what is the fruit of my own meditations from what I owe to your writings, so completely do they appear to have been assimilated. But if all that you had done were to reveal to me in society and its virtues (its views, ideas, prejudices, and external circumstances) the true elements of the good it enjoys and the evils it endures, if all you had taught me were to see in governments and their forms only the results of the physical and moral state of society itself, it would be none the less proper, whatever additional knowledge I had managed to acquire since then, to give you and your colleagues the credit for its direction and principle. It is enough to say to you, sir, that nothing could give me more genuine satisfaction than the reception you have given to the two articles I sent to Le Journal des économistes and the sensitive way in which you were kind enough to express it.70 I will be devoting serious study to your book and gleaning much enjoyment from following the development of the fundamental distinction to which I have just referred.



Letter 35. Mugron, 7 March 1845. To M. Al. de Lamartine


Letter 35. Mugron, 7 March 1845. To M. Al. de Lamartine. (OC7, pp. 373-74) [CW1, pp. 56-57].



Absence has prevented me from expressing to you earlier the deep gratitude I felt at the reception you deigned to give to the letter I took the liberty of addressing to you through Le Journal des économistes. The letter you have [57] been good enough to write to me is very precious to me and I will always keep it, not only because of the inimitable charm which pervades it but also and above all as an example of your kind readiness to encourage the first attempts of a novice who has not been afraid to point out in your admirable writings a few proposals which he considers to be errors that have escaped your genius.

Perhaps I have gone too far in asking you for that analytical rigor, that accuracy in dissection which explores the field of discovery but which cannot enlarge it. All human faculties have their mission; it is up to a genius to lift himself up to view new horizons and point them out to the crowd. At first these horizons are vague, and reality and illusion are confused in them; the role of analysts is then to come and measure, weigh, and distinguish them. This is how Columbus revealed a new world. Do we find out whether he had taken all the measurements and traced all the contours? Is it even important that he thought he had landed in Cathay? Others have come after, patient workers who have corrected and added to the work. Their names remain unknown while that of Columbus has resounded down the centuries. But, sir, is not a genius the king of the future rather than of the present? Can he claim immediate and practical influence? Do his powerful leaps forward into unknown regions have much in common with the activities of men of the present time or those of businessmen? This is a doubt that I am putting to you; your future will answer it.

You are good enough to acknowledge, sir, that I have traveled through the domain of liberty and you are urging me to rise to meet equality and still further to meet fraternity. How can I help but try, when the request is yours, to take new steps in this noble direction? Doubtless, I will not attain the heights to which you soar, since the habits of my mind no longer allow me to use the wings of imagination. But I will endeavor at least to direct the torch of analysis to a few corners of the huge subject you are suggesting that I study.

Permit me to end by saying, sir, that a few incidental disagreements do not prevent me from being the most sincere and fervent of your admirers, as I hope one day to be the most fervent of your disciples.



Letter 36. Mugron, 8 Apr. 1845. To Richard Cobden


Letter 36. Mugron, 8 Apr. 1845. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 109-10) [CW1, p. 58].



Since you permit me to write to you, I will reply to your kind letter dated 12th December last. I have been discussing the printing of the translation I told you about with M. Guillaumin, a bookseller in Paris.

The book is entitled Cobden and the League, or the Campaign in England in Favor of Free Trade. I have taken the liberty of using your name for the following reasons: I could not entitle this work The Anti-Corn Law League. Apart from the fact that this would have a barbarous sound for French ears, it would have brought to mind just a limited conception of the project. It would have presented the question as purely English, whereas it is a humanitarian one, the most notably so of all those which have brought campaigning to our century. A simpler title, The League, would have been too vague and would have made people think of an episode in our national history. I therefore felt it necessary to make it clear by preceding it with the name of the person acknowledged to be the “driving force of this campaigning.” You have yourself recognized that individual names were sometimes needed “to give point, to direct attention” and I am using this as my justification.

Fashion—individual names, acknowledged reputations—has so much influence here that I felt it necessary to make a further effort to bring it over to our side. I have written a letter to M. de Lamartine in the économistes (the February 1845 issue).72 This illustrious writer, yielding to the tyrant fashion, had assailed economists in the most unjust and thoughtless manner, since, in the same text, he adopted their principles. I have reason to believe, from the reply he was good enough to send me, that he is not far from joining our ranks, and that would perhaps be enough to cause an unexpected swing in public opinion to us. Doubtless, such a swing would be fragile, but finally we would have, at least temporarily, an audience, and that is what we lack. For my part, I ask for one thing only, and that is that people do not deliberately cover their ears.

Permit me to recommend that you peruse the letter to which I refer, if you have the opportunity.

I am, sir, your faithful servant,
Frédéric Bastiat



Letter 37. Paris, May 1845. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 37. Paris, May 1845. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 50-52) [CW1, pp. 59-61].


My dear Félix, I am sure that you are waiting to hear from me. I, too, have a lot to tell you but I must be brief. Although at the end of each day it transpires that I have done nothing, I am always busy. In Paris, the way things are, until you are in the swing of things you need half a day to put fifteen minutes to good use.

I was given a good welcome by M. Guillaumin, who is the first economist I have seen. He told me that he would give a dinner, followed by a reception, to put me in contact with the men of our school; as a result I have not gone to see any of these people. This dinner was held yesterday. I was on the right of the host, clear proof that the dinner was in my honor, and Dunoyer was on his left. Next to Mme Guillaumin were MM Passy and Say. MM Dussard and Reybaud were also there. Béranger had been invited but he had other engagements. In the evening a crowd of other economists arrived: MM Renouard, Daire, Monjean, Garnier, etc., etc. Between you and me, my friend, I can tell you that I felt a keen satisfaction. There were none of these people who had not read, reread, and perfectly understood my three articles. I could write for a thousand years in La Chalosse, La Sentinelle, or Le Mémorial73 without finding a genuine reader, except for you. Here, one is read, studied, and understood. I am sure of this since all or nearly all of them went into the greatest detail, which shows that politeness was not the only reason for this welcome; the only one I found a little cold was M. X. To tell you of the kindnesses I was covered with and the hope that appeared to be based on my cooperation is to make you understand that I was ashamed of my role. My friend, I am perfectly convinced today that, although our isolation has prevented us from equipping our minds sufficiently, it has, at least when it comes to particular questions, given them a strength and accuracy which many more educated and gifted men perhaps do not possess.

What gave me the most pleasure, because it proved that I have really been read with care, is that the last article, entitled “Sophism,”74 was ranked above the others. This is the one in fact in which the principles are examined in the greatest depth, and I was expecting it not to have been tackled. Dunoyer [60] asked me to write an article on his work, to be included in the Débats.75 He was kind enough to say that he thought me eminently suited to making his work appreciated. Alas! I can already see that I will not be able to maintain the far too lofty status which these kind men have accorded me.

After dinner, we discussed dueling. I gave a brief summary of your brochure. Tomorrow we are having another corporate dinner at Véfour; I will take it there and, as it is not long, I hope it will be read. If you could rewrite it, or at least modify it, I believe it might be included in the journal, but the rules prevent it from being quoted verbatim. Incidentally, Le Journal des économistes is not as lowly rated as I feared. It has five or six hundred subscribers and is gaining authority every day.

Repeating the conversation to you would carry me too far. What a world, my friend, and it can well be said “You live only in Paris and just vegetate elsewhere!” In spite of this, I already hanker after our walks and intimate conversations. I lack paper; farewell, dear Félix. Your friend.

P.S. I was mistaken. A dinner, even if it is with economists, is not an opportune occasion for reading a brochure. I gave yours to M. Dunoyer and will not know what he thinks for a few days. You will find in the 27 March issue of Le Moniteur, which should be in the library in my room, the indictment of dueling by Dupin.76 Perhaps that will give you an opportunity to lengthen your brochure. I spent this evening with Y. He gave me the most cordial welcome and we discussed everything, even religion. I thought he was weak on this subject, since he respects it without believing in it.

It was only today that I went to pay my respects to M. Lamartine. I did not enter, as he was leaving for Argenteuil, but with his usual courtesy, he sent me a message to say that he wanted us to talk without constraint and gave me an appointment for tomorrow. How well will I do?

During our dinner, or more accurately after it, a major question was bandied about: “on intellectual property.” A Belgian, M. Jobard, expressed new ideas which will astonish you. I am longing to discuss all this with you. The fact is, in spite of my successes of the moment, I feel that I am no longer [61] disposed to be entertained in this manner. This is water off a duck’s back, and all things considered, life in the provinces might be made more pleasant than it is here if one just had a taste for studying and the arts.

Farewell, my dear Félix, until later. Write to me from time to time and keep busy on your work on dueling. Since the court has reverted to its strange legal posture, it is worth doing.



Letter 38. Paris, 23 May 1845. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 38. Paris, 23 May 1845. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 52-54) [CW1, pp. 61-62].


You are expecting a lot of details, my dear Félix, but you are going to be disappointed. Since my last letter, which I sent via Bordeaux and for which I have not yet received a receipt, we have been having weather that is discouraging me from making visits. I spend my mornings wasting time on mere trifles, shopping, and essential business and the evenings regretting this. My letter will therefore be rather arid though I hope you will be pleased with it because of the letter from Dunoyer that I enclose. You will see that he liked your piece on dueling. I have just left him and he repeated to me verbally what he has written in his letter. He praised the essence and style of your brochure and said that it was based on solid work that was on the right track. He expressed his regret that he could not discuss it further and his desire to come to my house to discuss the subject in greater detail. Tomorrow I will send it to M. Say, who is a really nice man because of his gentleness and grace, combined with very firm principles. He is the anchor of the economists’ party. Without him, without his conciliating spirit, the group would soon be dispersed. Many of my colleagues are employed by newspapers which pay them much better than Le Journal des économistes. Others have political affairs to maintain. In a word, the whole thing is an accidental meeting of well-meaning men who like each other even though their opinions differ on many points; there is no firm, organized, and homogeneous party. For my part, if I had the time to remain here and the fortune to hold receptions at home, I would try to found a sort of League. But when you are only passing through, it is useless to embark on such a grand enterprise.

Anyway, I have arrived too soon; my translation is being printed only slowly.77 If I had been able to hand out a few copies, they might perhaps have opened a few doors to me.


I have not seen M. de Lamartine; he is away from Paris and I do not know when he will return.

Another nice man is M. Reybaud. The proof of his remarkably vigorous intellect is that he became an economist by studying the nineteenth-century reformers. He agreed with them when he began his work, but his good sense has triumphed.

I am trying to find out whether M. Guizot has written to you. It is to be feared that his many activities prevent him from reading your brochure. If he were just a man of letters, he would certainly reply to you, but he is a minister and member of the government. In any case, if anything arrives from that quarter, do let me know.

I have been somewhat occupied with public affairs, I mean departmental ones. It would take too long to tell you about it. But I believe that the Adour, that is to say, the lower Adour, from Hourquet to the Gave, will obtain 1.5 million francs. Chance put me in a position to give this a helping hand: it will always be an advantage if the steamboats reach Pontonx. As for the stretch between Mugron and Hourquet, one is dying to know what was responsible for its exclusion, but what can we do? There is just one thing that the general public does not want to become involved in, and that is public affairs.

I do not know whether I will write to my aunt today. In any case tell her that we are all well here. Farewell, my dear Félix; remember me to your sister.



Letter 39. Paris, 5 June 1845. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 39. Paris, 5 June 1845. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 54-57) [CW1, pp. 62-65].


My dear Félix, an opportunity has arisen for Bordeaux and I do not want to let it go without a few words of reply to your letter. Forgive me if I am too brief. I am ashamed to call myself busy since the days pass without my making use of them. This is something that can be explained only here. In any case, we will soon be able to talk about everything we find so interesting and that interests scarcely anyone but us.

You have not acknowledged receiving the letter from Dunoyer; I think that you received it only after the departure of Calon. You have seen his opinion of your brochure, and I am longing to hear that of M. Guizot—if he gives it to you—since people assure you that the sole occupation of men in power is to retain it. I have not yet sent it to M. Say, as he is in the country [63] and I will not see him until Friday. He is a charming man and the one I prefer; I am due to dine with him at Dunoyer’s and on the 10th at Véfour at the economists’ banquet. We should be tossing around the question of inviting the government (always the government!) to set up chairs of political economy. I have been made responsible for preparing a few ideas on this, and this is a subject which would please me, but I will limit myself to mulling over my opinion since, there as elsewhere, there are egos and placemen who have to be handled with kid gloves. As for an association which would please me a great deal more, I will wait for my translation78 to be published before speaking about it, since the translation may prepare people’s minds for it. However, for an association, an agreed principle is needed, and I am very much afraid that it is lacking. I have never seen so much fear of absolute conviction, as though we should not be leaving our opponents the task of moderating our progress as necessary.

In Mugron, I will explain to you the reasons which prevent the journal from being modified. Besides, the Paris press is now based on advertising and, from the financial point of view, is established on bases of such a kind that nothing new is possible. This being so, it is only the association and the sacrifices that it alone can make that can get us out of this blind alley. I am coming to things that are personal to me and speak of them to you openly as to a bosom friend, with no false modesty. I believe that a lack of incomprehension is a characteristic which we have in common and I do not fear that you will find me too presumptuous.

My book will have thirty sheets,79 and twenty have been printed. I hope that it will all be ready at the end of the month. I have changed nothing or very little of the introduction I read to you. About half will appear in the next issue of Le Journal des économistes.80 Ignorance of affairs in England is such, even here, that this work should, I think, have an effect on studious people. I will tell you frankly what effect it has.

Each day I acquire proof that the previous articles have had some effect. The publisher has received several requests for subscription giving reasons, among which is a letter from Nevers that said “Two articles in Le Moniteur industriel have reached us which seek to refute an article in Le Journal des économistes entitled ‘Sophisms.’ All we know of this article are the quotations [64] in Le Moniteur but they were enough to give us a high opinion of it. Would you please send it to us and give us a subscription?” Two subscriptions were requested from Bordeaux. But what gave me the most pleasure was a conversation I had with M. Raoul Duval, a counselor at the court of Rheims, a town that is essentially protectionist. He assured me that the article on tariffs had been read aloud and that at each instant the manufacturers said, “That is true, that is very true, that is what is going to happen to us, there is no answer to this.” This scene, my dear Félix, signposts the route I should be following. If I could, I would now examine the real situation of our protected industries in the light of principles and go into the field of facts. M. Guillaumin wants me to review a dozen more sophisms to gather them together and, at his expense, to make them into a low-cost brochure that might reach a wide audience.

It needs to be you, my dear Félix, for me to recount these things which, as it happens, leave me as cold as if they concerned a third party. I was already set on my articles and your judgment was enough of a guarantee for me; I was only too happy that there were still other readers as I had given up hope of this.

I will tell you that I have almost decided to go to shake hands with Cobden, Fox, and Thompson; a personal acquaintance with these men may be useful to us. I have some hope that they will give me some documents, but in any case I will make a stock of a few good works, including speeches by Fox and Thompson on subjects other than free trade. If I stayed in Paris I would feel the need to devote myself to this specialty, and this would be indeed enough for my frail shoulders. But, in our gentle retreat, that would not be enough for us. Anyway, economics appears much finer when it is embraced in its totality. It is this harmonious whole that I would like to be able to master one day. You should indeed take the time to set out some of its traits.

If my small treatise, Economic Sophisms, is a success, we might follow it with another entitled Social Harmonies.81 It would be of great use because it would satisfy the tendency of our epoch to look for organizations and artificial harmonies by showing it the beauty, order, and progressive principle in natural and providential harmonies.

I will take some works from here. My trip will at least serve to provide us with some fodder and knowledge of something of the spirit of the century.


Farewell, my dear Félix. I have not written to my aunt today; please tell her that I have received her letter with much pleasure after being so long without one.



Letter 40. Paris, 16 June 1845. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 40. Paris, 16 June 1845. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 57-59) [CW1, pp. 65-66].


My dear Félix, I have to tell you that my League has been printed.82 They are now working on the introduction and it cannot take longer than a week. It therefore appears that at the end of the month I will be free to go to London and that on 15 July I will have the pleasure of greeting you. Tomorrow, I dine at Dunoyer’s with all of our group, Dussard, Reybaud, Fix, Rossi, and Say. I will seal my letter only after this, in case I have some news to tell you. On Sunday, an approach was made to me and perhaps this will be discussed tomorrow. There is so much for and against that I could never take a decision without you. It is to be the manager of Le Journal des économistes. From the financial point of view, it is a wretchedly low salary, a hundred louis per year, including editing. However, you will easily understand how close this position is to my inclinations. First of all, this journal, well managed, could have a great influence on the Chamber, and by extension the press. If the economist in situ establishes a reputation for superiority in his specialty, it would be impossible for him not to be feared to some extent by the protectionists and reformers, in a word, ignorant people of all sorts. Through the spoken word I will never get very far because I lack confidence, memory, and presence of mind, but my pen is sufficiently skilled in dialectics to put to shame certain of our statesmen.

Secondly, if I am managing the journal, my management will end up being exclusive since I will be surrounded by lazy people, and, to the extent that the shareholders allow, I will succeed in giving it the homogeneity that it lacks.

I will be in natural and necessary contact with all the eminent men, at least in the spheres of political economy and financial and customs affairs, and finally, I will be in their eyes the spokesperson of a public opinion that is conscientious and enlightened. I think that a role of this sort may be extended indefinitely, depending on the level of the person holding it.

As for the work, it is not of the type, like daily journalism, that would [66] distract me from continuing my studies. Lastly (and this is only a distant prospect), if the manager of the journal is equal to his task, he might profitably join the ranks of candidates for a chair of political economy that falls vacant.

These are the points in favor. But it would mean leaving Mugron. I would have to leave the people I love and allow my aunt to progress in solitude into old age. I would need to lead a strict life here and see passions unfurl without sharing them. I would unceasingly witness the spectacle of ambition being satisfied without allowing this sentiment to approach my heart, since our entire strength lies in our principles and in the confidence we are able to inspire. In this respect, this is not what I fear. Simple habits are far from terrifying me.



Letter 41. Paris, 18 June 1845. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 41. Paris, 18 June 1845. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 59-60) [CW1, pp. 66-67].



I left Dunoyer’s this morning at one o’clock. The guests were those I mentioned, plus M. de Tracy.84 Political economy was scarcely touched upon; these people dabble in it as amateurs. However, during dinner free trade was discussed a little. M. X said that the English were putting on an act. I did not think it appropriate to challenge this term, but I was very tempted to ask him if he believed in the principle of freedom or not. For in the end, if he believed in it, why did he not want the English to believe in it too? Because it is in their interest? I remembered your argument: if people formed a temperance society, should we denigrate it on the grounds that it is in people’s interest to be temperate? If I write a sophism on this subject, I will slip this refutation into it. After dinner, I was drawn into a game of whist: a wasted evening. The entire editorial staff of the journal was there: Wolowski, Villermé, Blaise, Monjean, etc., etc. . . . another disappointment, I fear. Z—— is crazy about agriculture, and about protectionism. Truly, I am getting a close view of things and feel that I might do good and pay my debt to the human race.

Let us return to the journal. No one asked me for a definite commitment; now I will wait. I am discussing it with my aunt; I need to see what she thinks. She would certainly let me follow my inclination if she saw a financial future in it and, humanly speaking, she would be right; she cannot [67] comprehend the extent of the position I could be taking. If she speaks to you about it, let me know the effect that my letter has. For my part, I will tell you about the effect my League will produce. Will anyone read it? I doubt it. We are snowed under with reading matter here. If I told you that, except for Dunoyer and Say, none of my colleagues has read Comte! You already know that —— has not read Malthus. At dinner, Tracy said that the extreme poverty in Ireland85 proved Malthus’s doctrine wrong! I have heard it said to someone that there was some good in the Treatise on Legislation86 and above all in the Treatise on Property.87 Poor Comte! Say told me his sad story; persecution and his probity killed him.

You will, of course, not breathe a word on what I have told you about the management of the journal. You will appreciate that this news would cause an unfortunate stir.

I think that I have told you that the publisher of the League is also going to publish the Sophisms. This will be a small, low-cost book, but the title is not attractive. I am looking for another; please help me. The small book by Mathieu de Dombasle was entitled “A Shaft of Common Sense,” etc.

As I cannot cover all the sophisms in one small volume, if it sells well, I will write another.88 It would be a good thing if, for your part, you dealt with a few. I would alternate them with mine and that would enable you at least to make the acquaintance of my colleagues and you could then, if you wanted, have yourself published at no cost, which is not a simple matter.

Farewell, my dear Félix; write to me.



Letter 42. Paris, 3 Jul. 1845 (11pm). To Félix Coudroy


Letter 42. Paris, 3 Jul. 1845 (11pm). To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 60-62) [CW1, pp. 67-69].


. . . Like you, my dear Félix, I envisage the future with terror. Leaving my aunt, separating myself from those I love, leaving you alone in Mugron, without your friend, without books, is dreadful. And for my own part, I do not know whether solitary work, meditated on at leisure and discussed with you, [68] would not be better. On the other hand, it is certain that there is a position here to be attained, the only one for which I have an ambition and the only one which suits me and for which I am suitable. It is now certain that I can have the manager’s position at the journal and I do not doubt that I will be given six francs per subscription. There are five hundred subscribers, which makes three thousand francs. This is absolutely nothing, financially speaking, but we need to believe that strong management stamped on the journal will increase its membership and if we achieved a figure of one thousand, I would be satisfied. Then there is the prospect of a course of lectures; I do not know whether I told you that at our last dinner, we decided that an approach would be made to the government to found chairs of political economy89 at the university. MM Guizot, Salvandy, and Duchâtel expressed approval of this project. M. Guizot said: “I am so well disposed to this that it was I who founded the chair that M. Chevalier occupies. Obviously, we are going down the wrong road and it is essential to disseminate healthy economic doctrines. However the major difficulty is to choose the right people.” At this reply, MM Say, Dussard, Daire, and a few others assured me that, if they were consulted, they would designate me. M. Dunoyer would certainly be in favor of me. I have found out that the minister of finance was impressed with my introduction and he himself asked me for a copy of the work. I would thus have a good chance, if not of being called to the university, at least if Blanqui, Rossi, or Chevalier were nominated, of replacing one of these men at the Collège de France or the Conservatoire.90 One way or another, I would be launched with an assured existence, and that is all I need.

But having to leave Mugron! Having to leave my aunt! What about my chest! What about the limited circle of my acquaintances! In sum, the long chapter of objections . . . Oh, why am I not ten years younger and in good health! Moreover, you will understand that this prospect is still distant but that the management of the journal would put a great deal of opportunity on my side. Therefore, instead of producing two sophisms, selected from those that are popular and anecdotal, in the next issue, I sense an opportunity to develop my ideas, and I am going to devote tomorrow to rewriting two or [69] three of the most important. This is why I cannot write to you at length as I would like and am forced to speak about myself instead of replying to your affectionate letters.

M. Say wants to entrust to me all his father’s papers; there are some curious things in them. What is more, it is an expression of confidence that touches me. Hippolyte Comte, the son of Charles, will also be letting me go through the notes of our favorite author, who is totally unknown right here. . . . But I do not want to fail in what I owe to the men who are showering me with proofs of their friendship.

You see, dear Félix, that there are so many reasons for and against; I really must decide soon. Oh! I really need your advice, and above all for you to tell me what my poor aunt thinks.

Although I scarcely answer your letters, I nevertheless must tell you that the work of Simon is very rare and extremely expensive. There are only four copies, of which two are in the public libraries. Bossuet had the entire edition destroyed.

Farewell, my dear Félix; excuse the haste with which I write.



Letter 43. London, Jul. 1845. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 43. London, Jul. 1845. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 62-65) [CW1, pp. 69-71].


My dear Félix, I arrived here yesterday evening. Knowing how much you are interested in our cause and in the role that chance has given me, I will tell you everything that happens, especially since I have no time to take notes and, this being so, my letters will be useful later in reminding me of my memories so that I can give you more details face to face.

After I settled in at the hotel (at ten shillings a day), I started to write six letters to Cobden, Bright, Fox, Thompson, Wilson, and the secretary who sends me the League. Then I wrote six dedications in six of my books and went to bed. This morning, I took my six copies to the League’s office with the request that they be given to the people concerned. Someone told me that Cobden was leaving the same day for Manchester and that probably I would find him in the throes of making his preparations (preparations for an Englishman consist in swallowing a steak and stuffing two shirts into a bag). I ran to Cobden’s; I did in fact meet him and we chatted for two hours. He understands French well and speaks it a little and anyway I understand his English. I described to him the state of opinion in France, the effect I expect this book to have, etc., etc. He told me how sorry he was to be leaving [70] London and I saw that he was on the point of canceling his trip. He then told me, “The League is like a Masonic lodge, except for the fact that everything is public. Here is a house that we have rented to receive our friends during the Bazaar. It is now empty, so you must move in.” I demurred, to which he replied, “This may not be convenient to you, but it is useful for the cause since Messrs. Bright, Moore, and other members of the League spend their evenings there and you must always be in their midst.” However, because it was subsequently decided that I would go to join him in Manchester the day after tomorrow, I did not think it necessary to move for two days. He then took me to the Reform Club, a magnificent establishment, and left me in the library while he took a bath. After this, he wrote two letters to Bright and Moore and I accompanied him to the station. In the evening, I went to see Bright, still at the same hotel, although these people do not live there; his welcome was not quite as cordial. I noticed that he did not approve of my including Cobden’s name in the title of my book. In addition, he appeared surprised that I had translated nothing by M. Villiers. His own contribution in the book is small, although he deserves greater recognition as he has the gift of an attractive eloquence. However, all this was sorted out during the conversation. As I was obliged to speak slowly to make myself understood and was discussing subjects with which I was familiar with men of exactly the same mind, I was certainly in the most favorable of circumstances. He took me to Parliament, where I have remained up to now, since they were discussing a question which included education and religion. I left at eleven o’clock and then started to write to you. Tomorrow I have an appointment with him, and the day after tomorrow I am going to see Manchester and meet my friend Cobden again. He is to arrange my accommodation and leave me in the hands of Mr. Ashworth, the rich manufacturer who put across such a good argument to demonstrate to farmers that the export of manufactured objects implied the export of the things included in them and that, consequently, restrictions on trade would hit them in the face. This brusque departure, I fear, will prevent me from seeing Fox and Thompson before my return, as well as Mill and Senior, for whom I have letters.

This is a short account of my first day. I will thus enter Manchester and Liverpool in circumstances which few Frenchmen could hope to enjoy. I will be there on a Sunday. Cobden will take me to the Quakers and the Wesleyans. We will at last know something, and as for factories, nothing will be hidden from me. What is more, all the operations of the League will [71] be unveiled to me. There was a vague suggestion of a second edition of my book on a wider scale. We will see.

Let us not forget Paris. Before leaving, I spent an hour with Hippolyte, the son of Charles Comte, who showed me all of his father’s papers. There are two or three courses of lectures given in Geneva, London, and Paris, all of which doubtless supplied material for the Treatise on Legislation, but what a gold mine to open up!

Farewell, I must leave you. I still have three letters to write to Paris and it is already tomorrow, since it is past midnight.



Letter 44. London, 8 Jul. 1845. To Richard Cobden


Letter 44. London, 8 Jul. 1845. To Richard Cobden (OC1, 110-11) [CW1, p. 71].



At last I have the pleasure of presenting you with a copy of the translation about which I have spoken to you on several occasions. In carrying out this work, I was convinced that I was rendering a genuine service to my country, both by popularizing sane economic doctrines and unmasking the guilty men who concentrate on maintaining disastrous national restrictions. I was not mistaken in my expectations. I distributed about a hundred copies in Paris and they have had the best possible reception. Men who, through their position and the subject of their study, ought to know what is happening in your country were surprised on reading it. They could not believe their eyes. The truth is that everyone in France is unaware of the importance of the campaign in your country, and people still suspect that a few manufacturers are seeking to propagate ideas of freedom abroad through pure British Machiavellianism. If I had confronted this prejudice directly, I would not have vanquished it. By leaving the free traders to act and allowing them to speak, in a word, by translating you, I hope that I have dealt it a blow from which it will not recover, provided that the book is read. That is the question.91

I hope, sir, that you will be good enough to grant me the honor of having a short discussion with you and expressing my gratitude, fellow feeling, and profound admiration to you personally.

Your most humble servant.
Frédéric Bastiat



Letter 45. Paris, 29 Jul. 1845. To M. Paulton


Letter 45. Paris, 29 Jul. 1845. To M. Paulton. (OC7, pp. 374-77) [CW1, pp. 72-73].


My dear sir, as I told you, I am sending you four copies of my translation which I ask you to forward to the editors of the Times, the Morning Chronicle, etc., etc. I would consider myself happy if the English press gave a favorable welcome to a work I consider useful. This would compensate me for the indifference with which it has been received in France. All those to whom I have given it continue to show surprise at the serious facts revealed in it, but no one is buying it, and this is not surprising since no one knows the subject with which it deals. Our newspapers, moreover, appear to have decided to bury the question under a veil of silence. It will cost me dear to have attempted to open my country’s eyes, but what is worse is not having succeeded.92

When I arrived here, I found a letter from Sir Robert Peel. As he wrote it before having read the book, he did not have to give his opinion on it. He also avoided quoting its title (Cobden and the League). If that is through diplomacy, the latter must be a deep-seated habit of your prime minister for him to use it on such an insignificant occasion. This is a copy of his note.

Sir Robert Peel presents his compliments to M. Bastiat, and is most obliged to M. Bastiat’s attention in transmitting for the acceptance of Sir Robert Peel a copy of his recent publication. Sir Robert hopes to be enabled to profit by it, when he shall have leisure from the present severe pressure of parliamentary business.93

This letter is unsigned. I would be curious to know if it is written in Sir Robert’s own handwriting.

I found other letters, including two of not inconsiderable importance. One was from M. Passy,94 a peer of France and an ex-minister of trade. He gives his unalloyed approval of the principles contained alike in the introduction and in your work.

The other letter is from M. de Langsdorf, our chargé d’affaires in the Grand Duchy of Baden. He tells me that he has read the book with enthusiasm [73] and learned for the first time what is happening in England. At the moment, there is a meeting in Karlsruhe of officers from all of the Zollverein95 who are determined to plug the tiniest loophole through which foreign trade might come to infiltrate the great national market. What he tells me about this supports Mr. Cobden’s idea of having the history of the League translated into German, together with a selection of your speeches. Could not England, which has had the Bible translated into three or four hundred languages, also have this excellent course of practical political economy translated at least into German and Spanish?96 I know the reasons which prevent you from seeking to act on the foreign scene at present. But simple translations would prepare people’s minds without your being liable to accusations of making propaganda.

If, later, the League is able to acquire a few copies of my translation without difficulty, I think this is the most useful purpose to which it might be put. This would be to take the same number of towns in order of their commercial importance and send a copy to each, addressed to the literary circle or chamber of commerce.

I will not attempt, sir, to convey to you all my gratitude for the fraternal welcome I received in your midst. I want only to have the opportunity of demonstrating it by my acts, and it would make me happy to meet members of the League in France. I have already paid two visits to Mr. Taylor without being able to meet him.

I forgot to tell you that, since the letter from M. de Langsdorf is confidential and comes from a man in the public eye, it must be clearly understood that his name cannot be quoted in any journal.97

I assure you, my dear sir, of my sincere friendship. Please remember me to all our comrades in work and hope.



Letter 46. Mugron, 2 Oct. 1845. To Richard Cobden


Letter 46. Mugron, 2 Oct. 1845. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 111-15) [CW1, pp. 74-76].


Whatever the charm, my dear sir, that your letters have just brought to me in my solitude, I would not allow myself to provoke them by such frequent obtrusiveness. However, an unforeseen circumstance has made it a duty for me to write to you.

I have met a young man in Paris circles who seemed to me to be full of heart and talent, whose name is Fonteyraud, the editor of La Revue britannique. He has written to me to offer to continue my work by inserting a follow-up of the operations of the League in the collection he is editing.98 With this in mind, he wants to go to England to see your fine organization for himself and has asked me for letters of introduction to you and MM Bright and Wilson.99 The object he has in view is too useful for me not to be quick to agree and I hope that, for your part, you would be willing to satisfy M. Fonteyraud’s elevated curiosity.

However, in a second letter, he tells me that he has yet another aim which, according to him, would require effective, in other words, financial support from the League. I have been swift to tell M. Fonteyraud that I could not speak to you about a project about which I knew very little. I made it clear to him, moreover, that, according to me, any action carried out on public opinion in France that appeared to be directed and financed by England would be counterproductive since it would strengthen the deep-rooted prejudices that many adroit men have vested interests in exploiting. If therefore M. Fonteyraud makes his journey, would you, together with Messrs. Bright and Wilson, assess his projects for yourselves and consider me to be totally outside the undertaking he is considering? I hasten to leave this subject to reply to your affectionate letter of 23 September.

I am sorry to hear that your health is suffering from your immense workload, both private and public. Certainly, it could not be undermined for a finer cause; each of your pains will remind you of noble actions, but that would be small consolation and I would not dare to voice it to other than you, since to understand it one would need to have your self-sacrifice and devotion to the public good. But at last your work is reaching its target, you do not lack workers around you, and I hope that you will at last seek strength in repose.


Since my last letter, a movement of which I had given up hope has started in the French press. All the Paris newspapers and very many provincial newspapers have reported on the demonstration against the Corn Laws, to mark my book. It is true that they have not understood its full implications, but at last public opinion has been woken up. This was the essential point, the one I was hoping for with my whole heart and it is a question now of not allowing it to fall back into indifference, and if there is anything I can do about it, that will not happen.

Your letter arrived the day after we had an election. It was a courtier who was elected.100 I was not even a candidate. The electors are imbued with the idea that their votes are a precious gift, an important and personal service. This being so, they expect their vote to be personally solicited. They do not wish to understand that a parliamentary mandate is their own affair, that they will suffer the consequences of trust that is well or badly placed and consequently it is up to them to give it with discernment, without waiting for it to be solicited or wrested from them. For my part, I had taken the decision to stay in my corner and, as I expected, I was left there. Probably, in a year, we will have general elections in France. I doubt whether in the intervening period the electors will have come round to more appropriate ideas. However, a considerable number of them appear to have decided to support me. My efforts in favor of our wine-producing industry will give me an effective name of which I can make use. For this reason, I am pleased to see that you were willing to second the views I set out in the letter that the League has quoted.101 If you could arrange for this journal to support the principle of ad valorem rights to be applied to wine, this would give my candidature a solid and honorable base. In fact, in my circumstances, being a deputy is a heavy charge, but the hope of contributing to the formation of a nucleus of free traders within our parliament comes before all personal considerations. When I think that, in our two chambers, there is not a single man who dares to acknowledge the principle of free trade, who understands its full significance, or who is capable of supporting it against the sophisms of monopoly, I must admit that, in the depths of my heart, I want to win the empty seat I see in our legislative body, although I do not want to do anything that would increasingly distort the dominant ideas relating to elections. Let us try to be worthy of their confidence and not to gain it by surprise.

Thank you for the judicious advice you have given me by indicating the [76] procedure for disseminating economic doctrines you think would be best suited to the situation in our country. Yes, you are right, I can see that here light has to be diffused from top to bottom. Instructing the masses is an impossible task, because they have neither the civic right, the habit, nor the liking for grand rallies and public discussion. This is one more reason for me to aim to gain contact with the most enlightened and influential classes through becoming a deputy.

I am very pleased to hear that you have good news from the United States.102 I was not expecting this. America is lucky to speak the same language as the League. It will not be possible for its monopolists to withhold your arguments and work from the knowledge of the general public. I would like you to tell me, when you have the opportunity to write to me, which American journal is the most faithful representative of the economist school.103 The circumstances of this country are analogous with ours and the free-trade movement in the United States could not fail to produce a good and strong impression in France if it were widely known. To save time, would you please take out a one-year subscription for me and ask M. Fonteyraud to reimburse you? It would be easier for me to reimburse him than to send it to you.

I accept with great pleasure your offer to exchange one of your letters for two of mine. I consider that you are sacrificing here again the fallacy of reciprocity, since I will certainly be the winner and you will not receive equal value. In view of how busy you are, I would have been ready to undertake to write to you three times. If ever I become a deputy, we will renew the bases of our contract.



Letter 47. Mugron, 24 Oct. 1845. To M. Potonié


Letter 47. Mugron, 24 Oct. 1845. To M. Potonié (JCPD), [CW1, pp. 76-79].


[From the private collection of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean]

Dear Sir,

The most kind letter that you have been good enough to write to me has revived in me old projects and hopes, which cost me a great deal to abandon. Long before I knew of the existence of the English League, I had conceived [77] the idea of forming an association against protectionism, this absurd system which, apart from the direct harm it causes, causes so many ancillary calamities, national hatreds, wars, standing armies, navies, taxes, restrictions, plunderings, etc. As I needed a fulcrum to set up my lever, I thought of our wine-producing population, which seemed to me to be the most likely to embrace the cause of free trade. I tried to form it into an organization, as you will see from the brochure which it is my pleasure to enclose with this letter. My mistake was to address this call to a single class only, and the class that is probably the least political, the most dispersed, and the most difficult to organize. I ought to have called together all the consumers and in addition all the producers who felt they were sufficiently strong and honest to reject all forms of protection and taxes, for however you look at them, protectionist duties are none other than the taxes we raise from one another.

This frustrated idea was just dormant in my mind, and you can doubtless guess with what joy and enthusiasm I welcomed the arrival of the English League, which pursues the same aim with an energy, a spirit of togetherness, a line of conduct and the talents, resources, and opportunities that I lacked.

I have now been happy to learn from your letter of the existence in Paris of elements which, when they are properly put into operation, may serve as the basis for a similar association to the League. The men who have devoted themselves to the setting up of what is known as “The Articles of Paris”105 are certainly the most appropriate people to lay the foundations for this institution. At the heart of enlightened opinion, close to one another, and in a position to exert an influence on the press, on our political representatives, and on public opinion; more disposed than most to make well-judged sacrifices and more able to supervise the use made of them, they certainly have to offer quite different resources from the wine-producing population. Besides, these people would have only to glimpse this center of action to join it in full sympathy. I believe that we will soon also obtain the support of men in the government, as they receive fixed salaries that bear the weight of the protectionist regime without any possible compensation. I would say the same thing about bankers, traders, merchants, lawyers, doctors, and all the countless sectors of artisans whose work by its very nature is not likely to be protected by customs duties.


I see from your letter that “The Articles of Paris” has already formed a general association divided into sections, one of the most important of which is under your chairmanship. If you consider, sir, that it is possible to find the seed of an energetic league in this institution, and if you think that my efforts and devotion can help in this great work, please write to me and you will find me ready to join you and your colleagues. I have already sounded out a few key figures, for in France they are necessary if one is to succeed in anything, and I know some who would be only too ready to welcome the honor of the initiative. For my part, I will join the combat at whatever level I am placed, for apart from the fact that I put our noble cause a thousand times higher than our little individual ideas, I have learned from Mr. Cobden, the one man in the world in whom I have the fullest confidence, that individual self-sacrifice is the soul and cement of any voluntary association. Let us, therefore, make ourselves small and give free rein to the conceit of others, and use this quotation from Danton as a commentary: “Let our memory perish and may freedom triumph.”

As for a demonstration to the League, I do not see where this would lead. What would be genuinely and immediately useful would be for “The Articles of Paris” to have a representative in London while Parliament is sitting. In the midst of this collapse of duties which is taking place in England, a man who had the confidence of the members of the League who have great influence in these matters might perhaps obtain considerable advantages for “The Articles of Paris,” especially since England is no longer asking for reciprocity or what are called concessions. We do have an ambassador, but it is not possible to deal with things like this officially, and this you will readily understand. . . . As Great Britain is accomplishing this reform without asking anything from foreigners, she cannot accept foreigners’ attempts to influence her resolutions.

When I was in London and enjoying quite close relations with officers in the Board of Trade and members of the League, I sought to convince them that they would be acting shrewdly by encouraging the introduction of our wine into their country. The spirit of my lectures on this subject is set out in the brochures I am enclosing, and I had the pleasure of receiving letters from Cobden and other members of Parliament telling me that they were working hard to make my ideas succeed; what I said to them with regard to wine might equally apply to Parisian goods. England feels that if she opened her market to Parisian goods without France lowering her duties, Parisians would have trouble effecting purchases from England in return, and this [79] would soon open their eyes to the inconsistency of our policy and foment in us the spirit of free trade. I do not doubt that she is aiming her reforms in this direction. For my part, sir (and I hope that you will not find this confidence out of place), I must say that I deeply regret that my financial situation does not allow me to spend time in London at this time. Something tells me that I could do some good there.

Allow me, sir, in ending this overlong letter, to thank you for your kind words both in your own name and that of your sons and colleagues.

I am, sir, your devoted servant.
Frédéric Bastiat



Letter 48. Mugron, 13 Dec. 1845. To Richard Cobden


Letter 48. Mugron, 13 Dec. 1845. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 115-18) [CW1, pp. 79-81].


My dear sir, I am greatly in your debt, since you were willing, in the midst of your noble and arduous work, to relax the agreement which I had gratefully accepted of “one letter for two,” but I unfortunately have only too many excuses to invoke and while all your time is so usefully devoted to the public good, mine has been absorbed by the greatest and most personal grief that I might suffer on this earth.106

I was delaying writing to you to have news of M. Fonteyraud. I needed to know in what terms I should thank you for your welcoming him on my recommendation. I had total peace of mind in this, as I had heard indirectly that he was delighted with his trip and enthusiastic about the members of the League. I am pleased to learn that the members of the League were no less pleased with him. Although I did not know him very well, I considered that he had it in him to be his own recommendation. Doubtless, he has not had the opportunity to write to me yet.

On this subject, you have returned to my visit to you and the excuses you express to me leave me quite embarrassed. Except for the first two days when, for unforeseen reasons, I found myself alone in Manchester and when my morale was undoubtedly afflicted by the sad influence of your strange weather (an influence whose expression I allowed to emerge in the unfortunate note to which you refer), with the exception of these two days, as I have said, I was overwhelmed by the care and kindnesses expressed by you and your friends, Messrs. John and Thomas Bright, Paulton, Wilson, [80] Smith,107 Ashworth, Evans, and many more, and I would be truly ungrateful if, because there was an election in Cambridge during these two days, I remembered only this moment of spleen108 and forgot those which you imbued with goodwill and charm. You can be sure, my dear sir, that our dinner in Chorley and your eminently instructive meeting with Mr. Dyer at Mr. Thomas Bright’s have left indelible memories in my mind and heart. You want me to make another visit. That is not entirely impossible and this is how it might be arranged. It is probable that the big question will be settled this summer, and, like a valiant fighter, you will need to take a little rest and bind your wounds. Since words have been your principal arms, their means of expression in you will have suffered the most, and you have made reference to your state of health in your last letter. It so happens that in the Pyrenees over here there are marvelous springs to cure exhausted chests and larynxes. So come and spend a season as part of the family in the Pyrenees. I promise you either to come to collect you or to accompany you back, at your choice. This trip will not be detrimental to the cause. You will see our wine-producing population and will gain an idea of the spirit that animates it or rather that does not animate it. When we pass through Paris, I will introduce you to all our comrades in political economy and rational philanthropy. I like to think that this trip would leave its beneficial traces in your health and memories, and also in shifting French attitudes about freeing up trade. Bordeaux is also a town which it would interest you to see. People’s minds there are quick and enthusiastic; just a spark will set them ablaze, and this might well come from your words.

Thank you, my dear sir, for the offer you made me regarding my translation. Permit me, however, not to accept it. It is a personal sacrifice which you wish to add to so many others and I must not agree to it.

I feel that the title of my book does not allow you to claim any influence on the part of the League. This being so, let us allow my poor volume to live or die by itself. However, I cannot be sorry that, in France, I attached your name to the history of this great movement. In doing this, I may have upset your worthy colleagues a little and this involuntary injustice gives me some cause for remorse. But truly, to arouse and catch attention here, it is necessary for a doctrine to be incarnated in an individual personality and for a great movement to be represented and summarized in an individual [81] name. Without the great figure of O’Connell, the Irish unrest would have taken place unnoticed in our newspapers. And look what has happened. The French press now uses your name to designate the orthodox principle in political economy. It is an ellipsis, a shorthand method of speaking. It is true that this principle is still the subject of much dispute, and even sarcasm. But it will grow and commensurately your name will grow with it. The human mind is made like this. It needs flags, banners, incarnations, and individual names, and in France more than elsewhere. Who knows whether your destiny will not arouse in our country the emulation of some man of genius?

I have no need to tell you with what interest and anxiety I follow the development of your campaign. I regret that Sir Robert Peel has let himself be overtaken. His personal superiority and position make him able to provide services to the cause that are more immediately achievable, perhaps, than those it can expect from Russell, and I fear that the arrival of a Whig government will result in the reassembly of a formidable aristocratic opposition which will prepare new conflicts for you.

You are good enough to ask me what I do in my solitude. Alas, dear sir, I am embarrassed to have to reply with this shameful word, Nothing. The pen tires me and speech even more so, to the extent that if a few useful thoughts ferment in my head I have no longer any means of revealing them externally. I sometimes think of our unfortunate André Chénier. When he was on the scaffold, he turned to the people and said, striking himself on the forehead, “It is a pity, I had something there.” And I too think that “I have something there.” But who is whispering this thought to me? Is it the consciousness of a genuine truth? Is it fatuous pride? For which idiotic hack today does not think he also “has something there”?

Farewell, my dear sir; permit me to shake your hand most affectionately across the distance that separates us.

P.S. I have frequent contact with Madrid and it would be easy for me to send a copy of my translation there.



Letter 49. Mugron, 20 Dec. 1845. To Alcide Fonteyraud


Letter 49. Mugron, 20 Dec. 1845. To Alcide Fonteyraud (OC1, pp. 194-97) [CW1, pp. 81-84].


My dear M. Fonteyraud, I will not reply today to your letter, a letter that is so charming, so honest and interesting in terms of the subjects it discusses with me and the way it deals with them. This is just a simple acknowledgment, [82] which I am entrusting to a person who is leaving in a few hours for Paris.

I received news of you through the journal of the League, from M. Guillaumin and Mr. Cobden, who speaks of you in terms that I will not repeat to you for fear of wounding your modesty. . . . However, I am changing my mind. Mr. Cobden will one day be sufficiently famous for you to be very happy to know the opinion he has uttered of you. Moreover, this judgment includes a piece of advice, and I have no right to stop it on its way, especially since you persist in giving me the title of Master. I will fulfill the functions of this role once, if not by giving you advice, at least by passing on to you that emanating from an authority regarded as very impressive by the disciples of free trade.

These then are the words of Mr. Cobden:

“Let me thank you for introducing to us M. Fonteyraud, who excited our admiration not only by his superior talents, but by the warmth of his zeal in the cause of free trade. I have rarely met a young man of his age possessing so much knowledge and so mature a judgment both as respects men and things. If he be preserved from the temptations which beset the path of young men of literary pursuits in Paris” (whether Mr. Cobden is alluding to the schools of sentimentality or the traps of the partisan spirit, I do not know), “he possesses the ability to render himself very useful in the cause of humanity.”109

As the rest concerns only your amour propre, permit me to omit it.

It is sweet and consoling to go through life supported by such a testimonial. There is really something deep in our heart which tells us of our own merit, but when we see the blindness of all men to this, how can we ever have the certainty that the awareness of our strengths is its true measure? In your case, you have been judged and consecrated; you have been dedicated to the cause of humanity. Learn and disseminate should be your motto; such is your destiny.

Oh! How my heart beat when I read your description of the great meeting in Manchester! Like you, I felt enthusiasm penetrate my every pore. Has anything like this, whatever Solomon said, been seen under the sun? We have seen major gatherings of men grow passionate for a conquest, a victory, an interest, or the triumph of brute force, but has anyone ever seen ten thousand [83] men unite to ensure the triumph of a major principle of universal justice by peaceful means, through speech and sacrifice? Even if free trade were an error or an illusion, the League would be no less glorious, for it has given the world the most powerful and moral of all instruments of civilization. How can we not see that this concerns not merely the liberation of trade but in turn all the reforms and acts of justice and reparation that humanity might carry out by means of these massive and vibrant organizations!

For this reason, with what happiness, I might almost say, with what outbursts of joy did I welcome the news you gave me at the end of your letter! France also will have her League! France will grow out of her eternal adolescence, blush at the shameful puerility in which she is vegetating, and become an adult! Oh! Let this day come and I will salute it as the finest in my life. Will we never cease to attribute glory to the development of physical force, to wish to settle all matters by the sword and glorify only that courage shown on the battlefield, whatever its motives and works? Will we finally understand that, since public opinion is the monarch of the world, it is public opinion that we have to work on and to which we have to communicate the enlightenment which shows it the right direction together with the energy to take it?

But after enthusiasm comes reflection. I tremble lest some disastrous germ infiltrate the beginnings of our League, for example a spirit of compromise, gradualness, procrastination, or caution. Everything will be lost if the League does not espouse or stick closely to an absolute principle. How could members of the League themselves agree if the League tolerated variable principles in varying degrees? And if they did not agree among themselves, what influence could they have outside?

Even if we should be only twenty, ten, or five, let that twenty, ten, or five have the same goal, the same determination, and the same faith. You have witnessed the campaign in England, I have myself studied it closely, and I know (and this I ask you to convey clearly to our friends) that if the League had made the slightest concession at any time in its existence, the aristocracy would have made short work of it a long time ago.

Therefore, let an association be formed in France. Let it undertake to free trade and industry from any monopoly. Let it devote itself to ensuring the triumph of the principle and you may count on my support. By word, pen, and purse, I will be its man. If it means legal proceedings, suffering persecution, or braving ridicule, I will be its man. Whatever role I am given, whatever rank I am allocated, on the hustings or in cabinet, I will be its man. In [84] enterprises of this kind, in France more than elsewhere, what is to be feared are rivalries based on amour propre; amour propre is the first sacrifice that we have to make on the altar of public good. I am mistaken; perhaps indifference and apathy are greater dangers. Since this project has been set up do not let it fail. Oh! Why am I not with you?

I was going to end my letter without thanking you in advance for what you will be saying about my publication in La Revue britannique. A simple translation cannot be worth such fulsome praise. Be that as it may, praise and criticism are welcome when they are sincere.

Farewell, your affectionate friend.
Frédéric Bastiat



Letter 50. Mugron, 13 Jan. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 50. Mugron, 13 Jan. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 118-21) [CW1, pp. 84-86].


My dear sir, what gratitude do I not owe you for having been good enough to think of me in the midst of such pressing occupations, ones so conducive to absorbing your interest so compellingly? You wrote to me on the 23rd, the very day of that astonishing meeting in Manchester, which certainly has no precedent in history. May the people of Lancashire be honored! It is not only free trade that the world will owe them, but also the enlightened, moral, and devoted art of campaigning. Humanity will at last recognize the instrument of all reform. At the same time I received your letter, the issue of the Manchester Guardian with an article on this session arrived. As I had seen the report of your first meeting in Manchester a few days previously in Le Courrier français, I thought that public opinion had now been awakened in France, and I did not think it necessary to translate the report of your proceedings. I am now annoyed that I did not do so, since I see that this major event has not produced an impression commensurate with its importance here.

How I congratulate you a thousandfold, my dear sir, for having refused an official position in the Whig cabinet.110 This is not to say that you would not be very capable and worthy of power. It is not even that you could not render considerable service. But in the century in which we are, we are so imbued with the idea that whoever appears to devote himself to the public good is in fact working for his own benefit. There is so little understanding of devotion to a principle that no one can believe in disinterestedness, and you will certainly do more good through this example of selflessness and the moral effect it will have on people’s minds than you would have been able to [85] do on the ministerial bench. I would have liked to embrace you, my dear sir, when you taught me, through this conduct, that your heart is equal to your intelligence. Your noble actions will not go unrewarded; you are in a country in which public probity is not discouraged through ridicule.

Since we are talking about devotion, this will lead me on to the other part of your good letter. You advise me to go to Paris. I, myself, feel that at this decisive moment I should be at my post. My own interest as well as that of the cause requires this. For the last two months, our newspapers have been serving up a pile of nonsense on the League, which they would not be able to do if I were in Paris, as I would not let one of these escape without battling with it. On the other hand, since I am better informed than many others on the influence of your movement, I would acquire a certain authority in the eyes of the public. I can see all this, but I languish in a village in the département of the Landes. Why? I think I have mentioned this in one of my letters. I have an honorable and uneventful, although modest situation here.111 In Paris, I could earn my living only by my pen, something I do not criticize in others but to which I have an inexpressible aversion. I therefore have to live and die in my corner, like Prometheus on his rock.

Perhaps you will have some idea of the mental suffering I am experiencing when I tell you that we tried to organize a League in Paris. This attempt has failed and was bound to fail. The proposal was put forward during a dinner with twenty people at which two ex-ministers were present. You can imagine how much success that was likely to have! Among the guests, one wanted ½ freedom, another ¼ freedom, yet another ⅛ freedom, and perhaps three of four were ready to request freedom in principle. Just try to make a united and fervent association out of that! If I had been in Paris, a mistake like that would never have been made. I have made too close a study of what constitutes the strength and success of your organization. A vital League cannot spring up from a group of men gathered together randomly. As I wrote to M. Fonteyraud, let us be ten, five, or even two if necessary, but let us raise the flag of absolute freedom and absolute principle, and let us wait for those with the same faith to join us. If chance had caused me to be born with a more consistent fortune, with an income of ten to twelve thousand francs, there would have been a League in France right now, doubtless more than somewhat weak but bearing within it the two mightiest principles of truth and dedication.

On your recommendation, I have offered my services to M. Buloz. If he [86] had made me responsible for an article to be included in La Revue des deux mondes, I would have continued the absorbing story of the League up to the end of the ministerial crisis. But he did not even send me a reply. I very much fear that these newspaper editors see the most important events only as an opportunity to satisfy the curiosity of their subscribers, ready to shout, depending on the event, “Long live the king, long live the League!”

The Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux has just raised the banner of free trade. Unfortunately, it has taken a text, Customs Union between France and Belgium, that is in my view too restricted. I will send them a letter in which I will endeavor to show them that they would have much more power if they espoused the cause of the principle and not that of a special application to this or that treaty. It is the fallacy of reciprocity which paralyzes the efforts of this chamber. Treaties smile on it because it sees the possible stipulation of reciprocal benefits, reciprocal concessions, and even reciprocal sacrifices. Under this liberal veneer, the disastrous thought still lies hidden that imports are an evil in themselves and should be tolerated only when foreigners have been persuaded to tolerate our exports in their turn. As a model to be followed, I would enclose with my letter a copy of the famous deliberation of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester on 13th and 20th December 1838.112 Why does the Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux not take the generous initiative in France that the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester took in England?

As I know how extensive your commitments are, I scarcely dare to ask you to write to me. Nevertheless, please remember from time to time that your letters are the most effective balm for soothing the boredom of my solitude and the torments arising from my feeling of uselessness.



Letter 51. Mugron, 9 Feb. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 51. Mugron, 9 Feb. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 122-24) [CW1, pp. 86-88].


My dear sir, when you receive this letter you will be in the line of fire113 of the discussion. I hope, however, that you will find a moment for our country, France, for in spite of the interesting things you tell me about the state of [87] affairs in your country, I will not discuss them. I would have nothing to say about them and would waste precious time in expressing feelings of admiration and happiness of which you have no doubt. Let us therefore discuss France. But before we do, I want to put an end to the English question. I have seen nothing in your Peel’s measure that relates to wine. This is certainly a major fault in terms of political economy and public policy. A final vestige of the policy of reciprocal treaties is to be found in this omission, as well as that in the case of timber. This is a stain on Sir Robert Peel’s project, and it will detract hugely from the moral effect of the whole, precisely on the classes, in France and in the north, who were the most disposed to accept this elevated teaching. This omission and the sentence “We shall beat all other nations” are fuel for the game of prejudice; they will feast on them for a long time. They will see in them the secret and Machiavellian ideas of perfidious Albion. Please, put forward an amendment. However great the absolutism of Sir Robert Peel, he could not resist your arguments.

I have now returned to France (from which I have scarcely departed). The more I reflect, the more I have reason to congratulate myself on one thing that at first caused me some anxiety. It is having included your name in the title of my book. Your name has now become popular in my country, and with your name, so has your cause. I am snowed under with letters. I am asked for details, newspapers open their columns to me, and the Institut de France has elected me a corresponding member with MM Guizot and Duchâtel voting for me. I am not blind enough to attribute this success to myself; I owe it to the relevance of the case and to the fact that the right time has come, and I appreciate it, not for my own sake but as a means of being useful. You will be surprised that all of this has not persuaded me to take up residence in Paris. This is the reason. Bordeaux is preparing a major demonstration, too large in my opinion, as it will include a great many people who think they are free traders and who are no more free traders than Mr. Knatchbull. I consider that my role at this time is to put to good use my knowledge of the methods of the League, and to ensure that our association is based on solid foundations. Perhaps you will be sent the issue of Le Mémorial bordelais in which I have included a series of articles on this subject.114 I insist and will continue to insist to the end that our League, like yours, be devoted to an absolute principle and if I do not succeed in doing this I will abandon it.


This is what I am afraid of. In demanding a wise freedom and moderate protection, we are sure to gain a great deal of sympathy in Bordeaux and that will please the founders. But where will all this lead? To the Tower of Babel. It is the actual principle of protection that I wish to breach. Until this business is settled, I will not go to Paris. I have been told that a meeting of forty to fifty traders will be taking place in Bordeaux. It is there that the bases for a league will be established, on which I have been invited to give my opinion. Do you remember that we have searched in vain for your rule in the Anti-Bread Tax Circular? How I regret now that we were not able to find it! If Mr. Paulton could spend an hour looking for it, the time would not be wasted, for I fear that our League might adopt shaky founding principles. After this session, there will be a grand meeting at the Exchange to raise a League fund. The mayor of Bordeaux has taken up his position at the head of the movement.

I have heard about the address you received from the Société d’économie politique115 but I have not read it. I hope it is worthy of you and our cause!

I beg your pardon for talking at such length about France, but you will understand that the weak cries it utters are almost as interesting to me as the virile accents of Sir Robert.

Once the business in Bordeaux is settled, I will go to Paris. The hope that you will visit has made my decision for me.

I will draw up a plan for the distribution of fifty copies of my translation.



Letter 52. Bordeaux, Feb. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 52. Bordeaux, Feb. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 124-26) [CW1, pp. 88-90].


My dear sir, you will doubtless be interested to learn that a demonstration is taking place in Bordeaux in favor of free trade. The association has now been constituted. The mayor of Bordeaux has been appointed its president. Before long, the subscription list will be opened and we hope that this will produce about a hundred thousand francs. This is a fine result. I dare not hold out a great deal of hope and fear that our somewhat timid beginnings may raise obstacles for us later. We did not dare set out the principle boldly. We limit ourselves to saying that the association demands the abolition of [89] protectionist dues as quickly as possible. In this way, the question of gradual progress has been retained and your total and immediate could not be passed. In view of people’s lack of intellectual development in this respect, it would have been useless to insist, and it is to be hoped that the association, whose aim is to enlighten others, will have the effect of enlightening itself.

When this matter has been settled, I am determined to go to Paris. I have received several letters, which give me to understand that the huge sector of industry entitled “Articles of Paris”116 is ready to start a movement. I thought that my duty lay in setting aside any personal reasons I had for staying in my corner. I assure you that I am making a sacrifice to the cause whose merit lies in its lack of visibility.

In the last month, my book117 has had an extraordinary success in Bordeaux. The prophetic tone with which I announced the reform has given me a reputation that I scarcely merit, since all I have had to do is be the echo of the League. I am taking advantage of it nevertheless, for advertising purposes. When I am in Paris, I will take advice to see whether it would not be appropriate to produce a second edition in a low-cost format. I am sure that the association in Bordeaux will come to my aid if need be. You would spare me a great deal of work if you would suggest two speeches by MM Bright, Villiers, and others after consulting them. This would avoid my having to reread the three volumes of the League. I need these men to indicate the speeches in which they dealt with the question from the highest and most general point of view, and where they refuted the most universally held fallacies, especially reciprocity. I will add comments, statistical information, and portraits. Lastly, I also need you to indicate a few parliamentary sessions, especially the stormiest ones, in which free traders were attacked the most relentlessly. A work like this, sold for three francs,118 will do more than ten treatises on economics. You cannot imagine the good that the first edition did in Bordeaux.

I cannot help deploring the fact that your prime minister let slip the opportunity of arousing astonishment in Europe. If, instead of saying, “I need new subsidies to increase our army and navy forces,” he had said, “Since we are adopting the principle of free trade, there can no longer be any question [90] of outlets and colonies. We will give up Oregon119 and even perhaps Canada. Our disputes with the United States will disappear and I am proposing that we reduce our army and navy.” If he had said this, the effect would have been as great a difference between this speech and the treatises on economics, which we are still reduced to producing, as between the sun and treatises on light. Europe would have been converted within a year and England would have won on three fronts. I will not list them as I am overcome by tiredness.



Letter 53. Bordeaux, 19 Feb. 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 53. Bordeaux, 19 Feb. 1846. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 65-66) [CW1, pp. 90-91].


My dear Félix, I had promised to write to you about the events in Bordeaux. I have been so interrupted by visits, meetings, and other annoying incidents that the time for postal collections always arrives before I have been able to honor my promise; what is more, there is not much to tell you. Things are happening very slowly. We floundered about a great deal while settling the first stages of a constitution. Finally a makeshift version emerged from the discussion, and today it is being offered for the approval of seventy to eighty founding members. The final board will be installed with the mayor120 at its head as president, and in two or three days a grand meeting will take place to open the subscription list. It is thought that Bordeaux will raise one hundred thousand francs.121 I am longing to see it. You understand that it is only from today, when the board has been installed, that attention can be paid to a plan, since it is the board that should take this initiative. What will the plan be like? I do not know.

As for my personal contribution, it is limited to being present at the sessions, writing a few articles for newspapers,122 paying and receiving visits, and dealing with economic objections of all kinds. It has been made very clear to me that the level of education in this matter is not sufficient to keep the institution going and I would be leaving with no hope if I did not count on the institution itself to enlighten its own members.


Here I found my poor Cobden all the fashion. A month ago, there were only two copies, the one I gave Eugène123 and the copy at the bookseller’s; today, it is to be found everywhere. I would be embarrassed, my dear Félix, to tell you what an opinion has been formed of the author. Some suppose that I am a first-rate scholar, and others that I have spent my life in England studying its institutions and history. In short, I am very embarrassed at my position, since I know full well the difference between what is true and what is exaggerated in this current view. I do not know whether you will see today’s Mémorial124 (the 18th); you will understand that I would not have used this tone if I had not had a clear view of what I could achieve.

It has almost been decided that, when this organization is fully on its feet, I will go to Paris to try to rally Parisian industry, which I know is well disposed toward us. If this is successful, I foresee one difficulty, and that is to persuade the people in Bordeaux to send their money to Paris. It is certain, however, that Paris is the center from which everything must radiate, since, on the basis of the same expenditure, the Paris press has ten times more influence than the provincial press.

When you write to me (as soon as possible, please) tell me about your personal situation.



Letter 54. Bayonne, 4 March 1846. To Victor Calmètes


Letter 54. Bayonne, 4 March 1846. To Victor Calmètes (OC1, pp. 13-14) [CW1, pp. 91-92].


My good, long-standing friend, your letter warmed my heart, and reading it, it seemed to me that there were twenty-five years fewer hanging around my neck. I was drawn back to those happy days when our being arm in arm reflected our cordial relationship. Twenty-five years! Alas! The weight of them has quickly made itself felt again.

. . . . . . .

I think that in itself, my appointment as a corresponding member of the Institute125 is of little importance, and I greatly fear that many mediocre people have been able to adorn themselves with this title. However, the particular circumstances leading to my nomination do not allow me to refuse your friendly congratulations. I had published only one book, and in this [92] book only the preface was my work. Once I had returned to my solitude, this preface worked in my favor, unknown to me, since the same letter, which informed me of my appointment, announced my candidature. Never in my life had I thought of this honor.

This book is entitled Cobden and the League. I am sending it to you with this letter, which spares me from having to tell you about it. In 1842 and 1843, I endeavored to attract attention to the subject it covers. I sent articles to La Presse, Le Mémorial bordelais, and other newspapers. They were refused. I saw that my cause had been utterly destroyed by a conspiracy of silence and I had no other solution but to produce a book. This is how I came to be an author without knowing it. Now I have embarked on a career and I sincerely regret it; although I have always liked political economy, it is at a cost to myself to give it all my attention, which I like to allow to roam freely over all the subjects of human knowledge. What is more, in this economic science, just one question sweeps me along and will be absorbing me: the freedom of international relations; for perhaps you have seen that I have been assigned a role in the association that has just been formed in Bordeaux. Such is our century; you cannot become involved without being strangled in the bonds of specialization.

. . . I forgot to tell you about the elections. The electors in my region are thinking about me but we are snubbing one another. I claim that their choice is their affair and not mine, and that consequently I have nothing to ask them for. They absolutely insist that I should go and canvas their votes, doubtless in order to gain some right over my time and services, with personal aims. You can see that we do not agree and therefore I will not be nominated.

Farewell, dear Calmètes;
your devoted friend.



Letter 55. Paris, 16 March 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 55. Paris, 16 March 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 126-27) [CW1, pp. 92-93].


My dear sir, I have waited a few days to reply to your fine and instructive letter. It is not because I did not have a great deal to tell you, but I had no time; even today, I am writing only to let you know that I am arriving in Paris. If I had had any hesitation in coming, the hope you give me of seeing you there soon would have been enough to persuade me.

Bordeaux is really in a state of uproar. It has been fashionable to be associated [93] with this work and I have found it impossible to follow my plan, which was to limit the association to the converted. I was overwhelmed by the furia francese. I can see that this will be a significant obstacle in the future, since already, when we wanted to petition the chambers to establish our claims, deep divisions came to the fore. In spite of this, we read and study, and that is a great deal. I am counting on the uproar itself to enlighten those who are creating it. Their aim is to educate others, and they will end by educating themselves.

As I arrived yesterday evening, I cannot give you any news in this letter. I would prefer a thousandfold to form a core of deeply persuaded men than generate a noisy demonstration like that in Bordeaux. I know that people are already talking about moderation, gradual reforms, and experiments. If I can, I will advise those people to form an association among themselves on these lines and leave us to form another in the domain of the abstract and absolute principle of no protection,126 as I am deeply convinced that ours will absorb theirs.



Letter 56. Paris, 22 March 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 56. Paris, 22 March 1846. To Félix Coudroy [CW1, pp. 93-95].


My dear Félix, I hope that you will not delay giving me your news. God willing, an arrangement has been found: I scarcely hope for it and want it desperately. Once you are free from this painful preoccupation, you will be free to devote your time to useful things, for example, your article in Le Mémorial,127 which I have had the time to read only quickly, but which I will reread tomorrow at my uncle’s. It is extremely lively and provides excellent and vivid arguments. On Monday, I will read it to the assembly, which will be quite numerous. When I am slightly better settled, I will tell you the name of the newspaper in Paris to which you should send it; at that stage, however, you should, as far as possible, refrain from mentioning wine. I have just mentioned that we were having an assembly on Monday. Its aim is to set up the board of the association. We have the duc d’Harcourt as president, and he accepted with a resolution which I liked. The other members will be MM Say, Blanqui, and Dunoyer. However, Dunoyer does not much like being in the spotlight, and I will be proposing in his place [94] M. Anisson-Duperron, a peer of France, whom I found compelling in that he is firm on the basic idea. As treasurer, we will have the baron d’Eichthal, a rich banker. Finally, a secretary, who obviously will be called upon to bear the brunt of the work, will join the management. No doubt you can foresee that these functions will fall on my shoulders. As always, I am hesitating. It will be hard work binding myself to such an arduous and assiduous task. On the other hand, I think I can be useful by devoting myself entirely to this business. Between now and Monday I must make an irrevocable decision. Besides, I hope that we will not lack subscribers. Peers, deputies, bankers, and men of letters will flock to us in sufficient numbers, and even a few major manufacturers. It seems clear that there has been a significant change in public opinion and success is perhaps not as far off as we first supposed.

Here, people very much want me to be nominated as a deputy; you cannot imagine how much credit I received for the quasi-prophecy contained in my introduction.128 It confuses and embarrasses me, as I am certain that I do not match up to my reputation, but I have very little hope with regard to becoming a deputy, since the events in Bordeaux and Paris have very little echo in Saint-Sever. And, incidentally, this would perhaps be a further reason for keeping me at a distance. Dear old Chalosse129 does not appear to understand the importance of the enterprise to which I have devoted my efforts; if this were not the case, it is probable that it would want to join in by increasing my influence in its own interest. I do not bear it any grudge; I love it and will serve it to the end, however indifferent it is.

Today, I made my entry into the Institut,130 where they discussed the question of education. University professors, led by Cousin, monopolized the discussion. I am very sorry I have left my work on the subject in Mugron, as I can see that no one considers it from our point of view.

Try from time to time to write articles to maintain the sacred flame in Bordeaux. Later we can doubtless make them into a collection to be distributed in large numbers. In my next letter to my aunt, I will add a note to tell you what they thought of your last article in the Assembly.

I am expecting our friend, Daguerre, in order to be introduced to M. de Lamenais, whom I hope to convert to free trade. M. de Lamartine has announced [95] his membership, as has our good Béranger. We will be bringing in M. Berryer as well, as soon as the association is sufficiently strongly established not to be diverted by political passions. The same is true for Arago; you see that the leading minds of our time will be on our side. I have been assured that M. de Broglie will agree to be president. I must admit that I go in some fear of the diplomatic approach, which is bound to be his habit. His presence will doubtless have a prodigious effect from the start, but we must look to the future and not be dazzled by transitory brilliance.



Letter 57. Paris, 25 March 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 57. Paris, 25 March 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 127-30) [CW1, pp. 95-97].


My dear sir, as soon as I received your letter, I handed over your reply to the address from our Société d’économie politique to M. Dunoyer. I have just translated it, and it appeared to contain nothing that might have unfortunate consequences if it were published. The only thing is that we do not have any clear idea on where we should publish this precious document. Le Journal des économistes will not be published until about 20 April. This is rather late. A significant number of newspapers are committed to the monopoly, many others to anglophobia, and many others again are worthless. An approach will be made to Le Journal des débats. I will tell you the result in a postscript. Certainly, there is nothing but pure, noble, true, and cosmopolitan sentiments in your letter, as in your heart. But our nation is so susceptible to, and also so imbued with, the idea that free trade is good for you but not for us, and that you adopted it in part through Machiavellianism and to inveigle us down this path; these ideas, as I say, are so prevalent and popular that I do not know whether the publication of your address will not be inopportune at the time we are forming an association. People will not fail to say that we are the dupes of perfidious Albion. Men who know that if two and two are four in England they do not make three in France laugh at these prejudices. However, I think it prudent to dissipate rather than confront them. This is why I will be submitting the question of publication to a few enlightened men whom I am meeting this evening and I will let you know tomorrow the result of this consultation.

I stressed the words in part for this reason: our principal point of support for the campaign is the commercial class, the traders. They earn their living by trade and they want as much of it as possible. They are also used to [96] conducting business. Under this twin heading, they are our best auxiliaries. However, they support monopoly in one respect, the maritime aspect, protection for the national fleet, in a word, what is known as the surtax.131

However, it so happens that our shipowners are all taken with the idea that, in his financial plan, Sir Robert Peel has not amended your Navigation Act and that he has left the full force of protection on this; I leave you to imagine the consequences they are drawing from this. I seem to remember that Huskisson amended your Navigation Act. I have your tariff, and I do not see anywhere that goods carried by foreign ships are subject to differential taxes. I would like to be sure of this question, and if you do not have time to enlighten me, could you not ask Mr. Paulton or Mr. James Wilson to write a fairly detailed letter to me on this subject?

I will now tell you a little about our association. I am beginning to be a little discouraged by the difficulties, even physical ones, of doing anything in Paris. Distances are huge, you waste a lot of time in the streets, and in the ten days I have been here I have put only two hours to good use. I would decide to abandon the enterprise if I did not see some elements of usefulness. Peers, deputies, bankers, men of letters, all of whose names are well known throughout France, have agreed to join our society, but they do not want to take the first step. Even supposing we succeeded in bringing them together, I do not think we would be able to count on a very active contribution from people who are so busy, so carried away by the whirlwind of business and pleasure. But the sole mention of their names would have a considerable effect in France and would make it easier for similar and more practical associations to be founded in Marseilles, Lyons, Le Havre,132 and Nantes. This is why I am resolved to waste two months here. What is more, the Paris society would have the advantage of giving a little courage to free-trade deputies, who, rejected by public opinion up to now, have not dared to admit their principles.

I have incidentally not lost sight of what you told me one day, that the movement, which was constructed from the bottom up in England, should be constructed from the top down in France, and for this reason I am delighted to see such major figures join us as Harcourt, Anisson-Dupéron, Pavée de Vandœuvre, and perhaps de Broglie among the peers; Eichthal, [97] Vernes, Ganneron, and perhaps Rothschild among the bankers; and Lamartine, Lamenais, and Béranger among the men of letters. I am certainly far from believing that all these illustrious people have fixed opinions. It is instinct rather than a clear vision of the truth that guides them, but the very fact of their adhesion will commit them to our cause and oblige them to examine it. This is why I hold the cause dear, since without it I would prefer a wholly homogeneous association of a dozen followers who are free from commitments and unbound by the considerations that a name in politics imposes.

What factors sometimes make events great! Certainly if an opulent financier became devoted to the cause, or what would amount to the same thing, if a man who was profoundly persuaded and devoted had a huge fortune, the movement would quickly make progress. Today, for example, I know twenty prominent people who are watching each other, hesitating, and restrained only by the fear of tarnishing the brilliance of their name. If, instead of running from one to the other, on foot, mud spattered on my back, to meet one or two a day only and to obtain only evasive or dilatory replies, I could gather them round my table, in a sumptuous dining room, what difficulties would be overcome! Believe me, it is neither my spirit nor my heart that is failing. But I feel that this superb Babylon is not my place and I must make haste to return to my solitude and limit my contribution to a few articles in newspapers and some writing. Is it not strange that I should have reached the age at which hair goes gray, be a witness of the progress of luxury and repeat like the Greek philosopher,133 “How many things there are that I do not need!” and that I should feel overwhelmed by ambition at my age? Ambition! I dare to say that this ambition is pure, and if my poverty makes me suffer, it is because it is an invincible obstacle to the progress of the cause.

Forgive me, my dear sir, for these outpourings from my heart. I am talking about myself when I should be discussing only public affairs with you.

Farewell; I remain always your affectionate and devoted servant.



Letter 58. Paris, 2 Apr. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 58. Paris, 2 Apr. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 130-31) [CW1, pp. 97-98].


My dear sir, as I told you, your reply to the address of the Société d’économie politique will appear in the next issue of Le Journal des économistes. [98] 134 I hope it will produce a good effect. However, in view of the extreme susceptibility of our fellow citizens, it was deemed appropriate not to publish it in the daily press and to wait until our Paris association was on a firmer footing.

What we lack above all is a mouthpiece, a special journal, like the League. You will tell me that this must be a product of the association. However, I firmly believe that, to a certain extent, it is the association that will be the product of the journal; we do not have the means of communication and no accredited journal can provide us with one.

For this reason, I have thought about creating a weekly journal entitled Libre échange. I received the estimate for it yesterday evening. It can be established for an expenditure of 40,000 francs for the first year and receipts, based on one thousand subscribers at 10 francs, would only be 10,000 francs; a loss of 30,000 francs.

Bordeaux will, I hope, agree to bear part of this. But I must envisage covering the total cost. I thought of you. I cannot ask England for an open or secret subsidy as this would result in more disadvantages than benefits. But could you not obtain for us one thousand subscriptions at half a guinea? This would mean receipts of 500 pounds sterling or 12,500 francs, or 10,000 francs net once postage charges have been deducted. I think that London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Edinburgh would be enough to take these thousand copies in genuine subscriptions, which your agents would facilitate. There would then be no subsidy, but faithful encouragement, which could be acknowledged openly.

When I see the timidity of our so-called free traders and how little they understand the necessity of adopting hard and fast principles, I consider it essential—as I will not hide from you—to take the initiative of starting this journal and managing it, for if, instead of preceding the association, it follows it, and is obliged to take on its spirit instead of creating it, I fear that the enterprise will be still-born.

Please reply as soon as you can and give me your frank advice.



Letter 59. Paris, 11 Apr. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 59. Paris, 11 Apr. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 131-33) [CW1, p. 99].


My dear sir, I hasten to tell you that your reply to the address of the economists will appear in this month’s journal, which will be published between the 15th and 20th. The translation is a little weak, as the person to whom it was mainly addressed thought it more appropriate to soften a few expressions in order to humor the susceptibility of our general public. This susceptibility is genuine, and what is more, it is cleverly manipulated. Just recently, while reading a few proofs in a printing works, I came across a book in which we were positively accused of having been bribed by England or rather by the League. As I knew the author, I persuaded him to withdraw this absurd allegation, but it made me realize the increasing danger of having any financial link with your society. I find it impossible to see anything reprehensible in the few subscriptions you may take in our writings in order to distribute them in Europe, and yet from now on I will refrain from calling on your sympathy and, independently of the reasons you give me, this is enough to make me resolve to conform to the national prejudice in this regard.

Although the movement in Bordeaux was rather impressive, I fear that it will create a great many obstacles precisely for that reason. No one dares do anything in Paris, for fear of not doing as much as Bordeaux. Right from the beginning, I predicted that an association, unnoticed at first but made up of men that were totally united and persuaded, would have a better chance than a grand demonstration. Finally, we have to act using the elements we have to hand, and one of the benefits of the association, if ever it spreads, will be to train135 the members themselves. They certainly need it. They cannot perceive the distinction between revenue-raising duties and protectionist duties. That means that they do not understand the very principle of the association, the only thing that can give it strength, cohesion, and longevity. I have developed this thesis in today’s issue of Le Courrier français, and will continue to do so.

Whatever happens, there has been incontrovertible progress in this country. Six months ago, no newspaper would support us. Today, we have five in Paris, three in Bordeaux, two in Marseilles, one in Le Havre, and two in Bayonne. I hope that a dozen peers and as many deputies will join our League and draw from it, if not enlightenment, at least courage.



Letter 60. Paris, 18 Apr. 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 60. Paris, 18 Apr. 1846. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 68-70) [CW1, pp. 100-1].


My dear Félix, I am totally deprived of your letters and it is true that I myself have been very negligent. You cannot believe that I have no time, but this is nevertheless true; when you are living as though so to speak “camping in Paris,” the availability of time is so bad that you end up doing nothing.

I will not tell you very much about myself. I have so many people to see that I see no one; this may seem paradoxical but it is true. I have been only once to Dunoyer’s, once to Comte’s, once to Mignet’s, and so on. I am able to have contact with the newspapers; La Patrie, Le Courrier français, Le Siècle, and Le National have opened their columns to me. I have not been able to sign up with the Débats.136 M. Michel Chevalier has offered to include my articles in it, but I want to have entry to their actual offices to avoid cuts and changes.

The association is moving forward at the speed of a tortoise; I will not have my position settled until Sunday week, when there will be a meeting. Here are the names of some of the members: Harcourt, Pavée de Vandœuvre, Admiral Grivel, Anisson-Duperron, Vincens de Saint-Laurent, peers.

Lamartine, Lafarelle, Bussières, Lherbette, de Corcelle, and a few other deputies.

Michel Chevalier, Blanqui, Wolowski, Léon Faucher, and other economists. D’Eichthal, Cheuvreux, Say, and other merchant bankers.

The difficulty is to gather together these figures who are borne along in the political whirlwind. Behind them, there are young people who are more fervent and who must be contained at least provisionally, so as not to lose the advantage of having the support of these well-known and popular names.

In the meantime, we have had a meeting of the traders and manufacturers in Paris. Our aim was to prepare them; I was very ill prepared myself and I had not devoted more than one hour to thinking about what I would have to say. I drew up a very simple plan in which I could not go wrong and was happy to find that this method was not beyond my powers. By starting very simply and in a conversational tone, without seeking to be either witty or eloquent, but only to be clear and convincing, I was able to talk for half an hour without either fatigue or shyness. Others were more brilliant. We will [101] be having another, larger meeting in a week’s time and then I will try to enthuse the Latin Quarter.

I have seen the minister of finance137 in the last few days. He approved of all I am doing and asks for nothing more than to see public opinion molded.

Farewell; time is running short and I am even afraid that I am late.



Letter 61. Paris, 3 May 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 61. Paris, 3 May 1846. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 70-71) [CW1, pp. 101-2].


My dear Félix, I have learned that there is an opportunity to send this letter and, although I am not at my best (as I have been holding my pen for seven hours), I do not want to let it pass without giving you my news.

I mentioned a meeting tomorrow to you and this is its subject. The addition of famous figures has buried our modest association. These people wanted to start everything again ab ovo138 and we therefore have to construct a program and draw up a manifesto, and this I have been working on all day. But there are four others who are doing the same thing. Whether we want to choose or combine, I can see a long, fruitless discussion ahead, because there are many men of letters, many theorists, and then there is the matter of ego. I would therefore not be surprised if it were referred to yet another commission where the same difficulties will arise, since everyone except me will defend his work and will come to be judged by the Assembly. This is a pity. The manifesto will be followed by the statutes, an organization that complies with these, and subscriptions, and it is only after all this that I will be confirmed. Sometimes I feel the urge to give up, but when I think of the beneficial effect that the simple manifesto with its forty signatures will produce, I cannot summon up the courage to do so. Perhaps when the manifesto has been issued, I will go to Mugron to wait for my summons, since the thought of spending months on end coping with simple formalities without doing anything useful appalls me. Besides, the electoral battle may require my presence. M. Dupérier sent me a message to say that he had formally withdrawn, and even added that he had burned his boats and written to all his friends that he had abandoned his candidature. Since this is so, if other candidates do not come forward, I may find myself confronting M. de [102] Larnac alone, and this combat does not worry me because it will be a conflict of doctrines and opinion. What amazes me is not to receive any letters from Saint-Sever. It appears that Dupérier’s communication ought to have attracted a few overtures to me. If you hear anything, please let me know.



Letter 62. Paris, 4 May 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 62. Paris, 4 May 1846. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, p. 71) [CW1, p. 102].


Yesterday evening a manifesto was discussed and adopted. The discussion was serious, interesting, and profound, and that in itself is a very good thing, since many people who undertake to enlighten others enlighten themselves. All executive powers were entrusted to a commission made up of MM Harcourt, Say, Dunoyer, Renouard, Blanqui, Léon Faucher, Anisson-Duperron, and me. On the other hand, this commission will be transmitting to me, at least in practice, the authority it has received and will limit itself to a controlling function; in these circumstances, could I possibly abandon a role that might fall into other hands and compromise the entire cause? I am unhappy at leaving Mugron and my accustomed ways, whimsical work, and our conversations. This is a desperate wrench, but have I any right to step back?

Farewell, my dear Félix; your friend.
Frédéric Bastiat



Letter 63. Paris, 24 May 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 63. Paris, 24 May 1846. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 72-73) [CW1, pp. 101-2].


My dear Félix, I have run around so much this morning that I cannot hold my pen properly and my writing is all trembling. What you have told me concerning the usefulness of my presence in Mugron is a constant preoccupation. But, my friend, I am almost certain that, if I left Paris, our association would collapse, and we would have to start all over again. You will make up your own mind about this; this is the position we are in: I think I told you that a commission had been appointed with full powers, but just when we were about to issue our manifesto, several of the commissioners wanted us to obtain prior authorization.139 A request was made for this and the minister agreed, but the days go by and nothing seems to come. In the meantime, the manifesto is in our files. It was certainly a mistake to request authorization; [103] we should have limited ourselves to a simple declaration. Our faint-hearted commissioners thought they were being accommodating to the minister but I think they caused him embarrassment since, especially with the elections coming shortly, he will be afraid of upsetting the manufacturers.

Nevertheless, M. Guizot has declared that he will give the authorization, M. de Broglie has made it understood that he would come over to us immediately afterward and this is why I am still being patient, but if there is any more delay I will complain loudly at the risk of demolishing everything, so as to start on another course and with other people.

You see how difficult it is to leave the field at this time. It is not that I do not want to, for, my dear Félix, Paris and I are not made for one another. There is too much to say on this subject, so we will leave it for another day.

Your article in Le Mémorial140 was excellent. Few people have read it, as it arrived only at the end of our meetings for the reason which I have told you, but I have sent it to Dunoyer and Say as well as to a few others, and everyone thought it was sufficiently lively and clear to absorb the reader and oblige him to agree. The “I will no longer be involved” could not fail to please Dunoyer a great deal; unfortunately the current view is leaning to an appalling degree in the other direction: “Involve the state in everything.” We will shortly produce a second edition of my Sophisms.141 We could include this article and a few others in this, if you write them. I can certainly tell you that this small book is destined to be circulated widely. In America, they are offering to distribute it widely, and the English and Italian newspapers have translated it almost in its entirety.142 But what annoys me a little is to see that the three or four pleasantries that I have slipped into this volume have been highly successful while the serious part has been widely overlooked. For this reason, you also should try a few buffa.143

I must end here. I have just learned that an opportunity has occurred with regard to Bordeaux and I want to take advantage of it.



Letter 64. Paris, 25 May 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 64. Paris, 25 May 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 133-34) [CW1, pp. 104-5].


It is quite a few days since I last wrote to you, dear Mr. Cobden, but finally I could not have found a more appropriate opportunity to atone for my negligence, since I am pleased to introduce to you the mayor of Bordeaux, the worthy and jovial president of our association, M. Duffour-Dubergié. I do not think I need add anything to assure him of the most cordial welcome on your part. Knowing the close union which binds all the members of the League, I am even dispensing with the duty of writing to Messrs. Bright, Paulton, etc., as I am sure that, on your recommendation, M. Duffour will be admitted to your circle as a member of this great confraternity which has arisen in support of the freedom and union of peoples. And who is more worthy of your friendship than he? He it was who, through the authority of his position, his wealth, and his character, carried Bordeaux along and caused the little that has occurred in Paris to happen. He has not procrastinated and hesitated like our diplomats in the capital. His resolution has been sufficiently prompt and forceful for our government itself not to have the time to hinder the movement, even supposing it had the intention of doing so.

Please, therefore, welcome M. Duffour as the true founder of the association in France. Others will seek and maybe gain the glory for this one day. This is quite normal, but, for my part, I will always give the credit to our president in Bordeaux.

In the midst of the uproar and excitement which must be surrounding your affairs, perhaps you sometimes wonder how our small league in Paris is getting on. Alas, it is in a period of the doldrums, which is very annoying for me. As French law requires associations to be authorized, several of our most prominent members stipulated that this formality should precede the release of any information outside. We therefore submitted our request, and since then we are dependent on the goodwill of the ministers. They have indeed promised authorization, but they have not issued it. Our colleague, M. Anisson-Dupéron, is devoting to this matter a zeal for which he should be praised. He combines the vigor of a young man with the maturity of a peer of France. Thanks to him, I hope we will succeed. If the minister stubbornly refuses to authorize us, our association will be dissolved. All the faint-hearted will leave, but there will always remain a certain number of members with greater resolve and we will constitute an organization on different [105] lines. Who knows whether in the long run this sorting out will not be an advantage to us?

I must admit that I will regret having to abandon fine, well-known names. These are needed in France, since our laws and customs prevent us from doing anything with and through the people. We can scarcely act with just the enlightened classes and, since this is so, men who have acquired a reputation are excellent auxiliaries. But, as a last resort, it is better to do without them than not to do anything at all.

It would appear that the protectionists are preparing a desperate defense in England. If you have a moment, I would be grateful if you would give me your views on the outcome of the struggle. M. Duffour will witness this great conflict. I envy him his good fortune.



Letter 65. Mugron, 25 June 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 65. Mugron, 25 June 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 134-36) [CW1, pp. 105-6].


It is not for you to apologize, my dear sir, but for me, for you are making great and noble use of your time while I, who am wasting mine, ought not to have waited so long without writing to you. You are at the end of your work. The hour of triumph has sounded for you. You can give yourself the testimonial that you have left a deep imprint of your passage on this earth and humanity will bless your name. You have led your huge campaign with the vigor, comprehensiveness, prudence, and moderation that will be an eternal example for all future reformers and, I say this most sincerely, the perfection you have brought to the art of campaigning will be a greater benefit for the human race than the specific purpose of your efforts, however great that is. You have taught the world that genuine strength lies in public opinion and shown it how to put this strength to work. I take it upon myself, my dear Cobden, to award you the palm of immortality and anoint your forehead with the mark of a great man.

As for me, you will see from the date of my letter that I have deserted the battlefield, not because of discouragement but temporary disgust. It must be said; the task in France is more specialized and less likely to make inroads in public sympathy. The material and moral obstacles are also huge. We have neither the railways nor the penny postage.144 We are not accustomed to subscriptions; [106] French minds are impatient with all hierarchy. We are capable of discussing the details of a regulation or the formalities of a meeting for a year. Lastly, our greatest misfortune is that we have no genuine economists. I have not met two who are capable of supporting the cause and its doctrine in a comprehensive and correct fashion, and we see the most gross errors and concessions infiltrating the speeches and writings of those known here as free traders. Communism and Fourierism absorb all the young minds, and we will have a host of outer ramparts to destroy before being able to attack the heart of the fortress.

If I turn my gaze on myself, I can feel tears of blood coming to my eyes. My health does not allow me to work assiduously and . . . but what use are complaints and regrets!

The September Laws145 which oppose us are not greatly to be feared. On the contrary, the government is doing us a favor by placing us in this posture. It offers us the means of stiffening the public fiber a little and melting the ice of public indifference. If it wanted to counter the rise of our ideas, it could not have gone about it in a worse way.

You make no mention of your health. I hope it is a little stronger. I would be very sorry if you came to Paris and I did not have the pleasure of doing you the honors there. It is doubtless an instinct for contrast that incites you to go to Cairo, contraria contrariis curantur.146 You wish to escape the fog, liberty, and unrest in Britain by seeking refuge under the sun, despotism, and political inertia of Egypt. Oh that I might, in seven years’ time, go to seek rest from the same weariness in the same place!

You are thus going to dissolve the League! What an instructive and imposing prospect! What is the abdication of Scylla compared with such an act of selflessness? This is the time for me to rewrite and complete my History of the League. But will I have the time? The flow of affairs takes up all my waking hours. I also need to produce a second edition of my Sophisms and I would very much like to write a small book entitled Economic Harmonies. It will make a pair with the other; the first demolishes and the second would build.



Letter 66. Bordeaux, 21 Jul. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 66. Bordeaux, 21 Jul. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 136-38) [CW1, pp. 107-8].


My dear and excellent friend, your letter found me here in Bordeaux, where I have come to attend a meeting following the return of our president, M. Duffour-Dubergié. This meeting will take place in a few hours’ time; I am to speak at it and this is exercising my mind to such an extent that you must excuse the confusion and incoherence of this letter. Nevertheless, I do not want to put off writing to you since you have asked me to reply by return.

I do not need to tell you how pleased I was to learn of the conclusion of your great and glorious enterprise. The keystone has fallen, and the entire monopoly structure will crumble, including the colonial system, which is linked to the protectionist system. This above all is what will have a strong influence on public opinion in Europe and dissolve the truly disastrous and profound prejudices in this country.

When I entitled my book Cobden and the League, no one had told me that you were the soul of this powerful organization and that you had communicated to it all the qualities of your mind and heart. I am proud that I sensed this and that I foresaw, if not anticipated, public opinion throughout England. For the love of man, please do not reject the acknowledgment the country wishes to give you. Allow the people to express their gratitude freely and nobly. England is honoring you and is honoring herself even more through this great act of justice. Be sure that she is investing the hundred thousand pounds sterling at a high rate of interest, since as long as she knows how to reward its faithful servants well she will be well served.147 She will never lack great men. Here in France, we also have fine minds and noble hearts, but their potential remains unrealized because the country has not yet learned this important but oh, so simple lesson: honor what is honorable and despise what is despicable. The gift they are preparing for you is the glorious culmination of the most glorious enterprise that the world has ever seen. Leave these great examples to reach future generations in their entirety.


I will be going to Paris at the beginning of August. It is not likely that I will be arriving there as a deputy. The same cause is still forcing me to wait for this mandate to be imposed on me, and in France, this wait can be long. But, like you, I think that the work I have to do is outside the legislative perimeter.

I have just left the meeting, at which I did not speak.148 But, with reference to election as a deputy, an extraordinary thing has happened to me. I will tell you about it in Paris. Oh, my friend, there are countries in which you have to have a truly great spirit to concern yourself with the public good, so great an effort is deployed to discourage you!



Letter 67. Bordeaux, 22 Jul. 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 67. Bordeaux, 22 Jul. 1846. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 73-74) [CW1, pp. 108-9].


My dear Félix, I wrote to you the day before yesterday and would not be surprised if my letter went astray, since for the last month I have been going from one misunderstanding to another. I would need a ream of paper to tell you all that has happened to me. They are not pleasant things but they do have the advantage of letting me make great strides in acquiring knowledge of the human heart. Alas! Perhaps it would be better to retain the few illusions we should have at our age.

First of all, I have found out that the delay in sending out my brochure is the result of intrigue. My letter to M. Duchâtel149 offended him, but it forced out of him the authorization that so many highly placed figures were pursuing for the last three months. And do you think the association in Bordeaux was grateful? Not at all. There has been a complete change of opinion against me here, and I have been branded a radical; my brochure was the final straw. M. Duchâtel has written to the prefect, the prefect summoned the manager of Le Mémorial150 and hauled him over the coals, and the manager has atoned for his fault by delaying my brochure. In spite of this, right now, the four hundred copies should have reached you.151

As for what is happening with regard to the elections, it would take too [109] long and I will tell you when we meet. The result is that I will not be supported anywhere, except perhaps in Nérac.152 However, I see this as a mere show of opposition and not as a serious candidature, unless the unexpected happens on election day.

Yesterday we had a meeting of the association in Bordeaux. The way I was begged to speak made me beg to refuse.

I presume that right now all the electors of Saint-Sever have received my brochure. This is all I have to offer them with my devotion to duty. Distributing it must be giving you much work. If there are four of you, however, the task will be lighter. I hope to have returned to Mugron by the 28th or 29th, just in time to vote.

Farewell, my dear Félix, I will not seal this letter until this evening, in case I have anything to add.

P.S. I have just had an important interview, which I will tell you about. But the result is that Bordeaux will not be supporting me; they want an economist who is right in the center. The minister has recommended Blanqui.



Letter 68. Paris, 23 Sept. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 68. Paris, 23 Sept. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 138-39) [CW1, pp. 109-10].


Although I have not a great deal to tell you, my dear friend, I do not want to let any more time go by without writing to you.

We are still in the same situation, with a great deal of trouble bringing an organization to birth. I hope, nevertheless, that next month will be more productive. First of all, we will have a headquarters. That is a good start; it is the embodiment153 of the League. Next, several leading men154 are returning from the country, among whom is the excellent M. Anisson, whom I have been missing.

In the meantime, we are preparing for a second meeting on the 29th. This is perhaps a little dangerous, since a fiasco in France tends to be deadly. I am offering to speak at it and I will reread your lesson on eloquence several times between now and then. Could I obtain this from a better source? I assure you that I will have at least two precious, although negative, qualities [110] in the absence of others, simplicity and brevity. I will not try to make people laugh or cry, but to elucidate a difficult point of economic science.

There is one point on which I do not agree with you, that is, on public speaking. I think it is the most powerful instrument of propagation. Is it nothing to have several thousand listeners who understand you much better than if they were reading you? Afterward, the next day, everyone wants to know what you said and the truth goes on its way.

You know that Marseilles has issued its pronunciamento; the people there are already richer than we. I hope they will help us, at least in founding the journal.

Brussels has just formed its association. And what is surprising, the association has just published the first issue of its journal. Alas! The Belgians probably do not have a law on stamps and another on surety.155

I am impatient to know whether you have visited our marvelous Pyrenees. The mayor of Bordeaux wrote to tell me that my desolate Landes appeared to you to be the land of lizards and salamanders.156 And yet deep affection can transform this frightful desert into an earthly paradise! But I hope that our Pyrenees will have reconciled you to the south of France. What a shame that all the provinces that surround Pau, the Juranson, the Béarn, the Tursan, the Armagnac, and the Chalosse cannot carry out trade that would be so natural with England!157

Let us return to the subject of associations. One is being formed of protectionists. This is the best thing that could have happened to us, as we really need a stimulus. It is said that another is being formed in favor of free trade in raw materials and the protection of factories. That one, at least, does not pretend to be based on a principle and take account of justice. It thus considers itself to be eminently practical. It is clear that it cannot stand alone and that it will be absorbed by us.



Letter 69. Paris, 29 Sept. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 69. Paris, 29 Sept. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 140-42) [CW1, pp. 111-13].


My dear friend, I have been to visit M. de Loménie,158 who has come to my lodgings though we still have not met. But I am meeting him tomorrow and will make available to him all my documents and those of Fonteyraud. In addition, I will offer him my cooperation, either for translating or, if need be, giving his article a veneer of economic orthodoxy. I have at the forefront of my memory the passage from your closing speech in which you make an excursion into the future and from there open up to your listeners a horizon that is wider and finer than that offered to you from the Pic du Midi. This speech will be translated and sent to M. de Loménie. He might well also use your excerpt on emigration, which is really eloquent. In short, let me have some information on it. The only thing is that I have to tell you that very little is said here about this gallery of famous men. I am assured that this type of work is a speculation on the amour propre of those who aspire to celebrity. But perhaps this insinuation arises from the jealousies of authors and publishers, irritabile genus,159 the vainest species of men I know after fencing masters.

I have just received your nice letter. Has it reached me in time? I have incorporated the text you indicate quite naturally in my speech. How could I not have thought of asking for your advice? This doubtless is because I have a head full of arguments and felt that I was rich. But I thought only of the subject and you have made me think of the audience. I now understand that a good speech must be supplied to us by the audience rather than by its subject. Running through mine in my head, I think that it is not too philosophical and that it combines economic science, appropriateness, and parables in proper proportion.160 I will send it to you and you will let me know your view of it for my edification. You will understand, my dear Cobden, that any tact would do me a disservice. I have as much amour propre as the next man and no one fears ridicule more than I, but that is precisely why I want good advice and good criticism. One of your remarks might spare me a thousand in the future that is opening out before me and carrying me along. A great many things will be decided tonight.


I am expected in Le Havre. Oh! What a burden is an exaggerated reputation! There, I will have to discuss the shipping interest. I remember that you had good things to say on this subject in Liverpool or in Hull. I will do some research, but if you have any good ideas relating to Le Havre, please let me have them for charity’s sake or rather, through me, bestow this charity on the fearful shipowners who are counting on the small number of trading operations to increase the number of transport facilities. What blindness! What a distortion of human intelligence!

  • And I am astonished when I think of this,
  • To what depths the human spirit can sink.

I will not post my letter until tomorrow, so that I can tell you about an event that I am sure will interest you as much as if it were personal.

I was forgetting to tell you that your previous letter arrived too late. I had already booked two separate apartments, one for the association and the other for me, but in the same house. We have to accept our fate with the motto that consoles Spanish people in all circumstances: no hay remedio!161 As for my health, do not worry, it is better. I believe that Providence will give me enough to see me through. I am becoming superstitious; is it not good to be this way just a little?

But here my letter is arriving at the square yard. It will pay heavy duties. This would probably not happen if the post office adopted the ad valorem duty. I am leaving some space for tomorrow.


The session162 has just ended. Anisson chaired it. The audience was larger than the previous time. We had five speeches including two from professors who thought they were giving classes. Very much more than I, they thought about their subject more than their audience. M. Say had a great success; he spoke with warmth and was roundly applauded. I am pleased about that, since how can one fail to like this excellent man? M—— made three excellent speeches in one. His only fault was length. I was the fifth to speak, with the disadvantage of having a harassed audience. Notwithstanding this, I had as much success as I wished. What was funny is that the only emotion I felt was in my calves. I now understand Racine’s line:


And my trembling knees are buckling beneath me.

The 30th.

I have seen only one newspaper, Le Commerce. This is what it says: “Mr. Bastiat succeeded in having his economic parables accepted through an unpretentious delivery that was accompanied by a thoroughly southern eloquence.” This scant praise is enough for me and I want no more, since God preserve me from arousing envy in my colleagues!



Letter 70. Paris, 1 Oct. 1846. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 70. Paris, 1 Oct. 1846. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 74-76) [CW1, pp. 113-14].


My dear Félix, I have had no news of you and consequently do not know how you are progressing in your court case. May you be close to a solution and success! Give me news of your good sister; were the baths at Biarritz beneficial for her? I am sorry you were not able to accompany her; I think Mugron must be becoming sadder and more monotonous for you with each passing day.

People in Bordeaux have written to tell me that several of our articles are being reprinted as a brochure. This is why I am in no hurry to produce a second volume of Sophisms; this would be duplication. Just writing my correspondence takes me as much time as I can devote to writing. My friend, I am not only part of the association, I am the association in its entirety, not because I lack enthusiastic and devoted colleagues when it comes to speaking and writing. As for organizing and administering this vast machine, however, I am on my own, and how long will this last? On the 15th of this month, I am taking possession of my place of work. I will then have staff. Until then, I cannot undertake any intellectual work.

I am sending you an issue of the journal that reports on our public session yesterday. I made my debut on the Paris stage in extremely unfavorable circumstances. There was a large audience and for the first time there were women in the public gallery. It had been arranged that five speakers would be heard and that each would speak for half an hour. This already made the session last for two and a half hours. I was to speak last; of my four predecessors, two were faithful to the rules and two others spoke for more than an hour; they were professors. I therefore stood up in front of an audience harangued by three hours of economics and in a hurry to leave. I myself was very tired by such an extended wait. I stood up with the terrible foreboding [114] that my head would let me down. I had prepared my speech carefully but without writing it down. You can imagine how terrified I was. How was it that I did not have a moment of hesitation or feel any worry or emotion, except in my legs? I cannot explain it. I owe it all to the modest tone with which I started. After warning the audience that they should expect no eloquence, I felt perfectly at ease and I must have succeeded since the newspapers report only this speech. This is a great test I have passed. I tell you all this frankly, as you can see, persuaded that you will be delighted both for me and the cause. My dear Félix, I am sure that we will triumph. In a short time, my fellow countrymen may trade their wines for anything they want. The Chalosse will come back to life. This is the thought that sustains me. I will not have been totally without use to my country.

I presume that I will be going to Le Havre in two or three months to organize a committee. The prefect in Rouen has warned M. Anisson “that he should take care to come at night if he does not wish to be stoned.”

I am assured that yesterday evening there was a large protectionist meeting in Rouen. If I had known this, I would have gone incognito. I would congratulate myself if these people did as we do; that would goad us on. And incidentally it is a safety valve; as long as they defend themselves through legal channels, there will be no fear of collision.

Farewell, my dear Félix. Write to me from time to time; put your solitude to good use and do something worthwhile. I very much regret not being able to undertake anything for true glory. If you think of a good way of doing so, let me know of it. I am assured that parables and jokes have greater success and more effect than the best treatises.



Letter 71. Paris, 22 Oct. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 71. Paris, 22 Oct. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 142-44) [CW1, pp. 114-16].


My dear friend, I was beginning to worry about your silence. At last I have received your letter dated . . . and I am delighted to learn that you and Mrs. Cobden are enjoying being in Spain. What will happen when you see Andalusia! As far as I was able to see, in Seville and Cadiz there was an air of equality in the manners between classes which was balm to the soul. I am enchanted to learn that there are good free traders beyond the Pyrenees. Perhaps they will put us to shame. Dear friend, I think we have in common that we are free of personal jealousy. But do you have national jealousy? For my part, I scarcely feel any. I would like my country to give a good example, [115] but failing that, I would prefer even more that it receive good example rather than wait a century to take the lead. And yet . . . I cannot refrain from uttering a philosophical thought. Nations take great pride in having a great musician, a good painter, or a skillful captain, as though that added something to their own merit. It is said that “the French invent, the English encourage.” For heaven’s sake! Would you not agree that invention is a personal fact and encouragement a national fact? Bentham said of science, “What propagates it is more valuable than what advances it.” I say the same of virtues.

But whither am I wandering? To the view that it matters little whether progress reaches us from the dusk or the dawn, provided that it comes.

Your speech will appear in two Paris newspapers. It was not I who translated it. I noted that you were able to give advice to more places than just Paris. Moreover, you did this with perfect propriety and I very much approve of your having told the Castilians that it is not necessary to kill people in order to teach them how to live.

Here we are moving slowly but we are moving. Our most recent meeting was good and the public is clamoring for another. I went to Le Havre. An association has been formed there but it did not think it necessary to adopt our title. I fear that these people have not understood the importance of rallying round a single principle. They are demanding trade reform and a reduction in consumption taxes. How much there would be to say! Trade reform! They did not dare utter the word freedom, because of shipping. A reduction in taxes! Into what topics of discussion will this draw them?

On the subject of shipping, I inserted an article in the Le Havre journal, which had a good local effect.163 M. Anisson thinks that it is at the expense of the principle. I do not think so, but it pains me to disagree with the most enthusiastic and enlightened of my colleagues. I would very much like you to be close to us to be able to settle this disagreement. But truly, a debate by letter would take too long.

I do not know whether it is to my shame or glory but I have read nothing about the marriage.164 Our journal, the Courrier,165 has been speaking [116] of nothing else for the last two months. I have told it that it would do just as well to print under its title “Journal of a Spanish Coterie.” It has lost its subscribers and is blaming it on Libre échange.166 What a shame! I really am homesick for my Landes. There, I imagined human turpitude, but it is much sadder to see it.

Farewell, my brother in arms, take care of your health and that of Mrs. Cobden, to whom I send my best regards. Be careful of the Spanish climate, which is very treacherous and destroys the lungs without appearing to affect them.



Letter 72. Paris, 22 Nov. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 72. Paris, 22 Nov. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 144-46) [CW1, pp. 116-18].


My dear friend, I thank you for having made it possible for me to follow you in your travels in the newspapers of Madrid, Seville, and Cadiz. The expressions of friendship that you receive everywhere reach our fine cause, through you.167 It makes me happy to see that people’s tributes are finally reaching the right target instead of being diverted, as is customary, toward the actions that, for whatever reason, inflict the most obvious evils on the poor human race. At the same time I am very glad to learn that you are enjoying good health and that Mrs. Cobden has not suffered from such a long journey.

I share your opinion on Spain and the Spanish. However, are you not cherishing a few illusions on the degree of prosperity enjoyed by this country? I know that everyone always talks about its fertility, but the absence of rivers, canals, roads, and trees creates obstacles whose significance you should appreciate. By isolating people, they obstruct both moral and social development and the accumulation of wealth. Spain needs someone to invent a means of enabling trains to cross the mountains.

Because I have little time and scarcely enough to keep up with correspondence with my family, I will go straight to the question of free trade in France. At present we are overwhelmed. The protectionists are campaigning in depth and in the English style. Newspapers, contributions, calls to the workers, and threats to the government are all being used. When I say [117] English style, I mean that they are using a great deal of energy and a true understanding of campaigning.

In this respect, our provinces in the north are much further advanced than our départements in the south. In addition, a more pressing interest is goading them on. In twenty-four hours they have founded a journal, while we . . . would you believe that we still do not know whether Bordeaux is willing to help us or not? Marseilles and Le Havre are isolating themselves and their only reason for this is that they do not think we are practical enough, as though we had something other to do than destroy a public error. But I was expecting all this and even worse.

I have not been able to escape the need to take on the physical work myself. Lack of money on the one hand and the commitments of my colleagues on the other leave me with no alternative but to abandon everything or drink deep from this chalice. I have seen in the protectionist journal and in democratic broadsheets the strangest fallacies168 without having the time to refute them, and it is even impossible for me to gather together the material for a second volume of Sophisms, although I have them in sufficient number. The only thing is that they are all of the buffa169 type, and I would like to intersperse them with a few seria.170 As for another, more complete edition of Cobden and the League, I am not even thinking about it.

What a difference it would make, my dear friend, if I could go from town to town speaking and writing!

Be that as it may, public opinion has been awoken and I entertain hope.

It has almost been decided that we will be publishing our first issue in the first few days of December, without knowing how we will be able to continue. However, should not good causes be able to rely on Providence? I will send you a copy as often as I can contact you in your wanderings. I also hope that you will be able to gain us subscribers abroad. We have worked out that at twelve francs we need five thousand subscribers to cover our costs. We would then be able to do without Marseilles and Le Havre. In spite of the fact that we have to be very circumspect with regard to foreigners, and especially the English, I do not think there will be any disadvantages in your fellow countrymen helping us to increase the circulation of our journal in those countries in which French is widely spoken.


I have just received a letter from Bordeaux. It gives me hope that we will receive help. The mayor is working on this with good heart.

Another piece of good fortune has just happened to me. The workers have committed me to going to meet them and reach an agreement with them. If I won them over, they would carry along the democratic party. I will devote all my efforts to this.



Letter 73. Paris, 25 Nov. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 73. Paris, 25 Nov. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 147-48) [CW1, pp. 118-19].


My dear friend, yesterday evening we held our third public session. The Montesquieu Hall was full and many people could not enter, which is, in Paris, the most favorable circumstance for attracting people. New classes of people appeared in the audience. I had sent tickets to workers and students at the law school. The public was admirable and, although the speakers sometimes forgot the rule of wisdom and prudence which was of course in their own interest too, stop talking! the audience listened with religious attention where they were not carried away with enthusiasm. Our speakers were MM Faucher, who commented with great emphasis and pertinence on an official letter from the protectionists to the council of ministers; Peupin, a worker, who would have been a perfect model of verve and simplicity if he had kept to his subject, from which he was rather too eager to wander; and Ortolan, who gave an eloquent speech and considered the question from a totally new point of view. This speech roused the audience and stiffened the French fiber. Lastly, Blanqui, who was as energetic as he was witty. Our worthy president opened the session with a few graceful words imbued with the fine tone that our nominal aristocracy still retains. I will send you all of this.

Speaking in public has an irresistible attraction for French people. It is therefore probable that we will be overwhelmed with requests and, as for me, I have decided to wait to be asked to speak. This makes it possible that I will have a long wait; be that as it may, it will not bother me to be ready if need be. Therefore, if you have any new ideas or a thought that, when developed, might serve as a text for a good speech, please let me have them. If my health cannot cope with the amount of internal work that has fallen upon me, I will request a holiday and take advantage of it to go to Lyons, Marseilles, Nîmes, etc. Therefore, please send me anything that you consider would be relevant for these various towns. You might write these thoughts [119] down on scraps of paper as they come to mind, and enclose them in your letters. I will mix the drink using the flavorings you have given me.

In particular, I would like to examine in depth the question of wages, that is to say, the influence that freedom and protectionism have on them. It would be no trouble at all for me to deal with this major question in economic terms, and if I had to write a book on this, I would perhaps produce a satisfactory result. But what I lack is one of the clear, striking reasons that are ready to be put before the workers themselves and which, in order to be understood, do not need all the previous notions of value, currency, capital, competition, etc.

Farewell, my dear friend, write to me in Barcelona. I think I am slightly feverish and have subjected myself to doing nothing today. This is why I am stopping, assuring you once more of my friendship.



Letter 74. Paris, 20 Dec. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 74. Paris, 20 Dec. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 148-50) [CW1, pp. 119-21].


My dear friend, I had lost track of you for a while and am glad to know that you are in France, in the most delightful country on earth, if it had common sense. Ah! My friend, I was expecting our opponents to exploit blind popular passions against us, including the hatred of foreigners. But I did not think that they would succeed so well. They have once more bribed the press and the word is out to treat us as traitors and agents of Pitt171 and Coburg. Would you believe that, in my own region, this calumny has made inroads? I have had letters from Mugron to say that people dare to speak of me only within the family, so fiercely has public opinion been aroused against our enterprise. On the 29th of this month, I am due to speak in the Montesquieu Hall172 and I plan to refer to this delicate subject and develop the idea that “the English oligarchy has borne down hard upon the world, and it is this that explains the universal distrust with which anything that is done across the Channel is met. But there is a country on which it has borne down harder upon than on any other and that is England itself. This is why there is in England a class that stands up to the oligarchy and is gradually stripping it of its dangerous privileges. This is the class that has in succession achieved Catholic emancipation, electoral reform, the abolition of slavery, [120] and free trade, and that is on the point of achieving the liberation of the colonies. It is therefore working in our direction, and it is absurd to envelop it in the same hatred that we should be reserving for the domineering classes in all countries.”

That is the text. I think I will be able to dress it up sufficiently to have it accepted.173

How much I would have to tell you, my dear friend, but I do not have enough time. I am sending you the first four issues of our journal. I have marked what I have written. I was constrained, under pain of having the enterprise fail, to mention my name and now I can no longer accept the responsibility for everything that is said in it. This is going to lead to a crisis, because I need to be able to produce the journal in the way I want or else someone else must give it his signature.

Of all the sacrifices I have made to the cause, this is the greatest. Carrying on the fight in my own way was more suited to my character, sometimes writing serious and lengthy articles and at others going to Lyons or Marseilles, in short being guided by my native sensibility. Here I am, on the contrary, chained to daily polemics. However, in our country, that is the scope of usefulness.

You have no need of an introduction to M. Rossi; your reputation will open all doors to you. However, since you want one, I will send you a letter from M. Chevalier or from someone else.

Now, I believe that our efforts should be directed to the distribution of our journal, Le Libre échange. Rest assured that, as soon as we are free of the inevitable tensions accompanying a launch, this journal will be produced with a good spirit and may give considerable service, provided that it is read. Devote yourself, therefore, during your travels, to finding subscribers to it and ensure that the borders of Italy are not closed to it. Underline that it does not attack any political institution or religious belief. Italy is the country which provided the most subscribers to Le Journal des économistes. It should provide even more to Libre échange, which will appear every week and cost only twelve francs. That is not all. I think you ought to write to London or Manchester, because, after all, the cry174 against England does not prevent us from finding subscribers there. Subscriptions are a matter of life and death for us. My dear Cobden, after having directed the movement in [121] England from such a height, please do not disdain the humble mission of a subscription broker.

I am truly ashamed to send you this letter written in fits and starts and not really knowing what I am saying. I will find the time to write to you in more relaxed fashion, either tonight or tomorrow night.



Letter 75. Paris, 25 Dec. 1846. To Richard Cobden


Letter 75. Paris, 25 Dec. 1846. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 151-52) [CW1, pp. 121-22].


My dear friend, I communicated your letter to Léon Faucher. He says that “you do not know France.” For my part, I am convinced that we can succeed only by awakening a sentiment of justice and that we would not even be able to mention the word justice if we accepted the shadow of protection. We have tried it, and the only time we wanted to make overtures to a town, it laughed in our faces. It is this conviction and the certitude I have that it is not sufficiently shared that principally committed me to accepting the management of the journal. Not that it is a very real management; there is an editorial committee, which has full authority, but I hope nevertheless to give some clear color to the spirit of this broadsheet. What a sacrifice, my friend, to accept the job of a journalist and put my name at the foot of a medley! But I am not writing to you to air my complaints.

Marseilles does not appear, any more than Bordeaux, to understand the need to concentrate the action in Paris. This is weakening us. Our opponents have not made this mistake, and although their association is harboring the countless germs of division, they are containing these germs through their skill and self-sacrifice. If you have the opportunity of seeing the leaders in Marseilles, please explain the situation to them clearly.

The cry175 against England is stifling us. Formidable prejudices have been aroused against us. If this hatred for perfidious Albion were just a fashion, I would wait patiently for it to blow over. However, it has deep roots in people’s hearts. It is universal, and as I have told you, I think that in my village people no longer dare to talk of me outside the family. What is more, this blind passion serves protected interests and political parties so well that they exploit it in the most shameless fashion. As an isolated writer, I might refute them energetically, but, as a member of an association, I must act with more prudence.


Besides, it must be said that events do not favor us. On the very day that Sir Robert Peel accomplished free trade, he asked for a credit of twenty-five million for the army, as though to proclaim his lack of faith in his work and as though to throw our best arguments back in our faces. Since then, the policy of your government has always been imbued with a spirit of teasing which irritates the French people and makes it forget what might remain to it of impartiality. Ah! If I had been prime minister of England, on the occasion of Krakow176 I would have said, “The 1815 treaties have been broken. France is free! England fought the principle of the French Revolution up to Waterloo. Now it has another policy, that of nonintervention to its full extent. Let France recover its rights, like England in eternal neutrality.” And fitting action to words, I would have dismissed half of the army and three-quarters of the sailors. But I am not the prime minister.



Letter 76. Paris, 10 Jan. 1847. To Richard Cobden


Letter 76. Paris, 10 Jan. 1847. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 152-54) [CW1, pp. 122-24].


My dear friend, I received your two letters written in Marseilles almost at the same time. I agree with your merely passing through this town, as God alone knows how a longer visit would have been interpreted. My friend, the obstacle that will be constructed against us by national prejudices is much more serious and will last for longer than you appear to believe. If the monopolists had whipped up anglophobia for the needs of the cause, this strategic maneuver could easily be countered. In any case, France would have discovered the trap in a very short time. But they are exploiting a sentiment that already existed, which has deep roots in people’s hearts, and—shall I tell you?—although mistaken and exaggerated, can be explained and justified. There is no doubt that the English oligarchy has borne down painfully upon Europe, and that its pendulum policy of sometimes supporting the despots in the north to repress freedom in the south and sometimes whipping up liberalism in the south to contain the despotism in the north, must have generated an inevitable reaction everywhere. You will tell me that you should never confuse peoples with their governments. That is fine for thinkers. But [123] nations judge each other by the external action they carry out against each other. And then, I must admit, this distinction is a bit subtle. Peoples stand by their governments to a certain extent and let them act even if they do not actively help them. The constant policy of the British oligarchy has been to involve the nation in its intrigues and enterprises in order to generate in it a hostile feeling against the human race and thus keep it in a state of dependence. Now this general hostility is coming to the surface; it is a just punishment for past sins and it will survive long after these same sins disappear.

Thus the national sentiment of which the monopolists are making use is very real. In addition, it serves the parties admirably. The democrats, the republicans, and the opposition on the left all exploit it as best they can, some for making the king unpopular, others for overthrowing M. Guizot. You will agree that the monopolists have discovered in this a very dangerous power.

To outwit this maneuver, I had the idea of beginning by acknowledging the Machiavellianism and invasive policy of the British oligarchy and then saying, “Who has suffered more than the English people themselves?” revealing the sentiment of opposition that it has encountered in England from time immemorial and showing this sentiment resisting the war against American independence in 1773 [sic] and the war against the French Revolution in 1791. This sentiment was then repressed but not stifled; it still lives, it is growing and has become public opinion. This is what extracted Catholic emancipation, the extension of electoral suffrage, and the abolition of slavery from the oligarchy, and more recently, the destruction of monopolies. It will also extract the liberation of trade with the colonies. And on this subject, I will show that the liberation of trade will lead to political liberation. Therefore, invasive politics will have ceased to exist, since we do not give up invasions that have been achieved to run after new forms of invasion.

Following this, through translations of writings by you, Fox, and Thompson, I will show that the League is the mouthpiece and outward expression of the sentiment which harmonizes with that in Europe, etc., etc.; you can guess the rest. But I will need time and strength and I have neither. As I cannot write, this will be the text for the end of my next speech in the Montesquieu Hall. For the rest, I will not say anything I do not think.

How lucky you are to be under Italian skies! When will I also see the fields, the sea, and the mountains! O rus! Quando ego te aspiciam!177 And above all, when will I be in the midst of those who love me! You, yourself, [124] have made sacrifices, but they were done in order to build the foundation of civilization. In all conscience, my friend, is the same selflessness expected of someone who can bring only a grain of sand to the monument? However, I needed to think of this before; now the sword has been drawn from its scabbard. It will never return. The monopoly or your friend will go to Père Lachaise178 before it does.



Letter 77. Paris, 11 March 1847. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 77. Paris, 11 March 1847. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 76-78) [CW1, pp. 124-25].


My dear Félix, your letter arrived just in time to remove the anxiety caused by your one of the previous day. However, I had the premonition that you would give me better news and my confidence was precisely based on my aunt’s somnolence, which caused you to worry, for on two occasions I was able to ascertain that it is rather a good sign where she is concerned. However, the constitution of our physical bodies is so strange that I was not very reassured by it. I was therefore waiting impatiently for your letter and unfortunately fate decreed that it was delayed for several hours today because of snow. I have it at last and am at peace. What a torment for us it is, my dear Félix, when uncertain circumstances combine with the state of uncertainty of our minds. Abandoning my poor aunt at this time when she is ill and without a relative at her side! That thought is frightful. On the other hand all the threads of our enterprise are in my hands: the journal,179 correspondence, and the accounts, and can I leave the whole structure to collapse? There was a committee meeting in which I spoke of my need to absent myself and was given to understand to what extent I was committed. However, a friend has offered to do the journal in my absence. This is a great help, but how many other obstacles remain! In the end, my aunt is feeling better. This will be a lesson to me and I will arrange to be able to take at least a few days, if I need to. For your part, my dear Félix, please keep me fully up to date.

Your white cottage beckons me. I admire and congratulate you for situating your castles in the air, where only you can attain them. Two adjoining sharecropping farms; a proper combination of fields, vineyards, pastures; a few cows; two patriarchal families of sharecroppers; two servants, who do [125] not cost much in the country; proximity to the presbytery; and above all, your good sister and your books. There is really enough there to vary, fill, and sweeten your autumn days. Perhaps one day I also will have a cottage close to yours. Poor Félix! You think that I am pursuing fame. If it were my destiny, as you say, it would escape me here, where I am doing nothing worthwhile. I can feel a new dissertation on economic science in my head and it will never emerge! Farewell, it is perhaps already too late for the post.



Letter 78. Paris, 20 March 1847. To Richard Cobden


Letter 78. Paris, 20 March 1847. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 155-57) [CW1, pp. 125-26].


My dear friend, I was filled with anxiety and even surprised not to receive news of you. I asked myself, “Has the free-trade atmosphere in Italy made him forget our protectionist region?” I thought every day of writing to you, but where would I find you, where should I address my letters? At last, I have received yours of the 7th. After my pleasure at hearing that both you and Mrs. Cobden were in good health, I have another cause for satisfaction, that of knowing Italy to be so far advanced in the right doctrine. Thus, my poor France, so far in advance of other nations in many respects, is being left behind in political economy. My national pride should be suffering, but I will whisper low in your ear, my friend, that I have little patriotism of this sort and if my country is not the one shining the light, I at least want it to shine in other skies. Amica patria, sed magis amica veritas,180 and I say to peace, the happiness of mankind, and the brotherhood of nations, in the words of Lamartine to enthusiasm:

Come from the dusk or the dawn.

I am writing to you, my dear Cobden, two hours before my departure for Mugron, to which the serious illness of the old aunt, who has been like a mother to me since I had the misfortune in childhood of losing mine, is summoning me urgently. How will our journal fare during my absence? I do not know and yet my name will remain affixed to it! It is truly a difficult enterprise, as you cannot make the slightest mention of passing events without the risk of upsetting the political susceptibilities of one or another colleague. This assiduous care to avoid anything that might annoy the political parties (since all are represented in our association) deprives us of three-quarters [126] of our strength. What immense good our journal might do if it contrasted the inanity and danger of current policy with the grandeur and security of free-trade policies! Before the journal was founded, I had a plan to publish a small book each month in the same mold as the Sophisms, in which I would have free rein. I really think it would have been more useful than the journal itself.

Our campaigning is not very active. We still need a man of action. When will he appear? I do not know. I should be that man, I am propelled forward by the unanimous confidence of my colleagues, but I cannot.181 My character is not suited to this and all the advice in the world cannot turn a reed into an oak. In the end, when the question will preoccupy people’s minds, I very much hope a Wilson will appear.

I am sending you the five or six latest issues of Le Libre échange. It is not very widely distributed, but I have been assured that it was not without some influence on a few of our leading men.182

It appears that this year our government will not dare to put forward a customs law that introduces significant changes into the current legislation. This is discouraging a few of our friends. As for me, I do not even want the current amendments. Down with the laws that precede the advance of public opinion! And I want not so much free trade itself as the spirit of free trade for my country. Free trade means a little more wealth; the spirit of free trade is a reform of the mind itself, that is to say, the source of all reform.

You tell me about Naples, Rome, Sardinia, and the Piedmont. But you say nothing about Tuscany. However, this region must be very curious to see. If you come across any good book on the state of this region, please try to send it to me. I would not be displeased to have a few of the oldest Italian economists, for example, Nicolò Donato, in my humble library. I think that, if fame were not somewhat capricious, Turgot and Adam Smith, while continuing to be acknowledged as great men, would lose their reputation as inventors.



Letter 79. Paris, 20 Apr. 1847. To Richard Cobden


Letter 79. Paris, 20 Apr. 1847. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 157-59) [CW1, pp. 126-29].


My dear friend, your letter of the 7th, written from Rome, found me at my post. I spent three weeks with a sick relative. I hoped that this journey [127] would also restore me to health, but this has not been so. Influenza has degenerated into a stubborn cold and I am currently spitting blood.183 What astonishes and frightens me is to see how far a few drops of blood expelled from the lungs can weaken our poor bodily system, especially the head. I find it impossible to work and very probably I will be asking the council for a further leave of absence. I will take advantage of this to go to Lyons and Marseilles, to strengthen the links with our various associations, which are not as closely in agreement as I would wish.

I have no need to tell you how much I share your views on the political results of free trade. We are being accused within the democratic and socialist party of being devoted to the cult of material interests and of bringing everything down to questions of wealth. I must admit that when it concerns the masses I do not share this stoic disdain for wealth. This word does not mean having a few écus more; it means bread for those who are hungry, clothing for those who are cold, education, independence, and dignity. But after all, if the sole result of free trade were to increase public wealth I would not spend any more time on it than on any other matter relating to agriculture or industry. What I see above all in our campaigning is the opportunity to confront a few prejudices and to have a few just ideas penetrate the consciousness of the general public. This is an indirect benefit that outweighs the direct benefits of free trade a hundredfold, and if we are experiencing so many obstacles in spreading our economic argument, I believe that providence has put these obstacles in our path precisely so that the indirect benefits can be felt. If freedom were to be proclaimed tomorrow, the general public would remain in its present rut with regard to other considerations, but initially I am obliged to deal with these ancillary ideas with extreme caution so as not to upset our own colleagues. For this reason, I am concentrating my efforts on clarifying the economic problem. This will be the starting point for more advanced views. I only hope that God will allow me three or four years of strength and life! Sometimes I tell myself that if I worked alone and for my own account, I would not have to take such precautions and my career would have been more useful.

During the three weeks I was away, a few disagreements broke out within [128] our associations. These concerned the difficult shade of meaning between revenue-raising duties and protectionist duties.184 A few of our colleagues have resigned, and it so happens that these are the most industrious. They wanted to set aside the question of raising revenue, even with respect to wheat. The majority wanted total exemption for subsistence products and raw materials. This is an initial cause of dissent. There is another relating to our finances, which are far from being adequate. This is the reason why I want to travel to the Midi, but I will not leave without warning you.

I knew about the Naples reform; M. Bursotti was good enough to send me some documents on this. I gave them to Garnier, my colleague, who has doubtless lost them since he has not returned them to me. If you have the opportunity to see M. Bursotti again, please convey my good wishes and regards to him. This also applies to MM Pettiti, Scialoja, etc.

You mention the state of our newspapers, but you probably do not know the extent and depth of the problem. The art of writing is so debased that a gang of young twenty-year-olds is dictating to the entire world through the press before they have themselves studied or learned anything. But this is not the worst. The leaders are all linked to politicians and any matter becomes a ministerial question in their hands. If only God allowed the problem to stop there! There is also venality, which knows no bounds. Prejudice, errors, and calumny are priced at so much a line. One person has sold himself to the Russians, another to protectionism, a third to the university, and yet another to the banks, etc. And we call ourselves civilized! I truly believe that at the very most we have a foothold in the path of civilization.

Will you allow me, my dear friend, to acknowledge with some reservations the accuracy of this axiom, “Trade is the exchange of the superfluous for the essential”? When two men, in order to carry out more work in the same time, agree to share the work, can it be said that one of the two or even neither of the two is making a superfluous contribution? Is the poor devil who works twelve hours a day to earn his bread making a superfluous contribution? Trade, in which I believe, is no more than the separation of occupations or the division of labor.

It would be desirable for the pope185 to make his views on economics [129] known, even though he cannot carry them out. This would encourage part of the clergy in France, who are not very informed about our cause but who are not opposed to it either, to support us.



Letter 80. Paris, 5 July 1847. To Richard Cobden


Letter 80. Paris, 5 July 1847. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 159-62) [CW1, pp. 129-31].


My very dear friend, the details you tell me about Italy and the state of knowledge on economics in that country were of great interest to me. I received the precious collection186 which you were good enough to send me. Alas! When will I have the time to look at them? At least I will have them available for all my friends so that, one way or another, your generous intentions will not be fruitless.

You are good enough to ask after my health. I have an almost constant cold, and if this is the case in July, what will it be like in December? But what worries me the most is the state of my brain. I do not know what has happened to the ideas which it used to produce in such abundance in the past. Now I am running after them and I cannot catch them. This worries me. I feel, dear friend, that I ought to have remained outside the association and retained the freedom to go at my own pace, to write and speak when I wished and how I wished. Instead of this, I am bound by the most indissoluble bonds by my home circumstances, the journal, finance, administration, etc., etc., and the worst of it is that this is irremediable, given that all my colleagues are otherwise occupied and can barely give their minds to our affairs during the rare meetings we have.

My friend, the ignorance and indifference in this country with regard to political economy are well beyond anything I could have imagined. This is not a reason for becoming discouraged; on the contrary, it is a reason for us to sense the usefulness and even urgency of our efforts. But I have now understood one thing, which is that free trade is a goal that is too far ahead of us. It will be fortunate if we manage to remove a few obstacles from the path to it. The greatest of these obstacles is not the protectionist party but socialism, with its many ramifications.187 If monopolists were the only adversaries, [130] they would not be able to handle the debate. However, socialism comes to their rescue. It accepts free trade in principle but postpones its implementation until the time when the world is organized in accordance with the design of Fourier or some other inventor of social order. And what is amazing is that, in order to prove that free trade would be harmful before that, they take up all the arguments put forward by monopolists, the balance of trade, the export of specie, the superiority of England, etc., etc.

This being so, you will answer that confronting the monopolists is to combat the socialists. No. Socialists have a theory of the oppressive nature of capital, which they use to explain the inequality of the condition and all the suffering of the poverty-stricken classes. They call upon the passions, sentiments, and even the best instincts of men. They attract young people, highlight the evil, and claim to have its remedy. This remedy consists of an artificial social order of their invention which will make all men equal and happy without their needing any enlightenment or virtue. Provided always that all socialists were in agreement on this social order, we might hope to shoot it down in people’s minds. But you will understand that, in this realm of ideas, and as soon as it is a question of molding a social order, each person forges his own design and each morning we are assailed by new inventions. We therefore have to combat a hydra which grows ten heads as soon as we cut off one.

The unfortunate thing is that this method is powerfully attractive to the young. They are shown suffering and through this their hearts are initially touched. Then they are told that anything can be cured through the use of a few artificial schemes, and in this way their imagination is brought into the campaign. How difficult it is for them subsequently to listen to you when you come forward to disillusion them by setting out the beautiful but severe laws of social economics and say to them: “To eradicate evil from this world (and just that part of evil over which human action has some power), the procedure takes longer; vice and ignorance have to be eradicated first.”

Being struck by the danger in the path along which the young were rushing headlong, I took the initiative of asking young people to listen to me. I gathered together students from the schools of law and medicine, i.e., the [131] young men who, in a few years’ time, will be governing the world, or France at least. They listened to me with goodwill and friendliness but, as you will readily understand, without understanding me very well. No matter; since the experiment has been started I will continue it to the end. You know that I am still considering the plan of a small work entitled Economic Harmonies. This is the positive point of view, whereas the Sophisms are negative. To prepare the ground, I distributed the Sophisms to these young people. Each one received a copy. I hope that this will unblock their minds a little, and at the end of the holidays I plan to set out the harmonies methodically.

You will now understand, my friend, what store I set by my health! Oh, may God allow me at least one year more of strength!188 May He allow me to set out to my young fellow citizens what I consider to be the true social theory in the following twelve chapters: “Needs,” “Production,” “Property,” “Competition,” “Population,” “Liberty,” “Equality,” “Responsibility,” “Solidarity,” “Fraternity,” “Unity,” and “The Role of Public Opinion,” and I will place my life in His hands without regret, indeed with joy.189

Farewell, my friend. Please thank Mrs. Cobden for her good wishes; I send you both every good wish for your happiness.



Letter 81. Paris, Aug. 1847. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 81. Paris, Aug. 1847. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, p. 78) [CW1, pp. 131-32].


. . . I am sending you the latest issue of the journal. You will see that I have taken the plunge with regard to the school of law. The breach has been made. If my health stands up to it I will certainly continue and, from next November, I will be giving a course to these young people, not on pure political economy but on social economics, using this phrase in the meaning we have given it, the “Harmony of Social Laws.” Something tells me that this course, intended for young people who have logical minds and warmth in their souls, will not be totally without use. I think that I will generate conviction, and following this I will at least indicate the correct sources to them. [132] Finally, if God will allow me only one more year of strength, my time spent on earth will not have been in vain. Is it not better to have managed a journal and given a course to the young people in schools than to be a deputy?

Farewell, my dear Félix;
your friend.
Frédéric Bastiat



Letter 82. Mugron, Monday, Oct. 1847. To Horace Say


Letter 82. Mugron, Monday, Oct. 1847. To Horace Say (OC7, p. 380) [CW1, p. 132].


. . . Our country is in great need of instruction in economics. Ignorance in this respect is so great that I am in great fear for the future. I fear that governments will one day bitterly repent having hidden their light under a bushel. The experience I have just gained from this journey has shown me that our books and newspapers are not enough to spread our ideas. Apart from the fact that they have very few subscribers, most of these subscribers do not read them. I have seen Le Journal des économistes still as untouched in the bookstores as the day it was published by our good friend Guillaumin, and Libre échange piled on counters still encircled by its band. Is this not discouraging? I think that oral teaching must come to the aid of written teaching. Among those who attend a session, there are always a few who conceive a desire to study the question. Committees should be organized in towns and lecturers should then be sent around constantly. But how many of these do we have who are able to devote themselves to this work? For my part, I would do it willingly if I were given a completely free hand. I am tempted to try the experiment in Bordeaux. Without this, we can do but little. . . .



Letter 83. Paris, 15 Oct. 1847. To Richard Cobden


Letter 83. Paris, 15 Oct. 1847. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 162-66) [CW1, pp. 132-35].


My dear friend, I learned of your return to London in this morning’s journals with a great deal of pleasure. I have not had any news of you for so long! I hope that you will not neglect to write to me as soon as you are rested a little from your fatigue and that you will tell me about the reactions you have had to our program in northern Europe.

Here progress is very slow, where there is any progress at all. The crisis over subsistence products and the financial crisis have managed to put our doctrines in the shade. It appears that Providence is accumulating problems [133] at the start of our work and is taking pleasure in making it more difficult. Perhaps it is part of the divine plan to make success dearly bought and to allow no objection to remain unheard, in order that freedom should become part of our laws only after it has become firmly embedded in public opinion. With this in mind, I will not view the delays, difficulties, obstacles, and trials as misfortunes for our cause. By prolonging the struggle, these will enable us to clarify not only the principal issue but also a great many ancillary matters which are equally as important. Success in legislation is receding, but public opinion is maturing. I would therefore not complain if we were equal to our task. We are, however, very weak. Our militant members have been reduced to four or five stalwarts, almost all of whom are very busy in other spheres. I myself lack practical education; my type of approach, which is to examine principles, makes me unfit to debate events when they accumulate, as I should. What is more, I lose intellectual strength when my physical strength fails. If I could negotiate with nature and exchange ten years of sickly life for two years of vigor and health, the bargain would be quickly struck.

We are also encountering major obstacles from your side of the Channel. My dear Cobden, I must speak frankly to you. In adopting free trade, England has not adopted the policies which logically result from it. Will it do so? I do not doubt this, but when? That is the question. The position that you and your friends will be adopting in Parliament will have an immense influence on our undertaking. If you repudiate your diplomatic policy with energy and if you manage to reduce the size of your naval forces we will be strong. If not, what sort of figure will we cut in the eyes of the public? When we forecast that free trade will lead English policy down the path of justice, peace, economy, and colonial independence, will France be bound to take our word for it? There is an inveterate distrust of England here, which I would go so far as to call a feeling of hostility, which is as old as the very names French and English. Well then, this feeling is excusable. Its mistake is to disapprove globally of all your parties and fellow citizens. But should not nations judge each other by their external acts? It is often said that nations should not be confused with their governments. This adage is both true and false, and I dare say that it is false with regard to those peoples who have constitutional means of influencing public opinion. Bear in mind that France is not educated in economics. Whenever the French read history, therefore, and when they note the succession of invasions by England, when they study the diplomatic means which led to these invasions, when they see a centuries-old system followed assiduously whether the Whigs or the [134] Tories are at the helm of state, and when they read in your newspapers that England currently has thirty-four thousand sailors on warships, how do you expect them to trust in the strength of a principle, which incidentally they do not understand, to bring about a change in your policy? Something else is needed, namely deeds. Restore free trade to your colonies, repeal your Navigation Act,190 and above all disband your naval forces and retain only those that are essential for your security, and in so doing reduce your overheads and debts and relieve your population, cease to threaten other peoples and the freedom of the seas, and then, you may be sure, France will pay attention.

My dear Cobden, in a speech I gave in Lyons, I dared to forecast that this legislature, which has seven years more to run, would bring your political and economic systems into harmony. “Before seven years are up,” I said, “England will have reduced its army and navy by half.” Do not make me tell a lie.191 I met only with incredulity. I am being blamed for being a prophet; I am taken for a fanatic with short-term views who fails to understand British wiles. I, for my part, have confidence in two forces, the force of truth and the force of your true interests.

I do not have a detailed knowledge of what is happening in Athens and Madrid. What I can tell you is that Palmerston and Bulwer inspire universal mistrust. You will answer that if Mr. Bulwer is scheming in Madrid, M. Glucksberg192 is doing the same. So be it. But if the former is acting against the interests of France as the latter is doing against the interests of England, there is nevertheless this difference, that England boasts that it knows where its interests lie. We are still imbued with our old ideas. Is it surprising that our actions reflect this? You, on the other hand, who have shed these ideas, should now reject the acts that go with them. Repudiate Palmerston and Bulwer. Nothing would do more to place us, free traders, in an excellent position in the public’s eyes. What is more, I would like you to tell me the position you intend to take on this matter in Parliament. I will start to influence public opinion here.


I must admit, my dear friend, that, although I am against any form of charlatanism, if you have a majority and are in a position to bring in a new policy in accordance with the principles of free trade, I would like you to do this with some pomp and ceremony. If you reduce your navy, I would like you to link this measure specifically to free trade and proclaim loudly that England had gone down the wrong path and that, because her current purpose is diametrically opposed to that it has pursued up to now, its means need to be the opposite as well.

I will not talk to you about wine. I see that your financial situation does not allow you to pursue major tax reform. However, is it too much to ask for a moderation in the dues which will not be harmful to your revenues? I would like it to be you personally who puts forward this proposal, and I will tell you why some other time. I have room only to assure you of my friendship.



Letter 84. Paris, 9 Nov. 1847. To Richard Cobden


Letter 84. Paris, 9 Nov. 1847. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 166-68) [CW1, pp. 135-36].


My dear Cobden, I read with great interest your account of your journey and I hope to gain as much pleasure as instruction from the articles you plan to send to Le Journal des économistes.193 M. Say has already written to you about this. He is always eager to seize an opportunity to enhance this compilation which he founded and supports. Your letters are a welcome advantage to him. I urge you most sincerely to devote part of your available time to this. The cause we serve is not bounded by the borders of a nation. It is universal and will find its solution only in its acceptance by all peoples. For this reason, you can do nothing more useful than to increase the reputation and circulation of Le Journal des économistes. I am not totally satisfied with this review; I am now sorry that I did not take over its management. Philosophical argument of this sort would have suited me better than daily polemics.

The difficulties surrounding us are increasing; we do not have only vested interests against us. Public ignorance is now becoming manifest in all its sorry extent. What is more, the parties need to destroy us. Following a series [136] of circumstances which would take too long to recount here, they are all against us. All have the same goal, tyranny. They differ only on the question of knowing in whose hands the despotism will be placed. This is why the thing they fear most is a spirit of true freedom. I assure you, my dear Cobden, that, if I were twenty years younger and in good health, I would take common sense as my armor and truth for my lance, and I would be sure to win. Alas, however, the spirit cannot do anything without the body, in spite of its noble origin.

What grieves me above all, I who am so devoted to the democratic sentiment in all its universality, is to see French democracy in the vanguard of opposition to free trade. This echoes warlike ideas, an exaggerated sense of national honor and passions which seem to grow green again at each revolution; 1830 has manured194 them. You tell me that we let ourselves fall too easily into the trap set by the protectionists and that we ought to have ignored their anglophobic arguments. I think you are mistaken. Doubtless it is useful to eradicate protection, but it is even more useful to eradicate national hatred. I know my country; she has a lively attitude in which truth and falsehood are mixed. France sees an England that is capable of crushing all the world’s navies and moreover knows that it is directed by an unscrupulous oligarchy. This fact is blocking its vision and prevents France from understanding free trade. I would go even further and say that even were she to understand it, she would want none of it for its purely economic benefits. What we need to show France above all is that free trade would cause the military dangers she fears to disappear. For my part I would prefer to fight on for a few years more and overcome national prejudice as well as economic ones. I am not worried that the protectionists have selected this field of battle. My intention is to publish in our journal the debates held in Parliament and in particular the speeches by free traders.

The 15th.

My friend, I will not hide from you that I am terrified by the vacuum that is forming around us. Our opponents are full of daring and ardor. Our friends, on the other hand, are becoming discouraged and losing interest. What good is it to be right a thousandfold if we cannot make ourselves heard? The protectionists’ tactics, greatly supported by the newspapers, are to let us be right all on our own.



Letter 85. Paris, 5 Jan. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 85. Paris, 5 Jan. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 78-79) [CW1, p. 137].


My dear Félix, while writing to Domenger, I am taking advantage of the opportunity just to wish you a better year than the previous ones.

I am ashamed to publish the second volume of my Sophisms; it is just a ragbag of what has already been printed in journals. A third volume will be needed to lift me up; I have material in rough form for it.195

However, I would much more like to publish the course I am giving to young students in the schools.196 Unfortunately, I have the time only to jot a few notes down on paper. This infuriates me, since I can tell you, and you know this already, that we see political economy from a slightly new angle. Something tells me that it can be simplified and more closely linked to politics and moral values.

Farewell; I must leave you as I am reduced to counting each minute.



Letter 86. Paris, 17 Jan. 1848. To Madame Schwabe


Letter 86. Paris, 17 Jan. 1848. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, p. 420) [CW1, p. 137].



I am very pleased to learn that Mr. Schwabe has had a pleasant journey and that he found the situation in England improving.

Thank you for having thought of sending me Punch. Perhaps I will find something in it for Le Libre échange, after which I will pass it on to M. Anisson or will bring it back to you myself.

I enclose five copies of the last issue of Le Libre échange. I wrote the first article on armaments in the hope that it may have some influence in England. I am very pleased to learn therefore that you will be ensuring that it gets there.



Letter 87. Paris, 24 Jan. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 87. Paris, 24 Jan. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, p. 79) [CW1, p. 138].


I can write you a few words only as I am suffering from the same illness I had in Mugron and which, among other disagreeable characteristics, has deprived me of all my strength. It is impossible for me to think, let alone write.

My friend, I would have liked to discuss our campaign with you but I am not capable of this. I am not at all happy with our journal; it is weak and anemic like anything that comes out of an association. I am going to ask for total power, but alas, I will not be given health with power.

I am not receiving Le Mémorial197 (from Bordeaux), and consequently I have not seen your article “Anglophobia.”198 I am sorry about this. I might perhaps have drawn a few ideas from it, or we might have reprinted it.



Letter 88. Paris, 27 Jan. 1848. To Madame Schwabe


Letter 88. Paris, 27 Jan. 1848. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, pp. 420-21) [CW1, p. 138].


Please receive the homage of a small volume which I have just had published. It is not a weighty work; it just contains some of the trifles that have already appeared in journals. I have been assured that this superficial format is useful in its way, and this is what has decided me to continue down this path which is not at all to my taste.199



Letter 89. Paris, 13 Feb. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 89. Paris, 13 Feb. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 79-80) [CW1, pp. 138-39].


My dear Félix, I have had no news of you and do not know how your trial is going. I presume that the decree has not been issued, since you would have told me if it had. Please God that the court is properly inspired! The more I think about this matter, the more I think that the judges cannot make conjectures against common law; if this is in doubt, the eternal law of justice (and even the Code) should take precedence.

Politics are stifling our program somewhat. Besides, there is a very flagrant [139] conspiracy of silence which began with our journal.200 If I could have foreseen this, I would not have founded it. Reasons of health have obliged me to give up the management of this broadsheet. It must be added that I did not take pleasure in my involvement in view of the small number of our readers, and the divergence of political opinions of our colleagues did not allow me to stamp a sufficiently democratic management style on the journal; the finest aspects of the question had to be kept in the dark.

If there had been a greater number of subscribers, I would have been able to make this broadsheet my own property, but the state of public opinion stands in the way of this, and in addition my health is an invincible obstacle. Now I will be able to work with a little more latitude.

I am continuing to give my course to law students. My audience is not very numerous but its members come regularly and take notes; the grain is falling on fertile ground. I would have liked to have been able to write up this course, but I will probably leave only confused notes.

Farewell, my dear Félix. Write to me, tell me how your affairs and health are doing; it is not out of the question that I will come and see you before too long. Please remember me with affection to your good sister.



Letter 90. Paris, 16 Feb. 1848. To Madame Schwabe


Letter 90. Paris, 16 Feb. 1848. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, p. 421) [CW1, p. 139].


I am very grateful for all the kindnesses you shower on me. I have received your excellent syrups which have succeeded in curing me. I therefore hope to go to a concert this evening, but rather late as I am dining with M. de Lamartine, and you will understand what it costs to abandon the music of his words even for that of Chopin. However, as the concert starts late, I will tear myself away from the charming conversation of our great poet.


Endnotes to the Letters


In English in the original.


An English newspaper. See “Anglomania, Anglophobia,” p. 333.


For what became Cobden and the League.


Bastiat means those students of economic science who favor free markets (Les Économistes).


See this letter, note 59.


Dunoyer, “Du système de l’equilibre des puissances européennes.”


Comte, “Considérations sur l’état moral de la nation française”; and Comte, “De l’organisation sociale.”


In the hiatus between the forced closure of Le Censeur by the censors in 1815 and its reopening in 1817 under the name Le Censeur européen, Comte and Dunoyer discovered the work of Jean-Baptiste Say, which transformed their view of how societies functioned and the future course of their progress under the impulse of “industrialism.” Bastiat was to adopt much of their social and economic theory as his own.


Bastiat uses the expression l’école économiste to refer to adherents of the free market, or the laissez-faire, school of economic thought (Les Économistes). It is worth noting that, in Bastiat’s time, economist was systematically understood as “liberal economist.”


Cobden and the League.


This letter was written in November 1844. The next article by Bastiat to appear in Le Journal des économistes was titled “Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine, on the Occasion of His Article Entitled ‘The Right to Work.’ ” (OC, vol. 1, p. 406, “Un Économiste à M. de Lamartine.”)


Institut de France.


Dunoyer, De la liberté du travail.


Probably a reference to the first two articles Bastiat had published in Le Journal des économistes on British and French tariffs and on Lamartine. (OC, vol. 1, p. 331, “De l’influence des tariffs français et anglais sur l’avenir des deux peuples” and “Un Économiste à M. de Lamartine.”)


(Paillottet’s note) The letter to which Bastiat is replying had been sent to him in connection with the article in Le Journal des économistes entitled “From an Economist to M. de Lamartine.” [OC, vol. 1, p. 406, “Un Économiste à M. de Lamartine.”]


Le Journal des économistes. (OC, vol. 1, p. 406, “Un Économiste à M. de Lamartine.”)


Newspapers from, respectively, the Landes, Bayonne, and the Pyrenees, which published articles by Bastiat. For the latter, see the glossary of subjects: Le Mémorial bordelais.


Economic Sophisms.


Le Journal des débats. Bastiat is referring to a review he wrote in that journal, “Sur l’ouvrage de M. Dunoyer. De la liberté du travail.” (OC, vol. 1, p. 428, “Sur un livre de M. Dunoyer.”)


The attorney general, Charles Dupin, modified the French legislation concerning dueling in order to reduce the number of fatalities. The law was in effect from 1837 to 1839. See also “Reflection on the Question of Dueling,” note 3, pp. 309-10.


Cobden and the League.




The sheets (“feuilles” in French) are printer’s sheets, which cover several pages.


Bastiat is referring to the introduction of Cobden and the League.


No book with such a title was published by Bastiat. The title was later changed to Economic Harmonies (see note 189, p. 131, and note 336, p. 251).


Cobden and the League.


No month given.


Antoine Destutt de Tracy.


Ireland had 5.2 million inhabitants in 1801, 8.2 million in 1841—an increase of 58 percent in forty years, in spite of two million emigrants. The misery was due not to an excessive population increase but to the fact that an Ireland living mainly on potatoes found one-third of the harvest destroyed by blight in 1845 and the entire harvest destroyed in 1846.


Comte, Traité de législation.


Comte, Traité de la propriété.


Economic Sophisms.


Apart from conferences and private education, political economy was taught only in the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, by Auguste Blanqui, and at the Collège de France, by Michel Chevalier.


Conservatoire national des arts et métiers.


In English in the original.


See “Anglomania, Anglophobia,” p. 320.


In English in the original.


Hyppolite Passy.


The German Zollverein (or customs union) was created in 1833 and based on the low Prussian tariff.


A Spanish translation of Cobden and the League appeared quickly: Cobden y la Liga: La agitación inglesa en favor de la libertad de comercio, translated by Elias Bautista y Muñoz (Madrid: Grabado de Don Baltasar González, 1847).


(Paillottet’s note) I think that I should have no scruple in revealing the name of M. de Langsdorf publicly now. What criticism could he encounter now for secret sympathies expressed in favor of free trade nineteen years ago?


Fonteyraud and Garnier, Mélanges d’économie politique.


Bastiat refers to two Wilsons in his correspondence. Here, Bastiat is most likely referring to George Wilson.


Marie Gustave Larnac. See “On Parliamentary Reform,” p. 367.


OC, vol. 1, p. 387, “De l’avenir du commerce des vins entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne.”


The tariff of 1842 was heavier than that of 1832. It was reduced in 1846.


Les Économistes.


The only Potonié that the editor could find is D. Potonié, who wrote Note sur l’organisation facultative des débouchés de l’industrie parisienne.


“The Articles of Paris” industry covered a wide range of luxury items, from leather goods to jewelry and fashion. They exported quite well.


(Paillottet’s note) The death of a relative.


John Benjamin Smith.


In English in the original.


The parts of this paragraph in quotation marks are in English in the original.


Vice president of the Board of Trade.


Justice of the peace in the county of Mugron.


At the 13 December 1838 meeting, the president of the chamber of commerce, Mr. Wood, criticized the Corn Laws but wanted to let the Whig government of John Russell modify them. Instead, Cobden was in favor of a total and immediate repeal.


Discussion of the Corn Bill in the Commons.


OC, vol. 7, p. 30, “Projet de ligue anti-protectioniste” and the following two essays.


Cobden’s address (to a banquet held in his honor) can be found in Annales de la Société, vol. 1, 1846-53.


See Letter 47, note 105.


Cobden and the League.


The sale price of Cobden and the League was 7.5 francs; Economic Sophisms was 4 francs.


In 1818, under the “Indivision Treaty,” in Oregon, British and American citizens had the same hunting, fishing, navigation, and circulation rights. The treaty was renewed in 1827 and canceled in 1846.


Martin Duffour-Dubergier.


It raised fifty-six thousand francs.


Articles published in Le Mémorial bordelais of 8, 9, 10, and 11 February.


Eugène de Monclar.


Le Mémorial bordelais.


Institut de France.


In English in the original.


Le Mémorial bordelais.


To Cobden and the League.


Bastiat is referring affectionately to the Chalosse region of the Landes.


Institut de France.


An extra tax levied on goods imported into France on foreign ships.


Free-trade associations were effectively established in Marseilles (17 September 1846), Lyons (13 October 1846), and Le Havre (28 November 1846).


Socrates (469-399 b.c.e.).


Bastiat is referring to Cobden’s articles “Lettre à la Société des économistes de Paris,” vol. 14, 1846; and “Discours au banquet de cette société,” vol. 15, 1846.


In English in the original.


Le Journal des débats.


Jean-Pierre Lacave-Laplagne.


“From scratch.”


No association of more than twenty persons could be formed without prior authorization from the government.


Le Mémorial bordelais.


Economic Sophisms.


The first English translation was Popular Fallacies Regarding General Interests. Being a Translation of the Sophismes économiques, by M. Frédéric Bastiat, with notes by G. R. Porter (London: J. Murray, 1846). Also appearing was an American edition: Sophisms of the Protective Policy, translated from the second French edition by Mrs. D. J. McCord, with an introductory letter by Dr. Francis Lieber (New York: Geo. P. Putnam; Charleston, S.C., 1848). An Italian edition also quickly appeared: Sofismi economici, translated by Antonio Contrucci (Florence: C. P. Onesti, 1847).


Opera buffa, or comic opera.


In English in the original.


Laws restricting liberties promulgated in September 1835, following an attempted assassination of Louis-Philippe.


“Opposites are balanced by opposites.”


Cobden had severe financial difficulties in 1845 that continued into 1846, the result of his increased activities with the Anti-Corn Law League and subsequent neglect of his family business. His friends and colleagues organized a public fund-raising campaign, which enabled him to pay off most of his debts. Most likely Bastiat is here referring to this campaign.


See Letter 67.


The letter to M. Duchâtel, minister of the interior, was published on 30 June 1846 by Le Mémorial bordelais. The authorization was granted in July.


Le Mémorial bordelais.


See “To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever,” p. 352.


Town in the département of Lot et Garonne.


In English in the original.


In English in the original.


Before the postal reform of 1848, the price of mail depended on distance and was paid by the recipient. The surety was a deposit that the editor of a periodical had to make to provide for any future fine.


After the dissolution of the League, Cobden undertook a tour around Europe, traveling to France, Spain, Italy, Prussia, and Russia. From Bordeaux, he went to Spain through the Landes and the Pyrenees.


All these areas, which produced wines and spirits, were handicapped by difficult communications with Bayonne and tariffs.


Louis Léonard de Loménie, writer and professor of literature.


“The grumbling tribe.”


OC, vol. 2, p. 238, “Second discours, à Paris.”


“There is no cure.”


The second public meeting of the Association pour la liberté des échanges.


Bastiat wrote three letters in Le Havre which were published in Le Mémorial bordelais. (OC, vol. 7, p. 131, “Aux négociants du Havre.”)


Marriage of the young queen of Spain, Isabella II. Palmerston pushed for a candidate favored by the English, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg; and Guizot, for a son of Louis-Philippe. But the queen preferred her cousin Francisco.


Le Courrier français.


Bastiat’s journal, on the verge of publication.


In English in the original.


In English in the original.


Opera buffa, or comic opera.


Opera seria, or serious opera.


William Pitt the Younger.


At the fourth meeting of the Association pour la liberté des échanges.


This speech was never made.


In English in the original.


In English in the original.


After the Vienna Congress of 1815, Krakow had been a free town under the joint protection of Prussia, Russia, and Austria. Following an upheaval in 1846, Krakow was invaded by troops of the three countries and annexed to the Austrian empire. France and England protested in the name of the 1815 treaty.


“O countryside! When shall I look upon you!”


Famous cemetery in Paris.


Le Libre échange.


“Our native country is friendly but truth is more friendly.”


In English in the original.


In English in the original.


This is the first explicit reference to the disease that eventually killed Bastiat. His coughing up of blood suggests that he was suffering from tuberculosis or consumption. In his last letters he also mentions a painful larynx, which might have been a symptom of throat cancer.


In the absence of an income tax, state revenue in the nineteenth century largely depended on indirect taxes and import duties. Revenue-raising duties would be a low rate of tax applied to all goods. Protectionist duties would be much higher and applied only to those goods that would protect domestic vested interests.


Pius IX.


Bastiat is referring to the fifty-volume collection Economisti classici italiani, which contained works by many authors, including Cesare Beccaria, 1738-94; Gaetano Filangieri, 1752-88; Ferdinando Galiani, 1728-87; and Pietro Verri, 1728-97.


Socialism became an organized intellectual and political movement during the 1840s in France. It had a number of different schools of thought: the Fourrierists, the followers of the anarchist Proudhon, and the Saint-Simonians. They were a major target for the classical liberals, especially given their influence in the 1848 revolutions. See the long article, with accompanying bibliography, Reybaudin, “Socialistes, socialisme,” in vol. 2 of Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, pp. 629-41.


Bastiat was aware that he did not have long to live and worried that he would not finish his book Economic Harmonies (he did not). He had in fact another two years and five months to live when he wrote this letter.


The final structure of the book (unfinished after his death but edited by Paillottet) contained twenty-five chapters. A first volume was published during Bastiat’s lifetime, and it contained only ten chapters.


The Navigation Act was repealed in 1849 by the cabinet of John Russell.


Of course, this prediction did not come true. A couple of years after his death the Crimean War broke out (1854-56), and by the end of the century Britain had the largest navy and the most extensive empire in the world.


Louis Charles Decazes.


Le Journal des économistes lists many speeches and letters by Cobden in the general table of contents for the years 1841-65.


In English in the original.


Two series of the Sophisms were published (as Economic Sophisms), but a third never appeared.


The notes Bastiat refers to have not survived, but his address “To the Youth of France” (OC, vol. 6, p. 1, “À la jeunesse française”), which prefaces Economic Harmonies, might give some idea of what he said to the students in his course.


Le Mémorial bordelais.


Bastiat himself wrote an essay called “Anglomania, Anglophobia.” See p. 320.


(Paillottet’s note) This refers to the second series of Economic Sophisms.


Le libre échange.



Articles and Essays

Bastiat's Writings November 1844 through 1845

T.21 (1845.??) "Other Questions submitted to the General Councils of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce, in 1845"


T.21 (1845.??) "Other Questions submitted to the General Councils of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce, in 1845" (D'autres questions soumises aux conseils généraux de l'agriculture, des manufactures et du commerce, en 1845). No publishing information given. [OC7.5, pp. 20-29.] [CW6]


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T.22 (1845.??) "The Elections. A Dialog between a deep-thinking Supporter and a Countryman"


T.22 (1845.??) "The Elections. A Dialog between a deep-thinking Supporter and a Countryman" (Les élections. Dialogue entre un profond Publiciste et un Campagnard). No date given, but mentions King and Chamber of Peers so pre-Feb. 1848; calls this a "sophism" so possibly 1845 when he began writing sophisms in earnest. [OC7.68, pp. 280-88.] [CW1.2.3.2, p. 404-9.]


Dialogue Between a Convinced Political Writer and a Countryman

the political writer

At long last you are going to benefit for the first time from one of the finest outcomes of the Revolution. You are going to assume a part of sovereignty itself; you are about to exercise one of the greatest of human rights.

the countryman

I am quite simply going to give my vote to the man I believe most capable of managing the portion of my affairs that is common to all Frenchmen.

the political writer

No doubt. But this is to view the case from the most trivial point of view. No matter. I am assuming that you have given consideration to the solemn act you have come to carry out.

the countryman

It seems to me to be so simple that I did not think I needed to devote much time to considering it.

the political writer

Is that what you think? Is it a simple matter to vote for a legislator? You clearly do not know how complicated our foreign policy is, how many mistakes our government has made, how many factions seek in a variety of ways to lead it astray. Selecting from among the candidates the man most able to grasp so many complexities, to reflect on the many laws we lack, and to distinguish the most patriotic of the parties in order to have it triumph over the others is not as easy a task as you might believe.

the countryman

Fine. However, I have neither the time nor the capacity necessary for examining so many things.

the political writer

In that case, defer to those who have considered them. Come and dine with me at General B.’s house and I will tell you for whom you should cast your vote.

the countryman

I beg to accept neither your offers nor your advice. I have heard it said that General B. is standing for office. I cannot accept his dinner as I am firmly resolved not to vote for him.

the political writer

That is very odd. Here, take this leaflet on M. B. . . . It is biographical. You will see how much he deserves your vote. He is a commoner like you. He owes his success solely to his bravery and his sword. He has rendered exceptional service to France. It is up to Frenchmen to reward him for this.

the countryman

I do not query this. If he has rendered genuine service to France, let France give him medals, or even a pension. However, I do not see that I have to give him a mandate for matters for which I consider him to be unsuitable.

the political writer

The general not suited to attend to matters! He who has commanded army battalions, has governed provinces, has a profound knowledge of the politics of all the cabinets, and who is as eloquent as Demosthenes!

the countryman

All the more reason I should not vote for him. The greater his capacity, the more he is to be feared by me, as I am convinced that he would use it against my interests.

the political writer

Are not your interests those of your country?

the countryman

Probably. But they are not those of the general.

the political writer

Explain yourself. I do not understand you at all.

the countryman

There is no difficulty about my explaining myself. As a farmer, I belong to the peaceful laboring class and I propose to have myself represented by a peaceful working man and not by a man whose career and habits have projected him toward power and war.

the political writer

The general insists that he will defend the cause of agriculture and industry.

the countryman

Fine, but when I do not know people, their word is not enough for me. I need a more solid guarantee.

the political writer

What sort of guarantee?

the countryman

Their material interests. If I vote for a man who is a farmer and taxpayer like me, I will be sure that he will defend my interests in defending his.

the political writer

The general is a landowner like you. Do you think he will make a sacrifice of ownership to power?

the countryman

A general is above all a soldier. His interests as a taxpayer cannot be equated with his interests as a tax beneficiary.

the political writer

And when this happens, is not his devotion to his country well known? Is he not a child of the Revolution? He who has shed his blood for France, will he betray her for a handful of gold?

the countryman

I admit that the general may be a perfectly honest man. But I cannot believe that a man who has done nothing in his life other than command and obey, who has risen only through the political stairway, and who has become rich only by way of taxes paid by others can perfectly represent a taxpayer. I think it absurd that when I find government overbearing I should vote for a man who is part of it, that when I find taxes too burdensome I should entrust the duty of reducing them to a man who lives off them. The general may have a great deal of self-denial, [407] but I do not want to take the risk of testing this. In short, you are asking me to commit an absurdity which I am not prepared to do.

A Country Elector, a Parish Priest

the parish priest

Well, my friend, you have given me great satisfaction. I have been assured that you have nobly refused to give your vote to the candidate of the liberal faction. You have shown good sense in doing this. Is it possible that when the monarchy is in danger, when religion in distress stretches out its suppliant hands to you, you would agree to give new strength to the enemies of religion and the king?

the countryman

Pardon me, Father, but if I refused to vote for the general, it was not because I considered him to be an enemy of religion or of the king. On the contrary, it is because I was convinced that his position did not allow him to maintain a just balance between the means of the taxpayers and the needs of government.

the parish priest

Your motives are not important. What is certain is that you were right to distrust the ambition of this man.

the countryman

You do not understand me, Father. I am not passing judgment on the character of the general. I merely say that I consider it risky to entrust my interests to a man who could not defend them without sacrificing his own. This is a risk that no reasonable man would needlessly run.

the parish priest

I repeat that I am not scrutinizing your motives. You have just given proof of your devotion to the king. Well, finish your work. You have driven away an enemy and that is well worthwhile. However, it is not enough. Give the king a friend. He himself has designated him; vote for the worthy president of the college.

the countryman

I think I would be committing an even greater absurdity. The king has the power of initiative and sanction with regard to the laws; he appoints the Chamber of Peers.3 Since the laws are made for the nation, he wanted the nation to contribute to making them, and so why then should I go on to vote for those whom the government [408] designates? The result would be an absolute monarchy behind a constitutional facade.

the parish priest

Do you suppose, then, that the king would abuse his position and make bad laws?

the countryman

Listen, Father, let us speak of things in their true light. The king does not personally know the 450 candidates he designates; it is the ministers who in fact submit them to our vote. Now the government’s interest lies in increasing its power and wealth. However, it can increase its power only at the expense of my liberty and its wealth at the expense of my purse. If I wish to prevent it from doing this, therefore, I have to vote for a deputy who is a taxpayer like me, who will supervise it and set limits to its encroachments.

the parish priest

In other words a deputy from the opposition?

the countryman

None other. Between one who lives off taxes and one who pays them, the opposition appears to be natural to me. When I buy something, I endeavor to buy it cheaply, but when I sell I set the highest price on my goods. Between the buyer and seller there is inevitably some dispute. If I wanted to have a cart at cost price, would I give a mandate to the maker to set it?

the parish priest

Such a political outlook is small-minded and self-regarding. The issues are reduced to buying and selling, prices and producers. What nonsense! I am talking about the king, his dynasty, the peace of nations, and the upholding of our holy religion.

the countryman

Indeed, and I still maintain my opinion that it is a matter of selling and prices. Government is constituted by men, and the clergy is also made up of men who form a body. Government and clergy are two bodies made up of men. Now, it is in the nature of all bodies to endeavor to expand. Taxpayers would be mad if they did not also form a body to defend themselves against the expansion of government and the clergy.

the parish priest

Wretched fellow! And if this latter body triumphs would you destroy the monarchy and religion? Goodness me, what is the world coming to!

the countryman

Do not worry, Father! The people would never destroy government, because they need it. They would never overthrow [409] religion because it is indispensable to them. They would simply contain both within the limits which they cannot exceed without endangering everyone.

In the same way as I covered my house with a roof to shelter myself from the sun and rain, I want to pay magistrates and police officers to protect me from wrongdoers. In the same way as I willingly engage a doctor to care for my body, I would engage a minister of religion to care for my soul. But also, in the same way as I ensure that my roof is built as economically and sturdily as possible and discuss the cost of the payment with my doctor, I want to discuss the cost of their services with the clergy and government since, thank God, I have the ability to do this. And when I cannot do this myself, you would surely agree, Father, that I should mandate a man who has the same interests as I and not someone who belongs, whether directly or indirectly, to the clergy or established government.

A Country Elector, a Constitutional Candidate

the candidate

I do not think I have arrived too late to ask for your vote, sir, since I am convinced that you have not decided to give it to those who have preceded me. I have two opponents whose talent I acknowledge and whose personal character I honor but who, because of their position, I do not consider to be your natural representatives. I am a taxpayer like you; like you I belong not to the class that exercises power but that over which power is exercised. I am deeply convinced that what currently undermines order, liberty, and prosperity in France is the extravagant dimensions of government. Not only do my opinions make it a duty for me but my interests require me to make every effort to set limits to this terrifying expansion of the actions of government. I therefore consider that I would be useful to the cause of taxpayers if I joined their ranks; and if you share my ideas, I hope you will give me your vote.

the countryman

I am firmly resolved to do so. I share your opinions and your interests are a guarantee to me that you will act according to your opinions, and you may count on my vote.



There existed a Chamber of Peers in France between 1814 and 1848. It had the same role as the English House of Lords.




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)

[CW4 draft 16 June, 2017]


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!


297 Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869) was a poet and statesman and as an immensely popular romantic poet, he used his talent to promote liberal ideas. During the campaign for free trade organised by the French Free Trade Association between 1846 and 1847 Lamartine often spoke at their large public meetings and was a big draw card. He was a member of the Provisional Government in February 1848 and offered Bastiat a position in the government, which he declined.

298 See the glossary entry on "The Fortifications of Paris."

299 Gustave de Molinari, Biographie politique de M. A. de Lamartine. Extraits de la Revue générale biographique, politique et littéraire, publié sous la direction de M. E. Pascallet. Deuxième Edition (Paris: Lacombe, 1843).

300 For example, they shared the stage at a Free Trade meeting in Marseille on 24 August 1847 and Lamartine's speech was published as a separate pamphlet, Discours de M. de Lamartine, dans l'Assemblée marseillaise du Libre échange, le 24 août 1847 (Lyon: Léon Boitel, 1847).

301 See his recollections in "Political Manifestos of April 1849," in CW1, pp. 390-91. Also Dean Russell, Frédéric Bastiat , p. 82.

302 Letter 94 to Coudroy (Paris, 29 February, 1848), CW1, p. 144.

303 Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809–65) was a political theorist whom many people consider to be the father of anarchism. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1848 representing La Seine. He is best known for his book Qu'est-ce que la propriété? (What is Property?) (1841), the answer to which he thought was "property is theft." Proudhon and Bastiat engaged in a several month long debate on the morality of property, interest, and rent in late 1849. See, "Free Credit", below, pp. 000.

304 Victor Prosper Considerant (1808-93) was a follower of the socialist Charles Fourier and edited the most successful Fourierist magazine La Démocratie pacifiste (1843-1851). He was elected Deputy to represent Loiret in April 1848 and Paris in May 1849. The Fourierists advocated a utopian, communistic system for the reorganization of society. He was also an advocate of the "right to work" (the right to a job), an idea which Bastiat opposed.

305 Louis Blanc (1811-1882) was a journalist and historian who was active in the socialist movement. Blanc founded the journal Revue du progès and published therein articles that later became the influential pamphlet L'Organisation du travail (1839). During the 1848 revolution he became a member of the provisional government and promoted the National Workshops.

306 An extract of "Théorie du droit de propriété" can be found in Victor Considerant, Contre M. Arago: réclamation adressée à la Chambre des députés par les rédacteurs du feuilleton de la Phalange : suivi de la théorie du droit de propriété (Paris: Au bureau de la Phalange, 1840), pp. 49-64. It was republished in July 1848 at the height of the debate about right to work legislation which was taking place in the National Assembly: Victor Considerant, Droit de propriété et du droit au travail (Paris: Librairie phalanstérienne, 1848).

307 Louis Blanc, Organisation du travail. Association universelle. Ouvriers. - Chefs d'ateliers. - Hommes de lettres . (Paris: Administration de librairie, 1841. First edition 1839).

308 Lamartine, "Du droit au travail et de l'organisation du travail" in La Politique de Lamartine (1878), vol. 2, p. 151.

309 See the glossary on "The Right to Work."

310 Reprinted in Louis Blanc, Organisation du travail (5ème édition), revue, corrigée et augmentée d'une polémique entre M. Michel Chevalier et l'auteur, ainsi que d'un appendice indiquant ce qui pourrait être tenté dès à présent (Paris: au bureau de la Société de l'industrie fraternelle, 1847). "Réponses à diverses objections." Chevalier's article, pp. 121-35; and Blanc's response from 17 Feb. 1845, pp. 135-48. Chevalier quote from pp. 125-26. See also, Michel Chevalier, Lettres sur l'Organisation du travail, ou études sur les principales causes de la misère et sur les moyens proposées pour y remédier (Paris: Capelle, 1848) and Question des travailleurs : l'amélioration du sort des ouvriers, les salaires, l'organisation du travail (Paris: Hachette, 1848).

311 Dunoyer, Charles. De la liberté du travail, ou simple exposé des conditions dans lesquelles les force humaines s'exercent avec le plus de puissance. 3 vols. Paris: Guillaumin, 1845.

312 Alphonse de Lamartine, "Du droit au travail et de l'organisation du travail," Le Bien Public , déc. 1844. Later published as a pamphlet: Du droit au travail et de l'organisation du travail (Mâcon: Chassipollet, 1845). See also, La Politique , vol. 2, XXIX, pp. 145-65.

313 T.19 [1844.10.15] "On the Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two People" (De l'influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l'avenir des deux peuples), JDE , T. IX, Oct. 1844, pp. 244-71 [OC1, pp. 334-86] [CW6].

314 Lamartine, "De la crise des subsistances" (1 Oct. 1846), Le Bien public , which provoked Bastiat's reply T.60 [1846.10.15] "Second Letter to M. de Lamartine" (Seconde lettre à Monsieur de Lamartine), JDE , 15 October 1846, T. 15, No. 49, pp. 265-70. [OC1.13, pp. 452-60]. See below, pp. 000.

315 See Bastiat's article on "Natural and Artificial Organisations" (JDE, January 1848) where he explores this idea further, below pp. 000.

316 See below, p. 000.

317 See Glossary entries on "Malthus" and "Malthusianism and French Political Economy."

318 T.17 [1844.??] "On the Division 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] [See above, pp. 000.

319 T.66 [1846.05.19] "On the Railway between Bordeaux and Bayonne. A Letter addressed to a Commission of the Chamber of Deputies" (Du chemin de fer de Bordeaux à Bayonne. Lettre adressée à une commission de la Chambre des députés), Le Mémorial bordelais , 19 May 1846 [OC7.22, pp. 103-8] [CW1, p. 312-16]

320 T.47 [1846.02.15] "Thoughts on Sharecropping" (Considérations sur le métayage), JDE , T.13, no. 51, Feb. 1846, pp. 225-239. [Not in OC] [CW4, pp. 000]; and T.81 [1846.10.15] "On Population" (De la population), JDE , 15 Octobre 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.

321 EH2, chap. 16, "On Population," CW5 (forthcoming).

322 Pope Pius IX put the DEP on the Index of Banned Books on 12 June 1856 for "religious reasons," presumably for the article on "Malthus" written by Joseph Garnier which advocated various forms of birth control. See, Molinari's comments on this, L'Économiste belge , Supplément to the edition of 20 November, 1856, p. 5; and the "Beacon for Freedom of Expression" database of banned books and the entry for the DEP <>. Joseph Garnier, "Malthus," DEP, vol. 2, pp. 126-29.

323 See the glossary on "The Social Mechanism" and "Natural and Artificial Organisation," JDE, 15 January, 1848, below pp. 000.

324 See the glossary on "Harmony and Disharmony."

325 See the glossary on "Disturbing and Restorative Factors."

326 See the glossary entry on "Service for Service."

327 See below, pp. 000.

328 Bastiat, Cobden et la ligue, ou l'Agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845). Introduction, pp. i-xcvi.

329 These speeches by Bastiat will be included in CW6.

330 Henri Saint-Simon (1760-1825) was an aristocrat and soldier who, after the French Revolution, became a writer and influential social reformer. he was an early theorist of the idea of "industrialism," that the old regime of war, privilege, and monopoly would gradually be replaced by peace and a new elite of creators, producers, and industrialists. The movement split into a socialist branch, the Saint-Simonian school led by Auguste Comte and Olinde Rodrigues, and a classical liberal school led by Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer. The Saint-Simonians advocated rule by a technocratic elite, state-supported "industry," and the "organisation" of labour by bureaucratic planners.

331 Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a socialist and founder of the phalansterian school, also known as "Fourierism", which advocated a utopian, communistic system for the reorganization of society. The population was to be grouped in "phalansteries"of about 1,800 persons, who would live together as one family and hold property and work in common.

332 This statement is somewhat ironic as this charge of going against the masters of economic thought (Malthus and Ricardo) would be leveled against Bastiat himself by his economist friends in response to several of his innovations in economic theory presented in several essays in the JDE and in the Economic Harmonies (1850), notably his theory of value, rent, and population growth.

333 In their theoretical work both Bastiat and Molinari made the importance of economic laws central to their understanding of economic theory, Bastiat in Economic Harmonies (1850) and Molinari in Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (Evening on Saint Lazarus Street) (1849) the subtitle of which was "Discussions on Economic Laws and the Defence of Property".

334 A contemporary of Bastiat, Joseph Garnier, in the entry for "laissez faire, laissez passer"in the DEP (1853) explained "laissez-faire" to mean "laissez travailler" (leave us free to work as we wish) and "laissez passer"to mean "laissez échanger" (leave us free to trade as we wish). See glossary on "Laissez-faire."

335 The English lawyer and social theorist Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) wrote the class book on utopia which he called Utopia (meaning "no-place" or "good-place") in 1516. Among many other things, on the island there was no private property, widespread use of slaves, and an internal passport required for travel.

336 James Harrington (1611-77) was an English republican political theorist who wrote an account of an ideal republican society in The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656). His views on voting by ballot and the rotation of office were considered radical in his day.

337 François Fénelon (1651-1715) was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer. He was appointed the tutor to the King's family. Today is remembered as the author of The Adventures of Telemachus (1699) which was thinly veiled critique of the doctrine of the divine right of kings, for example when the hero Telemachus visits Idomeneus, King of Salente and asks him very pointed questions about the nature of good rulership.

338 Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a successful English manufacturer, philanthropist, and socialist theoretician. He made his fortune with a cotton mill in New Lanark in Manchester. The reforms he introduced in his factory became the model for creating "villages of cooperation," which culminated in the establishment of a model community, New Harmony, in Indiana, in 1824.

339 Bastiat provides a similar list of socialist utopian writers in the article "Economic Harmonies: I., II., and III. The Needs of Man" in JDE, 1 September, 1848. See below, pp. 000.

340 The following were political economists: Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Robert Malthus, James Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Nassau Senior, Desttut de Tracy, Jean-Baptiste Say, Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, Joseph Droz. The following were politicians who introduced liberal economic reforms: Thomas Jefferson, Richard Cobden, Thomas Peronnet Thompson, William Huskisson, and Robert Peel.

341 Bastiat called these men "mechanics" who wanted to build and run society like a machine. See "Natural and Artificial Organisation" (JDE, 15 January 1848), below, pp. 000.

342 ( Bastiat's Note .) In saying that people ought to enjoy the free exercise of their faculties, it of course remains a fact that I do not in the least intend to deny the government the right and duty of repressing the abuse that can result from this. On the contrary, economists consider that this is its principal and almost sole mission.

343 The long quote comes from La Politique de Lamartine , vol. 2, pp. 148-49; and then 149-50.

344 After the fall of the monarchy in August 1792 the Legislative Assembly called for an election based upon universal manhood suffrage to create a Constituent Assembly (also known as the National Convention) which would draw up a new constitution for the republic. It remained in power between September 1792 and October 1795. After the fall of Robespierre in July 1795 the Convention was replaced by a new constitutions and a new government called the Directory.

345 Bastiat uses the phrase "précisément l'harmonie du monde social dans la liberté de leur action" (the harmony of the social world precisely in the freedom of their action). This is his earliest uses of the term "harmony" used in this way.

346 Prosper Enfantin (1796-1864) was a banker and manager of the Paris-Lyon railroad who became interested in the ideas of Saint-Simon who believed that industrial society should be managed by an elite of scientists and engineers. Enfantin was regarded as one of Saint-Simonism's "high priests."

347 Lamartine, La politique , vol. 2, p. 159.

348 This criticism by Lamartine of the "coldness" of economics might have been one of the spurs to Bastiat writing his engaging, amusing, and clever "economic sophisms" over the coming year, beginning in April, shortly after this was written. These were collected and published in January 1846 as the first series of Economic Sophisms . He explicitly noted that he wanted to overcome the accusation made against political economy that it suffered from "de sécheresse et de prosaïsme" (dry and dull or prosaic) and that economists were "secs et froids" (dry and cold). See, ES2.2 "Two Moral Philosophies," ES2 2 in CW3, pp. 131-38. Quote on p. 135.

349 Alphonso the Wise (Alfonso X) (1221-1284) was king of Leon and Castile from 1252-1284 and was reputed to have said that if he had been present at the creation of the world he would have had a few words of advice for the Creator on how better to order the universe. During his reign he attempted to reorganize the Castillian sheep industry, raised money by debasing the currency, and imposed high tariffs in order to prevent the inevitable price rises which resulted. Bastiat liked this story about Alfonso so much that he referred to it several times in his work.

350 The purpose of what would later become Bastiat's Economic Sophisms was to refute the economic errors (sophisms) which were deliberately spread by the protectionists in order to deceive "the dupes", the ignorant and gullible general public.

351 Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace (1749-1827) was an astronomer and mathematician who was appointed Minister of the Interior under Napoleon in 1799 and a Peer in the Restoration. He contributed to the restructuring of the French high school system under Napoléon by ensuring that mathematics was a crucial part of the curriculum. His major work was the multi-volume Mécanique céleste (Celestial Mechanics) (1799-1805). He used his new mathematical models to explain the perturbations in the orbits of Saturn, Jupiter, and the moon and discovered that they were oscillations which repeated themselves over time within precise limits.

352 François Arago (1786-1853).

353 See Arago's biography of "Laplace" in Œvres complètes de François Arago, secrétaire perpétuel de l'Académie des sciences. Publiées d'après son ordre sous la direction de M. Jean Augustin Barral (Paris: Gide et J. Baudry, 1855), vol. 3, p. 478.

354 This could a reference to either the Idéologues, like Destutt de Tracy, or the Economists, like Jean-Baptiste Say. In Lucien Bonaparte's Memoirs he tells us that his brother Napoléon boasted that he invented the term "ideologue" to ridicule the liberal reformers around Destutt de Tracy who dared to tell him how to run the government. He also called them "metaphysicians" and "chercheurs d'idées" (idea hunters) and "les bavards" (chatter boxes). See, Théodore Iung, Lucien Bonaparte et ses mémoires: 1775 - 1840 d'après les papiers déposés aux archives étrangères et d'autre documents inédits . 3 vols. (Paris: Charpentier, 1882). vol. 2, p. 243. Napoléon's most extended rant against the economists can be found in one of the conversations recorded by Count de Las Cases in 23 June 1816 while Napoléon was incarcerated on Sainte-Hélène. He was quoted as saying that "The Emperor fought against the Economists whose principles could be true in principle (leur annoncé) but became harmful (vicieux) in their application." (p. 332). See, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, ou, Journal où se trouve consigné, jour par jour, ce qu'a dit et fait Napoléon durant dix-huit mois, par le comte de Las Cases (Paris: L'Auteur, tous les libraires de France et de l'etranger, 1823). vol. 4, pp. 331-38. In turn, Jean-Baptiste Say wrote a lengthy critique of Napoleon's economic ideas in "Erreurs où peuvent tomber les bons auteurs qui ne savent pas l'économie politique," Mélanges et correspondance d'économie politique: ouvrage posthume de J.-B. Say; publié par Charles Comte, son gendre (Paris: Chamerot, 1833), pp. 380-405.

355 La Politique de Lamartine , vol. 2, p. 164

356 La Politique de Lamartine , vol. 2, p. 165.

357 See his article "On Competition," JDE May 1846, below pp. 000.

358 Bastiat refers several times to humans as "un être actif" (an acting or active being) and to "l'action humaine" (human action). Here he refers to "des agents intelligents et libres" (fee and intelligent agents or actors). See the glossary on "Human Action."

359 Bastiat says "stérilité" which might be childlessness, or the use of contraception.

360 This is an idea which Bastiat took up again in his famous essay on "The State" which first appeared in his revolutionary street magazine Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848 and then in a revised and longer version in the upmarket Journal des Débats in Sept. 1848. See, T.212 [1848.06.11] "The State" (L'État), Jacques Bonhomme , no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, p. 2 [OC7.59, pp. 238-40] [CW2, pp. 105-6]; and T.222 [1848.09.25] "The State" (L'État), Journal des Débats , 25 Sept. 1848, pp. 1-2; also published as a pamphlet: L'État. Maudit argent! (The State. Damned Money) (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849). [OC4, pp. 327-41] [CW2, pp. 93-104]

361 Bastiat uses the phrase "comme élément harmonique dans le jeu des lois sociales" which is only the second time he used the word "harmonique".

362 Charles Comte, Traité de Législation , 1826 ed, vol. 1, Livre II, Chap. XI. De l'action des lois de la morale, et des obstacles que cette action rencontre quelquefois dans celle des gouvernemens, dans des institutions publiques, ou dans des erreurs populaires," p. 507-8. Similar arguments were made by Herbert Spencer against compulsory or government charity (but not voluntary charity) as early as 1842 in "The Proper Sphere of Government". See, Herbert Spencer, The Man versus the State, with Six Essays on Government, Society and Freedom , ed. Eric Mack, introduction by Albert Jay Nock (Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1981). < /titles/330#lf0020_head_018 >.

363 Bastiat says "une communauté de droit" (a community of entitlements).

364 Bastiat is giving here the standard Malthusian response of the Economists of his day. He was later to repudiate much of this orthodoxy in an article and in Economic Harmonies much to the regret of his colleagues. See, Bastiat, "De la population" (On Population), JDE , Octobre 1846, below, pp. 000; and EH, Chap. 16 "Population" See also the glossary on "Malthusianism."

365 La Politique de Lamartine , vol. 2, p. 151.

366 "For the sake of living" - "propter vitam vivendi perdere causas" (to destroy the reasons for living for the sake of life) which comes from Juvenal, Satyricon VIII, verses 83–84.

367 Bastiat uses the older 18th century expression "la police" which meant state and bureaucratic regulation of the economy.

368 Here Bastiat uses the term "l'économie sociale" (social economy) which is one he often used in his writing. By this he meant something broader than the more limited sphere of "pure political economy" which encompassed the traditional economic matters of production, trade, and the buying and selling goods and services. "Social economy" included all aspects of human activity in the social realm, namely any human activity which was voluntary and involved groups of individuals coming together for social purposes. In other words, what we would today call sociology. In late 1847 Bastiat had an opportunity to give some lectures at the School of Law on social economy, or what he called in a letter to his friend Félix Coudroy the "Harmonie des lois sociales" (the Harmony of Social laws). These lectures were later to become part of his book Economic Harmonies . See, Letter 81. Paris, Aug. 1847. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, p. 78), CW1 , pp. ???

369 Bastiat's view of the proper and legitimate functions of the state was that it should do less than the standard "limited government" envisaged by Adam Smith and his followers, namely police, defence, courts, some public goods like roads, possibly some education, and the provision of money. Bastiat believed in "ultra-minimal government" since he believed that many roads, all education, and even money could be provided privately. He also thought the national standing army should be demobilised and replaced by local militias, and that only in grave emergencies should the government provide some temporary and limited relief to the poor during emergencies (such as crop failures). These minimal state activities would be funded by a 5% tariff on both imports and exports until they could be replaced by single flat income tax. All other taxes would be abolished. Although he did not go as far as his younger friend and colleague Gustave de Molinari did in wanting to see the private provision of "security," he was much more radical than most of his colleagues in the Political Economy Society. See the debates in the Society on "The Limit of the Functions of the State" which were held in October 1849, January and February 1850, below, pp. 000, pp. 000. and pp. 000.

370 La Politique de Lamartine , vol. 2, p. 164.

371 The same quotation was used by Bastiat on the title page of his first series of Economic Sophisms (1846). It comes from Bentham's Théorie des peines et des récompenses (1811) in a passage at the end of chapter XIV on "Abolition du taux fixe de l'intérêt de l'argent dans les entreprises commerciales". It seems to be an insertion by the editor (Bowring) from Bentham's Manual of Political Economy . The quotation makes sense when one realises that it concerns the proper functions of government and what politicians and regulators can learn from political economy. Here Bentham is arguing for a hands off approach, or a policy of laissez-faire: "Je terminerai ce précis comme je l'ai commencé, en répétant que l'économie politique doit être considérée comme une science plutôt que comme un art. Il y a beaucoup à apprendre , et peu à faire. Les abeilles font le miel par instinct; il suffit de leur laisser une ruche tranquille, des champs et des bois pour y amasser leur récolte; mais, parce qu'on a besoin d'une partie de leur miel, il faut étudier leur nature, il faut connaître l'économie de ce petit peuple, pour ne pas nuire à la reproduction de ses travaux." (I will end this precis as I began it, by repeating that political economy ought to be regarded as a science rather than an art. There is much to learn and little (for the government) to do. The bees make honey by instinct. It is sufficient to leave their hive in peace, and also the fields and woods for them to harvest their crop. However, because we need part of their honey it is necessary to understand the economy of these little creatures ("people") in order not to harm their productive labour.) The English language version is somewhat different. In the 1825 edition the editor paraphrases Bentham in a chapter dealing with "Bentham and Adam Smith" on political economy and much of it seems to have been taken from the Manual of Political Economy : "In conclusion, political economy is a science, rather than an art. There is much to be learned respecting it and little to be done. Is it inquired what ought governments to do, that wealth may be increased—the answer is, Very little, and nothing rather than too much. What ought to be done for the increase of population ?—Nothing. In the greater number of states, the best methods of augmenting population and wealth, would consist in abolishing those laws and regulations whereby it has been sought to increase them, provided such abolition were gradually and carefully accomplished. The art therefore is reduced within a small compass: security and freedom is all that industry requires. The request which agriculture, manufactures, and commerce presents to governments, is modest and reasonable as that which Diogenes made to Alexander: " Stand out of my sunshine." We have no need of favour, we require only a secure and open path." See, Oeuvres de Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2 (Bruxelles: L. Hauman, 1829), p. 246; and The Rationale of Reward (London: (London: John and H. L. Hunt, 1825), p. 229.

372 La Politique de Lamartine , vol. 2, p. 164.

373 Bastiat uses the term "la simplification of government" which we have translated as the reduction in size of government" which fits better the contrast he draws between the slogans " Société contrainte, gouvernement compliqué" (coerced society, big or complicated government) and " Société libre, gouvernement simple" (free society, small or simple government).

374 This is a another very early use of the terms disturbing and restorative factors. See the glossary on "Disturbing and restorative Factors."

375 Bastiat makes an issue of slogans and banners in this section so it is worth looking at the slogans he chose to put on the banners of the magazines he edited in the coming years. He was very taken with a phrase used by Lamartine in a speech he gave for the French Free Trade Association in Lyon in August 1847, "la vie à bon marché" (life at low prices). Bastiat made this one of the three slogans he used on the banner of the Association's journal Le Libre-Échange which was edited and largely written by Bastiat and which appeared between 29 Nov. 1846 to 16 April 1848. The others were "on ne doit payer d'impôt qu'à l'État" (one ought to pay taxes only to the state) and "les produits s'achètent avec les produits" (products are bought with other products). In the first magazine he and Molinari and others produced and handed out in the streets of Paris in February and March 1848, La Republique française , the slogans used were "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) and "Justice, Économie, Ordre" (Justice, Economie, and Order). His second revolutionary magazine, Jacques Bonhomme , appeared in June and July 1848 and had as its primary slogan Lamartine's "la vie à bon marché". See, Discours de M. de Lamartine, prononcé dans l'Assemblée marseillaise du libre échange, le 24 août, 1847 (Association pour la liberté des échanges. Lyon: L. Boitel, 1847), p. 6.

376 Bastiat uses term "liberté de transactions" which we have translated here as "freedom to do business."

377 Bastiat is referring to Richard Cobden, the leader of the Anti-Corn Law League, who was successful in getting the Corn Laws repealed in January 1846. Bastiat's first book was on him: Cobden et la ligue, ou l'Agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845). See the glossary on "Cobden."

378 This is his first use of the term"la mécanique social" (the social mechanism). Later he preferred to use the very similar phrase "le mécanisme social" (the social mechanism) which he first used in the article "On Competition" (JDE May 1846). See below, pp. 000.

379 This is a reference to the innovative methods used by the Anti-Corn Law League in spreading free trade ideas in Britain. They employed itinerant lecturers to address large crowds in all the major towns, sold or gave away large numbers of leaflets and pamphlets, and sold merchandise. Bastiat spoke about these new techniques very enthusiastically in the introduction to his book and hoped to emulate them in France with a Free Trade Association with which Bastiat became very active in 1846-47.

380 One of the strategies of the Anti-Corn Law League was to encourage supporters to buy land in key boroughs in order to be allowed to vote, in the hope they might tip the election in their favour.



T.317 "Introduction and Post Script to Economic Sophisms" (March 1845, JDE)

[CW4 draft 16 June, 2017]


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


381 See, CW3, pp. 1-110.

382 He was still expressing considerable self-doubt about his abilities as an economist in the "Draft Preface to the Harmonies " (Fall, 1847) in CW1, pp. 316-20.

383 T.19 "On the Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two People" (De l'influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l'avenir des deux peuples), JDE , T. IX, Oct. 1844, pp. 244-71 [OC1, pp. 334-86] [CW6].

384 G. de Molinari, "Nécrologie. Frédéric Bastiat, notice sur sa vie et ses écrits," JDE, T. 28, N° 118. 15 février 1851, pp. 180-96. Molinari said they had thought he was "a simple piece of quartz" from the depths of Les Landes not realising that he was in fact "this diamond," p. 184.

385 Bastiat, Cobden et la ligue, ou l'Agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845). Bastiat's Introduction will appear in CW6 (forthcoming). An edited version of the Introduction was published in the JDE: T.28 (1845.06.15) "The Economic Situation of Great Britain: Financial Reforms and Agitation for Commercial Freedom" (Situation économique de la Grande-Bretagne. Réformes financières. Agitation pour la liberté commerciale), JDE , June 1845, T. XI, no. 43, pp. 233-265.

386 He uses the phrase "cette tactique d'agitation" (this tactic of demonstration or protest) in a letter to Horace Say: Letter 33. Letter to Horace Say, 24 November 1844, CW1, pp. 53-55. Quote on p.54.

387 He talks about this meeting in Letter 37. Letter to Félix Coudroy, Paris May, 1845, CW1, pp. 59-61. See the glossary entry on "The Political Economy Society."

388 The next installment of Economic Sophisms appeared in July ("Equalizing the Conditions of Production" and "Our Products are weighed down with Taxes") and October ("The Balance of Trade," "Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles," "Differential Duties," "An immense Discovery!!!," "Reciprocity," and "Nominal Prices". These 10 short pieces which first appeared in the Journal des Économistes , along with 11 others, were published at the end of the 1845 as the first series of Economic Sophisms published by Guillaumin. The second series would appear in January 1848.

389 Letter 41. Letter to Félix Coudroy (n.d.), CW1, pp. 66-67. The context tells us the time it must have been written.

390 Letter 80. Letter to Richard Cobden, Paris, 5 July 1847, CW1, pp. 130-31. He stated: "Being struck by the danger in the path along which the young were rushing headlong, I took the initiative of asking young people to listen to me. I gathered together students from the schools of law and medicine, i.e., the young men who, in a few years' time, will be governing the world, or France at least. They listened to me with goodwill and friendliness but, as you will readily understand, without understanding me very well. No matter; since the experiment has been started I will continue it to the end."

391 See, "To the Youth of France," in EH (FEE edition), pp. xxi-xxxvii. LF edition CW5 (forthcoming). He was still saying the same thing to Fontenay in July 1850: "Middle-aged men (around the Journal des Économistes ) do not easily abandon well-entrenched and long-held ideas. For this reason, it is not to them but to the younger generation that I have addressed and submitted my book." See Letter 180. Letter to M. de Fontenay, Les Eaux-Bonnes, 3 July 1850, CW1, pp. 255-56.

392 Letter 37, CW1, p. 59.

393 Letter 37, CW1, p. 59.

394 Letter 37, CW1, p. 63.

395 Eugène Daire (1798-1847) was of all things a tax collector who revived interest in the heritage of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century free-market economics. He came to Paris in 1839, met Guillaumin, discovered the works of Jean-Baptiste Say, and began editing the fifteen-volume work, Collection des principaux économistes (1840-48). It included works on eighteenth-century finance, the physiocrats, Turgot, Adam Smith, Malthus, Jean-Baptiste Say, and Ricardo. He was a founding member of the Political Economy Society.

396 Letter 42. Letter to Félix Coudroy, Paris, 3 July 1845, CW1, pp. 67-69. Quote on p. 68.

397 Letter 42, CW1, p. 68.

398 Letter 40. Letter to Félix Coudroy,16 June 1845, CW1, pp. 65-66.

399 He describes them as "an accidental meeting of well-meaning men" in Letter 38. Letter to Félix Coudroy, Paris, 23 May, 1845, CW1, pp. 61-62. Quote on p. 61.

400 Bastiat was already beginning to think of writing a theoretical treatise of his own since the "Economic Sophisms" were proving to be popular with ordinary readers and he had gained the esteem and recognition of many of his colleagues. He planned to call it Social Harmonies. See, Editor's Introduction to "A Note on Economic and Social Harmonies" (June 1845), below, pp. 000.

401 Letter 40, CW1, p. 65.

402 Letter 42, CW1, pp. 69, and Letter 43, p. 71. See the glossary entry on "Charles Comte."

403 Bastiat described J.B. Say as "his intellectual father" and called Charles Comte's Traité de la propriété (1834) one of the few books he might take with him if he were marooned on a desert island. See Letter 33, CW1, p. 53; and T.143 "On Mignet's Eulogy of M. Charles Comte" (July 1847), below, pp. 000.

404 The Académie des sciences morales et politiques (the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences) is a French learned society and one of the five academies which comprise the Institute of France. The Academy was founded in 1795 as part of a restructuring of the pre-revolutionary Royal Academies. It was reconstituted by King Louis-Philippe in October 1832 with five sections. Bastiat was made a "corresponding" (or junior) member of the 4th section (Political and Statistical Economics) on 24 January, 1846. See the glossary on "The Academy of Moral and Political Sciences."

405 Can't find in Archives parlementaires ??? Missing vol. 76.

406 The next installment of Economic Sophisms appeared in July ("Equalizing the Conditions of Production" and "Our Products are weighed down with Taxes") and October ("The Balance of Trade," "Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles," "Differential Duties," "An immense Discovery!!!," "Reciprocity," and "Nominal Prices". These 10 short pieces which first appeared in the Journal des Économistes ,along with 11 others, were published at the end of the 1845 as the first series of Economic Sophisms published by Guillaumin. The second series would appear in January 1848.



T.20 "On the Book by M. Dunoyer. On The Liberty of Working" (March, 1845)

[CW4 draft 16 June, 2017]


T.20 (1845.03) "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.


407 See the glossary entries on "Dunoyer" and "Comte."

408 We have evidence that Bastiat was reading Dunoyer as early as 1827 (Letter to Coudroy, 9 April 1827) where he refers to his theory of "industrialism" and that he was attempting to write to him on the eve of his coming to Paris in the second half of 1844, hoping that Horace Say might make the introduction on his behalf. He finally met Dunoyer at a dinner held in Paris to welcome Bastiat's arrival in May 1845 (Letter to Coudroy, May, 1845). This was the first of several dinners and meetings with the man whose work he so much admired.

409 Letter 34. "Letter to Charles Dunoyer (Mugron, 7 March 1845), CW1, pp.55-56.

410 There is no reference to Bastiat in the printed book but Bastiat may be referring to a hand written note Dunoyer may have included with the copy he sent Bastiat.

411 See, T.19 [1844.10.15] "On the Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two People" (De l'influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l'avenir des deux peuples), JDE , T. IX, Oct. 1844, pp. 244-71 [OC1, pp. 334-86] [CW6]; and T.23 [1845.01.15] "Letter from an Economist to M. de Lamartine. On the occasion of his article entitled: The Right to Work (Un économiste à M. de Lamartine. A l'occasion de son écrit intitulé: Du Droit au travail), JDE , Feb. 1845, T. 10, no. 39, pp. 209-223 [OC1, pp. 406-28]

412 Letter 37. Paris, May 1845. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 50-52)

413 Michel Chevalier, "Variétés", Journal des débats , 21 February, 1845, p. 3.

414 See below, pp. 000.

415 Comte, Charles, Traité de législation, ou exposition des lois générales suivant lesquelles les peuples prospèrent, dépérissent ou restent stationnaire , 4 vols. (Paris: A. Sautelet et Cie, 1827). A second revised edition was published in 1835 by Chamerot, Ducollet of Paris in 4 vols. to coincide with the publication of its sequel, the Traité de la propriété . Comte, Charles, Traité de la propriété , 2 vols. (Paris: Chamerot, Ducollet, 1834).

416 As is often the case in this period, the lengthy subtitles to the works reveal much about the intention of the author: Dunoyer, Charles, L'Industrie et la morale considérées dans leurs rapports avec la liberté (Industry and Morality considered in the Relationship with Liberty) (Paris: A. Sautelet et Cie, 1825); Nouveau traité d'économie sociale, ou simple exposition des causes sous l'influence desquelles les hommes parviennent à user de leurs forces avec le plus de LIBERTÉ, c'est-à-dire avec le plus FACILITÉ et de PUISSANCE (A New Treatise on Social Economy: or a simple Account of the Causes under the Influence of which Mankind comes to use their Powers with the most Liberty, that is to say with the greatest Skill and Strength) (Paris: Sautelet et Mesnier, 1830), 2 vols.; and De la liberté du travail, ou simple exposé des conditions dans lesquelles les forces humaines s'exercent avec le plus de puissance (On the Liberty of Working, or a simple Account of the Conditions under which Mankind's Powers are exercised with the greatest Strength) (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845).

417 See the glossary entry on "Social Economy."

418 Dunoyer, De la liberté du travail , vol. 1, p. 3.

419 Dunoyer, De la liberté du travail , vol. 1, p. 25.

420 Dunoyer, De la liberté du travail , vol. 1, p. 17.

421 See the Editor's Introduction to his "Letter to Lamartine" above, pp. 000. Also the glossaries on "Harmony and Disharmony" and "Service for Service."

422 Dunoyer, De la liberté du travail , vol. 1, Preface, p. xv.

423 This is the first time Bastiat uses the term "harmonique" (harmonious) which would later become the lynch pin of his theoretical work. See the glossary entry on "Harmony and Disharmony."

424 The Moravian Brethren was a Christian sect founded by the followers of Jan Hus (1370-1415) who was a Czech priest and dean of the Prague faculty of theology. He was burned at the stake for heresy. During the 18th century the Moravians established settlements where communal living and simplicity of lifestyle based upon limited personal property was practiced.

425 A Phalanstery. was a self-sustaining community of the followers of the utopian socialist Charles Fourier. He envisaged that new communities of people would spring up in order to escape the injustices of free-market societies and industrialism. He called his new self-supporting communities "phalanxes," which would consist of about 1,600 people who would live in a specially designed building called a "phalanstère," or "phalanstery." See the glossary entries for "Fourier" and "Phalanstery."

426 "Fi de la liberté ! À bas la liberté !" is the refrain from a poem called "La Liberté. Première chanson faite à Sainte-Pélagie" (Janvier 1822) by the poet and political song writer Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857) when he was in prison for offending the censors. He mocks his jailers by listing their crimes against him and pretending to denounce liberty.In Béranger's Songs of the Empire, the Peace, and the Restoration , trans. Robert B. Brough (London: Addey and Co., 1854), pp. 109-11. Chansons de P.J. Béranger, précédées d'une notice sur l'auteur et d'un essai sur ses poésies par M. P. Tissot (Paris: Perrotin, 1829), Tome II. pp. 13-15. See the glossary on Béranger.

427 Marcellin Jobard (1792-1861) was a Belgian lithographer, photographer, and inventor. From 1841 to 1861 he was the director of the Royal Belgian Museum of Industry in Brussels. He was a prolific inventor (with 75 patents) and took up the cause of defending the property rights of inventors. He wrote dozens of pamphlets expressing his views in a very idiosyncratic manner.

428 See the glossary entry "Saint-Simon."

429 See the glossary entry on "Blanc."

430 George Cuvier (1769-1832) was a French naturalist who specialised in the areas of comparative anatomy and paleontology. In the field of geology he was an exponent of the theory of catastrophism in which period cataclysmic events led to the radical transformation of the earth's landscape and the mass extinction of animal species.

431 Bastiat no doubt had in mind some of the people discussed by Louis Reybaud, Études sur les réformateurs ou socialistes modernes: La société et le socialisme, les communistes, les chartistes, les utilitaires, les humanitaires (Paris: Guillaumin, 1843). 3 vols.

432 Dunoyer, De la liberté du travail , vol. 1, Livre 1. "Ce que l'auteur entend par le mot liberté," pp. 23-43.

433 Dunoyer's classification of economic activity was threefold: industries which were involved with transforming "things" (such as mining, transport, manufacturing, and agriculture), industries which were concerned with human well-being (such as medicine, culture, education, and moral development), and activities which were less "industrial" but still an integral part of what he called the "social economy" (such as voluntary associations, trade, and charity and other forms of gift giving). De la liberté du travail , vol. 1, pp. 15-16.

434 Destutt de Tracy, Traité d'économie politique (Paris: Bouguet et Lévi, 1823), Chap. II. "De la formation de nos richesses, ou de la production utile," p. 88. "Quand à la classe laborieuse et directement productive de toutes nos richesses, comme son action sur tous les êtres de la nature se réduit toujours à les changer de forme ou de lieu, elle se partage naturellement en deux: les manufacturiers (y compris les agriculteurs), qui fabriquent et façonnent; et les commerçans, qui transportent, car c'est là la véritable utilité de ces derniers: s'ils ne faisaient qu'acheter et revendre , sans transport et, sans détailler, sans rien faciliter , ils ne seraient que des parasites incommodes, des joueurs , des agioteurs. Nous parlerons bientôt des uns et des autres, et nous verrons promptement combien notre manière de considérer les choses répand de• lumières sur toute la marche de la société. Pour le moment, il est encore nécessaire d'expliquer un peu davantage en quoi consiste cette utilité, notre seule production, laquelle résulte de tout travail bien entendu, et de voir comment elle s'apprécie, et comment elle seule constitue la valeur de tout ce que nous appelons nos richesses."

435 The idea that exchange was in fact the exchange of "service pour service" (a service for a service) was one of Bastiat's key insights which he developed more fully in the Economic Harmonies . Here is his first use of this idea although expressed in a slightly different form, "La société, au point de vue économique, est un échange de services rémunérés". See the glossary entry on "Service for Service."

436 Bastiat defends the idea that people like doctors, lawyers, and teachers also do productive work creating what J.B. Say called "non-material goods" See Say's definition in Traité d'économie politique ou Simple exposition de la manière dont se forment, se distribuent et se consomment les richesses , (Paris: Rapilly, 1826), Volume 3, pp. 312-13: "Produit Immatériel. C'est toute espèce d'utilité qui n'est attachée à aucun corps matériel, et qui, par conséquent, est nécessairement consommée au même instant que produite. Les produits immatériels sont, comme les autres produits, le résultat d'une industrie, ou d'un capital, ou d'un fonds de terre, ou de tous les trois ensemble. L'utilité qu'on retire du service d'un médecin, d'un avocat, d'un fonctionnaire civil ou militaire, est un résultat de leur industrie; L'utilité qu'on retire d'une maison , ou d'un meuble durable, de l'argenterie, est un résultat du service d'un capital; L'utilité ou le plaisir qu'on retire d'une route ou d'un jardin d'agrément, sont le résultat du service d'un fonds de terre, accru du capital consacré à leur arrangement." Trans . ???



T.24 (1845.04.15) "Economic Sophisms: Abundance and Scarcity" (JDE, April 1845)


T.24 (1845.04.15) "Abundance and Scarcity" (Abondance, disette), Journal des Économistes, April 1845, T. 11, no. 41, p. 1-8; also ES1.1 [OC4.1.1, pp. 5-14.] [CW3 - ES1.1]


I. Abundance and Scarcity [April 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Abondance, disette" (Abundance and Scarcity) [JDE, April 1845, T. 11, p. 1-8]
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 5-14.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


What is better for mankind and society, abundance or scarcity?

What, people will exclaim, is that a question to ask? Has it ever been stated or is it possible to assert that scarcity is the basis of man's well-being?

Yes, that has been claimed; yes, it has been asserted. It is asserted every day, and I have no fear in saying that the theory of scarcity is by far the more popular. It is the subject of conversation in the journals, books, and on the rostrum, and although this may appear extraordinary it is clear that political economy will have fulfilled its task and its practical mission when it has popularized and made irrefutable this very simple proposition: "Mankind's wealth lies in the abundance of things."

Do we not hear this everyday: "Foreigners are going to swamp us with their products"? We therefore fear abundance.

Has M. de Saint-Cricq15 not said: "Production is too high"? He therefore feared abundance.

Do workers not smash machines? They are therefore terrified of excess production or, in other words, abundance.

Has M. Bugeaud16 not pronounced these words: "Let bread become expensive and farmers will be rich!"? Well, bread can become expensive only if it becomes scarce; therefore M. Bugeaud was recommending scarcity.

Has not M. d'Argout17 used the very fact of the productive capacity of the sugar industry as an argument against it? Has he not said: "Beetroot has no future, and its cultivation could not be expanded, since if just a few hectares per department were allocated to it this would meet the entire consumption needs of France." Therefore, in his eyes, good lies in lack of production, or scarcity, and harm in fertility and abundance.

Do La Presse,18 Le Commerce,19 and the majority of daily newspapers not publish one or more articles each morning to demonstrate to the Chambers and the government that it would be sound policy to raise the price of everything by law through the operation of tariffs? Do the three powers of state20 not comply every day with this injunction from the regular press? Now tariffs raise the price of things only because they decrease the quantity offered in the marketplace! Therefore the papers, the Chambers, and the government put into practice the theory of scarcity, and I was right to say that this theory is by far the most popular one.

How has it come about that in the eyes of workers, political writers, and statesmen abundance is shown as something to be feared and scarcity as being advantageous. I propose to go back to the source of this illusion.

We note that men become rich to the extent that they earn a good return from their work, that is to say from what they sell at the highest price. They sell at the highest price in proportion to the rarity, that is to say the relative shortage, of the type of good their efforts produce. We conclude from this that, as far as they are concerned at least, scarcity makes them rich. When this reasoning is applied successively to all people who work, the theory of scarcity is thereby deduced. From this we move to its application, and in order to benefit all these people, high prices and the scarcity of all goods are provoked artificially by means of prohibition, restriction, the suppression of machines, and other similar means.

This is also true for abundance. We observe that when a product is plentiful it is sold at a low price and therefore producers earn less. If all producers are in this situation, they all become poor and it is therefore abundance that ruins society. And, since all beliefs attempt to become reality, in a great many countries, we see laws made by men combating the abundance of things.

This sophism, expressed as a general statement, would perhaps have little effect; but when it is applied to a particular order of facts, to such and such a branch of production, or to a given class of workers, it is extremely specious, and this can be explained. It is a syllogism that is not false but incomplete. Now, whatever truth there is in a syllogism is always and necessarily available to cognitive inspection. But the incomplete element is a negative phenomenon, a missing component which is very possible and even very easy not to take into account.

Man produces in order to consume. He is both producer and consumer. The reasoning that I have just set out considers him only from the first of these points of view. From the second, the opposite conclusion would have been reached. Could we not say in fact:

The consumer is all the richer when he buys everything cheaply. He buys things cheaply the more abundant they are; therefore abundance makes him rich. This reasoning, when extended to all consumers, would lead to the theory of abundance!

It is the way in which the concept of trade is imperfectly understood that produces these illusions. If we look to our own personal interest, we will recognize immediately that it has a twin nature. As sellers, our interest is in things being expensive and consequently that things should be scarce; as buyers, what counts is low prices or what comes to the same thing, that things should be abundant. We cannot therefore base a line of reasoning on one or other of these interests without having established which of the two coincides and is identified with the general and constant interest of the human race.

If man were a solitary animal,21 if he worked exclusively for himself, if he consumed the fruit of his labor directly, in a word, if he did not trade, the theory of scarcity would never have been able to infiltrate the world. It is only too obvious that abundance would be advantageous to him, from wherever it arose, either as the result of his industry or the ingenious tools or powerful machines that he had invented or through the fertility of the soil, the generosity of nature or even a mysterious invasion of products which the waves brought from elsewhere and washed up on the beach. Never would a solitary man, seeking to spur on his own work or to secure some support for it, envisage breaking instruments that spared him effort, or neutralizing the fertility of the soil or throwing back into the sea any of the advantageous goods it had brought him. He would easily understand that work is not an aim but a means, and that it would be absurd to reject the aim for fear of damaging the means. He would understand that if he devotes two hours a day to providing for his needs, any circumstance (machine, fertility, free gift, or anything else) that spares him one hour of this work, the result remaining the same, makes this hour available to him, and that he may devote it to increasing his well-being. In a word, he would understand that sparing people work is nothing other than progress.

But trade clouds our vision of such a simple truth. In a social state, with the division of labor it generates, the production and the consumption of an object are not combined in the same individual. Each person is led to consider his work no longer as a means but as an end. With regard to each object, trade creates two interests, that of the producer and that of the consumer, and these two interests are always in direct opposition to each other.

It is essential to analyze them and study their nature.

Let us take a producer, any producer; what is his immediate interest? It lies in these two things, 1. that the smallest possible number of people should devote themselves to the same work as him; 2. that the greatest possible number of people should seek the product of this work; political economy explains this more succinctly in these terms: supply should be very restricted and demand very high, or in yet other terms: that there should be limited competition with limitless markets.

What is the immediate interest of the consumer? That the supply of the product in question should be extensive and demand restrained.

Since these two interests are contradictory, one of them has of necessity to coincide with the social or general interest while the other runs counter to it.

But which should legislation favor as being the expression of public good, if indeed it has to favor one?

To know this, you need only examine what would happen if the secret desires of men were accomplished.

As producers, it must be agreed, each of us has antisocial desires. Are we vine growers? We would be little displeased if all the vines in the world froze, except for ours: that is the theory of scarcity. Are we the owners of foundries? We would want there to be no other iron on the market than what we brought to it, whatever the needs of the public might be, and with the deliberate intention that this public need, keenly felt and inadequately met, would result in our receiving a high price: that is also the theory of scarcity. Are we farm workers? We would say, with M. Bugeaud, "Let bread become expensive, that is to say, scarce and the farmers will get on with their business": this is the same theory of scarcity.

Are we doctors? We could not stop ourselves from seeing that certain physical improvements, such as the improvement in a country's health, the development of certain moral virtues such as moderation and temperance, the progress of enlightenment to the point that each person was able to take care of his own health, the discovery of certain simple drugs that were easy to use, would be so many mortal blows to our profession. Given that we are doctors, our secret desires are antisocial. I do not mean to say that doctors formulate such desires. I prefer to believe that they would joyfully welcome a universal panacea; but this sentiment reveals not the doctor but the man or Christian who, in self-denial, puts himself in the situation of the consumer. As one who exercises a profession and who draws his well-being from this profession, his consideration and even the means of existence of his family make it impossible for his desires, or if you prefer, his interests not to be antisocial.

Do we manufacture cotton cloth? We would like to sell it at a price most advantageous to us. We would readily agree that all rival factories should be prohibited and while we do not dare to express this wish publicly or pursue its total achievement with any chance of success, we nevertheless succeed to a certain extent through devious means, for example, by excluding foreign fabrics in order to reduce the quantity on offer, and thus produce, through the use of force, a scarcity of clothing to our advantage.

We could go through all forms of industry in this way and we would always find that producers as such have antisocial views. "Merchants," says Montaigne, "do good business only when young people are led astray; farm workers when wheat is expensive; architects when houses are ruined; and officers of justice when court cases and quarrels between men occur. The very honor and practice of ministers of religion are drawn from our death and vices. No doctor takes pleasure in the health even of his friends nor soldiers in peace in the town, and so on."22

It follows from this that if the secret wishes of each producer were realized the world would regress rapidly into barbarism. Sail would outlaw steam, oars would outlaw sail and would soon have to give up transport in favor of carts, carts would yield to mules, and mules to human carriers of bales. Wool would exclude cotton and cotton exclude wool and so on, until a scarcity of everything had made man himself disappear from the face of the earth.

Let us suppose for a moment that legislative power and public force were put at the disposal of the Mimerel Committee,23 and that each of the members making up this association had the right to require it to propose and sanction one little law: is it very difficult to guess to what codes of production the public would be subjected?

If we now consider the immediate interest of the consumer we will find that it is in perfect harmony with the general interest and with what the well-being of humanity demands. When a buyer enters the market, he wants to find it with an abundance of products. That the seasons are propitious to all harvests, that increasingly wonderful inventions bring a greater number of products and satisfactions within reach, that time and work are saved, that distance dissolves, that a spirit of peace and justice allows the burden of taxes to be reduced, and that barriers of all sorts fall: in all this the immediate interest of the consumer runs parallel with the public interest properly understood . He may elevate his secret desires to the level of illusion or absurdity without his desires ceasing to be humanitarian. He may want bed and board, hearth and home, education and the moral code, security and peace, and strength and health to be obtained effortlessly, without work or measure, like dust in the road, water in the stream, the air or the light that surrounds us, without the achievement of such desires being contrary to the good of society.

Perhaps people will say that if these desires were granted, the work of the producer would be increasingly restricted and would end by ceasing for lack of sustenance. Why though? Because, in this extreme supposition, all imaginable needs and all desires would be completely satisfied. Man, like the Almighty, would create everything by a single act of will. Would someone like to tell me, on such an assumption, what would there be to complain about in productive economic activity?

I imagined just now a legislative assembly made up of workers,24 of which each member would formulate into law his secret desire as a producer, and I said that the code that would emerge from this assembly would be systematic monopoly, the theory of scarcity put into practice.

In the same way, a Chamber in which each person consults only his immediate interest as a consumer would lead to the systematic establishment of freedom, the suppression of all restrictive measures, and the overturning of all artificial barriers, in a word, the realization of the theory of abundance.

From this it follows:

That to consult the immediate interest of production alone is to consult an antisocial interest;

That to make the immediate interest of consumption the exclusive criterion is to adopt the general interest.

May I be allowed to stress this point of view once more at the risk of repeating myself?

There is radical antagonism between sellers and buyers.25

Sellers want the object of the sale to be scarce, in short supply and at a high price;

Buyers want it to be abundant, available everywhere at a low price.

The laws, which ought at least to be neutral, take the side of sellers against buyers, of producers against consumers, of high prices against low prices,26 and of scarcity against abundance.

They act, if not intentionally at least in terms of their logic, according to this given assumption: A nation is rich when it lacks everything.

For they say: "It is the producer we should favor by ensuring him a proper market for his product. To do this, we have to raise its price. To raise its price, the supply has to be restricted and to restrict the supply is to create scarcity."And look: let me suppose that right now when these laws are in full force a detailed inventory is taken, not in value but in weight, measures, volumes, and quantities of all the objects existing in France that are likely to satisfy the needs and tastes of her inhabitants, such as wheat, meat, cloth, canvas fuel, colonial goods, etc.

Let me further suppose that on the following day all the barriers that prevent the introduction into France of foreign products are overturned.

Lastly, in order to assess the result of this reform, let me suppose that three months later, a new inventory is taken.

Is it not true that we would find in France more wheat, cattle, cloth, canvas, iron, coal, sugar, etc. on the second inventory than at the time of the first?

This is so true that our protective customs duties have no other aim than to prevent all of these things from reaching us, to restrict their supply and to prevent a decrease in their price and therefore their abundance.

Now, I ask you, are the people better fed under the empire of our laws because there is less bread, meat, and sugar in the country? Are they better clad because there is less yarn, canvas, and cloth? Are they better heated because there is less coal? Are they better assisted in their work because there is less iron and copper, fewer tools and machines?

But people will say: if foreigners swamp us with their products, they will carry off our money.

What does it matter? Men do not eat money; they do not clothe themselves with gold, nor heat themselves with silver. What does it matter if there is more or less money in the country, if there is more bread on the sideboard, more meat on the hook, more linen in the cupboards and more wood in the woodshed?27

I will continue to confront restrictive laws with this dilemma:

Either you agree that you cause scarcity or you do not agree.

If you agree, you are admitting by this very fact that you are doing the people as much harm as you can. If you do not agree, then you are denying that you have restricted supply and caused prices to rise, and consequently you are denying that you have favored producers.

You are either disastrous or ineffective. You cannot be useful.28


15 Pierre Laurent Barthélemy, comte de Saint Cricq (1772-1854) was a protectionist Deputy who became Director General of Customs (1815), president of the Trade Council, and then Minister of Trade and Colonies (1828-29). See the glossary entry on "Saint Cricq."

16 Bugeaud, Thomas, marquess de Piconnerie, duc d'Isly (1784-1849) had a distinguished military career under Napoleon fighting the partisans in Spain. After the 1830 Revolution he became a conservative deputy who supported a policy of protection for agriculture. In 1840 he was appointed the Governor of Algeria by Thiers. See the glossary entry on "Bugeaud."

17 Antoine Maurice Appolinaire, Comte d'Argout (1782-1858), was the Minister for the Navy and Colonies, then Commerce, and Public Works during the July Monarchy. In 1834 he was appointed Governor of the Bank of France. See the glossary on "d'Argout."

18 La Presse was a widely circulated daily newspaper under the control of the politician and businessman Émile de Girardin (1806-81). See the glossary entry on "La Presse" and "French Newspapers" in Appendix 2 "The French State and Politics."

19 Le Commerce is possibly a reference to Le Constitutionnel which began in 1815 but had many name changes throughout its existence, including le Journal du Commerce from 1817. During the July Monarchy it sided with the policies of Thiers. See the glossary entries on "Le Commerce" and "French Newspapers."

20 The King, the Chamber of Peers, and the Chamber of Deputies. See the glossary entry on "The Chamber of Deputies."

21 Without mentioning him by name, Bastiat is referring here to the activities of Robinson Crusoe which he used several times in the Economic Sophisms and the Economic Harmonies as a thought experiment to explore the nature of economic action. See the glossary entry on "Crusoe Economics."

22 Montaigne, Essais de Montaigne, vol. 1, chap. 21, "Le Profit d'un est dommage de l'autre" (One man's gain is another man's loss), pp. 130-31. Sometime in 1847 Bastiat wrote an introduction to a chapter on this very topic. He called this phrase the "classical example of a sophism, the root stock sophism from which comes multitudes of sophisms." Republished in this volume as ES3 15. Michel de Montaigne (1533-92) was one of the best-known and best-admired writers of the Renaissance. His Essays (first published in 1580) were a thoughtful meditation on human nature in the form of personal anecdotes infused with deep philosophical reflections. See the glossary entry on "Montaigne."

23 There are two protectionist bodies which are referred to as the "Mimerel Committee." Pierre Mimerel de Roubaix (1786-1872) was a textile manufacturer and politician from Roubaix who was a vigorous advocate of protectionism. In 1842 he founded a pro-tariff "Comité de l'industrie" (Committee of Industry) in his home town to lobby the government for protection and subsidies. This Committee, known as the Mimerel Committee, was expanded in 1846 into a national body called the "Association pour la défense du travail national" (Association for the Defense of National Employment) in order to better counter the growing interest in Bastiat's Free Trade Association which had also been established in that year. Mimerel and Antoine Odier (1766-1853) sat on the Association's Central Committee which was commonly referred to as the "Mimerel Committee" or the "Odier Committee." See the glossary entries on "Mimerel," "Odier," "Mimerel Committee," and the "Association for the Defense of National Employment."

24 In ES 2 IV. "The Lower Council of Labour" Bastiat satirizes the Superior Council of Commerce which was a body within the Ministry of Trade which served the interests of producers by inventing an "Inferior (or Lower) Council of Labour" which would serve the interests of "proper workers." They of course came to a very different conclusion concerning the merits of protectionism. See the glossary entry on the "Superior Council of Commerce."

25 (Paillottet's note) The author amended the terms of this proposition in a later work. See Economic Harmonies, chapter XI (OC, vol. 6, chap. 11, "Producteur, consommateur").

26 (Bastiat's note) In French we do not have a noun that expresses the opposite concept to expensiveness (cheapness [in English in the original]). It is rather remarkable that popular instinct expresses this concept by the following paraphrase: "marché avantageux, bon marché." (an advantageous market, a good market). Prohibitionists should change this locution. It implies an economic system that is quite contrary to theirs.

27 See ES1 XI. "Nominal Prices" for a more detailed discussion of this topic, below pp. ???

28 (Paillottet's note) The author has dealt with this subject in greater detail in chapter XI of the Economic Harmonies [see note 3, above] and also in another form in the article entitled Abundance written for the Dictionary of Political Economy, which we have included at the end of the fifth volume. [Bastiat's article "Abondance" appeared in the Dictionnaire de l'économie politique, vol. 1, pp. 2–4.]



T.25 (1845.04.15) "Economic Sophisms: Obstacle and Cause" (JDE, April 1845)


T.25 (1845.04.15) "Obstacle and Cause" (Obstacle, cause), Journal des Économistes, April 1845, T. 11, no. 41, p. 8-10; also ES1.2. [OC4.1.2, pp. 15-18.] [CW3 - ES1.2]


II. Obstacle and Cause [April 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Obstacle, cause" (Obstacle and Cause] [JDE, April 1845, T. 11, p. 8-10].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 15-18.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


The obstacle taken for the cause—scarcity taken for abundance: this is the same sophism under another guise. It is a good thing to examine it from all sides.

Man originally lacks everything.

Between his destitution and the satisfaction of his needs there is a host of obstacles, which it is the purpose of work to overcome. It is an intriguing business trying to find how and why these same obstacles to his well-being have become in his eyes the cause of his well-being.

I need to transport myself a hundred leagues away. But between the points of departure and arrival there are mountains, rivers, marshes, impenetrable forests, evil doers, in a word, obstacles, and in order to overcome these obstacles I have to make a great deal of effort or, what comes to the same thing, others have to make a great deal of effort and have me pay the price for this. It is clear that in this respect I would have been in a better situation if these obstacles did not exist.

To go through life and travel along the long succession of days that separates the cradle from the tomb, man needs to assimilate a prodigious quantity of food, protect himself against the inclemency of the seasons, and preserve himself from or cure himself of a host of ills. Hunger, thirst, illness, heat, and cold are so many obstacles that lie along his way. In his solitary state, he will have to combat them all by means of hunting, fishing, growing crops, spinning, weaving, and building houses, and it is clear that it would be better for him if there were fewer of these obstacles, or even none at all. In society, he does not have to confront each of these obstacles personally; others do this for him, and in return he removes one of the obstacles surrounding his fellow men.

It is also clear that, taking things as a whole, it would be better for men as a group, that is for society, that the obstacles should be as insignificant and as few as possible.

However, if we examine social phenomena in detail, and the sentiments of men as they have been altered by trade, we soon see how they have managed to confuse needs with wealth and obstacles with causes.

The division of labor, a result of the ability to trade, has meant that each person, instead of combating on his own all the obstacles that surround him, combats only one, and this, not for himself but for the benefit of all his fellow men, who in turn render him the same service.

Now, the result of this is that this person sees the immediate cause of his wealth in the obstacle that it is his job to combat on other people's account. The greater, more serious, more keenly felt this obstacle is, the more his fellow men will be ready to pay him for removing it, that is to say, to remove on his behalf the obstacles that stand in his way.

A doctor, for example, does not occupy himself in baking his bread, manufacturing his instruments, weaving, or making his clothes. Others do this for him, and in return he does battle with the illnesses that afflict his patients. The more numerous, severe, and recurrent these illnesses are, the more willing or even obliged people are to work for his personal advantage. From his point of view, illness, that is to say, a general obstacle to people's well-being, is a cause of individual well-being. All producers reason in the same way with regard to things that concern them. Ship owners make their profit from the obstacle known as distance, farmers from that known as hunger, cloth manufacturers from that known as cold. Teachers live on ignorance, gem cutters on vanity, lawyers on greed, notaries on the possibility of dishonesty, just as doctors depend on the illnesses suffered by men. It is thus very true that each occupation has an immediate interest in the continuation or even the extension of the particular obstacle that is the object of its efforts.

Seeing this, theoreticians come along and develop a theory based on these individual sentiments. They say: "Need is wealth, work is wealth; obstacles to well-being are well-being. Increasing the number of obstacles is to give sustenance to production."

Next, statesmen come along. They have the coercive power of the state at their disposal, and what is more natural than for them to make use of it to develop and propagate obstacles, since this is also to develop and propagate wealth? For example, they say: "If we prevent iron from coming from those places in which it is plentiful, we will create an obstacle at home to our procuring it. This obstacle will be keenly felt and will make people ready to pay to be relieved of it. A certain number of our fellow citizens will devote themselves to combating it, and this obstacle will make their fortune. The greater it is, the scarcer the mineral or the more it is inaccessible, difficult to transport, and far from the centers of consumption, the more all this activity, with all its ramifications, will employ men. Let us keep out foreign iron, therefore; let us create the obstacle in order to create the work of combating it."

The same reasoning will lead to machines being forbidden.

People will say: "Here are men who need to store their wine. This is an obstacle; here are other men whose occupation is to remove it by manufacturing barrels. It is thus a good thing that this obstacle exists, since it supplies a part of national work and enriches a certain number of our fellow citizens. However, here comes an ingenious machine that fells oak trees, squares them and divides them into a host of staves, assembles these and transforms them into containers for wine. The obstacle has become much less and with it the wealth of coopers. Let us maintain both through a law. Let us forbid the machine."

In order to get to the bottom of this sophism you need only say to yourself that human work is not an aim but a means. It never remains unused. If it lacks one obstacle, it turns to another, and the human race is freed from two obstacles by the same amount of work that removed a single one. If ever the work of coopers became superfluous, they would turn to something else. "But with what" people will ask, "would it be paid?" Precisely with what it is paid right now, for when one quantity of labor becomes available following the removal of an obstacle, a corresponding quantity of money also becomes available. To say that human labor will be brought to an end for lack of employment you would have to prove that the human race will cease to encounter obstacles. If that happened, work would not only be impossible, it would be superfluous. We would have nothing left to do because we would be all powerful and we would just have to utter a fiat for all our needs and desires to be satisfied.29


29 (Paillottet's note) See chapter XIV of the second series of Sophisms [see this volume, "Something Else," pp. 000—00] and chapters III and XI of the Economic Harmonies on the same subject (OC, vol. 6, chap. 3, "Des besoins de l'homme," and chap. 11, "Producteur, consommateur").



T.26 (1845.04.15) "Economic Sophisms: Effort and Result" (JDE, April 1845)


T.26 (1845.04.15) "Effort and Result" (Effort, résultat), Journal des Économistes, April 1845, T. 11,no. 41, p. 10-16; also ES1.3. [OC4.1.3, pp. 19-27.] [CW3 - ES1.3]


III. Effort and Result [April 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Effort, résultat" (Effort and Result) [JDE, April 1845, T. 11, p. 10-16].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 19-27.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."

We have just seen that there are obstacles between our needs and their satisfaction. We manage to overcome them or to reduce them by using our various faculties. In a very general way, we may say that production is an effort followed by a result.

But against what is our well-being or wealth measured? Is it on the result of the effort? Is it on the effort itself? There is always a ratio between the effort employed and the result obtained. Does progress consist in the relative increase of the second or of the first term of this relationship?

Both of these theses have been advocated; in political economy, they divide the field of opinion.

According to the first thesis, wealth is the result of output. It increases in accordance with the increase in the ratio of the result to the effort. Absolute perfection, of which the exemplar is God, consists in the infinite distancing of two terms, in this instance: effort nil; result infinite.

The second thesis claims that it is the effort itself that constitutes and measures wealth. To progress is to increase the ratio of the effort to the result. Its ideal may be represented by the effort, at once eternal and sterile, of Sisyphus.30 31

Naturally, the first welcomes everything that tends to decrease the difficulties involved and increase the product: the powerful machines that add to human powers, the trade that enables better advantage to be drawn from the natural resources spread to a greater or lesser extent over the face of the earth, the intelligence that makes discoveries , the experience that verifies these discoveries, the competition that stimulates production, etc.

Logically, by the same token, the second willfully summons up everything whose effect is to increase the difficulties of production and decrease the output: privileges, monopolies, restrictions, prohibitions, the banning of machines, sterility, etc.

It is fair to note that the universal practice of men is always directed by the principle of the first doctrine. Nobody has ever seen and nobody will ever see anyone working, whether he be a farmer, manufacturer, trader, artisan, soldier, writer, or scholar, who does not devote the entire force of his intelligence to doing things better, faster, and more economically, in a word, to doing more with less.

The opposite doctrine is practiced by theoreticians, deputies, journalists, statesmen, and ministers, in a word men whose role in this world is to carry out experiments on society.

Again it should be noted that, with regard to things that concern them personally, they, like everybody else in the world, act on the principle of obtaining from work the greatest number of useful results possible.

You may think I am exaggerating, and that there are no real Sisyphists.

If you mean that, in practice, the principle is not pushed to the limit of its consequences, I would readily agree with you. Actually, this is always the case when people start from a false principle. It soon leads to results that are so absurd and harmful that that one is simply forced to abandon it. For this reason, very practical productive activity never accepts Sisyphism: punishment would follow errors too closely for them not to be revealed. However, with regard to speculative theories of industrial activity, such as those developed by theoreticians and statesmen, a false principle may be followed for a long time before people are made aware of its falsity by complicated consequences of which moreover they are ignorant, and when at last they are revealed, and action is taken in accordance with the opposing principle, people contradict themselves and seek justification in this incomparably absurd modern axiom: in political economy there is no absolute principle.32

Let us thus see whether the two opposing principles that I have just established do not hold sway in turn, one in actual production and the other in the legislation regulating production.

I have already recalled something M. Bugeaud33 has said; however, in M. Bugeaud there are two men, one a farmer and the other a legislator.

As a farmer, M. Bugeaud tends to devote all his efforts to this twin aim: to save on work and to obtain bread cheaply. When he prefers a good cart to a bad one, when he improves the quality of fertilizer, when in order to break up his soil he substitutes the action of the atmosphere for that of the harrow or the hoe as far as he can, when he calls to his assistance all the procedures in which science and experiment have shown their effectiveness, he has and can have one single goal: to reduce the ratio of the effort to the result. Actually, we have no other way of recognizing the skill of the farmer and the quality of the procedure other than measuring what they have saved in effort and added to the result. And since all the farmers around the world act according to this principle, it may be said that the entire human race aspires, doubtless to its advantage, to obtaining bread or any other product more cheaply and to reducing the effort required to have a given quantity available.

Once account has been taken of this incontrovertible tendency in human beings, it ought to be enough to show legislators the real principle of the matter, that is show them how they should be supporting productive economic activity (as far as it lies within their mission to support it), for it would be absurd to say that human laws ought to act in opposition to the laws of providence.

Nevertheless, the deputy, M. Bugeaud, has been heard to exclaim, "I do not understand the theory of low prices; I would prefer to see bread more expensive and work more plentiful." And as a result, the deputy for the Dordogne has voted for legislative measures whose effect has been to hamper trade precisely because it indirectly procures us what direct production can supply us only at a higher cost.

Well, it is very clear that M. Bugeaud's principle as a deputy is diametrically opposed to that of M. Bugeaud as a farmer. If he were consistent with himself, he would vote against any restriction in the Chamber or else he would carry on to his farm the principles he proclaims from the rostrum. He would then be seen to sow his wheat on the most infertile of his fields, since he would then succeed in working a great deal for little return. He would be seen to forbid the use of the plough, since cultivation using his nails would satisfy his double desire of making bread more expensive and work more plentiful.

The avowed aim and acknowledged effect of restriction is to increase work.

It also has the avowed aim and acknowledged effect of raising prices, which is nothing other than making products scarce. Thus, when taken to its limit, it is pure Sisyphism as we have defined it: infinite work, product nil.

Baron Charles Dupin34, said to be a leading light among the peers in economic science, accuses the railway of harming shipping, and it is clear that it is the nature of a more perfect means to restrict the use of a means that is comparatively rougher. However, the railway can harm shipping only by diverting transport to itself; it can do so only by carrying it out more cheaply, and it can carry it out more cheaply only by reducing the ratio of the effort used to the result obtained, since this is what constitutes the lower cost. When, therefore, Baron Dupin deplores this reduction of work for a given result, he is following the lines of the doctrine of Sisyphism. Logically, since he prefers ships to rail, he ought to prefer carts to ships, packhorses to carts, and backpacks to all other known means of transport, since this is the means that requires the greatest amount of work for the least result.

"Work constitutes the wealth of a people." said M. de Saint-Cricq, this minister of trade who imposed so many impediments to trade.35 It should not be believed that this was an elliptical proposition which meant: "The results of work constitute the wealth of a people." No, this economist genuinely meant to say that it is the intensity of labor that measures wealth, and proof of this is that, from one inference to another, one restriction to another, he led France and considered he was doing a good thing in this, to devote twice as much work to acquire the same amount of iron, for example. In England, iron then cost 8 fr.; in France it cost 16 fr. If we take a day's work to cost 1 fr. it is clear that France could, through trade, procure a quintal of iron for eight days taken from national work as a whole. Thanks to M. de Saint-Cricq's restrictive measures, France needed sixteen days of work to obtain a quintal36 of iron through direct production. Double labor for identical satisfaction, therefore double wealth; here again wealth is measured not by outcomes but by the intensity of the work. Is this not Sisyphism in all its glory?

And so that there is no possible misunderstanding, the minister is careful to take his idea further, and in the same way as he has just called the intensity of labor wealth, he is heard calling the abundance resulting from production, or things likely to satisfy our needs, poverty. "Everywhere", he says, "machines have taken the place of manpower; everywhere, there is an overabundance of production; everywhere the balance between the ability to produce and the means of consumption has been destroyed." We see that, according to M. de Saint-Cricq, if France was in a critical situation it was because it produced too much and its production was too intelligent and fruitful. We were too well fed, too well clothed, too well provided for in every way. Production was too fast and exceeded all our desires. An end had to be put to this scourge, and to this end we had to force ourselves, through restrictions, to work more to produce less.

I have also recalled the opinion of another minister of trade, M. d'Argout.37 It is worth our spending a little time on it. As he wished to deliver a terrible blow to sugar-beet , he said, "Growing sugar-beet is doubtless useful, but its usefulness is limited. It does not involve the gigantic developments that people were happy to forecast for it. To be convinced of this, you just have to note that this crop will of necessity be restricted to the limits of consumption. Double or triple current consumption in France if you want, you will always find that a very minimal portion of the land would be enough to meet the needs of this consumption. (This is certainly a strange complaint!). Do you want proof of this? How many hectares38 were planted with sugar-beet in 1828? There were 3,130, which is equivalent to 1/10540th of the cultivatable land. How many are there now that indigenous sugar39 has taken over one third of consumption? There are 16,700 hectares, or 1/1978th of the cultivatable land, or 45 square meters per commune. If we suppose that indigenous sugar had already taken over the entire consumption, we would have only 48,000 hectares planted with beetroot, or 1/680th of the cultivatable land."40 41

There are two things in this quotation: facts and doctrine. The facts tend to establish that little land, capital, and labor is needed to produce a great deal of sugar and that each commune in France would be abundantly provided with it if it devoted one hectare of its territory to its cultivation. The doctrine consists in seeing this situation as disastrous and seeing in the very power and fruitfulness of the new industry the limit of its usefulness.

I have no need to make myself the defender of sugar-beet or the judge of the strange facts put forward by M. d'Argout,42 but it is worth examining in detail the doctrine of a statesman to whom France entrusted for many years the fate of its agriculture and trade.

I said at the beginning that there was a variable ratio between productive effort and its result; that absolute imperfection consists in an infinite effort with no result: that absolute perfection consists in an unlimited result with no effort; and that perfectibility consists in a gradual reduction in the effort compared to the result.

But M. d'Argout informs us that death is where we believe we are glimpsing life and that the importance of a branch of production is a direct result of its impotence. What, for example, can we expect from sugar-beet? Do you not see that 48,000 hectares of land and a proportional amount of capital and manpower will be enough to provide all of France with sugar? Therefore it is an industry with limited usefulness, limited, of course, with regard to the input of labor it requires, the only way, according to the former minister, in which an industry can be useful. This usefulness would be much more limited still if, because of the fertility of the soil or the richness of the sugar-beet , we harvested from 14,000 hectares what we could obtain only from 48,000. Oh! If twenty or a hundred times more land, capital, or labor were needed to achieve the same result, fair enough, we might build a few hopes on this new industry and it would be worthy of the full protection of the state, since it would offer a vast opportunity for national work. But to produce a lot with a little! That would be a bad example, and it is right for the law to establish order in this regard.

But what is the truth with regard to sugar cannot be a falsehood with regard to bread. If, therefore, the usefulness of an industry is to be assessed, not by the satisfaction it can provide through a given quantity of work, but on the contrary through the development of the work it requires to meet a given amount of satisfaction; what we ought obviously to want is that each hectare of land should produce little wheat and each grain of wheat little food. In other words, our territory should be infertile, since then the mass of land, capital, and labor that we would need to mobilize to feed the population would be much more in comparison. It might even be said that the market open to human labor will be in direct proportion to this infertility. The desires of MM. Bugeaud, Saint-Cricq, Dupin, and d'Argout will be granted. Bread will be expensive, work plentiful, and France will be rich, rich as these men understand the term.

What we ought to want in addition is for human intelligence to grow weaker and die out, for as long as it exists, it will constantly seek to increase the ratio of the end to the means and the product to the labor. It is actually in that, and only in that, that it consists.

Thus, Sisyphism is the doctrine of all the men who have been responsible for our economic development. It would not be just to blame them for this. This principle directs the Ministers only because it holds sway in the Chambers; it holds sway in the Chambers only because it is sent there by the electorate and the electorate is imbued with it only because public opinion is saturated with it.

I think I should repeat here that I am not accusing men such as MM. Bugeaud, Saint-Cricq, Dupin, and d'Argout of being absolutely and in all circumstances, Sisyphists. They are certainly not that in their private transactions; each one of them certainly obtains by exchange what it would cost him more to obtain through direct production. However, I say that they are Sisyphists when they prevent the country from doing the same thing.43


30 (Bastiat's note) For this reason we ask the reader to excuse us for using the name Sisyphism as an abbreviation for this thesis hereafter.

31 In Greek myth Sisyphus was the King of Corinth who was notorious for his mistreatment of travelers. He also angered Zeus by revealing details of his amorous exploits. For this he was punished by being forced to roll a large boulder up a hill every day only to have it roll down the hill every night.

32 This is a topic taken up again in Sophism no. XVIII "There are no absolute Principles," below, p. ???.

33 Bugeaud, Thomas, marquess de Piconnerie, duc d'Isly (1784-1849) had a distinguished military career under Napoleon fighting the partisans in Spain. After the 1830 Revolution he became a conservative deputy (Dordogne 1831-1848) who supported a policy of protection for agriculture. In 1840 he was appointed the Governor of Algeria by Thiers. See the glossary entry on "Bugeaud."

34 Charles Dupin (1784-1873) was a pioneer in mathematical economics and worked for the statistical office of France. In 1828 he was elected deputy for Tarn, was made a Peer in 1830, and served in the Constituent and then the National Assemblies during the Second Republic. See the glossary entry on "Dupin."

35 Pierre Laurent Barthélemy, comte de Saint Cricq (1772-1854) was a protectionist Deputy who became Director General of Customs (1815), president of the Trade Council, and then Minister of Trade and Colonies (1828-29). See the glossary entry on "Saint Cricq."

36 A quintal weighs 100 kilogrammes. See glossary entry on "French Weights and Measures".

37 Antoine Maurice Appolinaire, Comte d'Argout (1782-1858), was the Minister for the Navy and Colonies, then Commerce, and Public Works during the July Monarchy. In 1834 he was appointed Governor of the Bank of France. See the glossary on "d'Argout."

38 A hectare is 10,000 square metres or approximately 2 acres. See the glossary entry on "French Weights and Measures."

39 Growing sugar-beet (or beetroot) for sugar as a substitute for imported cane sugar had been encouraged at the time of the continental blockade. Normally, cane sugar was imported from overseas or from the slave colonies

40 (Bastiat's note ) It is true to say that M. d'Argout put this strange statement in the mouths of opponents of sugar-beet. However, he adopted it formally and incidentally sanctioned it by the very law it served to justify.

41 The FEE edition translator Arthur Goddard notes (p. 25) that: "The centiare is 1/10,000 of the hectare, one square meter, or 1.196 square yards. The commune is the smallest administrative unit in France, averaging less than ten square miles. The error may be Argout's, Bastiat's, or the publisher's, but centiare here should read are (1/100 of a hectare): with about 35,000 communes in France, there would be about 0.45 hectare, or forty-five ares, per commune in sugar beets." See the glossary entry on "Weights and Measures."

42 (Bastiat's note) If we suppose that 48,000 to 50,000 hectares were enough to supply current consumption, we would need 150,000 for a tripling of consumption, which M. d'Argout accepts is possible. What is more, if sugar-beet were included in a six-year rotation of crops, it would occupy in turn 900,000 hectares or 1/38th of the cultivatable land.

43 (Paillottet's note) On the same subject, see chapter XVI of the second series of Sophisms [see this volume, "The Right Hand and the Left Hand," pp. 000–00] and chapter VI of the Economic Harmonies (OC, vol. 6, chap. 6, "Richesse").



T.27 (1845.06) "Introduction" to Cobden and the League (Guillaumin, 1845)


T.27 (1845.06) Cobden et la ligue, ou l'Agitation anglaise pour la liberté du commerce (Paris: Guillaumin, 1845) (Cobden and the League, or the English Movement for Free Trade). FB's first book was reviewed in the July 1845 edition of JDE, T. 11, no. 44, p. 446 so it was probably published in June. It consists of a lengthy "Introduction" by Bastiat, which we include in the [CW6], and his lengthy summaries and translations of meetings, newspaper accounts, and other material produced by the Anti-Corn Law League (which we do not include). FB's "Introduction" to Cobden et la Ligue (1845), pp. i-xcvi. [OC3, pp. 1-80.] [CW6]


(insert HTML of file here)



T.28 (1845.06.15) "The Economic Situation of Great Britain: Financial Reforms and Agitation for Commercial Freedom" (JDE, June 1845)


T.28 (1845.06.15) "The Economic Situation of Great Britain: Financial Reforms and Agitation for Commercial Freedom" (Situation économique de la Grande-Bretagne. Réformes financières. Agitation pour la liberté commerciale), Journal des Économistes, June 1845, T. XI, no. 43, pp. 233-265. This article is an extract from Bastiat's introduction to T.27 Cobden and the League, pp. vii ff. [DMH]


(Extract of T.27 - see above for details)



T.29 (1845.07.15) "Equalizing the Conditions of Production" (JDE, July 1845)


T.29 (1845.07.15) "Equalizing the Conditions of Production" (Égaliser les conditions de production), Journal des Économistes, July 1845, T. 11, no. 44, p. 345-56; also ES1.4. [OC4.1.4, pp. 27-45.] [CW3 - ES1.4]


IV. Equalizing the Conditions of Production [July 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Égaliser les conditions de production" (Equalizing the Conditions of Production) [JDE, July 1845, T. 11, p. 345-56].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 27-45.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


It is said . . . but, so that I am not accused of putting sophisms into the mouths of protectionists, I will let one of their most vigorous athletes speak for himself.

"It has been thought that protection in our country ought to be simply a representation of the difference that exists between the cost price of a commodity that we produce and the cost price of a similar commodity produced by our neighbors. . . . A protective duty calculated on these bases ensures nothing more than free competition. Free competition exists only where conditions and charges are equal. In a horse race, the weight that each runner has to bear is weighed and the conditions are equalized; without this, they are no longer competitors. In matters of trade, if one of the sellers is able to deliver at lower cost, he ceases to be a competitor and becomes a monopolist. If you abolish this protection that represents the difference in cost, as soon as foreigners invade your market, they have acquired a monopoly in it".44

"Each person has to want, for himself as for the others, the production of the country to be protected against foreign competition, wherever this can supply products at a lower price."45

This argument recurs constantly in articles written by the protectionist school. I propose to examine it carefully, that is to say, I will be asking for the attention and even the patience of the reader. I will first deal with the inequalities that result from nature and then those that result from the differences in taxation.

Here, as elsewhere, we find the theoreticians of protection situated in the producers' camp, whereas we are taking up the cause of these unfortunate consumers whom they refuse to take into account. They compare the field of industry to the race track .46 However, the race track is simultaneously the means and the end. The public takes no interest in the competition outside the competition itself. When you start your horses with the sole aim of knowing which is the best runner, I can understand that you make the weights equal. But if your aim is to ensure that a major and urgent item of news reaches the post, could you with impunity create obstacles for the one that might offer you the best conditions of speed? This is, however, what you are doing to economic production. You are forgetting the result sought, which is well-being. You leave this out of the account, and even sacrifice it through completely begging the question.

But since we cannot bring our opponents round to our point of view, let us adopt theirs and examine the question from the point of view of production.

I will seek to establish:

1. That leveling the conditions of production is to attack the very basis of trade;

2. That it is not true that production in one country is stifled by competition from more favored countries;

3. That even if this were true, protectionist duties do not make production conditions equal;

4. That freedom levels these conditions as far as they can be leveled;

5. Lastly, that it is the countries that are least favored that gain the most from trade.

I. Leveling the conditions of production is not merely hampering a few transactions, it is attacking the very principle of trade, since it is based precisely on this diversity, or, if you prefer, on these inequalities of fertility, aptitude, climate, or temperature that you wish to wipe out. If the Guyenne sends wine to Brittany and Brittany wheat to the Guyenne, it is because these two provinces are situated in different conditions of production.47 Is there a different law for international trade? Once again, to hold against them the inequality of conditions that motivates and accounts for their actions is to attack their very raison d'être. If the protectionists had enough logic and power on their side, they would reduce men, like snails, to total isolation. Besides there is not one of their sophisms that, when subjected to the test of rigorous deduction, does not end in destruction and annihilation.

II. It is not true in fact that the inequality in conditions between two similar productive enterprises necessarily leads to the fall of the one that is the less well endowed. At the race track , if one runner wins the prize, the other loses it, but when two horses work to produce useful commodities, each produces to the extent of its strength, and because the stronger provides the more services it does not follow that the weaker provides none at all. Wheat is grown in all the départements of France, although there are huge differences of fertility between them and if, by chance, there is one that does not grow wheat, it is because it is not good, even for that department, to grow it. In the same way, a similar argument tells us that, under the regime of freedom, in spite of differences like these, wheat would be produced in all the kingdoms of Europe, and if there were one which had decided to abandon this crop it would be because, in its own interest, it had found a better use for its land, capital and labor. And why does the fertility of a département not paralyze farmers in neighboring départements that are less favored? Because economic phenomena have a flexibility, elasticity, and, so to speak, a capacity for leveling that appears to escape the grasp of the protectionist school totally. The latter accuses us of being prisoners of a system, but it is its own members who are rigid to the highest degree, if the spirit of such consists in building arguments based on a single fact rather than on a set of facts. In the example above, it is the difference in the value of the land that compensates for the difference in its fertility. Your field produces three times more than mine. Yes, but it has cost you ten times more and I can still compete with you. This is the question in a nutshell. And note that superiority in some respects brings about inferiority in others. It is precisely because your land is more fruitful that it is more expensive, in such a way that it is not accidental, but necessary for a balance to be established or to tend to become established. And can it be denied that freedom is the regime that favors this trend the most?

I have quoted one branch of agriculture but I could have quoted a branch of manufacturing just as well. There are tailors in Quimper,48 and that does not prevent there being tailors in Paris, even though rent, furnishings, workers, and food cost Paris tailors much more. But they also have a very different class of customers, and this is enough not only to restore the balance but also even to tilt it in their favor.

So when we talk about balancing the conditions of work, we have at least to examine whether freedom does not do what we are asking arbitrary rule to do.

This natural leveling out of economic phenomena is so important functionally and at the same time so worthy of our admiration for the providential wisdom that presides in the egalitarian governance of our society, that I ask your permission to dwell on it for a moment.

You protectionists say that such and such a people have the advantage of cheap coal, iron, machines, and capital over us; we cannot compete with them.

This statement will be examined from other points of view. For the present I am limiting myself to the question whether, when superiority and inferiority confront one another, they do not carry within themselves, in the latter case a natural tendency to rise and in the former to descend, such as to bring them back to a fair balance.

Here we have two countries, A and B. A has all sorts of advantages over B. You conclude from this that labor would be concentrated in A and that B is powerless to do anything. A, you say, sells a great deal more than it purchases, while B purchases much more than it sells. I might dispute this, but I align myself with your viewpoint.

In this hypothetical circumstance, the demand for labor is high in A and it soon becomes more expensive.

Iron, coal, land, food, and capital are in high demand in A and they soon become more expensive.

At the same time, labor, iron, coal, land, food, capital, and everything else are in very low demand in B and soon become much cheaper.

That is not all. As A still continues to sell and B continues to purchase, money passes from B to A. It is plentiful in A and scarce in B.

But where there is an abundance of money, this means that you need a great deal to buy anything else. Therefore, in A, to the high real prices which result from very active demand must be added the high nominal money prices due to the excess supply of precious metals.49

Scarcity of money means that little is needed for each purchase. Therefore in B, low nominal money prices combine with low real prices.

In these circumstances, production will have all sorts of reasons, reasons that are, if I may put it this way, raised to the fourth power, to leave A and establish itself in B.

Or, to stick to literal truth, let us say that production would not have waited up to now, that sudden moves are contrary to its nature and that, from the outset under a free regime, it would have gradually divided and distributed itself between A and B in accordance with the laws of supply and demand, that is to say, in accordance with the laws of justice and usefulness.

And when I say that, if it were possible for production to concentrate at a single point, an irresistible force for decentralization would arise within it for this very reason, I am not speaking hypothetically.

Listen to what a manufacturer had to say in the chamber of commerce in Manchester (I am omitting the figures he used to support his demonstration):

"In former times we exported fabrics, then this activity gave way to the export of yarn, which is the raw material of fabric, and then to the export of machines, which are the instruments of production for yarn, and later to the export of capital, with which we built our machines, and finally to the export of our workers and our industrial genius, which are the source of our capital. All these changes in production succeeded one another in moving to where they might be exercised to greatest advantage, where the cost of living was lowest and life easier, so that now we can see in Prussia, Austria, Saxony, Switzerland, and Italy huge factories established with English capital, operated using English workers and directed by English engineers."

You can see clearly that nature, or rather providence, which is more ingenious, wise, and farsighted than your narrow and rigid theory supposes, did not want this concentration of work, this monopoly of all the forms of superiority that you argue to be an absolute and irremediable fact, to continue. It made it possible, using means that are as simple as they are infallible, for there to be dispersion, dissemination, solidarity, and simultaneous progress, all things that your restrictive laws paralyze as far as they can, since, by isolating peoples, they tend to make their differences in living conditions much more entrenched, to prevent leveling out, obstruct intermingling, neutralize counterbalancing tendencies, and entrap nations in their respective superiority or inferiority.

III. In the third place, to say that through a protectionist duty the conditions of production are equalized is to use an inaccurate turn of phrase to put across an error. It is not true that an import duty brings the conditions of production into balance. After the imposition of an import duty these conditions remain what they were before. All that this duty balances at most are the conditions of sale. It will perhaps be said that I am paying with words, but I will throw this accusation back at my opponents. It is for them to prove that production and sale are synonymous, and unless they do so, I am entitled to blame them, if not for playing with words, at least for mixing them up.

Let me give an example to illustrate my idea.

Let me suppose that a few Parisian speculators have the bright idea of devoting their time to the production of oranges. They know that Portuguese oranges can be sold in Paris for 10 centimes, whereas they, in view of the conservatories and greenhouses they need because of the cold that often undermines their cultivation, cannot demand less than one franc in order to cover their costs . They demand that oranges from Portugal should be subject to a duty of 90 centimes. Through this duty, the conditions of production, as they say, will be balanced and the Chamber when giving way as usual to this line of reasoning, adds an import duty of 90 centimes for each foreign orange to the customs tariffs.

Well then, I say that the conditions of production have not changed in the slightest. The law has removed nothing from the heat of the sun in Lisbon nor the frequency or intensity of the frosts in Paris. Oranges will continue to mature naturally on the banks of the Tagus and artificially on the banks of the Seine, that is to say, that it will require much more human work in one country than in the other. What will be balanced are the conditions of sale: the Portuguese will have to sell us their oranges at 1 franc, including 90 centimes to pay the tax. Obviously, the tax will be paid by French consumers. And look at the oddity of the result. On each Portuguese orange consumed, our country will lose nothing, for the 90 centimes more that are paid by the consumer will go to the treasury. There will be displacement but no loss. However, on each French orange consumed, there will be 90 centimes or thereabouts of loss, since the purchaser will certainly lose this and the seller, also certainly, will not earn this since, according to the hypothesis itself, he will have earned only the cost price. I leave the protectionists to draw the right conclusion.

IV. If I have stressed this distinction between the conditions of production and the conditions of sale, one which the protectionists will doubtless find paradoxical, it is because it will lead me to afflict them once more with another paradox that is even stranger, which is this: Do you really want to balance the conditions of production? Then let trade be free.

Oh! people will say, that is too much at this time, and an abuse of intellectual games. Well then, if only through curiosity, I ask the protectionists to follow my line of argument to the bitter end. It will not take long. Let me go back to my example.

If you agree to suppose for a minute that the average, daily earnings of each Frenchman come to 1 franc, it will ineluctably follow that to produce one orange directly in France will require one day's work or its equivalent whereas to produce the exchange value of one Portuguese orange only one tenth of a day's work is needed, which means nothing other than that the sun does in Lisbon what work does in Paris. Well, is it not obvious that, if I can produce an orange or what amounts to the same thing, the means to buy one, with one tenth of a day's work, my position with regard to this production is subject to the same conditions as the Portuguese producer himself, except for the transport costs, which I must incur? It is therefore apparent that freedom balances the direct or indirect conditions of production, as far as they can be balanced, since it leaves only one remaining inevitable difference, that of transport.

I will add that freedom also balances the conditions of enjoyment, satisfaction, and consumption, which are never taken into account and which are nevertheless essential, since in the end consumption is the final aim of all our productive efforts. Through free trade we would enjoy the Portuguese sun just as Portugal herself does and the inhabitants of Le Havre, like those of London and under the same conditions, will have access to the advantages that nature has conferred on Newcastle with respect to its mineral resources .

V. Gentlemen of the protectionist persuasion, you think me full of paradox! Well, I want to go even further. I say, and I think this quite sincerely, that if two countries are placed in unequal conditions of production, it is the one of the two which is less favored by nature that has the more to gain from free trade. To prove this, I will have to digress a little from the form this article should take. I will nevertheless do this, first of all because this is the nub of the matter and also because it will give me the opportunity of setting out a law of economics of the greatest importance which, when correctly understood, seems to me to be destined to bring back into the fold of science all the sects that these days seek in the land of illusion the social harmony that they have been unable to discover in nature. I wish to speak about the law of consumption, for which the majority of economists may be blamed for having too long much neglected.

Consumption is the end, the final purpose of all economic phenomena, in which purpose consequently lies their final, definitive solution.

Nothing favorable or unfavorable can stop permanently at the producer's door. The advantages that nature and society have heaped on him, like the disadvantages that afflict him, slide over him,50 so to speak, and tend to be unconsciously absorbed by, mingled with, the community, understood from the point of view of consumption. We have here a law that is admirable alike in its cause and its effects, and the man who succeeds in describing it properly will have, I think, the right to say "I have not spent time on this earth without contributing something to society."

Any circumstance that encourages production is welcomed joyfully by the producer since its immediate effect is to put him in a position to provide even more services to the community and to demand greater remuneration from it . Any circumstance that hampers production is received with disappointment by the producer since its immediate effect is to limit his services and therefore his remuneration. It was necessary for the immediate gains and losses resulting from fortunate or unfortunate circumstances to be the lot of the producer, so that he would be irresistibly drawn to seeking the former and avoiding the latter.

In the same way, when a worker succeeds in improving his output, he receives the immediate benefit of this improvement. This was necessary for him to be motivated to working intelligently; it was proper because an effort crowned with success ought to bring its reward with it.

But I hold that these good and bad effects, although permanent in themselves, are not so for producers. If this were so, a principle of gradual and subsequently infinite inequality between men would have been introduced, and this is why these favorable and unfavorable events are soon absorbed into the general fortunes of the human race.

How does this work? I will give a few examples to help it to be understood.

Let us go back to the thirteenth century.51 The men who devoted themselves to the art of copying received for their services payment that was governed by the general level of profits. Among them, there happened to be one who sought and discovered the means to increase the copies of the same book rapidly. He invented printing.

In the first instance, one man became richer and many others grew poorer. At first glance, however marvelous the discovery was, people hesitated as to whether it was not more disastrous than useful. It seemed that it was introducing into the world, just as I said, an element of indefinite inequality. Gutenberg made money with his invention and extended his invention using this money, and did this ad infinitum until he had ruined all other copiers. As for the public, the consumers, they gained little, for Gutenberg took care to decrease the price for his books to no more than was necessary to undercut his rivals.

But the thought that put harmony into the movement of the heavenly bodies was also able to insert it into the internal mechanisms of society. We will see the economic advantages of the invention escape from one individual and become the common and eternal heritage of the masses.

In the event, the procedure ended up by becoming known. Gutenberg was no longer the only printer; others imitated him. Their profits were at first considerable. They were rewarded for being the first to go down the path of imitation, and this was still necessary in order to attract them and so that they could contribute to the great result we were approaching. They earned a great deal, but less than the inventor, since competition had begun to work. The price of books continued to decrease. The profits of the imitators decreased as the date of the invention receded, that is to say, as imitation became less meritorious. Soon the new industry reached its normal state, in other words, the pay given to printers was no longer exceptional and, as for scribes in former times, it was governed only by the general level of profitability. Thus production , as such, returned to what it had been at the beginning . The invention was, nevertheless, no less of a boon; the saving in time, work, and effort for a given result, for a determined number of items, was nonetheless achieved. But how does it manifest itself? Through the low price of books. And for whose benefit? For the benefit of consumers, society, and the human race. Printers, who now have no exceptional merit, no longer receive exceptional remuneration. As men and consumers, they are doubtless beneficiaries of the advantages that the invention has bestowed on the community. But that is all. As printers and as producers, they are once again subject to the common conditions governing all producers in the country. Society pays them for their work, and not for the usefulness of the invention. The invention itself has become part of the common heritage and free to the entire human race.

I admit that the wisdom and beauty of these laws have struck me with admiration and respect. I see Saint-Simonist doctrines52 in them: To each according to his capacity, to each capacity according to his work. I see communism in them, that is to say, the tendency for property to become the common heritage of men. But this is a Saint-Simonism and a communism governed by infinite farsightedness, and not in the slightest abandoned to the fragility, passions, and arbitrary rule of men.

What I have said about printing can be said about all the tools of work, from the hammer and nail to the locomotive and electric telegraph. Society benefits from everything through the abundance of the things it consumes, and benefits from these freely, for their effect is to reduce the price of objects; and the entire portion of the price that has been abolished and that represents fully the contribution of the invention in the production process obviously makes the product free to this extent. All that remains to be paid for is the human work, the work done now and this is paid for, regardless of the resulting benefit of the invention, at least where it has gone through the cycle I have just described and which it is destined to go through. I call a workman to my home; he arrives with a saw, I pay two francs for his day's work and he produces twenty-five planks. If the saw had not been invented, he would probably not have made a single plank and I would not have paid him any less for his day's work. The usefulness produced by the saw is therefore a free gift of nature to me; or rather it is a portion of the heritage I have received, in common with all my fellows, from the intelligence of our ancestors. I have two workers in my field. One holds the handles of a plough, the other the handle of a spade. The result of their work is very different but their day's pay is the same since pay is not subject to the usefulness produced but to the effort or the work required.

I call upon the reader's patience and beg him to believe that I have not lost sight of commercial freedom. Let him just remember the conclusion that I have reached: Remuneration is not in proportion to the useful contributions that the producer brings to the market but to his work.53

I have taken my examples from human inventions. Let us now talk about natural advantages.

All products incorporate a contribution from both nature and man. However the portion of usefulness contributed by nature is always free. Only that portion of usefulness resulting from human work is subject to exchange and consequently to remuneration. This doubtless varies a great deal because of the intensity of the work, the skill required, its promptness, its relevance, the need for it, the temporary absence of competition, etc. etc. But it is no less true in principle that the contribution of natural laws, which belong to everyone, does not enter into the price of the product.

We do not pay for the air we breathe, although it is so useful to us that we would not be able to live for two minutes without it. In spite of this, we do not pay for it because nature supplies it to us without any human intervention. If, however, we wish, for example, to separate out one of the gases that make it up to carry out an experiment, we have to make a certain effort or, if we have someone else make the effort, we will have to sacrifice to him an equivalent amount of effort that we have put into another product. In this way we see that there is an exchange in pain, effort, and work. It is not really for oxygen that I am paying, since it is available to me everywhere, but for the effort required to separate it out, work that I have been spared and which I need to compensate. Will I be told that other things, such as expenses, materials, or apparatus, need to be paid for? Once again, it is the work contained in these things that I am paying for. The price of the coal used represents the work that has needed to be done to extract and transport it.

We do not pay for sunlight since nature lavishes it on us. But we pay for the light obtained from gas, tallow, oil, or wax because this includes human work that requires remuneration. And note that the remuneration is so closely proportioned to the work done and not to its usefulness, that it may well happen that one of these sources of light, even though it is much brighter than the others, is nevertheless less expensive. For this to happen, all that is necessary is for the same quantity of human work to produce more.

When a water carrier comes to supply my house, if I paid him according to the absolute usefulness of the water, my entire fortune would not be enough. However I pay him according to the trouble he has taken. If he demanded more, others would take over, and in the end, if need be, I would take the trouble myself. Water is not really the subject of our bargain, but in reality the work involved in relation to the water. This point of view is so important and the consequences I am going to draw from it so illuminating, with regard to international free trade, that I feel I have to elucidate my ideas with other examples.

The quantity of nourishment contained in potatoes does not cost us very much because we obtain a great deal with very little work. We pay more for wheat because, in order to produce it, nature requires a great deal of human work. It is obvious that, if nature behaved in the same way for one as for the other, their prices would tend to level out. It is not possible for wheat producers to earn much more on a regular basis than potato producers. The law of competition prevents this.

If, by a happy miracle, the fertility of all arable land happened to increase, it would not be the farmer but the consumer who would reap the advantage of this phenomenon, because the result would be abundance and cheap prices. There would be less labor incorporated in each hectoliter of wheat54 and the farmer would be able to trade it only for less labor incorporated in another product. If, on the contrary, the fertility of the soil suddenly decreased, the contribution by nature to production would be less, the contribution of work more, and the product would be more expensive. I was therefore right to say that it is in consumption, in the human race, that all economic phenomena are resolved in the long run. As long as we have not followed their effects to this point, as long as we stop at the immediate effects, those that affect one man or one class of men, as producers, we are not being economists, any more than someone who, instead of monitoring the effects of a potion on the whole of the organism but limits himself to observing how it affects the palate or throat in order to judge it, is a doctor.55

Tropical regions are highly suited to the production of sugar and coffee. This means that nature carries out the majority of the task and leaves very little work to be done. Who then reaps the advantages of this generosity of nature? It is not at all these regions, since competition means that they receive payment only for their work; it is the human race, since the result of this generosity is called low prices, and they belong to everyone.

Here we have a temperate zone in which coal and iron ore are on the surface of the land and you have only to bend down to pick it up. In the first instance, the inhabitants benefit from this happy circumstance, I agree. But soon, competition will start and the price of coal and iron will decrease to the point where the gift of nature is free to everyone and human work alone is remunerated in accordance with the general level of profitability.

In this way, the generosity of nature, like the advances made in production processes, are or constantly tend to become the common and free heritage of consumers, the masses and the human race, in accordance with the law of competition. Therefore the countries that do not have these advantages have everything to gain from trading with those that do, because it is work which is exchanged, setting aside the natural utilities that work encompasses; and obviously the countries that are most favored have incorporated the most of these natural utilities in a given amount of production. Their products, since they represent less work, fetch lower prices; in other words they are cheaper, and if all the generosity of nature results in cheapness, obviously it is not the producing country but the consuming country that receives the benefit.

From this we see the immense absurdity of this consumer country if it rejects a product precisely because it is cheap; it is as though it were saying: "I do not want anything that nature provides. You are asking me for an effort worth two in order to give me a product that I can create only with work worth four; you can do this because in your country nature has accomplished half of the work. Well then! I for my part will reject it and I will wait until your climate has become more inclement and forces you to require work worth four from me, so that we may trade on an equal footing."

A is a favored country. B is a country ill treated by nature. I say that trade is beneficial to both of them and especially to B since the trade is not in utilities for utilities but in value for value. Well, A includes more utilities in the same value, since the utility of the product encompasses what nature has contributed to it as well as what work has contributed, whereas the value corresponds only to what work has contributed. Therefore, B strikes a bargain that is wholly to its advantage. In paying the producer in A simply for his work, it receives more natural utilities that it gives over and above the trade.56

Let us set out the general rule.

A trade is an exchange of values; since the value is reduced by competition to the work involved, trade is thus an exchange of equal work. What nature has provided to the products being traded is given from one to the other freely and over and above the trade, from which it strictly follows that trade with the countries most favored by nature are the most advantageous.

The theory whose lines and contours I have tried to trace in this article needs to be developed more fully. I have discussed it as it relates to my subject, commercial freedom. But perhaps an attentive reader will have perceived the fertile seed, the growth and spread of which will necessarily stifle protection, along with protectionism, Fourierism,57 Saint-Simonism,58 communism, and all the schools whose object is to exclude the law of COMPETITION from the governance of the world. Considered from the point of view of producers, competition doubtless upsets our individual and immediate interests, but if you consider it from the point of view of the general aim of all production, of universal well-being, in a word of consumption, you will find that competition accomplishes the same role in a moral world as equilibrium does in a material one. Competition is the foundation of genuine communism, true socialism, and the equality of well-being and conditions, so longed for these days, and if so many sincere political writers, so many reformers of good faith demand this equality from arbitrary government power , it is because they do not understand freedom.59


44 (Bastiat's note) The Vicomte de Romanet. [Auguste, Vicomte de Romanet (n.d.), was a staunch protectionist who served on the Conseil général de l'agriculture, du commerce, et des manufactures. See the glossary entry on "Romanet."]

45 (Bastiat's note) Mathieu de Dombasle. [Joseph Alexandre Mathieu de Dombasle (1777-1843) was an agronomist who introduced the practice of triennial crop rotation (cereals, forage, vegetables) in France. He also wrote on the sugar-beet industry, De l'impôt sur le sucre indigène: Nouvelles considerations (1837). See the glossary entry on "Dombasle."]

46 It is not surprising that Romanet would compare economic competition to a horse race as he had a great interest in horse racing, having given a paper to the Academy of Sciences on this topic in June 1843. See the lengthy summary of the Mémoire which he gives in his pamphlet to promote his candidature to the Academy. Mémoire sur le principe de l'amélioration des races de chevaux, et sur la préférence qui doit être accordée, comme moyen d'encouragement, soit aux prix de course, soit aux primes locales, Suivant Le Sexe De L'animal. Lu à l'Académie des sciences le 19 juin 1843. Notice sur les travaux de M. le vte de Romanet. Membre du Conseil général de l'agriculture, du commerce et des manufactures, à l'appui de sa candidature à la place d'Académicien libre, vacante par le décès de M. le duc de Raguse (Paris: Bouchard-Huzard, 1852). See the glossary entry on "Romanet."

47 Guyenne was an old province in the south west of France, with Bordeaux as its capital city. It covered roughly the same territory as Bastiat's homeland, Les Landes. Brittany is a peninsula in the most north western part of France. See the glossary entry on "Les Landes" and the maps above, pp. ???

48 Quimper is a commune in Brittany in the north west of France. In 1846 the population was about 11,000 people. It was sometimes the butt of jokes because of its remoteness from Paris, its small size, and the fact that its inhabitants spoke the Breton language.

49 Throughout the nineteenth century, European currencies were based on the gold standard. See the glossary entry on "French Currency" and ES1 XI. "Nominal Prices" for more discussion of this.

50 Here Bastiat is grappling with the concept which in two years time he was to call the "ricochet effect" (or flow effect) to describe the interconnectedness of all economic activity and the need to be aware of immediate effects (the seen) and later indirect effects (the unseen). He uses the word "glisser" (to slide or slip) in this sentence. See a later occurrence of this in ES3 XV "A Little Manual for Consumers", below pp. ??? and the Appendices "Bastiat and the Ricochet Effect" and "The Sophism Bastiat never wrote: the Sophism of the Ricochet Effect."

51 Bastiat is mistaken. Johannes Gutenberg (1398–1468) invented printing using movable type in the 1440s, so it should read here the 15th not the 13th century.

52 Claude Henri de Rouvroy, count of Saint-Simon (1760-1825) was a writer and social reformer who founded one of the main schools of socialist thought during the Restoration which continued to be influential throughout the July Monarchy. He advocated rule by a new technocratic elite which would replace the old aristocracy and state-supported industry which would replace what he thought was the injustice and chaos of the free market. See the glossary entry on "Saint-Simon."

53 (Bastiat's note) It is true that work is not uniformly remunerated. It is more or less intense, dangerous, skillful, etc. Competition establishes a market price for each category, and I am talking here about the variable price for this kind of work.

54 One hectorlitre is 100 litres or about 22 U.S. gallons.

55 It should be noted that is was a severe throat condition (possibly cancer) which killed Bastiat at the end of 1850. As it was an extremely painful disease which hindered his work as a writer and politician Bastiat saw his doctor many times in the last years of his life to get some relief. Thus, he had some personal experience of what he is saying in this passage. See a brief discussion of Bastiat's fatal condition in "The Cause of Bastiat's Untimely Death" in "Anecdotes and Reflections" in the Collected Works, vol. 2, pp. 413-14.

56 Bastiat is referring here to David Ricardo's idea of international comparative advantage, which he proposed in his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817). A French translation by Constancio appeared in 1818, with notes by Jean-Baptiste Say; it was republished with his Complete Works in 1847 with additional notes and translated material by Fonteyraud. See Oeuvres complètes de D. Ricardo. See also Boudreaux, "Comparative Advantage," Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, <> and the glossary entry on "Ricardo."

57 François-Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a socialist and founder of the phalansterian school or "Fourierism." This consisted of a utopian, communistic system for the reorganization of society in which individuals would live together as one family and hold property in common. See the glossary entries on "Fourier" and "Utopias."

58 Claude Henri de Rouvroy, count of Saint-Simon (1760-1825) was a writer and social reformer who founded one of the main schools of socialist thought during the Restoration which continued to be influential throughout the July Monarchy. He advocated rule by a new technocratic elite which would replace the old aristocracy and state-supported industry which would replace what he thought was the injustice and chaos of the free market. See the glossary entry on "Saint-Simon."

59 (Paillottet's note) The theory sketched out in this article is the one that was developed in the Economic Harmonies four years later. Remuneration exclusively limited to human work, the exemption from payment of natural agents, the gradual mastery of these agents for the benefit of the human race whose common heritage they thus become, the elevation of general well-being, and the tendency for conditions to become relatively level: these are all recognizable as being the essential elements of Bastiat's major works.



T.30 (1845.07.15) "Our Products are weighed down with Taxes" (JDE, July 1845)


T.30 (1845.07.15) "Our Products are weighed down with Taxes" (Nos produits sont grevés de taxes), Journal des Économistes, July 1845, T. 11, no. 44, p. 356-60; also ES1.5. [OC4.1.5, pp. 46-52.] [CW3 - ES1.5]


V. Our Products are weighed down with Taxes [July 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Nos produits sont grevés de taxes" (Our Products are weighed down with Taxes) [JDE, July 1845, T. 11, p. 356-60].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 46-52.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


This is the same sophism. People demand that foreign products be taxed in order to neutralize the effects of the taxation that burdens our national products. This too, then, is about equalizing the conditions of production. The only observation we would want to make is that tax is an artificial obstacle with exactly the same result as a natural obstacle: it forces prices to rise. If this rise reaches the point at which a greater loss is incurred in creating the product itself than there is in bringing it in from outside and creating a counter value for it, let it happen.60 Private interest will be fully capable of choosing the lesser of two evils. I could therefore refer the reader back to the preceding argument, but the sophism that I have to combat here recurs so often in the complaints and appeals, I might almost say the pressing claims, of the protectionist school, that it is well worth discussing it separately.

If we want to discuss one of those special taxes to which certain products are subject, I will readily agree that it is reasonable to subject foreign products to these also. For example, it would be absurd to exempt foreign salt from tax, not that from an economic point of view France loses anything, on the contrary. Whatever we say about this, principles are constant, and France would gain, just as she will always gain from avoiding a natural or artificial obstacle. However, here the obstacle has been established with a fiscal aim. This aim has to be achieved, and if foreign salt were to be sold in our market free of duty the treasury would not recover its hundred million and would have to exact this amount from some other form of taxation. It would quite evidently be contradictory to put in the way of a specific policy an obstacle calculated to prevent it. It would have been better to address this other tax first of all and not tax French salt.61 These are the circumstances that I accept for inflicting a duty that is not protectionist but fiscal on a foreign product.

But to claim that a nation has to protect itself through tariffs against competition from a rival because it is subject to heavier taxes than a neighboring country, this is where the sophism lies, and this is what I intend to attack.

I have said several times that I intend only to set out a theory and go back, as far as I am able, to the sources of the protectionists' errors. If I were indulging in polemics, I would say to them "Why are you aiming tariffs principally against England and Belgium, the countries in the world that are most burdened with taxes? Am I not entitled to see in your argument only a pretext?" However, I am not one of those who believe that people are protectionist through interest and not through conviction. Protectionist doctrine is too popular not to be sincere. If the majority had faith in freedom, we would be free. Doubtless it is private interest that causes our tariffs to weigh down on us so heavily, but this is after it has acted on our convictions. "Will," said Pascal,62 "is one of the principal organs of belief."63 However, belief is no less real for having its roots in will and in the secret inspiration of egoism.

Let us return to the sophism derived from taxation.

The state can make good or bad use of taxes; it makes good use of them when it provides the public with services that are equivalent to the flow of revenue the public contributes to it. It makes bad use of them when it squanders these resources without giving anything in return.

In the first case, to say that taxes put the country that pays them in a less favorable position with regard to production than one that does not pay them is a sophism. We pay twenty million for law and the police,64 it is true, but we have law and the police, the security they provide us and the time they save us, and it is highly probable that production is neither easier nor more active in those nations, if they exist, where everyone carries out law and order for himself. We pay several hundred million for roads, bridges ports, and railways, I agree.65 But we have these railways, ports, and roads, and unless we claim that we are making a bad bargain in building them, nobody can say that they make us inferior to those peoples who, it is true, do not contribute to a budget for public works but do not have any public works either. And this explains why, while accusing taxes of being one of the causes of inferior industrial capacity, we aim our tariffs precisely against those nations that are the most taxed. It is because taxes, when used well, far from damaging them, have improved the conditions of production of these nations. So we always come to the same conclusion, that protectionist sophisms not only depart from the truth but are also contrary, are the direct opposite, to the truth.66

As for taxes that are unproductive, abolish them if you can. The strangest conceivable way of neutralizing their effects, however, is surely to add specific individual taxes to public ones. Spare us any such compensation! The state has taxed us too much, you say. Well then, all the more reason for our not taxing each other any further!

A protectionist duty is a tax aimed against a foreign product but which falls, and let us never forget this, on the national consumer. Now, the consumer is a taxpayer. And is it not ludicrous to say to him: "Since taxes are heavy, we are going to raise the prices of everything to you; since the state takes a part of your income, we are going to pay another part to the monopoly"?

But let us probe further a sophism so esteemed by our legislators, although it is rather extraordinary that it is precisely those who maintain unproductive taxes (the proposition I am drawing your attention to now) who are attributing our alleged industrial inferiority to them in order to make this good subsequently through other taxes and restrictions.

It appears obvious to me that, without changing its nature and effects, protection might have taken the form of a direct tax raised by the state and distributed through indemnity subsidies to privileged industries .

Let us assume that foreign iron can be sold in our market at 8 francs and no lower and French iron at 12 francs and not below this.

Under such circumstances, the state has two ways of ensuring that the national producer retains a dominant position in the market.

The first is to subject foreign iron to a duty of 5 francs. It is clear that foreign iron would be excluded since it could now be sold only at 13 francs, 8 francs being the cost price and 5 francs the tax, and that at this price it would be chased out of the market by French iron, which we have taken to cost 12 francs. In this case, the purchaser, the consumer, will have paid all the costs of this protection.

The state might also have imposed a tax of 5 francs on the public and given it as a subsidy to ironmasters. The protectionist effect would have been the same. Foreign iron would have been equally excluded, since our ironmaster would have sold at 7 francs which, with the subsidy of 5 francs, would give him his profitable price of 12 francs. However, faced with iron at 7 francs, foreigners would not be able to deliver theirs at 8.

I can see only one difference between these two systems: the principle is the same and the effect is the same, except that in one case protection is paid for by a few and in the other by all.

I admit frankly my preference for the second system. It seems to me more just, more economic, and more straightforward. More just because if society wants to give handouts to a few of its members, everyone has to contribute; more economic because it would save a great deal in collection costs and would cause a great many restrictions to disappear and finally, more straightforward since the public would see clearly how the operation worked and what they were being made to do.

If the protectionist system had taken this form, however, would it not be rather risible to hear it said, "We pay heavy taxes for the army, navy, law and order, public works, the university, the national debt, etc. and this exceeds a billion.67 For this reason, it would be a good thing if the state took another billion from us to ease the situation of these poor ironmasters, these poor shareholders of Anzin,68 these unfortunate owners of forests, and these cod fishermen who are so useful."

If you look closely, you will see that this is what the significance of the sophism I am combating is reduced to. Whatever you do, sirs, you can give money to some only by taking it from others. If you genuinely wish to drain taxpayers dry, go ahead, but at least do not mock them and say to them, "I am taking from you to compensate you for what I have already taken from you."

We would never reach the end of it if we wished to note everything that is false in this sophism. I will limit myself to three considerations.

You win acceptance for the fact that France is burdened with taxes in order to infer that such and such an industry ought to be protected. But we have to pay these taxes in spite of protection. If therefore an industry comes forward and says, "I contribute to the payment of taxes; this raises the cost price of my products and I demand that a protectionist duty should also raise the sales price," what else is it demanding than to discharge its tax onto the rest of the community? It claims to be recouping the increase in tax it has paid by raising the price of its products. So, as all taxes have always to be paid to the treasury, and as the masses have to bear this increase in price, they pay both their taxes and those of this industry. "But," you will say, "everyone is being protected." Firstly, this is impossible and, even if it were possible, where would the relief be? I am paying for you and you for me; but the tax still needs to be paid.

In this way, you are being fooled by an illusion. You want to pay taxes to have an army, a navy, a religion, a university, judges, roads, etc., and then you want to relieve of its share of taxes first one industry, then a second, and then a third, always by sharing the burden among the masses. But you are doing nothing other than creating interminable complications, with no other result than these complications themselves. Prove to me that the increase in price resulting from protection falls on foreigners, and I will be able to see something specious in your argument. But if it is true that the French public paid the tax before the law and that after the law it paid both the protection and the tax, then I really do not see what it gains by this.

I will even go much further; I say that the heavier our taxes are, the more we should be in a hurry to open our ports and frontiers to foreigners who are less taxed than us. Why? In order to pass on to them a greater part of our burden. Is it not an undeniable axiom in political economy that, in the long run, taxes fall on the consumer? The more our trading transactions are increased, the more foreign consumers will reimburse us the taxes included in the products we sell them, while we would have to make them in this respect, only a lesser restitution, since according to our hypothesis their products are less taxed than ours.

In sum, have you never asked whether these heavy taxes that you use in argument to justify the protectionist regime are not caused by this regime itself? I would like to be told what the great standing armies and the powerful navies would be used for if trade were free. . . . But this is a question for politicians,

And let us not confuse, by going too deeply,

Their business with ours.69 70


60 "Laissez faire" in the original. See the glossary entry on "Laissez-faire."

61 The domestic tax on salt, or "gabelle" as it was known under the old regime was a much hated tax on an item essential for preserving 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. During the Revolution of 1848 it was reduced to 10 centimes per kilogramme. According to the Budget Papers of 1848 the French state raised fr. 38.2 million from tariffs on imported salt and fr. 13.4 million from the salt tax on internal sales. Bastiat's proposed cut to 10 centimes in January 1847 was the same level adopted by the new government in 1848. See E. de Parieu, "Sel", DEP, vol. 2, pp. 606-09. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances in 1848-49."

62 Blaise Pascal (1623-62) was a French mathematician and philosopher whose best-known work, Pensées, appeared only after his death. See the glossary on "Pascal."

63 "The will is one of the chief organs of belief, not that it forms belief, but that things are true or false according to the side on which we view them. The will which chooses one side rather than the other turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all that it does not like to see, thus the mind, moving in accord with the will, stays to look at the side it chooses, and so judges by what it sees." From "The Authenticity of Sacred Books," in Molinier, The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal, p. 128.

64 According to the Budget Papers for 1848 fr. 26.million was spent on courts and tribunals b y the ministry of justice. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances in 1848-49."

65 It is not clear where Bastiat gets these figures. According to the Budget Papers for 1848 the ordinary expenditure for the Ministry of Public Works was fr. 63.5 million and extraordinary expenditure was fr. 47.4 million and fr. 74.8 million on the railways for a total of fr. 185.7 million. Additional amounts were spent on public works in Algeria by the Ministry of War and on local public works by the départements. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances in 1848-49."

66 (Paillottet's note) See chapter XVII of the Harmonies (OC, vol. 6, chap. 17, "Services privés, services publics").

67 The French government annual expenditure in 1848 was fr. 1.446 billion and its receipts were fr. 1.391 billion, resulting in a deficit of fr. 55 million. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances in 1848-49."

68 The Compagnie des mines d'Anzin was a large coal-mining company in the north of France near the town of Anzin. It was founded in 1757 and nationalized by the French government in 1949. It was the setting for Émile Zola's novel Germinal (1885), where it was used as a symbol of French capitalism.

69 (Paillottet's note) See the pamphlet Peace and Freedom in vol. 5 (OC, vol. 5, "Paix et liberté ou le budget républicain"). [This quotation comes from the very end of Fontaine's fable "La Belette entrée dans un grenier" (The Weasel That Got Caught in the Storeroom), about a weasel that was able to squeeze through a small hole in order to get into a grain-storage room. Once inside it ate so much that it got bigger and couldn't get back out through the same hole in the wall. A rat, on seeing its predicament, says that, after 5 or 6 days of not eating, "you would have then a belly that is much less full. You were thin to get in, you'll have to be thin to get out. What I'm telling you now, you've well heard from others: but let us not confuse, by going too deeply, their business with yours." From La Fontaine, Fables de La Fontaine, Bk. 3, Fable 17, p. 121.]

70 Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) was a poet and writer of fables which have become famous for their surface simplicity which masks much deeper moral and political insights. See the glossary on "La Fontaine".



T.31 (1845.08.15) "On the Future of the Wine Trade between France and England" (JDE, Aug., 1845)


T.31 (1845.08.15) "On the Future of the Wine Trade between France and England" (De l'avenir du commerce des vins entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne), Journal des Économistes, Aug. 1845, T. 12, no. 45, pp. 72-74. [OC1, pp. 387-92.] [CW6]


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T.32 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): VI. The Balance of Trade" (JDE, Oct., 1845)


T.32 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): VI. The Balance of Trade" (Balance du commerce), Journal des Économistes, Oct. 1845, T. 12, no. 47, p. 201-04; also ES1.6. [OC4, pp. 52-57.] [CW3 - ES1.6]


VI. The Balance of Trade [October 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Balance du commerce" (The Balance of Trade) [JDE, October 1845, T. 12, p. 201-04].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 52-57.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


Our opponents have adopted a tactic which we cannot help feeling embarrassed about. Are we getting our views across? They accept them with the utmost respect. Are we attacking their fundamental approach? They abandon it with the best grace in the world. They ask for only one thing, that is that our views, which they hold to be true, should be relegated to books and that their approach, which they acknowledge to be faulty, should reign over the carrying out of business. Leave them the handling of tariffs and they will not dispute your having the domain of theory.

"Certainly", said M. Gaulthier de Rumilly71 recently, "none of us wants to resurrect the old theories on the balance of trade." Very well, but M. Gaulthier, it is not enough just to administer a slap in the face to error as you pass by; you must also desist from reasoning immediately afterward and for two hours at a time as though this error was the truth.

Talk to me about M. Lestiboudois.72 Here is someone who reasons consistently, a logician who can debate. There is nothing in his conclusions that is not in his premises: he asks nothing of practice that he cannot justify in theory. His basic ideas may be false, and that is indeed the dispute. But at least he has some basic ideas. He believes and proclaims loudly that if France pays ten to receive fifteen it is losing five, and he quite straightforwardly makes laws in this light.

"What is important," he says, "is that the figure for imports is constantly increasing and exceeds that for exports, that is to say, each year France purchases more foreign products and sells fewer products produced nationally. The figures are there to prove it. What do we see? In 1842, we see imports exceed exports by 200 million.73 These facts appear to me to prove with utter clarity that national work is not sufficiently protected, that we let foreign work take care of our needs and that competition from our rivals is beating our industry down. The law currently in force appears to sanction the fact that it is not true, contrary to what economists say, that when we buy we sell of necessity a corresponding portion of goods. It is obvious that we can buy things, not with our customary products, not with our income, not with the fruit of ongoing production but with our capital, with products that have been accumulated and saved and those used for making more, that is to say, we can spend and dissipate the profits of previous savings, that we can grow poorer and march toward our ruin and that we can consume the national capital in its entirety. This is exactly what we are doing. Each year, we give 200 million to foreigners."

Well then, here is a man with whom we can agree. His language contains no hypocrisy. The balance of trade is set out clearly. France imports 200 million more than it exports. Therefore, France is losing 200 million a year. And the remedy? To prevent imports. The conclusion is irreproachable.

It is therefore M. Lestiboudois whom we are going to attack, for how can we combat M. Gaulthier? If you say to him, "The balance of trade is a mistake," he will reply to you, "That is what I have put forward in my introductory remarks." If you exclaim "But the balance of trade is a truth", he will reply to you "that is what I have stated in my conclusions". The Economist School74 will doubtless criticize me for debating with M. Lestiboudois. Combating the balance of trade, I will be told, is like titling at windmills.

Take care, however, the balance of trade is neither as old, nor as sick, nor as dead as M. Gaulthier wishes to tell us, for the entire Chamber, including M. Gaulthier himself, aligned themselves with M. Lestiboudois's theory through their vote.

However, in order not to tire the reader, I will not go into this theory. I will content myself with subjecting it to the test of facts.

Our principles are constantly being accused of being correct only in theory. But tell me, sirs, do you believe that the account books of businessmen are correct in practice? It seems to me that, if there is anything in the world that has practical authority when it is a question of ascertaining profits and losses, it is commercial accounting. Apparently all the traders on earth have not agreed down the centuries to keep their books in such a fashion that profits are shown as losses and losses as profits. Truly, I would prefer to believe that M. Lestiboudois is a bad economist.

Well, when one of my friends, who is a trader, completed two operations with very contrasting results, I was curious to compare the accounts of the warehouse with those of the customs service, interpreted by M. Lestiboudois with the sanction of our six hundred legislators.

M. T. shipped from Le Havre to the United States a cargo of French goods, in the majority products known as Articles de Paris,75 for an amount of 200,000 fr. This was the figure declared to the customs. When it arrived in New Orleans, it was found that the cargo had incurred 10 percent of costs and paid 30 percent in duty, which made it worth 280,000 fr. It was sold at a profit of 20 percent, or 40,000 fr. and produced a total of 320,000 fr., which the consignee converted into cotton. These cotton goods further had to bear 10 percent costs for transport, insurance, commission, etc. so that, when it entered Le Havre, the new cargo was worth 352,000 fr. and this was the figure recorded in the registers of the customs. Lastly, M. T. made another 20 percent profit on this return shipment, or 70,400 fr.; in other words, the cotton goods were sold for 422,400 fr.

If M. Lestiboudois requires it, I will send him an excerpt from M. T's books. He will see there under the credits of the profit and loss account, that is to say as profits, two entries, one for 40,000, the other for 70,400 fr., and M. T. is totally convinced that in this respect his accounts are not misleading him.

However, what do the figures that the customs have recorded regarding this operation tell M. Lestiboudois? They tell him that France has exported 200,000 fr. and that it has imported 352,000 fr., from which the honorable deputy concludes, "that it has spent and dissipated the profits of previous savings, that it has impoverished itself, that it is marching toward ruin and that it has given 152,000 fr. of capital to foreigners."

A short time afterward, M. T. shipped another cargo of nationally produced goods worth 200,000 fr. But the unfortunate ship foundered on leaving the port and M. T. was left with no alternative but to record in his books two short entries as follows:

Various goods debited to X for 200,000 fr. for the purchase of various articles shipped by the boat N.

Profit and loss due to various goods 200,000 fr. for the total and final loss of the cargo.

In the meantime, the customs had recorded for its part 200,000 fr. on its export table, and since it will never have anything to record on the imports table, it follows that M. Lestiboudois and the Chamber will see in this shipwreck a clear, net profit of 200,000 fr. for France.

One more consequence has to be drawn from this, which is that according to the theory of the balance of trade, France has a very simple way of doubling its capital at every moment. To do this, once it has passed it through the customs, it just has to throw it into the sea. In this case, exports will be equal to the amount of its capital; imports will be nil and even impossible, and we will gain everything that the ocean has swallowed up.

This is a joke, the protectionists will say. It is impossible for us to say such absurd things. However, you are saying them and what is more, you are doing them, you are imposing them in practice on your fellow citizens, at least as far as you are able.

The truth is that the balance of trade would have to be taken backward and national profit in foreign trade calculated through the excess of imports over exports. This excess, with costs deducted, is the genuine profit. But this theory, which is the correct one, leads directly to free trade. I hand this theory to you, sirs, like all the others that were the subject of the previous chapters. Exaggerate it as much as you like, it has nothing to fear from such a test. Assume, if that amuses you, that foreigners swamp us with all sorts of useful goods without asking us for anything; if our imports are infinite and our exports nil, I challenge you to prove to me that we would be the poorer for this.76


71 Louis Gaulthier de Rumilly (1792-1884) was trained as a lawyer and served as a Deputy between 1830-34 and 1837-40. He was active in the Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale (Society to Promote National Industry) and had a special interest in agriculture, railroads, and tariffs. See the glossary entry on "Rumilly" and "Society to promote National Industry."

72 Thémistocle Lestiboudois (1797–1876) was a Deputy from Lille (elected 1842) who supported the liberals in 1844 in wanting to end the stamp tax on periodicals but opposed them in supporting protectionism. In 1847 he published the pro-tariff book Économie politique des nations. See the glossary on "Lestiboudois."

73 The figures for 1847 are similar. The estimated amount of total exports from France was fr. 1,271 million and the total amount of imports was fr. 1,343 million producing a trade imbalance of fr. 172 million (p. 23). See the article "Commerce extérieur de la France pour l'année 1847," in Annuaire de l'économie politique (1849), pp. 18-67.

74 The "Economists school" or "Les Économistes" was the name given to the group of liberal, free-trade political economists who were active in the late 18th and the first half of the 19th century. See the glossary entry on "The Economists."

75 "Articles de Paris" were high priced luxury goods produced in France and included leather goods, jewelry, fashion clothing, perfume, and other such goods.

76 (Paillottet's note) In March 1850, the author was once more obliged to combat the same sophism, which he meant to produce on the national rostrum. He altered the preceding demonstration by excluding from his calculations the cost of transport, etc. See "Balance of Trade" in vol. 5 (OC, vol. 5, "Balance du Commerce," p. 402).



T.33 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): VII. Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles, etc." (JDE, Oct., 1845)


T.33 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): VII. Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles, etc." (Pétition des fabricants de chandelles, etc.), Journal des Économistes, Oct. 1845, T. 12,no. 47, p. 204-07; also ES1.7. [OC4, pp. 57-62.] [CW3 - ES1.7]


VII. Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles, etc. [October 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Pétition des fabricants de chandelles, etc." (Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles, etc.) [JDE, October 1845, T. 12, p. 204-07].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 57-62.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


By the manufacturers of tallow candles, wax candles, lamps, candlesticks, street lamps, snuffers, extinguishers and producers of tallow, oil, resin, alcohol, and in general everything that relates to lighting

To Honorable Members of the Chamber of Deputies


You are doing all right for yourselves. You are rejecting abstract theories; abundance and cheapness are of little account to you. You are concerned most of all with the fate of producers. You want them to be free from foreign competition, in a word, you want to keep the domestic market for domestic labor.

We come to offer you a wonderful opportunity to apply your . . . what will we call it? Your theory? No, nothing is more misleading than theory. Your doctrine? Your system? Your principles ? But you do not like doctrines, you have a horror of systems and as for principles , you declare that none exists in the economic life of society. We will therefore call it your practice, your practice with no theory and no principle.

We are suffering from the intolerable competition of a foreign rival whose situation with regard to the production of light, it appears, is so far superior to ours that it is flooding our national market at a price that is astonishingly low for, as soon as he comes on the scene, our sales cease, all consumers go to him, and a sector of French industry whose ramifications are countless is suddenly afflicted with total stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging such a bitter war against us that we suspect that it is instigated by perfidious Albion77 (good diplomacy in the current climate!), especially as it treats this proud island in a way which it denies us.78

We ask you to be good enough to pass a law which orders the closure of all windows, gables, shades, wind-breaks, shutters, curtains, skylights, fanlights, blinds, in a word, all openings, holes, slits, and cracks through which the light of the sun is accustomed to penetrate into houses to the disadvantage of the fine industries that we flatter ourselves that we have given to the country, which cannot now abandon us to such an unequal struggle without being guilty of ingratitude.

Deputies, please do not take our request for satire and do not reject it without at least listening to the reasons we have to support us.

Firstly, if you forbid as far as possible any access to natural light, if you thus create a need for artificial light, what industry in France, would not bit by bit be encouraged?

If more tallow is consumed, more cattle and sheep will be needed and consequently, we will see an increase in artificial meadows, meat, wool, leather and above all, fertilizer, the basis of all agricultural wealth.

If more oil is consumed, we will see an expansion in the cultivation of poppies, olive trees, and rapeseed. These rich and soil-exhausting plants will be just the thing to take advantage of the fertility that the rearing of animals will have contributed to our land.

Our moorlands will be covered with coniferous trees. Countless swarms of bees will gather from our mountains scented treasures which now evaporate uselessly like the flowers from which they emanate. There is thus no sector of agriculture that will not experience significant development.

The same is true for shipping. Thousands of ships will go to catch whales, and in a short time we will have a navy capable of upholding the honor of France and satisfying the patriotic susceptibility of us who petition you, the sellers of tallow candles, etc.

But what have we to say about Articles de Paris?79 You can already picture the gilt work, bronzes, and crystal in candlesticks, lamps, chandeliers, and candelabra shining in spacious stores compared with which today's shops are nothing but boutiques.

Even the poor resin tapper on top of his sand dune or the poor miner in the depths of his black shaft would see his earnings and well-being improved.

Think about it, sirs, and you will remain convinced that perhaps there is not one Frenchman, from the wealthy shareholder of Anzin to a humble match seller, whose fate would not be improved by the success of our request.

We anticipate your objections, sirs, but you cannot put forward a single one that you have not culled from the well-thumbed books of the supporters of free trade. We dare to challenge you to say one word against us that will not be turned instantly against yourselves and the principle that governs your entire policy.

Will you tell us that if we succeed in this protection France will gain nothing, since consumers will bear its costs?

Our reply to you is this:

You no longer have the right to invoke the interests of the consumer. When the latter was in conflict with the producers, you sacrificed him on every occasion. You did this to stimulate production and to increase its domain. For the same reason, you should do this once again.

You yourselves have forestalled the objection. When you were told: "Consumers have an interest in the free introduction of iron, coal, sesame, wheat, and cloth", you replied: "Yes, but producers have an interest in their exclusion." Well then, if consumers have an interest in the admission of natural light, producers have one in its prohibition.

"But," you also said, "producers and consumers are one and the same. If manufacturers gain from protection, they will cause agriculture to gain. If agriculture prospers, it will provide markets for factories." Well, then, if you grant us the monopoly of lighting during the day, first of all we will purchase a great deal of tallow, charcoal, oil, resin, wax alcohol, silver, iron, bronze, and crystal to fuel our industry and, what is more, once we and our countless suppliers have become rich, we will consume a great deal and spread affluence throughout the sectors of the nation's production.

Will you say that sunlight is a free gift and that to reject free gifts would be to reject wealth itself, even under the pretext of stimulating the means of acquiring it?

Just take note that you have a fatal flaw at the heart of your policy and that up to now you have always rejected foreign products because they come close to being free gifts and all the more so to the degree that they come closer to this. You had only a half reason to accede to the demands of other monopolists; to accede to our request, you have a complete reason and to reject us precisely on the basis that we are better founded would be to advance the equation + x + = -; in other words it would be to pile absurdity on absurdity.

Work and nature contribute in varying proportions to the production of a product, depending on the country and climate. The portion provided by nature is always free; it is the portion which labor contributes that establishes its value and is paid for.

If an orange from Lisbon is sold at half the price of an orange from Paris, it is because natural and consequently free heat gives to one what the other owes to artificial and consequently expensive heat.

Therefore when an orange reaches us from Portugal, it can be said that it is given to us half free and half paid for, or in other words, at half the price compared to the one from Paris.

Well, it is precisely its being half-free (excuse the expression) that you use as an argument to exclude it. You say, "How can domestic labor withstand the competition of foreign labor when domestic labor has to do everything and foreign labor only half of the task, with the sun accomplishing the rest?" But if this matter of things being half-free persuades you to reject competition how will things being totally free lead you to accept competition? Either you are not logicians or, in rejecting half-free products as harmful to our domestic economy, you have to reject totally free goods a fortiori and with twice as much zeal.

Once again, when a product, coal, iron, wheat, or cloth, comes to us from abroad and if we can acquire it with less work than if we made it ourselves, the difference is a free gift bestowed on us. This gift is more or less significant depending on whether the difference is greater or lesser. It ranges from one-quarter to half- or three-quarters of the value of the product if foreigners ask us only for three-quarters, half-, or one-quarter of the payment. It is as total as it can be when the donor asks nothing from us, like the sun for light. The question, which we set out formally, is to know whether you want for France the benefit of free consumption or the alleged advantages of expensive production. Make your choice, but be logical, for as long as you reject, as you do, foreign coal, iron, wheat, and cloth, the closer their price gets to zero, how inconsistent it would be to accept sunlight, whose cost is zero, throughout the day?


77 "Perfidious Albion" (or faithless or deceitful England) was the disparaging name given to Britain by its French opponents. It probably dates from the 1790s, when the British monarchy subsidized the other monarchies of Europe in their struggle against the French Republic during the revolution. Bastiat makes fun of this name in a later Sophism by talking about "Perfidious Normandy." See ES2, XIII "Protection, or the Three Municipal Magistrates," below, pp. ???. See the glossary entry on "Perfidious Albion."

78 This is a dig by Bastiat at the famously bad British weather. By making it so often overcast in Britain the sun seems to be favoring the British artificial light industry in a way that it doesn't for the French industry which has to suffer economic hardship because there is more sunny weather (at least in the south of France). The average number of hours of sunshine per year in Britain (1971-2000) was 1,457.4. For France, Lille in the north east had 1,617 hours (1991-2010), Paris had 1,662 hours, Bordeaux (near where Bastiat lived) had 2,035 hours, and Marseille on the Mediterranean had 2,858. For Australia (1981-2010), Townsville in North Queensland had 3,139 hours, Sydney had 2,592, and Hobart in the south had 2,263 hours.

79 "Articles de Paris" were high priced luxury goods produced in France and included leather goods, jewelry, fashion clothing, perfume, and other such goods.




T.34 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): VIII. Differential Duties" (JDE, Oct., 1845)


T.34 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): VIII. Differential Duties" (Droits différentiels), Journal des Économistes, Oct. 1845, T. 12, no. 47, p. 207-08; also ES1.8. [OC4, pp. 62-63.] [CW3 - ES1.8]


VIII. Differential Duties [October 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Droits différentiels" (Differential Duties) [JDE, October 1845, T. 12, p. 207-08].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 62-63.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


A poor farmer in the Gironde80 had lovingly cultivated a vine. After a lot of tiring work, he finally had the joy of producing a cask of wine, and he forgot that each drop of this precious nectar had cost his forehead one drop of sweat. "I will sell it," he told his wife, "and with the money I will buy some yarn with which you will make our daughter's trousseau." The honest farmer went to town and met a Belgian and an Englishman. The Belgian said to him, "Give me your cask of wine and in exchange I will give you fifteen reels of yarn." The Englishman said, "Give me your wine and I will give you twenty reels of yarn for we English spin more cheaply than the Belgians." However, a customs officer who happened to be there said, "My good man, trade with the Belgian if you like, but my job is to prevent you from trading with the Englishman." What!" said the farmer, "you want me to be content with fifteen reels of yarn from Brussels when I can have twenty from Manchester?" "Certainly, do you not see that France would be the loser if you received twenty reels instead of fifteen?" "I find it difficult to understand this," said the wine producer. "And I to explain it, went on the customs officer, "but this is a fact, for all the deputies, ministers, and journalists agree on this point, that the more a people receive in exchange for a given quantity of their products, the poorer they become." He had to conclude the bargain with the Belgian. The farmer's daughter had only three-quarters of her trousseau, and these honest people still ask themselves how it can be that you are ruined by receiving four instead of three and why you are richer with three dozen napkins than with four dozen.


80 The "Gironde" is a département in the Aquitaine region in southwest France, immediately to the north of the département of Les Landes, on the Atlantic coast. The Gironde contains the port city of Bordeaux and is famous for its wines. See the glossary entry on "Gironde".



T.35 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): IX. An immense Discovery!!!" (JDE, Oct., 1845)


T.35 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): IX. An immense Discovery!!!" (Immense découverte!!!), Journal des Économistes, Oct. 1845, T. 12, no. 47, p. 208-11; also ES1.9. [OC4, pp. 63-67.] [CW3 - ES1.9]


IX. An immense Discovery!!! [October 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Immense découverte!!!" (An immense Discovery!!!) [JDE, October 1845, T. 12, p. 208-11].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 63-67.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


At a time when all minds are occupied with searching for savings on various means of transport;

At a time when, in order to achieve these savings, we are leveling roads, canalizing rivers, improving steamships, and linking all our frontiers to Paris by an iron network, by traction systems that are atmospheric, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, etc.;81

Finally, at a time when I simply have to believe that everyone is enthusiastically and sincerely seeking the solution to the following problem:

"To ensure that the price of things at their place of consumption is as close as possible to their price at their place of production."

I would feel guilty toward my country, my century, and myself if I kept secret any longer the marvelous discovery I have just made.

For while the inventor's illusions may well be legendary, I am as certain as I can be that I have found an infallible means that ensures that products from around the world reach France and vice versa with a considerable reduction in their prices.

Infallible! This is just one of the advantages of my astonishing invention.

It requires neither a drawing, an estimate, nor preliminary studies, nor any engineers, machine operators, entrepreneurs, capital, shareholders, nor help from the government!

It offers no risk of shipwreck, explosion, shocks, fire, or derailment!

It can be put into practice in less than a day!

Lastly, and this will doubtless recommend it to the public, it will not cost the budget one centime, far from it. It will not increase the numbers of civil servants and the requirements of bureaucracy, far from it. It will not cost anyone his freedom, far from it.

It is not by chance that I have come about my discovery, it is through observation. I have to tell you now what led me to it.

This in fact was the question I had to solve:

"Why does something made in Brussels, for example, cost more when it reaches Paris?"

Well, it did not take me long to see that this is a result of the fact that there are several types of obstacles between Paris and Brussels. First of all, there is distance; we cannot cover this without a certain difficulty and loss of time, and we either have to subject ourselves to this or pay someone else to. Next come the rivers, the marshes, the lie of the land, and the mud; these are so many difficulties to be overcome. We do this by constructing roadways, building bridges, cutting roads, and reducing their resistance through the use of cobbles, iron bands, etc. But all this has a cost, and the object being carried must bear its share of these costs. There are also thieves on the roads, which necessitates a gendarmerie, a police force, etc.

Well, among these obstacles, there is one that we have set up ourselves, and at great expense, between Brussels and Paris. This is the men lying in ambush all along the frontier, armed to the teeth and responsible for placing difficulties in the way of the transport of goods from one country to the other. We call them customs officers. They act in exactly the same way as mud or ruts in the road. They delay, hinder, and contribute to the difference we have noted between the cost of production and the consumer price, a difference which it is our problem to decrease as far as possible.

And now we have solved the problem. Reduce tariffs .

You will have built the Northern railway line without it having cost you a penny. Furthermore, you will save heavy expenditure and you will begin to put capital in your pocket right from the first day.

Really, I ask myself how it was possible for enough strange ideas to have got into our heads that we were persuaded to pay many millions with a view to destroying the natural obstacles lying between France and foreign countries and at the same time to pay many other millions to substitute artificial obstacles for them which have exactly the same effect, so that the obstacles created counteract those destroyed, things go on as before and the result of the operation is double expenditure.

A Belgian product worth 20 fr. in Brussels fetches 30 when it reaches Paris, because of transport costs. A similar product of Parisian manufacture costs 40 fr. So what do we do about it?

First we put a duty of at least 10 fr. on the Belgian product in order to raise its cost price in Paris to 40 fr., and we pay a host of supervisors to ensure that it does not escape this duty, with the result that during the journey 10 fr. is charged for transport and 10 fr. for tax.

Having done this, we reason thus: transport from Brussels to Paris, which costs 10 fr., is very expensive. Let us spend two or three hundred million on railways, and we will reduce it by half.82 Obviously, all that we will have obtained is that the Belgian product will be sold in Paris for 35 fr., that is to say:

20 fr. its price in Brussels

10 duty

5 reduced transport by rail

35 fr. total, or the cost price in Paris

Well, would we not have achieved the same result by lowering the tarif to 5 fr.? We would then have:

20 fr. its price in Brussels

5 fr. reduced duty

10 fr. transport by ordinary road

35 fr. total, or the cost price in Paris

And this procedure would have saved us the 200 million that the railway costs, plus the cost of customs surveillance, since these are bound to decrease as the incentive to smuggle decreases.

But, people will say, the duty is necessary to protect Parisian industry. So be it, but then do not ruin the effect with your railway.

For if you persist in wanting the Belgian product to cost 40 fr. like the Parisian one, you will have to raise the duty to 15 fr. to have:

20 fr. its price in Brussels

15 protectionist duty

5 transport by rail

40 fr. total with prices equalized.

Then my question is, from this point of view, what is the use of the railway?

Frankly, is it not somewhat humiliating for the nineteenth century to prepare a spectacle of childishness such as this for future ages with such imperturbable seriousness? To be fooled by others is already not very pleasant, but to use the huge system of representation in order to fool yourself is to fool yourself twice over and in a matter of arithmetic, this is something to take down the pride of the century of enlightenment a peg or two.


81 In 1842 the government decided to encourage the building of a national network. Under the Railway Law of 11 June 1842 the government ruled that 5 main railways would be built radiating out of Paris which would be built in cooperation with private industry. The government would build and own the right of way, bridges, tunnels and railway stations, while private industry would lay the tracks, and build and maintain the rolling stock and the lines. The government would also set rates and regulate safety. The first railway concessions were issued by the government in 1844-45 triggering a wave of speculation and attempts to secure concessions. See the glossary entry on "The French Railways."

82 Michel Chevalier estimates that the French government had spent over fr. 420 million on railway construction between 1841 and 1848. See Michel Chevalier, "Statistique des travaux publics sous le Gouvernement de Juillet," Annuaire de l'économie politiques pour 1849, pp. 209-37.



T.36 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): X. Reciprocity" (JDE, Oct., 1845)


T.36 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): X. Reciprocity" (Réciprocité), Journal des Économistes, Oct. 1845, T. 12, no. 47, p. 211; also ES1.10. [OC4, pp. 67-70.] [CW3 - ES1.10]


X. Reciprocity [October 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Réciprocité" (Reciprocity) [JDE, October 1845, T. 12, p. 211].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 67-70.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


We have just seen that everything that makes transport expensive during a journey acts to encourage protection or, if you prefer, that protection acts to encourage everything that makes transport expensive.

It is therefore true to say that a tariff is a marsh, a rut or gap in the road, or a steep slope, in a word, an obstacle whose effect results in increasing the difference between the prices of consumption and production. Similarly, it is incontrovertible that marshes or bogs are genuine protective tariffs .

There are people (a few, it is true, but there are some) who are beginning to understand that obstacles are no less obstacles because they are artificial and that our well-being has more to gain from freedom than from protection, precisely for the same reason that makes a canal more favorable than a "sandy, steep and difficult track."83

But, they say, this freedom has to be mutual. If we reduced our barriers with Spain without Spain reducing hers with us, we would obviously be stupid. Let us therefore sign commercial treaties on the basis of an equitable reciprocity, let us make concessions in return for concessions, and let us make the sacrifice of buying in order to obtain the benefit of selling.

It pains me to tell people who reason thus that, whether they realize it or not, they are thinking along protectionist lines, the only difference being that they are slightly more inconsistent than pure protectionists, just as pure protectionists are more inconsistent than absolute prohibitionists.84

I will demonstrate this through the following fable:

Stulta and Puera85

Once upon a time there were, somewhere or other, two towns, Stulta and Puera. At great expense, they built a road between the two. When it was completed, Stulta said to itself, "Now Puera is flooding us with its products; we had better look into it." As a result, it created and paid a Corps of Obstructors,86 so called because their mission was to place obstacles in the path of convoys that arrived from Puera. Soon afterwards, Puera also had a Corps of Obstructors.

After several centuries had passed, and enlightenment had made considerable progress, such was the growth of Puera's awareness that it had grasped that these reciprocal obstacles must necessarily be mutually detrimental. It sent a diplomat to Stulta, who, though his words were couched in official terms, effectively said: "We built a road and now we are obstructing it. This is absurd. It would have been better for us to have left things in their original state. First of all, we would not have had to pay for the road, and secondly for the obstacles. In the name of Puera, I have come to suggest to you, not that we suddenly abandon the setting up of mutual obstacles between us, that would be to act in accordance with a principle and we despise principles as much as you do, but to reduce these obstacles a little, taking care to balance our respective sacrifices in this respect equitably." This was what the diplomat said. Stulta asked for time to consider this. It consulted in turn its manufacturers and its farmers. Finally, after a few years, it declared that the negotiations had broken down.

At this news, the inhabitants of Puera held a council. An old man (who had always been suspected of being secretly bribed by Stulta) stood up and said: "The obstacles created by Stulta damage our sales, and this is terrible. The ones we have created ourselves damage our purchases, and this is also terrible. We cannot do anything about the first situation but the second is in our power. Let us at least free ourselves of one since we cannot get rid of both. Let us abolish our Corps of Obstructors without demanding that Stulta does the same. One day, it will doubtless learn to do its sums better."

A second councilor, a practical man of action who had no theoretical principles and was imbued with the experience of his ancestors, replied: "Do not listen to this dreamer, this theoretician, this innovator, this utopian,87 this economist, this Stulta-lover.88 We would all be ruined if the obstacles on the road were not equal, in equitable balance between Stulta and Puera. There would be greater difficulty in going than in coming and in exporting than in importing. Compared with Stulta, we would be in the inferior position that Le Havre, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lisbon, London, Hamburg, and New Orleans are in compared with the towns situated at the sources of the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, the Tagus, the Thames, the Elbe, and the Mississippi, for it is harder to go up rivers than to go down them." (A voice observed that towns at the mouths of rivers were more prosperous than those at their sources.) "That is not possible." (The same voice: But it is true.) "Well then, they have prospered contrary to the rules." Such conclusive reasoning shook the assembly. The speaker succeeded in convincing it by referring to national independence, national honor, national dignity, national production, the flood of products, tributes, and merciless competition; in short, he carried the day for maintaining the obstacles and, if you are interested in this, I can take you to certain countries in which you will see with your own eyes the Corps of Road Builders89 and the Corps of Obstructors working in total harmony [??? - travaillant de la meilleure intelligence du monde - working with the best intentions in the world, best information available to them], in accordance with a decree issued by the same legislative assembly and at the expense of the same taxpayers, the former to clear the road and the latter to obstruct it.


83 Bastiat quotes the opening lines of a fable by La Fontaine "Le Coche et la mouche" (The Coach and the Fly): "Over a hilly, sandy, and difficult road, exposed on all sides to the sun, six strong horses were pulling a coach." [FEE trans.] From Fables de la Fontaine. Illustrées par J.J. Granville. Nouvelle édition. (Paris: H. Fournier ainé, 1838), Tome I, pp. 269-70. See the glossary entry on "Fontaine."

84 Bastiat distinguishes between a policy of "protectionism", which imposes tariffs or duties on the importation of foreign goods in order to "protect" domestic producers from foreign competition, and a policy of "prohibition", which prevents of prohibits the importation of any foreign goods in ordinary to prevent any competition from challenging the position of domestic producers. This should be distinguished from the modern policy of "prohibition", such as of alcohol or certain drugs, which makes it illegal for anyone, domestic or foreign, to produce, sell, or consume these products anywhere under threat of punishment by the State. See the glossary entry on "Bastiat's Policy on Tariffs."

85 The names of the towns "Stulta" and "Puera" are plays on the Latin words "stultus," for foolish, and "puer/puera," for young boy or girl; thus one might translate them as "Stupidville" and "Childishtown."

86 Bastiat uses the expression "corps d'Enrayeurs" (body or corps of Obstructors) which we have translated as "Corps" to give it the flavor of an official government or military body, as in the "Army Corps of Engineers" in the United Sates, or the "Corps des ingénieurs des Mines" (Corps of Mining Engineers) or the "Corps des ingénieurs des Ponts, des Eaux et des Forêts" (Corps of Engineers for Bridges, Waterways, and Forests) in France.

87 See the glossary entry on "Utopias."

88 Bastiat creates a neologism - "stultomane", meaning Stultophile (used in the FEE translation, p. 69) or Stulta-lover.

89 Bastiat uses the term "cantonnier" which refers to the workers who are employed by the local districts known as "Cantons" whose responsibility it was to maintain the roads which passed through their districts. The system of "cantonniers" was formalized by a decree issued by Napoleon on 16 December 1811 and after 1816 they became permanent employees of the state. As a useful contrast to Bastiat's "Corps of Obstructors" we have translated "cantonniers" as "Corps of Road Builders."



T.37 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): X. Nominal Prices" (JDE, Oct., 1845)


T.37 (1845.10.15) "Economic Sophisms (cont.): X. Nominal Prices" (Prix absolus), Journal des Économistes, Oct. 1845, T. 12,no. 47, p. 213-15. This chapter was originally numbered XII in the JDE but became chapter XI in the book version of Economic Sophisms and incorporated chapter XI. "Stulta et Puera", from the JDE version p. 211-12; also ES1.11. [ OC4, pp. 70-74.] [CW3 - ES1.11]


XI. Nominal Prices [October 1845] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Prix absolus" (Nominal Prices) [JDE, October 1845, T. 12, p. 213-15 (this chapter was originally numbered XII in the JDE but became chapter 11 in the book version of Economic Sophisms and incorporated chapter XI. "Stulta et Puera", from the JDE version p. 211-12)].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 70-74.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


Do you wish to assess the merits of freedom and protection? Do you wish to understand the effects of an economic phenomenon? Then look for its effects on the abundance or scarcity of things and not on whether prices rise or fall. Be careful of only thinking about nominal prices;90 this will lead you into an inextricable labyrinth.

After establishing that protection makes things more expensive, M. Mathieu de Dombasle91 adds:

"The increase in prices raises living expences and consequently the price of labor, (but) each person is compensated for the increase in their expenses by the increase in prices for the things they produce. Thus, if everybody pays more as a consumer, everybody also receives more as a producer."92

It is clear that this argument can be turned on its head, and we can say: "If everybody receives more as a producer, everybody pays more as a consumer."

Well, what does that prove? Nothing other than that protection moves wealth about uselessly and unjustly. This is just what plunder does.

Moreover, to accept that this vast apparatus results in simple mutual compensations, we have to agree with M. de Dombasle's word "consequently" and be sure that the price of labor rises in line with the price of protected products. This is a question of fact that I pass back to M. Moreau de Jonnès;93 let him please look into whether pay rates have moved upward in line with Anzin mining shares. For my part, I do not think so, because I believe that the price of labor, like all the others, is governed by the relationship between supply and demand. Now, I can quite see that restriction decreases the supply of coal and consequently increases its price, but I see rather less clearly that it increases the demand for labor to the extent of increasing rates of pay. I see this all the less clearly in that the quantity of labor demanded depends on the capital available. Protection may well cause capital to move and shift from one industry to another, but it cannot increase it by an obole.94

Besides, this highly interesting question will be examined elsewhere. I will return to nominal prices and say that there are no absurdities that cannot be made plausible by reasoning like M. de Dombasle's.

Imagine that an isolated nation that had a given quantity of cash took pleasure in burning half of what it produced each year, and I will take it on myself to prove, using M. de Dombasle's theory, that it will not be a whit the less rich.

In effect, following the fire, everything will double in price and inventories taken before and after the disaster will show exactly the same nominal value. But in this case, who will have lost? If Jean buys cloth at a higher price, he will also sell his wheat at a higher price, and if Pierre loses on his purchase of wheat, he will make good on the sale of his cloth. "Each person is compensated (I say) for the increase in the amount of their expenses by the increase in the price for the things they produce; and if everybody pays more as a consumer, everybody receives more as a producer. "

All this is a tissue of confusion rather than science. The truth expressed in its simplest form is this: whether men destroy cloth and wheat by fire or through use, the effect will be the same with respect to the price but not with respect to wealth, for it is precisely in the use of things that wealth or well-being consists.

In the same way, restriction, while decreasing the abundance of things, may increase their price so that, if you like, in purely monetary terms, each person may be just as rich. But in an inventory, does a record of three hectoliters of wheat at 20 francs or four hectoliters at 15 francs come to the same thing from the point of view of satisfying need because the result is still 60 francs?

And it is to this point of view of consumption that I will incessantly bring protectionists back, since this is the purpose of all our efforts and the solution to all problems.95 I will always say to them: "Is it not true that by hampering trade, by limiting the division of labor, and by forcing labor to grapple with the difficulties of location and temperature, restriction ultimately decreases the quantity produced by a given amount of effort?" And what does it matter that the lesser quantity produced under a protectionist regime has the same nominal value as a larger quantity produced under the regime of freedom? Man does not live by nominal values, but by real products, and the more he has of these products, at whatever price, the richer he is.

When writing the foregoing, I did not expect ever to meet an anti-economist who was sufficiently good as a logician to contend explicitly that the wealth of peoples depends on the monetary value of things irrespective of their abundance. But just look what I have found in the book by M. de Saint-Chamans (page 210): 96

"If 15 million francs worth of goods sold abroad is taken from normal production, estimated to be 50 million, the remaining 35 million worth can no longer meet normal demand and will increase in price and will reach a value of 50 million. Then the revenue of the country will be 15 million more. . . . There will therefore be an increase in wealth of 15 million for the country, exactly the amount of the cash which is imported."

Is that not ridiculous! If during the year a nation makes 50 million francs' worth of harvested products and goods, it just has to sell a quarter abroad to be a quarter richer! Therefore, if it sold half, it would increase its fortune by half, and if it trades for cash its last wisp of wool and last grain of wheat, it would raise its wealth to 100 million! Producing infinitely high prices through absolute scarcity is very strange way of becoming wealthier!

Anyway, do you want to assess the merits of the two doctrines? Subject them to the exaggeration test.

According to the doctrine of M. de Saint-Chamans, the French would be just as rich, that is to say, as well provided with everything with a thousandth part of their annual output, since it would be worth a thousand times more.

According to ours, the French would be infinitely rich if their annual output was infinitely abundant and consequently was of no value at all.97


90 Bastiat uses several terms to describe what he is getting at in this article: "prix absolus" (nominal prices), "valeurs nominales" (nominal value), "en hausser le prix… numérairement parlant" (raising prices in purely monetary terms), and so on. He wants to make the point that there is a difference between real economic wealth and the accounting device (the money price) used to measure it.

91 Joseph Alexandre Mathieu de Dombasle (1777-1843) was an agronomist who introduced the practice of triennial crop rotation (cereals, forage, vegetables) in France. He also wrote on the sugar-beet industry, De l'impôt sur le sucre indigène: Nouvelles considerations (1837). See the glossary entry on "Dombasle."

92 Christophe Joseph Alexandre Mathieu de Dombasle, Oeuvres diverses: économie politique, instruction publique, haras et remontes (Paris: Bouchard-Huzard, 1843). "Études sur le commerce international dans les rapports avec la richesse des peuples," Chap. IV. "Le régime de protection blesse-t-il les intérêts des consommateurs?". Quote on pp. 49-50. See the glossary entry on "Dombasle."

93 Alexandre Moreau de Jonnès (1778–1870) was an economist and a statistician who was director of the statistical bureau in the ministry of trade (1834–42). See the glossary entry on "Moreau de Jonnès."

94 An "obole" was a coin of very low value. Traditionally, the relative value of coinage before the introduction of the France was 240 denier = 20 sol = 1 livre. An obole was a small fraction of a denier (sometimes 1/2). See the glossary entry on "French Currency."

95 (Paillotet's note) This thought often recurs in the author's writings. In his eyes it was of capital importance, and four days before his death it dictated the following recommendation to him "Tell de F. [Roger de Fontenay] to treat economic questions always from the point of view of the consumer, since the consumer's interest is at one with that of the human race." [Roger de Fontenay (1809-91) was a friend and intellectual ally of Bastiat's in their debates in the Political Economy Society on the nature of rent. Fontenay worked with Prosper Paillottet in editing the Ouevres complètes of Bastiat for which he wrote the Preface. See the glossary entry on "Fontenay."]

96 Bastiat quotes from Saint-Chamans's Du système d'impôt fondé sur les principes de l'économie politique, pp. 210-11. See the glossary entry on "Saint-Chamans."

97 (Paillottet's note) See chapter V of the second series of the Sophisms [see this volume, "High Prices, Low Prices," pp. 000—00] and chapter IV of the Economic Harmonies (OC, chap. 4, p. 93, "Échange").



T.38 (1845.11) Economic Sophisms. First Series (Guillaumin, 1846)


T.38 (1845.11) (ES1) Sophismes économiques. Première série (Paris: Guillaumin, 1846) (Economic Sophisms. First Series): Comprising articles published in the Journal des économistes, April, July, Oct. 1845 and other material. Conclusion is dated "Mugron, 2 Nov., 1845". Published in Paris, by Guillaumin, in Jan. 1846. The following chapters were not published previously (see below for details). [OC4, pp. 1-126.] [CW3 - ES1]

  • 1845.12 ES1 [Author's Introduction] [OC4.1.0, pp. 1-5]
  • 1845.12 ES1.12 "La protection élève-t-elle le taux des salaires?" (Does Protection increase the Rate of Pay?) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 74-79]
  • 1845.12 ES1.13 "Théorie, Pratique" (Theory and Practice) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 79-86]
  • 1845.12 ES1.14 "Conflit de principes" (A Conflict of Principles) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 86-90]
  • 1845.12 ES1.15 "Encore la réciprocité" (More Reciprocity) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 90-92]
  • 1845.12 ES1.16 "Les fleuves obstrués plaidant pour les prohibitionistes" (Blocked Rivers pleading in favor of the Prohibitionists) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 92-93]
  • 1845.12 ES1.17 "Un chemin de fer négatif" (A Negative Railway] [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 93-94]
  • 1845.12 ES1.18 "Il n'y a pas de principes absolus" (There are no Absolute Principles) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 94-97]
  • 1845.12 ES1.19 "Indépendance nationale" (National Independence) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 97-99]
  • 1845.12 ES1.20 "Travail humain, travail national" (Human Labor and Domestic Labor) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 100-05]
  • 1845.12 ES1 21 "Matières premières" (Raw Materials) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 105-15]
  • 1845.12 ES1 22 "Métaphores" (Metaphors) [n.d.] [OC4, pp. 115-19]
  • 1845.11 ES1 "Conclusion" (Conclusion) [signed "Mugron, 2 Nov., 1845"] [OC4, pp. 119-26]


[Author's Introduction to Economic Sophisms] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: [No title given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 1-5.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


In political economy there is a lot to learn and very little to do. (Bentham)5 6

In this small volume, I have sought to refute a few of the arguments against the deregulation of trade.

This is not a conflict that I am entering into against protectionists. It is a principle that I am attempting to instill into the minds of sincere men who hesitate because they doubt.

I am not one of those who say: "Protection is based on interests." I believe that it is based on error or, if you prefer, on half-truths. Too many people fear freedom for this apprehension not to be sincere.

This is setting my sights high, but I must admit that I would like this small work to become in some way a manual for men called upon to decide between the two principles. When you do not possess a long-standing familiarity with the doctrine of freedom, protectionist sophisms will constantly come to one's mind in one form or another. To release it from them, a long effort of analysis is required on each occasion, and not everyone has the time to carry out this task, least of all the legislators. This is why I have tried to do it all at once.

But, people will say, are the benefits of freedom so hidden that they are apparent only to professional economists?

Yes, we agree that our opponents in the debate have a clear advantage over us. They can set out a half-truth in a few words, and to show that it is a half-truth we need long and arid dissertations.

This is in the nature of things. Protection brings together in one single point all the good it does and distributes among the wider mass of people the harm it inflicts. One is visible to the naked eye, the other only to the mind's eye.7 — It is exactly the opposite for freedom.

This is so for almost all economic matters.

If you say: Here is a machine that has thrown thirty workers out into the street ;

Or else: Here is a spendthrift who will stimulate all forms of industry;

Or yet again: The conquest of Algiers8 has doubled Marseille's trade;

Or lastly: The budget assures the livelihood of one hundred thousand families.

You will be understood by everyone, and your statements are clear, simple, and true in themselves. You may deduce the following principles from them:

Machines are harmful;

Luxury, conquest, and heavy taxes are a blessing;

And your theory will have all the more success in that you will be able to support it with irrefutable facts.

We, on the other hand, cannot stick to one cause and its immediate effect. We know that this effect itself becomes a cause in its turn. To judge a measure, it is therefore necessary for us to follow it through a sequence of results up to its final effect. And, since we must give utterance to the key word, we are reduced to reasoning.

But right away here we are, assailed by these cries, "You are theorists, metaphysicians, ideologues,9 utopians,10 and in thrall to rigid principles," and all the prejudices of the public are turned against us.

What are we to do, therefore? Call for patience and good faith in the reader and, if we are capable of this, cast into our deductions such vivid clarity that the truth and falsehood stand out starkly in order for victory to be won either by restriction or freedom, once and for all.

I must make an essential observation at this point.

A few extracts from this small volume have appeared in the Journal des économistes.

In a criticism that was incidentally very benevolent, published by the Vicomte de Romanet11 (see the issues of Le Moniteur industriel dated 15 and 18 May 1845)12, he assumed that I was asking for customs dues to be abolished. M. de Romanet is mistaken. What I am asking for is the abolition of the protectionist regime. We do not refuse taxes to the government; what we would like, if possible, is to dissuade those being governed from taxing each other. Napoleon said: "Customs dues ought not to be a fiscal instrument, but a means of protecting industry."13 We plead the contrary and say: "Customs dues must not be an instrument of mutual plunder in the hands of workers, but it can be a fiscal instrument that is as good as any other." We are so far, or to involve only me in the conflict, I am so far from demanding the abolition of customs dues that I see in them a lifeline for our finances.14 I believe that they are likely to produce huge revenues for the Treasury, and if my idea is to be expressed in its entirety, at the snail's pace that sound economic doctrine takes to circulate, I am counting more on the needs of the Treasury than on the force of enlightened public opinion for trade reform to be accomplished.

But finally what are your conclusions, I am asked.

I have no need of conclusions. I am opposing sophisms, that is all.

But, people continue, it is not enough to destroy, you have to build. My view is that in the destruction of an error the truth is created.

After that, I have no hesitation in expressing my hope. I would like public opinion to be persuaded to ratify a customs law that lays down terms of approximately this order:

Objects of prime necessity shall pay an ad valorem duty of 5%

Objects of normal usefulness 10%

Luxury objects 15 or 20%

Furthermore, these distinctions are taken from an order of ideas that is totally foreign to political economy as such, and I am far from thinking that they are as useful and just as they are commonly supposed to be. However, that is another story.


5 Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was the founder of the school of thought known as utilitarianism and influenced a group of political and economic reformers in the early 19th century known as the Philosophic Radicals. It is interesting that Bastiat chose two passages from Bentham's Théorie des peines et des récompenses (1811) as the opening for both the First and Second Series of the Economic Sophisms. See the glossary entry on "Bentham."

6 Some of Jeremy Bentham's writings appeared first in French as a result of the work of his colleague Étienne Dumont, who translated, edited, and published several of Bentham's works in Switzerland. The quotation above comes from Dumont's Théorie des peines et des recompenses, (1811), p. 270. It is also possible that Bentham was the inspiration behind Bastiat's choice of words for the title of this series of articles known as "Economic Sophisms." Bentham used Dumont to edit some of his unpublished manuscripts and to prepare them for publication in French. One of these texts was Traité des sophismes politiques, which appeared in 1816. An English version of the book appeared with the editorial assistance of the Benthamite Peregrine Bingham the Younger, the Handbook of Political Fallacies, which appeared in 1824. See the introduction to Bentham, Handbook of Political Fallacies; and Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2, "The Book of Fallacies: From Unfinished Papers of Jeremy Bentham" (</title/1921/114047>). Bentham also wrote an attack on the idea of natural rights as expressed in the French "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" (1789) under the title of "Anarchical Fallacies" (written 1796 but not published until 1843) (/title/1921/114226). See also Waldron, Nonsense upon Stilts. Bentham's famous dismissal of natural rights as "nonsense upon stilts" can be found in this volume: "Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense,—nonsense upon stilts" (/title/1921/114230/2345508).

7 (Paillottet's note) This glimpse gave rise later to the pamphlet entitled What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, which is included in this volume [see this volume, pp. 000—00].

8 Algeria was invaded and conquered by France in 1830 and the occupied parts were annexed to France in 1834. According to the new constitution of the Second Republic (1848) it was declared that Algeria was no longer a colony but an integral part of France (with three Départements) and that the emigration of French settlers would be officially encouraged and subsidized by the government. These policies were vigorously opposed by Bastiat. See the glossary entry on "Algeria."

9 The theory of "Idéologie" had a specific meaning in the early 19th century. It referred to the ideas of Étienne Condillac (1715-1780) who believed that all ideas were the result of sensations and a wrote a pioneering treatise on economics, Commerce and Government (1776). More especially the word refers to the work of Destutt de Tracy who coined the term "idéologie". He was part of a movement in the 1790s called the "Idéologues" and their belief in constitutional government and free markets incurred the wrath of Napoleon. Jefferson translated one of Tracy's volumes on Ideology into English, with the title Treatise of Political Economy (1817). See the glossary entries on "Condillac" and "Destutt de Tracy".

10 See the glossary entry on "Utopias."

11 Auguste, Vicomte de Romanet (n.d.), was a staunch protectionist who served on the Conseil général de l'agriculture, du commerce, et des manufactures. See the glossary entry on "Romanet."

12 Le Moniteur industriel was the journal of the protectionist "Association pour la défense du travail national" (Association for the Defense of National Employment) founded by Mimerel de Roubaix in 1846. See the glossary entries on "Le Moniteur industriel," "Mimerel," and "Association for the Defense of National Employment".

13 There are remarks about tariffs and protection for French industry scattered throughout the Mémoires of Napoleon. His most direct comments come in a discussion of the Continental System he introduced in November 1806 to weaken the British economy by preventing the sale of British goods in Europe. In the Mémoires Napoleon is very proud of his economic accomplishments and believed that the system of protection he introduced stimulated French industry enormously. "Experience showed that each day the continental system was good, because the State prospered in spite of the burden of the war… The spirit of improvement was shown in agriculture as well as in the factories. New villages were built, as were the streets of Paris. Roads and canals made interior movement much easier. Each week some new improvement was invented: I made it possible to make sugar out of turnips, and soda out of salt. The development of science was at the front along with that of industry." See Mémoires de Napoléon Bonaparte: manuscrit venu de Sainte-Hélène (Paris: Baudouin, 1821), pp. 95-99. See the glossary entry on "Napoléon."

14 Free traders like Bastiat and Cobden distinguished between two kinds of tariffs - "fiscal tariffs," which were solely designed to raise revenue for the government (it should be noted that income taxes did not exist at this time), and "protectionist tariffs" which were designed to provide government favours to particular vested interest groups. In his essay "The Utopian" (written 17 January 1847 and published in ESII as no. XI) Bastiat says he would like to reduce tariffs to 5% across the board (for both imports and exports) in order to achieve the former goal. See the glossary entries on "Cobden," "Utopias," and "Bastiat's Policy on Tariffs."

XII. Does Protection increase the Rate of Pay? [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "La protection élève-t-elle le taux des salaires?" (Does Protection increase the Rate of Pay?) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 74-79.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


An atheist was railing against religion, against priests and against God. "If you continue", said one of the audience, himself not very orthodox, "you are going to re-convert me."

Thus, when we hear our beardless scribblers, romantic writers, reformers, rose-scented and musky writers of serials, gorged on ice cream and champagne, clutching in their portfolios shares of Ganneron, Nord and Mackenzie98 or having their tirades against the egoism and individualism of the century heaped with gold; when we hear them, as I say, railing against the harshness of our institutions, wailing about the wage-earners and the proletariat;99 when we see them raise to the heavens eyes that mourn the sight of the destitution of the working classes, destitution that they never visit save to conjure up lucrative pictures of it, we are tempted to say to them: "If you continue in this way, you will make me indifferent to the fate of the workers."

Oh, such affectation! This is the sickening disease of our time! Workers, if a serious man, a sincere philanthropist, reveals a picture of your distress or writes a book that makes an impression, a rabble of reformers immediately seizes this prey in its claws. It is turned one way and another, exploited, exaggerated and squeezed to the point of disgust and ridicule. All that you are thrown by way of a remedy are the high-sounding words, organization and association. You are flattered and fawned upon, and soon workers will be reduced by this to the situation of slaves: responsible men will be ashamed to take up their cause publicly, for how will they be able to introduce a few sensible ideas in the midst of such bland protestations?

But I refuse to adopt this cowardly indifference that is not justified by the affectation that triggers it!

Workers, your situation is strange! You are being robbed, as I will shortly be proving … No, I withdraw that word. Let us banish from our discourse all violent and perhaps misleading expressions seeing that plunder, clad in the sophisms that conceal it, is carried out, we are expected to believe, against the will of the plunderer and with the consent of those being plundered. But when all is said and done, you are being robbed of the just remuneration for your work and nobody is concerned with achieving justice for you. Oh! If all that was needed to console you were noisy calls for philanthropy, impotent charity and degrading alms and if high-sounding words like organization, communism and phalanstery100 were enough, you would have your fill. But nobody thinks of ensuring that justice, simple justice is rendered to you. And yet, would it not be just for you, when you have been paid your meager salary following a long and hard day's work, to be able to exchange it for as many forms of satisfaction as you can obtain voluntarily from any man anywhere in the world?

One day, perhaps, I too will speak to you about association and organization, and we will then see what you can expect from these illusions that have led you down the garden path.

In the meantime, let us see whether people are doing you an injustice when they pass laws which determine from whom you are permitted to buy the things you need, such as bread, meat, linen and cloth, and, as it were, at what artificial price you will have to pay for them.

Is it true that protection, which, it is admitted, makes you to pay a high price for everything and thus causes you harm, raises your rate of pay proportionally?

On what do rates of pay depend?

One of your people has said this forcefully: "When two workers pursue an employer, earnings decrease; when two employers pursue one worker, they rise."101

Allow me, in short, to use this statement, which is more scientific but may be less clear: "Rates of pay depend on the ratio of the supply of and the demand for labor."

Well, on what does the supply of labor depend?

On the number in the marketplace, and on this initial element, protection has no effect.

On what does the demand for labor depend?

On the national capital available. But has the law that says: "We will no longer receive such and such a product from abroad, we will manufacture it internally," increased this capital? Not in the slightest. The law has withdrawn the product from one area to place it in another but it has not increased the product by one obole. Therefore the law does not increase the demand for labor.

A factory is shown off with pride. Has it been established and maintained with capital from the moon? No, capital has had to be withdrawn either from agriculture, shipping or the wine producing industry. And this is why while there are more workers in our mineshafts and in the suburbs of our manufacturing towns since protectionist duties became law, there are fewer sailors in our ports and fewer workers and wine producers in our fields and hills.

I could continue on this theme for a long time. I prefer to try to make you understand my thought with this example.

A farmer had twenty arpents of land,102 which he developed, with a capital of 10,000 francs. He divided his domain into four parts and established the following rotation: 1st corn, 2nd wheat, 3rd clover, 4th rye. He and his family needed only a small part of the grain, meat and milk that the farm produced, and he sold the excess to purchase oil, flax, wine, etc. All of his capital was spent each year on wages and other payments owed to neighboring workers. This capital was returned through sales and even increased from one year to the next and our farmer, knowing full well that capital produces nothing unless it is put to use, made the working class benefit from these annual surpluses which he used for fencing, land clearance and improvements to his farm equipment and buildings. He even invested some savings with the banker in the neighboring town who did not leave the money idle in his coffers but lent it to ship-owners and entrepreneurs carrying out useful work, so that it continued to generate wages.

However, the farmer died, and his son, as soon as he had control of the inheritance, said: "It must be confessed that my father was a fool all his life. He purchased oil and thus paid tribute to Provence while our land could at a stretch grow olive trees. He bought wine, flax and oranges and paid tribute to Brittany, the Médoc and the islands of Hyères, while vines, jute and orange trees could, more or less, provide a small crop on our land.103 He paid tribute to millers and weavers while our domestic servants could well weave our linen and grind our wheat between two stones. He ruined himself, and in addition he had foreigners earning the wages that were so easy for him to spread around him."

Using this reasoning, our scatterbrain changed the rotation of the domain. He divided it into twenty small strips of land. On one he grew olive trees, on another mulberry trees, on a third flax, on a fourth vines, on a fifth wheat, etc. etc. He thus managed to provide his family with everything and become independent. He took nothing from general circulation and, it is true, paid nothing into it either. Was he any richer? No, for the land was not suitable for growing vines, the climate was not conducive to the prospering of olive trees, and in the end the family was less well provided with these things than at the time when his father obtained them through trade.

As for the workers, there was no more work for them than in the past. There were indeed five times as many strips to cultivate, but they were five times smaller. Oil was produced but less wheat, flax was no longer purchased but rye was no longer sold. Besides, the farmer could not pay more than his capital in salaries and his capital, far from increasing through the new distribution of land, decreased constantly. The majority of it was tied up in buildings and countless items of equipment that were essential for someone who wanted to do everything. As a result, the supply of labor remained the same but the means to pay these workers declined and there was of necessity a decrease in wages.

That is a picture of what happens in a nation that isolates itself through a prohibitionist regime. It increases the number of its industries, I know, but it decreases their size; it provides itself, so to say, with a rotation of industries104 that is more complicated but not more fruitful, far from it, since the same capital and workforce have to attack the job in the face of greater natural difficulties. Fixed capital absorbs a greater portion of working capital, that is to say a greater part of the funds intended for wages. What remains of the fund for wages may well be diversified but that does not increase the total amount. It is like the water in a lake that people thought they had made more abundant because, having been put into many reservoirs, it touches the ground on more spots and offers a greater surface to the sun. They do not understand that it is precisely for this reason that it is absorbed, evaporated and lost more quickly.

With a given amount of capital and labor, a quantity of output is created that decreases in proportion to the number of obstacles it encounters. There is no doubt that, where barriers to international trade in each country force this capital and labor to overcome greater difficulties of climate and temperature, the general result is that fewer products are created or, which comes to the same thing, fewer needs of people are satisfied. Well, workers, if there is a general decrease in the number of needs satisfied, how can your share increase? I ask you, would those who are rich, those who make the law, have arranged things so that not only would they suffer their fair share of the total reduction in the needs that can be satisfied, but that even their already reduced portion would decrease still further, they say, by everything that is to be added to yours? Is that possible? Is it credible? Oh! This generosity is suspect and you would be wise to reject it.105


98 The FEE translator provides the following very informative note (p. 74): "Bastiat here refers by name to certain securities that enjoyed wide public confidence at the time: those of the Comptoir Ganneron, a bank in which, at the height of the speculation, almost four hundred million francs were invested; those of the fur-trading company founded by Sir Alexander MacKenzie and later amalgamated with the original Hudson's Bay Company; and those of the Northern Railway of France."

99 This is the first time before the February Revolution of 1848 that Bastiat used the socialist term "prolétaires" (proletarians) or "prolétariat" (the proletariat). The second occurred in ES3 XVIII. "Monita secreta" which was published on 20 February 1848 (the Revolution broke out on 23 February). Before this time he normally used the word "les ouvriers" (workers) so it seems the vocabulary of political debate was changing on the eve of the Revolution. After the Revolution he used the word proletarian or proletariat several times.

100 The "organization" of workers was urged by Louis Blanc in his influential pamphlet L'Organisation du travail (1839) as a way to overcome the "iniquities" of the system of wage labour and became a catch phrase of the socialist movement in the 1840s. The "Phalanstery" was a method of socialist organization advocated by Charles Fourier and his supporters in which people would live, own property, and work in common. See the glossary entries on "Blanc," "Fourier," and "Phalanstery." See also the discussion of "Association" and "Organization" as commonly used socialist slogans in the 1840s, in the "Note on the Translation."

101 This pithy and colorful formulation of how wages rise or fall according to demand is attributed to the English free trader and manufacturer Richard Cobden (1804-65) and was much quoted by French liberal economists. We have not been able to track down the original source. See the glossary entry on "Cobden".

102 An arpent is about the same size as an acre. See the glossary entry on "French Weights and Measures."

103 Provence is a region in southeastern France along the Mediterranean Sea. Médoc is a wine growing region in the Département of the Gironde north of the city of Bordeaux. The Hyères Islands are located in the Mediterranean close to Provence.

104 The word Bastiat uses in these passages is "sole" which is a small strip of land traditionally used for crop rotation (assolement de culture) in feudal agriculture. He coins another neologism here, namely "assolement industrial" (industrial rotation) suggesting that the protectionist regime creates a kind of "feudalization of industry."

105 (Paillottet's note) See chapter XIV of the Harmonies in Tome VI.


XIII. Theory and Practice [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Théorie, Pratique" (Theory and Practice) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 79-86.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


People accuse us, advocates of free trade, of being theoreticians and not taking sufficient account of practical aspects.

"What a terrible prejudice against M. Say,106" said M. Ferrier,107 "is this long line of distinguished administrators, this imposing line of writers, all of whom have seen things differently from him," a point M. Say does not hide from himself! Listen to him:

"It has been said, in support of old errors, that it is necessary to have some foundation for the ideas so generally adopted by every nation. Should we not be suspicious of observations and reasoning that overturn what has been taken to be constant up to now, what has been taken to be certain by so many leading figures to whom their enlightenment and intentions give credence? This argument, I admit, is worthy of making a profound impression and might cast doubt on the most incontrovertible points if we had not seen in turn the most erroneous opinions, now generally acknowledged to be such, accepted and professed by everyone for many centuries. It is not so long ago that every nation, from the coarsest to the most enlightened, and all men, from street porters to the most learned philosophers, recognized four elements. Nobody thought of disputing this doctrine, which is nevertheless false, to the extent that today there is no assistant biologist who would not be decried if he considered the earth, water, and fire as elements."

At which point, M. Ferrier makes the following observation:

"If M. Say thinks that he has answered the strong objection put forward, he is strangely mistaken. That men, who were nevertheless highly enlightened, have been wrong for several centuries on some point of natural history is understandable and proves nothing. Were water, air, earth and fire, whether elements of not, any the less useful to man? Errors like this are inconsequential; they do not lead to upheavals; they do not cast doubt into people's minds and above all do not harm any interests, and for this reason they might be allowed to last for thousands of years without mishap. The physical world therefore moves forward as though they did not exist. But can this be so for errors that attack the moral world? Can we conceive of an administrative system that is totally false and consequently harmful being followed for several centuries and in several nations with the general consent of all educated men? Could we explain how a system like this could be allied to the increasingly great prosperity of nations? M. Say admits that the argument he is combating is worthy of making a profound impression. Yes, certainly, and this impression remains, for M. Say has argued more in its favor than destroyed it."

Let us listen to M. de Saint-Chamans108:

"It was scarcely before the middle of the last century, the eighteenth century in which all subjects and every principle without exception were subject to discussion by writers, that these suppliers of speculative ideas, applied to everything without being applicable to anything, began to write on the subject of political economy. Before that, there was an unwritten system of political economy that was practiced by governments. Colbert,109 it was said, was its inventor, and it was the rule for all the states in Europe. The strangest thing about it is that it is still so, in spite of anathema and scorn and in spite of the discoveries of the modern school. This system, which our writers called the mercantile system, consisted in … obstructing, through prohibition or import duties, foreign products that might have ruined our factories by competing with them. . . . This system was declared by economist writers of all schools110 to be inept, absurd and likely to impoverish any country; it has been banished from all books, reduced to taking refuge in the practice of all peoples, and we cannot conceive that, with regard to the wealth of nations, governments have not drawn their counsel from scholars rather than from the long-standing experience of a system, etc. …. Above all we cannot conceive that the French government … is determined to resist the progress of enlightenment with regard to political economy and to retain the practice of old errors that all of our economist writers have pointed out … But this is dwelling too much on this mercantile system which has only facts in its favor and which is supported by no writer!"111

Hearing this, will some people not say that when economists call for each person to have the free disposal of his property, they have given birth, like the followers of Fourier, to a new social order, fanciful, strange, a sort of phalanstery that is unprecedented in the annals of the human race?112 It seems to me that if there is anything in all this that has been invented, contingent, it is not freedom, but protection; it is not the ability to trade but indeed the customs service, which is applied to upsetting artificially the natural order of income.

But it is not a question of comparing or judging the two systems. The question for the moment is to know which of the two is based on experience.

Thus, you monopolists claim that facts are on your side and that we have only theories to support us.

You even flatter yourselves that this long series of public acts, this old experience of Europe's that you invoke appeared imposing to M. Say, and I agree that he has not refuted you with his customary sagacity. For my part, I do not yield the domain of fact to you, for you have in your support only exceptional and restrained facts, while we have to oppose the universal facts, the free and voluntary acts of all men.

What are we saying and what do you say?

We say:

"It is better to purchase from others what it would cost more to produce ourselves."

You, on the other hand, say:

"It is better to make things ourselves even though it costs less to purchase them from others."

Well, sirs, leaving theory, demonstration, and reasoning, all things that appear to nauseate you, to one side, which of these two statements has the approval of universal practice on its side?

Just pay a visit to fields, workshops, factories, and stores, look upward, downward, and around you, scrutinize what is being done in your own households, observe your own everyday acts, and tell us what principle is governing all these laborers, workers, entrepreneurs, and merchants. Tell us what your personal practice is.

Do farmers make their own clothes? Do tailors produce the grain they consume? Does your housekeeper not stop making bread at home as soon as she finds it cheaper to purchase it from the baker? Do you mend your own boots instead of writing, in order not to pay tribute to the cobbler? Does the entire economy of society not rest on the separation of occupations, the division of labor, in a word, on exchange? And is trade anything other than this calculation that makes us all, whatever we are, cease direct production when indirect acquisition saves us both time and trouble?

You are thus not men of practice, since you cannot show us a single man anywhere in the world who acts in accordance with your principle.

But, you will say, we have never heard of our principle being used as a rule for individual relations. We fully understand that this would disrupt social links and force men to live like snails, each in his shell. We limit ourselves to claiming that it dominates de facto the relations established between groups in the human family.

As it happens, this assertion is also false. Families, communes, cantons, départements, and provinces are so many groups which all, without exception, reject in practice your principle and have never even given it a thought. All of these obtain by means of exchange what would cost them more to obtain by production. Every nation would do likewise if you did not prevent it by force.

It is therefore we who are the men of practice and experience, for in order to combat the prohibition that you have specially placed on some international trade, we base ourselves on the practice and experience of every individual and every group of individuals whose acts are voluntary and thus can be quoted as evidence. You, however, begin by constraining and preventing and then you seize upon acts that are forced or prohibited to claim: "You see, practice justifies us!"

You rise up against our theory and even against theory in general. But when you posit a principle that is antagonistic to ours, did you ever by chance imagine that you were not indulging in theory? No, no, cross that out of your papers. You are indulging in theory, just like us, but between yours and ours there is this difference:

Our theory consists only in observing universal facts, universal sentiments, universal calculations and procedures, and at the very most classifying them and coordinating them in order to understand them better.

It is so little opposed to practice that it is nothing other than practice explained. We watch the actions of men driven by the instinct of self-preservation and progress and what they do freely and voluntarily; it is exactly this that we call political economy or the economics of society. We constantly repeat that each man is in practice an excellent economist, producing or trading depending on whether there is more to gain from trading or producing. Each one through experience teaches himself this science, or rather science is merely this same experience scrupulously observed and methodically set out.

You, however, make theory in the disparaging meaning of the word. You imagine and invent procedures that are not sanctioned by the practice of any living man under the heavens and then you call coercion and prohibition to your assistance. You have indeed to resort to force since, as you want men to produce what it is more advantageous to purchase, you want them to abandon an advantage and you require them to act in accordance with a doctrine that implies a contradiction even on its own terms.

Thus, I challenge you to extend, even in theory, this doctrine that you admit would be absurd in individual relationships, to transactions between families, communes, départements, or provinces. On your own admission, it is applicable only to international relations.

And this is why you are reduced to repeating each day:

"Principles are never absolute. What is good in individuals, families, communes, and provinces is bad in nations. What is good on a small scale, that is to say, purchasing rather than producing when a purchase is more advantageous than production, is the very thing that is bad on a large scale; the political economy of individuals is not that of peoples," and more nonsense ejusdem farinae.113

And what is the reason for all this? Look closer. To prove to us that we the consumers are your property! That we belong to you, body and soul! That you have an exclusive right over our stomachs and limbs! That it is up to you to feed us and clothe us at a price set by you whatever your incompetence, rapacity or the inferiority of your situation!

No, you are not men of practice; you are men of abstraction . . . and of extortion.114


106 Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) was the leading French political economist in the first third of the nineteenth century. He had the first chair in political economy at the Collège de France. Say is best known for his Traité d'économie politique (1803) and the Cours complet d'économie politique pratique (1828-33). See the glossary on "J.B.Say."

107 (Bastiat's note) From page 5 of De l'administration commerciale opposée à l'économie politique. [Bastiat is quoting from pages v-viii of the second edition of Ferrier's Du gouvernement considéré dans ses rapports avec le commerce (1821). Ferrier in turn is quoting from Say's Traité d'économie politique, 3rd edition, p. lxvi, or 4th edition, p. lxvii. François Ferrier (1777-1861) was an advocate for protectionism and served as director general of the Customs Administration during the Empire and was a member of the Chamber of Peers during the July monarchy. See the glossary entry on "Ferrier."]

108 Auguste Saint-Chamans (1777-1860) was a deputy (1824-27) and a Councillor of State. He advocated protectionism and a mercantilist theory of the balance of trade. See the glossary entry on "Saint-Chamans."

109 Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-83) was the comptroller-general of finance under Louis XIV from 1665 to 1683. He epitomized the policy of state intervention in trade and industry known as "mercantilism." See the glossary entry on "Colbert."

110 (Bastiat's note) Could it not be said: "It is a terrible prejudice against MM. Ferrier and Saint-Chamans that economists of all schools, that is to say, every man who has studied the question, should have reached the same conclusion, that after all, freedom is better than constraint and that God's laws are wiser than Colbert's. [Bastiat is no doubt thinking of at least two schools of economic thought which advocated free trade and laissez-faire policies, the French Physiocrats (such as Quesnay and Turgot) and the Smithian School which followed the ideas of Adam Smith. See the glossary entries on "The Physiocrats," "Adam Smith," and "Laissez-faire."]

111 (Bastiat's note) From page 11 of Du système de l'impôt (The Tax System) by the vicomte de Saint-Chamans. [DMH - Bastiat is quoting from pp. 11-13 of chap. 2 of this work.]

112 François-Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a socialist and founder of the phalansterian school or "Fourierism." This consisted of a utopian, communistic system for the reorganization of society in which individuals would live together as one family and hold property in common. See the glossary entry on "Fourier."

113 A Latin phrase "ejusdem farinae" meaning literally "of the same flour", in other words, "cut from the same cloth."

114 (Paillottet's note) See chapter XV below (see this volume, "More Reciprocity," pp. 000—00).


XIV. A Conflict of Principles [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Conflit de principes" (A Conflict of Principles) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 86-90.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


There is something that confuses me, and it is this:

Sincere political writers studying the economy of societies from the sole point of view of the producer have reached the following two policies:

"Governments ought to make the consumers who are subject to their laws favour national industry."

"They ought to make foreign consumers subject to their laws in order to make them favour national industry."

The first of these policies is called Protectionism, the second is called opening up foreign markets.

Both of them are based on the fundamental idea known as the balance of trade:

"A people grows poorer when it imports and wealthier when it exports."

For if any purchase from abroad is tribute paid out and a loss, it is very simple to restrict and even prohibit imports.

And if any sale abroad is tribute received and a profit, it is only natural to create markets for yourself, even through force.

Protectionist systems, colonial systems: these are therefore just two aspects of the same theory. Preventing our fellow citizens from purchasing from foreigners and forcing foreigners to purchase from our fellow citizens are just two consequences of an identical principle.

Well, it is impossible not to recognize that, according to this doctrine, if it is true, general interest is based on monopoly, or internal plunder, and on conquest, or external plunder.

I enter one of the chalets clinging to the slopes of our Pyrénées.

The head of the household has received only a meager wage for his work. A glacial wind makes his scantily clad children shiver, the fire is out and the table empty. There is wool, wood, and corn the other side of the mountain but these goods are forbidden to the family of the poor journeyman, as the other side of the mountains is no longer France. Foreign pine will not cheer the chalet's fireplace, the shepherd's children will not learn the taste of Basque bread,115 and Navarre wool will not warm their frozen limbs. If this is what the general interest wants: fine! But let us agree that in this instance it is contrary to justice.

To command consumers by law, to force them to buy only in the national market, is to infringe on their freedom and to forbid them an activity, trade, that is in no way intrinsically immoral; in a word, it is to do them an injustice.

And yet it is necessary, people say, if we do not want national production to halt, if we do not want to deal a deathblow to public prosperity.

Writers of the protectionist school therefore reach the sorry conclusion that there is radical incompatibility between Justice and the Public Interest.

On the other hand, if every nation is interested in selling and not purchasing, a violent action and reaction will be the natural state of their mutual dealings, for each will seek to impose its products on everyone and everyone will endeavor to reject the products of everyone else.

A sale, in effect, implies a purchase, and since, according to this doctrine, selling is making a profit just as purchasing is making a loss, every international transaction implies the improvement of one nation and the deterioration of another.

On the one hand, however, men are inexorably drawn to whatever brings them a profit, while on the other they instinctively resist anything that harms them, which leads to the conclusion that every nation carries within itself a natural impulsion to expansion and a no less natural impulsion to resistance, both of which are equally harmful to everybody else, or in other words, antagonism and war are the natural condition of the human race.

Thus, the theory I am discussing can be summarized by these two axioms:

Public Interest is incompatible with Justice within the country.

Public Interest is incompatible with Peace abroad.

Well then! What astonishes and disconcerts me is that a political writer or a statesman, who has sincerely adopted an economic doctrine whose basic ideas are so violently contrary to other incontrovertible principles can have even one instant of calm and peace of mind.

For my part, I think that, if I had gone into science through this particular door, if I had not clearly perceived that Freedom, Public Interest, Justice and Peace are things that are not only compatible but closely linked with each other and, so to say, identical, I would endeavor to forget everything I had learnt and tell myself:

"How could God have wished men to achieve prosperity only through injustice and war? How could He have decreed that they should renounce war and injustice only by renouncing their well-being?

"Is the science that has led me to the horrible blasphemy implied by this alternative not misleading me with false flashes of insight, and do I dare to take it on myself to make it the basis for the legislation of a great nation? And when a long line of illustrious scholars has gathered more reassuring results from this same science, to which they have devoted their entire life, when they state that freedom and public interest can be reconciled with justice and peace; that all these great principles follow infinite parallel paths without conflicting with each other for all eternity; do they not have on their side the presumption that results from everything we know of the goodness and wisdom of God as shown in the sublime harmony of physical creation? Am I casually to believe, faced with such beliefs and on the part of so many imposing authorities, that this same God took pleasure in instilling antagonism and discord in the laws governing the moral world? No, no, before holding as certain that all social principles conflict with each other, crash into and neutralize each other, and are locked in an anarchical, eternal, and irremediable struggle; before imposing on my fellow citizens the impious system to which my reasoning has led me, I wish to review the entire chain and reassure myself that there is no point on the route at which I have gone astray."

If, after a sincere examination, redone twenty times, I continued to reach this frightful conclusion, that we have to choose between the Right and the Good,116 I would reject science in my discouragement, I would sink into willful ignorance, and above all I would decline any participation in the affairs of my country, leaving men of another stamp the burden and responsibility of such a painful choice.117


115 Bastiat uses the term "la méture" which is a kind of corn bread and is a speciality of Les Landes region where Bastiat grew up. It can also be made with pieces of ham known as "la méture au jambon." Bastiat would have known well the Spanish provinces Biscay and Navarre on the other side of the border where he lived as he was fluent is Spanish and had once attempted to establish an insurance business in Spain. He may have witnessed personally the smuggling that took place across the border and might have known Béranger's poem "The Smugglers" about smuggling on the Franco-Spanish border. Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780-1857) was a liberal poet and songwriter who rose to prominence during the Restoration period with his funny and clever criticisms of the monarchy and the church. He was sent to prison twice in the 1820s for offending the political authorities with his irreverent verses. Bastiat knew him and was known to have sung his drinking songs on occasion. See the glossary entry on "Béranger."

116 The phrase Bastiat uses is "le Bien et le Bon" which is difficult to translate. Given the context of what Bastiat is arguing, one might translate it as "the morally good and the materially good (or useful)."

117 (Paillottet's note) See chapters XVIII, XX at the end of this volume [see this volume, "There Are No Absolute Principles" and "Human Labor, Domestic Labor"], and the letter to M. Thiers titled "Protectionism and Communism" (OC, vol. 4, p. 504, "Protectionisme et communisme"). ["Protectionism and Communism" also appears in The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, in the volume titled "The Law," "The State," and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, pp. 000–00.]


XV. More Reciprocity [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Encore la réciprocité" (More Reciprocity) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 90-92.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


As M. de Saint-Cricq118 said: "Are we sure that foreigners will purchase as much from us as they sell to us?"

M. de Dombasle119 says: "What reason have we to believe that English producers will come to us rather than any other nation in the world in search of the products they may need and products whose value is equivalent to their exports to France?"

I am amazed that men who above all call themselves practical reason in a way divorced from all practicality!

In practice, is there one trading operation in a hundred, a thousand, or perhaps even ten thousand that is a direct exchange of one product for another? Since money first came into the world, has any farmer ever said to himself: "I want to buy shoes, hats, advice, and lessons only from a shoemaker, milliner, lawyer, or teacher who will buy wheat from me for exactly the equivalent value"? And why would nations impose this obstacle on themselves?

How are things really done?

Let us imagine a nation that has no foreign trade. One man has produced wheat. He sells it in the national market at the highest price he can obtain and receives in exchange . . . what? Écus,120 that is to say, money orders, goods which can be split up indefinitely, which will permit him to take from the national market the goods which he needs or wants at a time he judges suitable and up to the amount he has at hand.121 All said and done, at the end of the operation he will have withdrawn from the total the exact equivalent of what he has put into it and in value, his consumption will be exactly the same as his production.

If this nation's external trade is free it is no longer in the national flow of goods but in the general flow of goods that each person places his products and it is from that flow that he withdraws his consumption. He does not have to worry whether what he puts into this general circulation is bought by a fellow citizen or a foreigner, whether the money orders he receives come from a Frenchman or an Englishman, whether the objects for which he later trades these money payments, according to his needs, have been made on this or that side of the Rhine or the Pyrénées. What remains true is that there is for each individual an exact balance between what he puts in and what he takes out of the great common reservoir, and if this is true for each individual, it is also true for the nation as a whole.

The only difference between the two cases is that, in the second, each is facing a market that is wider for his sales and purchases and has consequently more opportunity to do well on both fronts.

The following objection is made: If everyone joins forces in order not to withdraw from the circulation the products of a given individual, he will not be able to withdraw anything in turn from the overall flow. This is the same for a nation.

Reply: If this nation cannot withdraw anything from the general circulation, it will not put anything into it either; it will work for its own account. It will be forced to submit to what you wish to impose on it at the outset, that is to say, isolation.

And that will be the ideal of the prohibitionist regime.

Is it not ludicrous that you are already inflicting this regime on the nation for fear that it will run the risk of reaching it one day without you?


118 Pierre Laurent Barthélemy, comte de Saint Cricq (1772-1854) was a protectionist Deputy who became Director General of Customs (1815), president of the Trade Council, and then Minister of Trade and Colonies (1828-29). See the glossary entry on "Saint Cricq."

119 Joseph Alexandre Mathieu de Dombasle (1777-1843) was an agronomist who introduced the practice of triennial crop rotation (cereals, forage, vegetables) in France. He also wrote on the sugar-beet industry, De l'impôt sur le sucre indigène: Nouvelles considerations (1837). See the glossary entry on "Dombasle."

120 See the glossary entry on "French Currency."

121 The technical commercial term Bastiat uses is "jusqu'à due concurrence" which can mean in commercial transactions "proportionally" or "up to the amount of."


XVI. Blocked Rivers pleading in favor of the Prohibitionists [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Les fleuves obstrués plaidant pour les prohibitionistes" (Blocked Rivers pleading in favor of the Prohibitionists) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 92-93.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


A few years ago I was in Madrid.122 I went to the cortès.123 They were discussing a treaty with Portugal on improving the bed of the Douro.124 A deputy stood up and said: "If the Douro is channeled, transport will cost less. Portuguese grain will be sold cheaper in Castile and will provide formidable competition for our national production. I reject the project unless the ministers undertake to raise customs duties so as to reestablish the balance." The assembly had no answer to this argument.

Three months later I was in Lisbon. The same question was put before the Senate. A noble hidalgo125 said: "Mr. President, the project is absurd. You are putting guards at huge expense on the banks of the Douro to prevent the invasion of grain from Castile into Portugal and, at the same time, you want, also at huge expense, to make this invasion easier. Let the Douro be passed to our sons in the same state as our fathers left it to us."

Later, when it was a question of improving the Garonne,126 I remembered the arguments of the Iberian speakers and said to myself: "If the deputies in Toulouse were as good economists as those from Palencia and the representatives of Bordeaux were as skilled logicians as those of Oporto,127 the Garonne would surely be left "to sleep to the pleasing sound of its tilting urn,"128 for the channeling of the Garonne would encourage the invasion of products from Toulouse to the detriment of Bordeaux and the flooding of products from Bordeaux to the detriment of Toulouse.


122 Bastiat's family had business interests in Spain. In 1840 he travelled to Spain and Portugal with the intention of setting up an insurance business. This did not eventuate.

123 The Cortes Generales is the legislative body which rules Spain. Liberal deputies enacted a new more liberal constitution in 1812.

124 The Douro river flows across northern-central Spain and Portugal towards its mouth at Porto on the Atlantic coast. It flows through a major wine growing region.

125 A member of the lower nobility.

126 The Garonne river has its source in the Pyrénnées mountains on the border between Spain and France and flows northwards through the city of Toulouse before reaching Bordeaux on the coast.

127 Palencia is a Spanish city on a tributary of the Douro river; and Oporto is a Portuguese city at the mouth of the Douro.

128 Bastiat misquotes some lines from Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux's (1636-1711) poem celebrating the crossing of the Rhine River by the French army in 1672: "Au pied de mont Adule, entre mille roseaux / Le Rhin tranquille, et fier du progrès de ses eaux, / Appuyé d'une main sur son urne penchante, / Dormoit au bruit flatteur de son onde naissante: / Lorsqu'un cri tout à coup suivi de mille cris / Vient d'un calme si doux retirer ses esprits." [At the foot of Mount Adule, between a thousand reeds / The tranquil Rhine, proud of the progress of its waters, / Supported with one hand on its sloping urn, / Sleeps to the flattering sounds of its new wave, / When a cry, suddenly followed by a thousand cries / Comes from a calm so soft to take its spirits away.] From Épitre IV. "Au Roi," in Oeuvres de Boileau Despréaux, p. 136. Bastiat misquotes it as "Dormir au bruit flatteur de son urne penchante" conflating two adjacent lines of the poem. This could be a mistake or it could be deliberate. The word "urne" has another meaning, namely a ballot box in which votes were deposited. Since in the previous passage he was criticizing elected politicians for their contradictory policies in wanting to both improve the transportation of goods by river by digging canals and at the same time to hamper the transportation of goods by river by setting up customs barriers, he might be having a joke at their expense by re-writing this famous poem. It might now read "to sleep to the flattering sounds of its bent ballot box." See the glossary entry on "Boileau-Despréaux".


XVII A Negative Railway [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Un chemin de fer négatif" (A Negative Railway] [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 93-94.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


I have said that when, unfortunately, we took the point of view of the producers' interest, we could not fail to clash with the general interest,129 since producers, as such, demand only effort, needs, and obstacles.

I have found a remarkable example of this in a Bordeaux journal.

M. Simiot130 asks himself this question:

Should the Paris to Spain railway be offered to Bordeaux with a complete fracture in the line?131

He answered it in the positive with a host of reasons that it is not my place to examine but which include the following:

The railway between Paris and Bayonne should be completely broken in two132 at Bordeaux so that goods and passengers forced to stop in the town would contribute revenue to boatmen, packmen, commission agents, shippers, hoteliers, etc.

It is clear that this is once again a case of the interest of producers being put ahead of the interest of consumers.

But if Bordeaux can be allowed to profit from this break in the line, and if this is in keeping with the public interest, Angoulême, Poitiers, Tours, Orleans, and more, all intermediary points, Ruffec, Châtellerault, etc., etc., must also demand breaks in the line in the general interest, that is of course in the interest of national production, since the more breaks there are, the more consignments, commissions, and transshipping there will be all along the line. With this system, we will have created a railway made up of consecutive segments, a negative railway.

Whether the protectionists want this or not, it is no less certain that the principle of trade restriction is the same as the principle of breaks in the line: the sacrifice of the consumer to the producer and of the end to the means.


129 In a letter of 19 May 1846 addressed to a commission of the Chamber of Deputies which was looking into the route that should be taken by a new railway from Bordeaux to Bayonne, Bastiat argues that any political decision on routes is bound to upset somebody: the shortest route is the cheapest to build, but a winding route will service the needs of more people. See "On the Bordeaux to Bayonne Railway Line" in CW, vol. 1, pp. 312-16.

130 Alexandre Étienne Simiot (1807-1879) was a member of the Municipal Council of the Gironde and one of the leading figures in local democratic politics. He wrote Gare du chemin de fer de Paris à Bordeaux (impr. de Durand, 1846). See the glossary entry on "Simiot."

131 Bastiat here uses the medical term "La solution de la continuité" which is used to describe, somewhat counterintuitively, a rupture, fracture, or complete break in a vessel or a bone, such as the skull. As one medical dictionary put it, the expression should really be "la dissolution de la continuité" (the rupturing or breaking of continuity). See the many references in Auguste-Théodore Vidal, Traité de pathologie externe et de médecine opératoire, 2e édition, 5 vols. (Paris: J.B. Baillière, 1846).

132 Bastiat uses the word "la lacune" (break or gap) here. It is in the medical sense noted above that one should understand Bastiat's use of the word "la lacune", not to mean a "stop" at a station to let passengers on or off, but the literal fracturing or breaking of the railway into two separate and discontinuous pieces which would require the transshipping of passengers and luggage from one railway to the next in order for them to continue their journey. This would sometimes occur at the border between states. Fifty years after Bastiat wrote these lines, Mark Twain related his experience in traveling by train from Sydney to Melbourne in his travel book Following the Equator (1898). At the border town of Albury passengers had to get up in the middle of cold winter's night to trans-ship themselves and their belongings from the narrow-gauge train in New South Wales to the broad-gauge train in Victoria. Twain described this as "the oddest thing, the strangest thing, the most baffling and unaccountable marvel that Australasia can show." He also interestingly, like Bastiat, saw the similarity to customs barriers and discussed the cost to the west coast of America of being forced to buy higher price east coast steel instead of cheaper foreign steel. See Appendix 5 "Mark Twain and the Australian Negative Railroad."


XVIII There are no Absolute Principles [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Il n'y a pas de principes absolus" (There are no Absolute Principles) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 94-97.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


You cannot be too surprised at the ease with which men resign themselves to ignoring what they need most to know, and you can be sure that they are determined to fall asleep in their ignorance once they have come to the point of proclaiming this axiom: There are no absolute principles.

You enter the legislative chamber. The question before the house is to ascertain whether the law will forbid or free up international trade.

A deputy stands up and says:

"If you allow this trade, foreigners will flood you with their products, the English with cloth, the Belgians with coal, the Spanish with wool, the Italians with silk, the Swiss with cattle, the Swedish with iron, and the Prussians with wheat, so that no industry will be possible in this country."

Another replies:

"If you forbid this trade, the various benefits that nature has showered on each geographical region will be nonexistent for you. You will not share in the mechanical skills of the English, the richness of the Belgian mines, the fertility of Polish soil, the fruitfulness of Swiss pastures, the cheapness of Spanish labor, or the heat of the Italian climate, and you will have to satisfy your demand with goods produced under awkward and difficult conditions instead of with goods obtained by trading with those who can produce things more easily."

It is certain that one of these deputies is wrong. But which one? It is nevertheless worth while taking the trouble to find out, as it is not just a matter of opinion. You are faced with two paths and you have to choose; and one inevitably leads to poverty.

To escape from this quandary, people say: There are no absolute principles.

This axiom, so fashionable today, in addition to nodding to laziness, is also suited to ambition.

If the theory of prohibition won, or else if the doctrine of freedom triumphed, a very small law would encompass our entire economic code. In the first case, it would say: All foreign trade is forbidden and in the second: All foreign trade is free, and many leading figures would lose their importance.

But if trade does not have its own proper nature, if it is not governed by any natural law, if it is capriciously useful or disastrous, if it does not find its stimulus in the good it does and its limit in the good it ceases to do, and if its effects cannot be appreciated by those who carry it out, in a word, if there are no absolute principles, oh! It would then be necessary to weigh, balance, and regulate transactions, to equalize the conditions of labor, and to set the level of profits; a colossal task, but one well suited to be given to those who enjoy high remuneration and wide influence.

On entering Paris, which I had come to visit, I said to myself: Here there are a million human beings who would all die in a few days if supplies of all sorts did not flood into this huge metropolis. The mind boggles when it tries to assess the huge variety of objects that have to enter through its gates tomorrow if the lives of its inhabitants are not to be snuffed out in convulsions of famine, uprisings, and pillage. And in the meantime everyone is asleep, without their peaceful slumber being troubled for an instant by the thought of such a frightful prospect. On the other hand, eighty departments133 have worked today without being in concert and without agreement to supply Paris. How does it happen that every day what is needed and no more or less is brought to this gigantic market? What is thus the ingenious and secret power that presides over the astonishing regularity of such complicated movements, a regularity in which everyone has such blind faith, although well-being and life depend on it? This power is an absolute principle, the principle of free commerce.134 We have faith in this intimate light that Providence has placed in the hearts of all men to whom it has entrusted the indefinite preservation and progress of our species, self-interest, for we must give it its name, that is so active, vigilant, and farsighted when it is free to act. Where would you be, you inhabitants of Paris, if a minister took it into his head to substitute the arrangements he had thought up, however superior they are thought to be, for this power? Or if he took it into his head to subject this stupendous mechanism to his supreme management, to gather together all these economic activities in his own hands, to decide by whom, how, or under what conditions each object has to be produced, transported, traded and consumed? Oh! Although there are a good many causes of suffering within your city, although destitution, despair, and perhaps starvation are causing more tears to flow than your ardent charity can stem, it is probable or, I dare to say, even certain, that the arbitrary intervention of the government would infinitely increase these sufferings and extend to you all the misfortunes that are only affecting a small number of your fellow citizens.

Well then! Why, when we have faith in a principle when it relates to domestic transactions, do we not have the same faith in this principle when it is applied to international transactions, which are certainly fewer in number and less difficult and complicated? And, if it is not necessary for the Prefecture of Paris to regulate our industries, balance our opportunities, profits, and losses, concern itself with the depletion of our money, and equalize the conditions governing our labor in domestic commerce, why is it necessary for the customs service to aspire to exercise protective action, which is beyond its fiscal mission, with regard to our foreign commerce?135


133 In Bastiat's day there were 86 départements in France. See the glossary entry on "French Government Administrative Regions."

134 Bastiat uses a slightly different expression here. Instead of the usual "la liberté des échanges" (free trade) he uses "la liberté des transaction" which could mean "freedom of commerce".

135 (Paillottet's note) See the first letter to M. de Lamartine in volume 1 and chapter I of the Economic Harmonies in volume 6 (OC, vol. 1, p. 406, "Un Économiste à M. de Lamartine"; and vol. 6, p. 21, "Organisation naturelle, organisation artificielle").


XIX. National Independence [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Indépendance nationale" (National Independence) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 97-99.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


Among the arguments put forward in favor of protectionism, we should not forget the one based on national independence.

"What will we do in case of war", people say, "if we are subject to England's discretion with regard to iron and coal?"

Monopolists in England, for their part, unfailingly proclaim:

"What would become of Great Britain in time of war if she were dependent on France for her food?"

We tend to disregard one fact, which is that this type of dependence resulting from trade and commercial transactions is mutual. We cannot be dependent on foreigners without these foreigners being dependent on us. This is the very essence of society. Breaking off natural relationships does not make us independent, but isolated.

And note this well: we isolate ourselves because of an expectation of war, but the very act of isolating ourselves is the first step to war. It makes it easier, less of a burden and because of this, less unpopular. If nations are constant markets for each other, if their relationships cannot be broken off without inflicting on them the twin suffering of deprivation and over supply, they will no longer need the powerful navies that are ruining them and the massive armies now crushing them, the peace of the world will not be compromised by the caprices of M. Thiers136 or Lord Palmerston,137 and war will disappear for lack of incentive, resources, reasons, pretexts, and popular favor.138

I am fully aware that I will be blamed (for this is the current fashion) for resting fraternity between nations on self-interest, vile and prosaic interest. People would prefer fraternity to be rooted in charity and love, with even a little self-sacrifice, and in hurting men's material well-being, to possess the merit of generous sacrifice.

When will we ever be rid of this puerile moralism? When will we finally banish hypocrisy from science? When will we drop this sickening contradiction between our writings and our actions? We boo at, we shout down self-interest, that is to say what is useful and good (since to say that all nations are interested in a thing is to say that this thing is intrinsically good), as though self-interest was not a necessary, eternal and indestructible motive to which Providence has entrusted human progress! As if we were all angels of disinterestedness? As if the public was not beginning to see, and with disgust, that this affected language is blackening the very pages for which the public is expected to pay so dearly.?? Oh, such affectation! This is really the disease of this century.

What! Because well-being and peace are closely allied, because God was pleased to establish this fine harmony in the moral world, you do not want me to admire and adore his decrees and accept with gratitude laws that make justice a condition of happiness? You do not want peace unless it is to the detriment of well-being, and freedom weighs heavy on you because it does not impose sacrifice on you? And, if self-sacrifice has such attraction for you, what stops you including it in your private actions? Society would be grateful to you if you did, for at least someone would reap the benefit from it, but to wish to impose it on humanity on principle is the height of absurdity, for the self-sacrifice of all is the sacrifice of all and constitutes misfortune raised to the status of a theory.

But thank heaven we can write and read a great number of these ranting speeches without the world ceasing to obey its driving force, which is self-interest, like it or not.

After all, it is rather strange to see sentiments of the most sublime self-denial invoked in support of plunder itself. This is what this ostentatious disinterestedness leads to! These men, who are so poetically delicate that they do not want peace itself if it is based on men's vile self-interests, are putting their hands into other people's pockets, especially those who are poor, for what article of the tariff protects the poor? Yes, sirs, do whatever you like with what belongs to you, but likewise let us do what we want with the fruit from the sweat of our brows, to use it ourselves or to trade it. Make speeches on self-renunciation, for that is fine, but at the same time at least be honest.139


136 Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877) was a lawyer, historian, politician, and journalist who served briefly as Prime Minister and Minster of Foreign Affairs in 1836 and 1840. After the 1848 revolution and the creation of the Second Empire he was elected deputy representing Rouen in the Constituent Assembly. See the glossary entry on "Thiers."

137 Henry John Temple, third viscount Palmerston (1784-1860) was a British politician and leader of the Whig party. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs (1830-41 and 1846-50) and then Prime Minister during the Crimean War (1854-56). He was a liberal interventionist who worked to limit French influence in world affairs. See the glossary entry on "Palmerston."

138 These two paragraphs are a nice summary of the views held by Richard Cobden and Bastiat regarding the link between free trade and peace. Cobden and Bastiat frequently corresponded on this topic (see CW, vol. 1 for details) and visited each other when they attended conferences organized by the Friends of Peace. See the glossary entries on "Richard Cobden," "Peace Congress (Paris August 1849," Appendix 6 "Bastiat's Speech on 'Disarmament and Taxes' (August 1849)," and Bastiat and the organized Peace Movement" in Appendix 1 "Further Aspects of Bastiat's Life and Thought."

139 (Paillottet's note) See the pamphlet entitled Justice and Fraternity in this volume (OC, vol. 4, p. 298, "Justice et fraternité"). Also see the introduction to Cobden and the English League followed by the Second Campaign of the League in volume 3. (OC, vol. 3, p. 1, "Introduction"; and p. 449, "Seconde campagne de la Ligue"). ["Justice and Fraternity" also appears in The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, in the volume titled "The Law," "The State," and Other Political Writings, pp. 000–00.]


XX. Human Labor and Domestic Labor [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Travail humain, travail national" (Human Labor and Domestic Labor) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: 1 ES1 st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 100-05.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


Smash the machines,140 reject foreign goods; these are two acts generated by the same doctrine.

We see men who clap when a great invention is revealed to the world and who nevertheless support protectionism. Such men are very inconsistent!

What is their objection to free trade? That it results in our having things made by foreigners who are more skillful or better situated than we, which otherwise we would produce ourselves. In a word, it is accused of damaging domestic labor.

By the same token, should these critics not be blaming machines for accomplishing through natural agents a production, which, without them, would fall to manual effort and consequently for damaging human labor?

Foreign workers who are better situated than French ones are veritable economic machines that crush the latter through their competition. Similarly, a machine that carries out an operation at a lower cost than a given number of hands is, with regard to this labor, a genuine foreign competitor that paralyzes them with its competition.

If therefore it is appropriate to protect domestic labor against competition from foreign labor, it is no less so to protect human labor against competition from mechanical labor.

So, if he has an ounce of logic in his brain, anyone who supports a protectionist regime should not stop at forbidding foreign products; he ought to forbid even more the products of the shuttle and the plough.

And this is why I much prefer the logic of those men who, speaking out against the invasion of goods from far distant lands, at least have the courage to speak out as well against over production due to the inventive power of the human mind.

One of these is M. de Saint-Chamans.141 "One of the strongest arguments," he says, "against free trade and the over use of machines, is that many workers are deprived of work either by foreign competition that closes factories down or by equipment that takes the place of men in the workshops." (On the Tax System, page 438.)142

M. de Saint-Chamans has accurately seen the analogy, let us go further, the identity existing between imports and machines. This is why he forbids them both; and truly, there is some pleasure in facing intrepid debaters, who, even when they are wrong, take their line of reasoning to its limit.

But look at the difficulty in store for them!

While it is a priori true that the domains of invention and labor can expand only at the expense of one another, it is in those countries in which there are the most machines, for example in Lancashire, that we ought to see the fewest workers. And if, on the contrary, we see in fact that machines and workers coexist to a greater degree in rich nations than in uncivilized ones, we have to conclude that these two forces are not mutually exclusive.

I cannot explain to myself how a thinking soul can have a moment's rest when faced with this dilemma:

Either the inventions of man do not damage his labor, as the general facts demonstrate, since there are more of both among the English and French than among the Hurons and Cherokees, and, in this case, I have gone wrong, although I do not know either where or how I have gone astray. I would be committing treason against humanity if I introduced my mistake into the legislation of my country.

Or the discoveries of the human mind reduce manual labor, as certain facts appear to indicate, since every day I see a machine being substituted for twenty or one hundred workers, in which case I am obliged to identify a flagrant, eternal, and incurable antithesis between man's intellectual and physical power, between his progress and his well-being. I cannot refrain from saying that the author of man was bound to give him the gift of either brain or brawn, either moral strength or brute force, and that in the event he has played a trick on him by conferring on him, simultaneously, mutually destructive powers.

This is a pressing difficulty. Well, do you know how to solve it? By this strange maxim:

In political economy, there are no absolute principles.

In common, intelligible parlance, this means:

"I do not know where truth or falsehood lies and am ignorant of what constitutes general good or evil. I do not let this trouble me. The immediate effect of each measure on my personal well-being is the sole law I agree to acknowledge."

There are no principles! This is as though you were saying: "There are no facts, for principles are only formulae that sum up an entire order of well-known facts."

Machines and imports certainly have effects. These effects are either good or bad. People can have differing opinions in this respect. But whichever one you adopt is formulated using one of these two principles: machines are good or machines are bad. Imports are advantageous or imports are harmful. But to say there are no principles is certainly the lowest degree of humiliation to which the human mind can descend, and I admit that I blush for my country when I hear such a monstrous heresy enunciated before the French Chambers with their assent, that is to say, before and with the assent of the elite of our fellow citizens, and all this to justify themselves for imposing on us laws in total ignorance.

But in the end, I will be told, destroy the sophism. Prove that machines do not damage human labor and that imports do not damage domestic labor.

In an essay of the present kind, such proofs could not be very detailed. My aim is rather to establish the difficulties than to solve them and to arouse reflection rather than to satisfy it. No convictions are ever firmly anchored in the human mind other than those that result from its own work. I will nevertheless endeavor to set it along this path.

What misleads the opponents of imports and machines is that they judge them by their immediate and transitory effects instead of going to their general and definitive consequences.143

The immediate effect of an ingenious machine is to render a certain amount of manual labor superfluous for a given result. However, its action does not in the slightest stop there. For the very reason that this given result is achieved with less effort, it is made available to the public at a lower price, and the sum of the savings thus realized by all purchasers enables them to satisfy other wants, that is to say, to encourage manual labor in general by precisely the amount saved by those manual laborers working in the recently improved industry. In short, the level of work has not decreased, although that of satisfaction has been increased.

Let us use an example to make this set of effects clearer.

Let us imagine that 10 million hats costing 15 francs are consumed in France. This provides the hat industry with a turnover of 150 million. A machine is invented that enables the hats to be sold at 10 francs. The turnover for this industry is reduced to 100 million assuming that consumption does not increase. However, the 50 million is not lost to human labor for all that. Having been saved by the purchasers of hats, it will be used to satisfy other needs and consequently to remunerate the entire industrial system by the same figure. With the 5 francs he has saved, Jean will buy a pair of shoes, Jacques a book, Jérôme an item of furniture, etc. The human labor, taken as a whole, will thus continue to be encouraged up to a level of 150 million; this sum will provide the same number of hats as before, plus all the other satisfactions corresponding to the 50 million that the machine will have saved. These satisfactions are the net product that France would have gained from the invention. This is a free gift, a tribute that man's genius has imposed on nature. We do not deny that, during the transformation, a certain mass of labor will have been displaced, but we cannot agree that it has been destroyed or even diminished.

This is also true for imports. Let us return to the hypothesis.

France manufactured 10 million hats at a cost price of 15 francs. Foreigners invaded our market, supplying us with hats at 10 francs. I say that domestic labor will not be decreased in the slightest.

For it will have to produce up to 100 million to pay for 10 million hats at 10 francs.

And then each purchaser will have 5 francs left that he has saved on each hat, or a total of 50 million that he will pay for other pleasures, that is to say, for other things produced by labor.

Therefore the total amount of labor will remain the same as it was and the additional pleasures, representing the 50 million saved on the hats, will be the net profit from the imports or from free trade.

And people must not try to terrify us with the picture of the suffering that, according to this reasoning, will accompany the displacement of labor.

For if protectionism had never occurred, labor would have rearranged itself in line with the laws of trade and no displacement would have taken place.144

If, on the other hand, protectionism has led to an artificial and unproductive structure of labor, it would be this, and not freedom, that is responsible for the inevitable displacement in the transition from bad to good.

Unless it is claimed that, because an abuse cannot be destroyed without upsetting those who benefit from it, its existence for just a moment ensures that it will last forever.


140 This is a reference to the Luddites who were members of a movement in the early 19th century in England who protested the introduction of mechanized weaving machines believing that that they would put handloom weavers out of work. They were active between 1811-13 before being suppressed by the government in a mass trial in 1813. They took their name from a weaver named Ned Ludd who smashed machines in 1779. See another reference to smashing machines (Luddism) in ES3 XXII "Disastrous Illusions" below pp. ??? See the glossary entry on "Luddites."

141 Auguste Saint-Chamans (1777-1860) was a deputy (1824-27) and a Councillor of State. He advocated protectionism and a mercantilist theory of the balance of trade. See the glossary entry on "Saint-Chamans."

142 Bastiat is referring to Saint-Chamans's Du système d'impôt (1820).

143 Bastiat is here stating in a more round about way what later he would come to call the "seen" and the "unseen" which he was to develop more explicitly in a pamphlet in July 1850: What is Seen and What is not Seen, or Political Economy in One Lesson, below pp. ???.

144 (Paillottet's note) See chapter XIV of the second series of Sophisms [see this volumme, "Something Else," pp. 000–00] and chapter VI of the Economic Harmonies (OC, vol. 6, chap. 6, p. 185, "Richesse").


XXI. Raw Materials [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Matières premières" (Raw Materials) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 105-15.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


It is said: "The most profitable of all trades is the one in which manufactured goods are exchanged for raw materials. For the raw materials supply domestic labor."

And from this the following conclusion is drawn:

That the best customs law would be the one that did the most to facilitate the importation of raw materials and which would put the greatest number of obstacles in the path of goods which had undergone some level of manufacture.145

In political economy, there is no sophism so widespread as this one. It is the talk of not only the protectionist school but also and above all the allegedly liberal school, and this is a trying circumstance, for the worst thing for a good cause is not to be competently attacked but to be badly defended.

Commercial freedom will probably suffer the fate of all freedoms; it will be introduced into our laws only once it has gained possession of our minds. But if it is true that a reform has to be generally understood in order to be solidly established, it follows that nothing can delay it more than anything which misleads public opinion; and what is more likely to mislead it than articles that demand freedom by using the doctrines of monopoly to support them?

A few years ago, three large cities in France, Lyons, Bordeaux, and Le Havre, rose up against the protectionist regime.146 The country and the whole of Europe were moved at seeing what they took to be the flag of freedom being raised. Alas! It was still the flag of monopoly! A monopoly that was a little more sly and a lot more absurd than the one they seemed to want to overthrow. Thanks to the sophism which I will attempt to unveil, the petitioners did nothing more than reproduce the doctrine on the protection of domestic labor, while adding one more inconsistency to it.

What in fact is protectionism? Let us listen to M. de Saint-Cricq:147

"Labor constitutes the wealth of a people, since it alone creates the physical things that our needs call for, and universal prosperity consists in the abundance of such things." Such is the crux of the argument.

"But it is necessary for this abundance to be the product of the nation's activity. If it were the product of foreign activity, national output would come to a sudden stop." Here is the error. (See the preceding sophism.)148

"What therefore should an agricultural and manufacturing country do? Keep its market for the products of its own territory and industry." Here is the aim.

"And to do this, restrict through duties and prohibit if necessary the products of the territory and industry of other peoples." Here are the means.

Let us compare these arrangements with those of the petition from Bordeaux.

It divided goods into three classes.

"The first covers foodstuffs and raw materials that are devoid of any human labor. In principle, a wise economy would require this class to be exempt from taxes." Here, no labor, no protection.

"The second is made up of goods which have undergone some processing. This processing allows us to impose some duty on it." Here protection starts because, according to the petitioners, here begins domestic labor.

"The third covers finished goods which cannot be used in any way in domestic production; we consider these to be the most liable to taxes." Here labor, and protection with it, reach their peak.

As we can see, the petitioners claimed that foreign labor damages domestic labor. This is the error of the protectionist regime.

They demanded that the French market to be reserved for French labour; that is the aim of the protectionist regime.

They demanded that foreign labor be subject to restrictions and taxes. That is the means of the protectionist regime.

So what difference can we therefore discern between the petitioners from Bordeaux and the leader of the protectionist chorus?

Just one: the wider or narrower range of interpretation of the meaning of the word labor.

M. de Saint-Cricq extends it to everything. He therefore wants to protect everything.

"Labor constitutes the entire wealth of a nation," he says, "protecting agriculture, the entire agricultural sector, manufacturing, the entire manufacturing sector, this is the cry that will always echo around this Chamber."

The petitioners consider manufacturing alone as constituting labor; for this reason they accord only this sector the favor of protection.

"Raw materials are devoid of any human labor. In principle they should not be taxed. Manufactured goods can no longer be used for further productive activity in the domestic market; we consider them to be the most proper to be subject to taxes."

It is not a question here of examining whether protection for domestic labor is reasonable. M. de Saint-Cricq and the petitioners from Bordeaux agree on this point and we, as has been seen in previous chapters, differ from both in this respect.

The question is to know who is giving the proper meaning to the word labor, M. de Saint-Cricq or the petitioners from Bordeaux.

Well, on this terrain, it has to be said that M. de Saint-Cricq is right a thousand times, for the following is the dialogue that they might have with each other:

M. de Saint-Cricq: "You agree that domestic labor has to be protected. You agree that no foreign products can be introduced into our market without destroying an equal amount of our domestic production. The only thing is that you claim that there are a host of products that contain value, since they sell, and which are nevertheless devoid of any human labor. And you list, among other things, wheat, flour, meat, cattle, bacon, salt, iron, copper, lead, coal, wool, skins, seed, etc.

"If you prove to me that the value of these things is not due to labor, I will agree that they do not need to be protected.

"However, if I also demonstrate to you that there is as much labor involved in one hundred francs' worth of wool as in 100 francs' worth of cloth, you will have to admit that protection is due as much to the one as to the other.

"Now, why is this bag of wool worth 100 francs? Is it not because it is its cost price? And is its cost price anything other than what has to be paid in wages, earnings, and the costs of manpower, labor, and interest to all the laborers and capital providers who contributed to producing the object?"

The Petitioners: "It is true that you might be right with regard to wool. But is a sack of wheat, an ingot of iron, or a quintal of coal the product of labor? Is it not nature that has created them?"

M. de Saint-Cricq: "There is no doubt that nature has created the elements of all these things, but it is labor that has created their value. I myself was mistaken when I said that labor creates physical objects, and this flawed expression has led me into many other errors. It is not in man's power to create and to make something out of nothing, any more for manufacturers than for farmers; if by production we meant creation, all of our projects would be nonproductive and yours, as traders, more so than all the others, except perhaps for mine.

"A farmer, therefore, cannot claim to have created wheat, but he can claim to have created its value, by this I mean to have transformed into wheat, through his own labor and that of his servants, cow herders and harvesters, substances which did not resemble it in the slightest. In addition, what do the millers do who convert it into flour, or the bakers who bake it into bread?

"In order for men to be able to clothe themselves in woolen cloth, a host of operations is necessary. Before any human labor intervenes, the genuine raw materials of this product are air, water, heat, gaslight, and the salts that have to go to making it up. There are the raw materials that are genuinely devoid of any human labor, since they have no value and I do not envisage protecting them. However, an initial act of labor converts these substances into fodder, a second into wool, a third into yarn, a fourth into cloth, and a fifth into garments. Who would dare to say that everything in this operation is not labor, from the first cut of the plough that starts it to the last stitch that terminates it?

"And because, for greater speed and perfection in the accomplishment of the final operation, a garment, the labor is divided among several classes of industrious workers,149 do you want to establish, through arbitrary distinction, that the order of carrying out of this labor is the sole basis for their importance, so that the first does not even merit the appellation of labor and the last, labor par excellence, is the only one worthy of the favors of protection?"

The Petitioners: "Yes, we are beginning to see that wheat, is not, any more than wool, altogether devoid of any human labor, but at least the farmer has not, like the manufacturer, done everything himself or with the assistance of his laborers; nature has helped him and if there is labor, everything in wheat is not labor"

M. de Saint-Cricq: "But all its value is labor. I agree that nature has contributed to the physical forming of the grain. I even agree that this is exclusively its own work, but you must admit that I have forced it to do so through my labor, and when I sell you wheat, you have to note this clearly, I am not making you pay for the labor of nature but for mine.

"And, in your opinion, manufactured goods would not be the products of labor either. Are manufacturers not assisted by nature as well? Do they not use the weight of the atmosphere through their steam engines just as I use its humidity when plowing? Have they created the laws of gravity, the transmission of force or the nature of chemical bonding?"

The Petitioners: "Very well, we agree for wool, but coal is certainly the work and the sole work of nature. It is truly devoid of any human labor."

M. de Saint-Cricq: "Yes, nature has made coal but labor has created its value. Coal had no value for millions of years when it was buried and unknown one hundred feet underground. Men had to go to look for it: that is labor. It had to be taken to market: that is another form of labor and once again, the price you pay for it in the market is nothing other than payment for these jobs of extraction and transport."150

We can see that up to now M. de Saint-Cricq has won the argument; that the value of raw materials, like that of manufactured materials, represents the cost of production, that is to say, of the labor; that it is not possible to imagine an object that has value and that is devoid of any human labor; that the distinction made by the petitioners is futile in theory and that, as the basis of an unequal distribution of political favors it would be iniquitous in practice, since its result would be that one-third of French citizens who labor in factories would obtain the advantages of monopoly because they produce things through labor, while the other two-thirds, that is to say, the farming population, would be abandoned to face competition on the pretext that they produce things without laboring.

I am sure that people will insist and say that there is a greater advantage for a nation to import so-called raw materials, whether or not they are the product of labor, and export manufactured goods.

This is an opinion that is widely held.

"The more raw materials are abundant," says the petition from Bordeaux, "the more factories will increase in number and flourish vigorously."

"Raw materials", it says elsewhere, "leave a limitless scope for the work of the inhabitants of those countries into which they are imported."

"As raw materials," says the petition from Le Havre, "are the raw elements of labor, they have to be subjected to a different regime and imported immediately at the lowest customs rate."

This same petition wants protection for manufactured goods to be reduced not immediately, but after an undetermined period and not at the lowest rate, but at 20 percent.

"Among other articles whose low price and abundance are a necessity," says the petition from Lyons, "manufacturers include all raw materials."

All this is based on an illusion.

We have seen that all value represents labor. Now, it is very true that the process of manufacturing multiplies by ten or sometimes a hundred the value of a raw product, that is to say, it spreads out ten or a hundred times more income around the nation. This being so, the reasoning goes as follows: the production of a quintal151 of iron earns only 15 francs for all categories of contributors. The conversion of this quintal of iron into watch springs raises their various incomes to 10,000 francs and would you dare to say that it is not of more interest to the nation to ensure itself 10,000 francs' worth of labor than 15 francs' worth?

People forget that international trade does not function by weight or measure, any more than individual exchanges. You do not trade one quintal of iron for one quintal of watch springs, nor a pound of still greasy wool for a pound of cashmere wool, but a certain value of one of these things for an equal value of another. Well, to exchange equal value for equal value is to exchange equal labor for equal labor. It is therefore not true that a nation that gives 100 francs' worth of cloth or springs makes more than one that delivers 100 francs' worth of wool or iron.

In a country in which no law can be voted, no taxation imposed without the consent of those who are to be governed by this law or subjected to it, the public can be robbed only by being misled in the first place. Our ignorance is the raw material of any extortion that is exercised over us and we can be certain in advance that any sophism is the herald of plunder. Good people, when you see a sophism in a petition, put your hand over your pocket for it is certainly that which is being aimed at.

Shall we not therefore look at the secret thought that the ship owners of Bordeaux and Le Havre and the manufacturers of Lyons are hiding in this distinction between agricultural goods and manufactured goods?

"It is mainly in this first class (the one that includes raw materials, devoid of any human labor) that we find the principal maintenance of our merchant navy, say the petitioners of Bordeaux. In principle, a wise economy would require this class not to be taxed. . . . The second (goods which have undergone some processing) may be taxed. The third (goods which require no further modification) we consider to be the most taxable."

The petitioners from Le Havre say, "Considering that it is essential to reduce the tax on raw materials immediately to the lowest rate so that manufacturing industry may successively put to work the naval forces that provide it with its primary and essential means of the employment of its labor. . . ."

The manufacturers could not be any less polite to the ship owners. For this reason, the petition from Lyons requested the free entry of raw materials "to prove," as it said, "that the interests of manufacturing towns are not always in opposition to those of those on the coast."

No, but it has to be said that both, understood as the petitioners understand them, are totally opposed to the interests of the countryside, agriculture, and consumers.

This, sirs, is what you wanted to say! This is the aim of your subtle economic distinctions! You want the law to prevent finished goods from crossing the ocean in order for the much more expensive transport of raw and dirty materials, including a lot of waste, to provide more cargo for your merchant navy and put your shipping to greater use. This is what you call a wise economy.

What! Why do you not also ask for Russian pines to be shipped with their branches, bark, and roots? For Mexican gold in its mineral state and leather from Buenos Aires still attached to the bones of stinking carcasses?

Soon, I expect, railway shareholders, however small their majority in the Chambers, will pass a law forbidding the production in Cognac of the brandy drunk in Paris. Would not to decree by law the transport of ten casks of wine for one cask of brandy provide the essential income for their labor to manufacturers in Paris and at the same time set the powers of our locomotives into action?

For how long more will people close their eyes to such a simple truth?

The purpose of manufacturing, of shipping, and of labor is the general good, the public good. Creating industries that serve no purpose, encouraging superfluous transport and supporting unnecessary labor, not for the public good but at public expense, is to achieve a genuine contradiction in terms.152 It is not labor that is intrinsically desirable but consumption. Any labor that yields no output represents a loss. To pay sailors to carry useless refuse across the sea is as though they were being paid to make pebbles skim across the surface of the water.153 We therefore come to the conclusion that all economic sophisms, in spite of their infinite variety, have this in common: they confuse the means with the end and develop one at the expense of the other.154


145 This was in fact the purpose of the revision of French tariff policy which took place in the first years of the French Revolution with the law of August 1791. Most prohibitions on imported goods were abolished, tariffs were abolished on the primary products used by French manufacturers and food stuffs for consumers, and tariffs on foreign manufactured were lowered to 20-25% by value. See the glossary entry on "French Tariff Policy."

146 This took place in 1834 and Bastiat commented on their Petition in a local newspaper. See "Réflexions sur les pétitions de Bordeaux, Le Havre, et Lyon concernant les Douanes"). ["Reflections on the Petitions from Bordeaux, Le Havre, and Lyons Relating to the Customs Service" in The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, in the volume titled "The Law," "The State," and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, pp. 1–9.

147 Pierre Laurent Barthélemy, comte de Saint Cricq (1772-1854) was a protectionist Deputy who became Director General of Customs (1815), president of the Trade Council, and then Minister of Trade and Colonies (1828-29). See the glossary entry on "Saint Cricq."

148 (Note by Paillottet. See this volume, "Human Labor, Domestic Labor," pp. 000–00.)

149 Here Bastiat uses the term coined by Charles Dunoyer, "industrieux" in the phrase "plusieurs classes d'industrieux" which we have translated as "several classes of industrious workers". See the glossary entry on "Industry."

150 (Bastiat's note) I do not explicitly mention the part of the payment that relates to the entrepreneur, the capital provider, etc., for several reasons: 1. Because if you look closely, you will see that this is always payment for advances or labor done previously; 2. Because, under the general term of labor, I include not only the wages of the worker but legitimate payment for all cooperation in the work of production; 3. Lastly and above all, because the production of manufactured goods is, just like that of raw materials, subject to interest and payments other than those for manual labor, and that the objection, which is futile in itself, would apply to the most ingenious spinning factory as much or even more than to the crudest form of agriculture.

151 The term "quintal" comes from the Latin and is a unit of measurement with 100 units. In the Old Regime this meant a quintal was 100 "livres" (or pounds). After the metrification introduced by the French Revolution a quintal came to mean 100 kilograms.

152 The term Bastiat uses is "une pétition de principe" (or in Latin "petitio principii") which is a philosophical expression to describe a type of logical fallacy. It means a "contradiction in terms" or "begging the question."

153 The phrase Bastiat uses is "pour faire ricocher des cailloux sur la surface de l'eau" which is an interesting early use of the term "ricochet" which Bastiat was to develop more fully later. Here he is referring to wasted labour not the flow on effects caused by economic activity. See the Appendices "Bastiat and the Ricochet Effect" and "The Sophism Bastiat never wrote: the Sophism of the Ricochet Effect."

154 (Paillottet's note) See the short article dated 1834 titled "Reflections on the Petitions from Bordeaux, Le Havre," etc. in the first volume (OC, vol. 1, p. 231, "Réflexions sur les pétitions de Bordeaux, Le Havre, et Lyon concernant les Douanes"). ["Reflections on the Petitions from Bordeaux, Le Havre, and Lyons Relating to the Customs Service" also appears in The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, in the volume titled "The Law," "The State," and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, pp. 000–00.]


XXII. Metaphors [n.d.] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Métaphores" (Metaphors) [no date given] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 115-19.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


Sometimes sophisms expand and penetrate the entire fabric of a long and heavy theory. More often they contract, reduce in size, and become a principle, entirely hidden in one word.

God preserve us, Paul-Louis155 said, from cunning men and metaphors! And in fact, it would be difficult to say which of the two causes the most harm to our planet. It is the devil, you say; he puts in all of us, such as we are, the spirit of plunder in our hearts. Yes, but he leaves the repression of abuses completely up to the resistance of those that suffer from them. It is sophism that paralyses this resistance. The sword that malice places in the hands of attackers would be powerless if sophism did not shatter the shield on the arms of those under attack and Malebranche156 was right in inscribing the following sentence on the frontispiece of his book: Error is the cause of human misery.157

And look at what happens. Ambitious hypocrites have a sinister interest,158 for example, in sowing the seed of national hatred in the mind. This disastrous seed may develop and lead to general conflagration, cause civilization to stop, spill torrents of blood, and draw down the most terrible of all scourges on the country, invasion. In any case, before these events occur, these feelings of hatred diminish us in the eyes of other nations and reduce those people in France who have retained some vestige of a love of justice to blush for their country. These are certainly great evils, and in order for the public to be protected against the intrigues of those who want it to run the risk of such events, it would be enough for them to have a clear view of the matter. How does it happen that that this clear view is clouded? Through metaphor. The meaning of three or four words is altered, strained, and degraded and this says it all.

Take the word invasion itself.

A French ironmaster says: "May we be preserved from an invasion of iron from England." An English landlord exclaims: "Let us reject the invasion of wheat from France!" And they propose that the barriers between the two peoples be raised. Barriers constitute isolation, isolation leads to hatred, hatred to war and war to invasion. "What does it matter?" say the two sophists, "is it not better to be exposed to the risk of invasion than to accept certain invasion?" And the people believe them and the barriers remain.

And yet, what analogy is there between an exchange and an invasion? What similarity can be established between a warship which comes to vomit shells, fire, and devastation on our towns and a merchant ship that comes to offer us the opportunity of exchanging goods for other goods freely and voluntarily?

I would say the same for the word flood. This word normally has a negative meaning because the common characteristics of floods are to ravage fields and crops. If nevertheless they leave greater value on the land than they remove, as do the floods of the Nile, we ought to bless and deify them, following the example of the Egyptians. Well then, before railing against the floods of foreign goods, before erecting obstructive and costly obstacles in their path, do people ask themselves whether these are floods that ravage or those that fertilize? What would we think of Mehemet Ali159 if, instead of raising dams across the Nile at huge expense to extend the range of its floods, he spent his piastres digging a deeper bed for it so that Egypt would no longer be soiled by this foreign silt brought down from the Mountains of the Moon?160 We are showing precisely this degree of wisdom and reason when, with the support of millions, we wish to preserve our country . . . from what? From the benefits with which nature has endowed other climates.

Among the metaphors that conceal an entire and disastrous theory, there are none more commonly used than the one that uses the words tribute, tributary.

These words have become so commonplace that they have become synonyms of purchase and purchaser and the two sets of words are now used indiscriminately in place of one another.

However, there is as much distance between a tribute and a purchase as between a theft and an exchange, and I would as much like to hear it said that Cartouche161 had broken into my strong box and purchased a thousand écus, than to hear it said repeatedly to our deputies: "We have paid the tribute to Germany for a thousand horses that it has sold to us."

For what makes the action of Cartouche not a purchase is that he has not placed in my strong box, with my consent, an equivalent value to the one he has taken.

And what makes the payment of 500,000 francs that we have made to Germany not a tribute, is exactly because it has not received this money for no return but because it has delivered to us in exchange one thousand horses that we ourselves estimated were worth our 500,000 francs.

Should we therefore in all seriousness bring up such abuses of language again? Why not, since they are very seriously bandied about in both journals and books?

And let us not imagine that they slip out from a few writers whose ignorance extends to their use of language! For every one who refrains from this, I will quote you ten who indulge in it and who belong to the upper classes as well, such as Argout,162 Dupin,163 Villèle,164 and assorted peers, deputies, ministers, that is to say all men whose word is the law and whose most shocking sophisms are used as the basis for the country's administration.

A famous modern philosopher165 has added to the categories of Aristotle the sophism that consists in begging the question within a single word. He quotes several examples. He might have added the word tributary to his list. In effect, it is a question of knowing whether purchases made abroad are useful or harmful. They are harmful, you say. Why so? Because they make us tributaries of foreigners. This is certainly a word that begs the question under discussion.

How has this misleading trope slipped into the monopolists' rhetoric?

Écus leave the country to satisfy the rapacity of a victorious enemy. Other écus also leave the country to pay for goods. The analogy between the two cases is established, taking account only of the circumstance that causes their resemblance and disregarding the one by which they differ.

Nevertheless this circumstance, that is to say the non-reimbursement in the first case and the freely agreed reimbursement in the second, establishes between them a difference so great that it is actually not possible to classify them in the same category. To hand over 100 francs as a result of force to someone who has his hands around your neck or voluntarily to someone who is giving you the object of your desires are truly things that cannot be compared. It would be as true to say that throwing bread into the river is the same as eating it since the bread is in both cases destroyed. The fallacy of this reasoning, like that which is encompassed in the word tribute, would consist in establishing full similarity between two cases through their points of resemblance and disregarding what makes them differ.


155 Paul-Louis Courier de Méré (1773-1825) was a French artillery officer, translator of Greek literature, and liberal and anti-clerical polemicist during the Restoration. In 1819-1820 he wrote a series of letters to the liberal journal Le Censeur européen (edited by Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer) in which he chastised the liberals for not taking as much interest in the violation of the rights of ordinary peasants and farmers. See the glossary on Courier de Méré." Bastiat quotes from Courier's Pamphlet des pamphlets (1824), p. 8. The complete quote is: "God, I say to myself in a low voice, God, deliver us from the devil and figurative language! Doctors plan to kill me by wanting to cool [or refresh] my blood; the latter cripple me with the fear of writing with a poison pen; others let their fields lie fallow, and we have a shortage of wheat in the marketplace. Jesus, my Saviour, save us from metaphors." [Dieu, dis-je moi-même tout bas, Dieu, délivre-nous du malin et du langage figuré! Les médecins m'ont pensé tuer, voulant me rafraîchir le sang; celui-ci m'emprisonne de peur que je n'écrive du poison; d'autres laissent reposer leur champ, et nous manquons de blé au marché. Jésus, mon Sauveur, sauvez-nous de la métaphore."

156 Malebranche, Nicolas de (1638-1715). Malebranche was a Paris based theologian and Cartesian philosopher who wrote De la Recherche de la vérité (1674-75).

157 From Malebranche's "On the Senses," in Recherche de la Vérité, p. 1. "L'erreur est la cause de la misère des hommes; c'est le mauvais principe qui a produit le mal dans le monde; c'est elle qui a fait naître et qui entretient dans notre âme tous les maux qui nous affligent, et nous ne devons point espérer de bonheur solide et veritable qu'en travaillant sérieusement à l'éviter." (Error is the cause of mankind's miseries. It is wrong principles which have produced harm in the world. It has given birth and kept in our hearts all the harm which afflicts us. We ought not hope for solid and true happiness unless we seriously work to avoid it.)

158 The phrase "sinister interest" was often used by Jeremy Bentham to criticize the ruling elites who controlled British politics. Bastiat may well have been familiar with Bentham's theory of the ruling elites as he was familiar with his writings and used two quotations from Bentham as the opening quotes for both Series I and Series II of the Economic Sophisms. This is a typical example: "Under a government which has for its main object the sacrifice of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, to the sinister interest of the ruling one and the sub-ruling few, corruption and delusion to the greatest extent possible, are necessary to that object: waste, in so far as conducive to the increase of the corruption and delusion fund, a subordinate or co-ordinate object: war, were it only as a means and pretence for such waste, another object never out of view: that object, together with those others, invariably pursued, in so far as the contributions capable of being extracted from contributors, involuntary or voluntary, in the shape of taxes, or in the shape of loans, i. e. annuities paid by government by means of further taxes, can be obtained:—under such a government, by every penny paid into the Treasury, the means of diminishing the happiness of the greatest number receive increase;—by every penny which is prevented from taking that pernicious course, the diminution of that general happiness is so far prevented." From Principles of Judicial Procedure, With the Outlines of a Procedure Code, in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2. CHAPTER XXIV.: SPECIAL JURIES. </title/1921/113753/2341232>.

159 Mehemet Ali (1769-1848) was an adventurer of Albanian origins who became pasha (or viceroy) of Egypt in 1804. He attempted to introduce many economic reforms inspired by European practices. See the glossary entry on "Ali".

160 The Nile River has two main tributaries, the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile has its origin in Lake Victoria in Uganda; the Blue Nile has its origin in Lake Tana in Ethiopia. Ancient geographers thought that the "Mountains of the Moon," located in east-central Africa, were the origins of the Nile River.

161 Cartouche, Louis Dominque (1693-1721). Cartouche was a notorious Parisian thief and outlaw who had the reputation of someone like Robin Hood for the English or Jesse James for the Americans.

162 Antoine Maurice Appolinaire, Comte d'Argout (1782-1858), was the Minister for the Navy and Colonies, then Commerce, and Public Works during the July Monarchy. In 1834 he was appointed Governor of the Bank of France. See the glossary on "d'Argout."

163 Charles Dupin (1784-1873) was a pioneer in mathematical economics and worked for the statistical office of France. In 1828 he was elected deputy for Tarn, was made a Peer in 1830, and served in the Constituent and then the National Assemblies during the Second Republic. See the glossary entry on "Dupin."

164 Jean-Baptiste, comte de Villèle (1773-1854) was the leader of the ultra-legitimists during the Restoration. He was minister of finance in 1821 and prime minister from 1822 until his resignation in 1828. He was instrumental in getting passed in 1825 an Indemnification Law for nobles who had been dispossessed during the Revolution, and a Law of Sacrilege for affronts to the Church.

165 Bastiat might have had in mind the work by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) where there is a discussion of "petitio principii" (begging the question). See the text on the Online Library of Liberty </title/360/61777/641525>.



Conclusion (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Conclusion" (Conclusion) [dated "Mugron, 2 November, 1845"] [1st published in book].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: ES1 1st French edition 1846.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 5th ed., pp. 119-26.
  • Previous translation: 1st English ed. 1846, 1st American ed. 1848, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


All the sophisms that I have combated up to now relate to a single matter, the protectionist system; even so, out of pity for the reader, I have left out some of the best:166 acquired rights, inconveniences, depletion of the currency, etc., etc.

But social economy is not limited to this narrow circle. Fourierist doctrine, Saint-Simonian doctrine,167 communism, mysticism, sentimentalism, bogus philanthropy, affected aspirations to illusionary equality and fraternity, questions relating to luxury, to wages, to machines, to the alleged tyranny of capital, to colonies, markets, conquests, population, association, emigration, taxes and loans: these have cluttered the field of science with a host of parasitic arguments, sophisms that call for the hoe and harrow of a diligent economist.

It is not that I do not acknowledge the flaw in this plan or rather the lack of a plan. To attack one by one so many incoherent sophisms that sometimes clash and most often are included in one another, is to condemn oneself to a disorganized and capricious struggle and to expose oneself to perpetual repetition.

How I would prefer to say quite simply what things are, without having to pay attention to a thousand aspects through which ignorance sees them! To present the laws according to which societies prosper or decline is virtually to destroy all sophisms at a stroke. When Laplace168 described what we are able to know of the movements of the heavenly bodies up to now, he dissipated without even mentioning them by name, all the astrological musings of the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Hindus with greater surety than he could have done if he had refuted them directly in countless volumes. Truth is unitary; the book that provides an exposition of it is an imposing and durable edifice.

It defies greedy tyrants
bolder than the Pyramids
and more durable than brass.169

Error is multifarious and ephemeral by nature; the work that combats it does not carry within itself any principle signifying grandeur and longevity.

But if I have lacked the force and perhaps the opportunity170 to proceed in the same way as people such as Laplace and Say,171 I cannot help believing that the form I have adopted also has its modest uses.172 Above all, it seems to me to be well proportioned to the needs of the century and the fleeting moments it is able to devote to study.

A treatise doubtless has clear superiority but only on one condition, that it is to be read, reflected upon, and deepened. It addresses an elite audience only. Its mission is initially to set and then expand the circle of knowledge acquired.

The refutation of commonly held prejudices cannot have this elevated range. It aspires only to clear the way for the march of truth, to prepare men's minds, redirect the public moral sense, and destroy dangerous weapons in impure hands.

It is above all in social economy that this constant struggle and these constantly reborn battles with popular error have genuine practical use.

The sciences can be divided into two categories.

Strictly speaking, the first can be known only by scholars. These are the ones whose application occupies some specialists. Ordinary people receive the fruit of these in spite of their ignorance; although they do not know about mechanics and astronomy, they still enjoy the use of a watch, they are still transported by locomotives or steamboats given their faith in engineers or pilots. We walk in accordance with the laws of equilibrium without knowing them, just as M. Jourdain173 spoke prose without knowing it.

But there are also sciences that exercise on the public an influence only in proportion to the enlightenment of the public itself, which draw their entire effectiveness not from the accumulated knowledge in a few exceptional heads but from the knowledge disseminated among the general public. They include morals, hygiene, social economy and, in those countries in which men are their own masters, politics. It is of these sciences that Bentham might have said in particular: "What broadcasts them is more valuable than what advances them."174 What does it matter that a great man, a God even, has promulgated the moral law, as long as men, imbued with false notions, take virtues for vices and vices for virtues? What does it matter if Smith,175 Say,176 and according to M. de Saint-Chamans,177 the economists of all schools proclaim, with reference to commercial transactions that freedom is superior to coercion, if those who make the laws and for whom laws are made are convinced of the contrary?

These sciences, which have been appropriately named social, also have the particular characteristic that for the very reason that they are in common use, nobody admits to knowing nothing about them. Do we need to solve a question of chemistry or geometry? We do not pretend to be steeped in the science; we are not ashamed to call upon M. Thénard, we have no problem in opening Legendre or Bezout.178 However, in social sciences, we acknowledge scarcely any authorities. As each of us every day acts in accordance with good or bad morals, hygiene, economy, or reasonable or absurd politics, each of us feels able to find fault with, discuss, decide, and lay down the law on these matters. Are you ill? There is no old woman who will not tell you from the outset what the cause and remedy of your ailment is: "It is because your fluids are out of sort," she states, "you must be purged".179 But what are these fluids? And are there such things? This is something she does not trouble herself about. I involuntarily think of this dear old woman when I hear all the social ills being explained by these banal statements: It is the overabundance of products; it is the tyranny of capital; it is too many producers and other idiocies of which it cannot even be said verba et voces, praetereaque nihil,180 for they are just so many disastrous errors.

Two things result from what has gone before: 1. That the social sciences, more than the others, have to abound in sophisms because they are the ones in which everyone consults only his own judgment or instincts; 2. That it is in these sciences that sophism is particularly damaging because it misleads public opinion on a subject in which public opinion constitutes power and, is taken as law.

Two sorts of books are therefore needed for these sciences; those that expound them and those that propagate them, those that reveal the truth and those that combat error.

It seems to me that the inherent defect in the aesthetic form of this pamphlet, repetition, is what constitutes its principal usefulness.

In the subject I have discussed, each sophism doubtless has its own formula and range but all have a common root, which is the overlooking of men's interests as consumers. To show that this sophism is the originator of a thousand paths of error181 is to teach the general public to recognize it, understand it, and mistrust it in all circumstances.

After all, my intention is not exactly to lay the ground for deeply held convictions but to sow the seeds of doubt.

My hope is that when the reader puts the book down he will not exclaim, "I know"; please heaven, but that he might sincerely say , "I do not know!"

"I don't know, because I am beginning to fear that there might be something illusory in the alleged mild effects of scarcity." (Sophism I.)

"I am no longer so convinced of the supposed charms of obstacles to economic activity. (Sophism II.)

"The effort which produces no result seems no longer to me to be as desirable as the result which requires no effort. (Sophism III)

"It could well be that the secret of commerce, unlike that of combat (according to the definition given by the fencing instructor in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme182), does not consist in giving and not receiving. (Sophism VI.)

"I understand that a good increases in value to the degree that it has been worked upon; but in an exchange, do two goods of equal value cease to be of equal value because one comes from a plough and the other from a Jacquard loom?183 (Sophism XXI.)

"I admit that I am beginning to find it strange that mankind might be improved by fetters or enriched by taxes; and frankly I would be relieved of a great burden and I would feel pure joy if it could be demonstrated to me, as the author of the Sophisms assures me, that there is no contradiction between well being and justice, between peace and liberty, between the expansion of labor and the progress of knowledge. (Sophisms XIV and XX.)

"Thus, without claiming to be satisfied with his arguments, which I don't know if I should call reasons or paradoxes, I will explore further the works of the masters of economic science."

Let us end this monograph on sophistry with a final and important thought:

The world is not sufficiently aware of the influence that sophistry exercises on it.

If I have to say what I think, when the right of the strongest was dethroned, sophistry handed empire to the right of the most subtle, and it would be difficult to say which of these two tyrants has been the most disastrous for the human race.

Men have an immoderate love for pleasure, influence, esteem, and power, in a word, for wealth.

And at the same time, they are driven by an immense urge to procure these things for themselves at the expense of others.

But these others, who are the general public, have no less an urge to keep what they have acquired, provided that they can and they know how to.

Plunder, which plays such a major role in the affairs of the world, has thus only two things which promote it: force and fraud 184, and two things which limit it: courage and enlightenment.

Force used for plunder forms the bedrock upon which the annals of human history rest.Retracing its history would be to reproduce almost entirely the history of every nation: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Goths, the Francs, the Huns, the Turks, the Arabs, the Mongols, and the Tartars, not to mention the Spanish in America, the English in India, the French in Africa, the Russians in Asia, etc., etc.

But at least in civilized nations, the men who produce the wealth have become sufficiently numerous and strong to defend it. Is this to say that they are no longer dispossessed? Not at all; they are just as dispossessed as ever and, what is more, they mutually dispossess each other.

Only, the thing which promotes it has changed; it is no longer by force but by fraud that public wealth can be seized.

In order to steal from the public it it first necessary to deceive them. To deceive them it is necessary to persuade them that they are being robbed for their own good; it is to make them accept imaginary services and often worse in exchange for their possessions. This gives rise to sophistry. Theocratic sophistry, economic sophistry, political sophistry and financial sophistry. Therefore, ever since force has been held in check, sophistry has been not only a source of harm, it has been the very essence of harm. It must in its turn be held in check. And to do this the public must become cleverer than the clever, just as it has become stronger than the strong.

Good public, it is this last thought in mind that I am addressing this first essay to you, although the preface has been strangely transposed and the dedication is somewhat belated. 185 186

Mugron, 2 November 1845



166 The phrase "J'en passe, et des meilleurs" (I pass over some of the best) comes from Victror Hugo's play Hernani, or l'Honneur Castillian (1830). It is spoken by the Spanish grandee Don Ruy Gomez as he points out boastfully to Don Carlos some portraits of his illustrious ancestors. "Hernani" in Oeuvres complètes de Victor Hugo. Drame. III (Paris: Eugène Renduel, 1836), p. 127, Act III, scene VI. See he glossary entry on "Hugo."

167 See the glossary entries on "Fourier" and "Saint-Simon."

168 Pierre Simon, marquis de Laplace (1749–1827) was a French astronomer, physicist, and mathematician who greatly extended the development of mathematical astronomy and statistics. See the glossary entry on "Laplace."

169 Bastiat quotes an imitation of an ode by Horace by the French poet Pierre-Antoine LeBrun. It is found in a polyglot edition of the works of Horace published in 1834 with the verses in the original Latin with translations and "imitations" in French, Italian, Spanish, and German. In Ode XXX Horace declares that his poetry will outlast the ravages of the elements and of political tyrants. LeBrun's version of the verse: "Grace à la Muse qui m'inspire, / Il est fini ce monument / Que jamais ne pourront détruire / Le fer ni le flot écumant. / Le ciel même, armé de la foudre, / Ne saurait le réduire en poudre: / /Les siècles l'essaieraient en vain.

Il brave ces tyrans avides, / Plus hardi que les pyramides / Et plus durable que l'airain." From "Imitations en vers français. Ode XXX – Livre III," in Oeuvres complètes d'Horace, p. 229.

170 (Paillottet's note) We pointed out at the end of chapter IV [see this volume, "Equalizing the Conditions of Production," pp. 000–00] that it contains the obvious seed of doctrines developed in the Economic Harmonies. Here, the author shows his intention to write this last work at the first available opportunity.

171 It is not surprising that Bastiat would mention Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) in this context of key works which have exposed commonly held falsehoods. Like Adam Smith (1723-90) before him whose Wealth of Nations (1776) debunked the sophisms of mercantilism, Say's Treatise of Political Economy (1st edition 1803, 3rd greatly revised edition of 1817) debunked the economic sophisms which had emerged during the French Revolution and Napoleon's Empire. The latter had a profound influence on the economists of Bastiat's generation. See the glossary entries on "Adam Smith" and "J.B. Say."

172 See David Hart's Introduction on the changing "form" Bastiat adopted for his economic sophisms. Bastiat had proven himself to be an insightful and witty economic journalist but he was conflicted over what form and style was best to use in appealing to the broader public between 1846 and 1848 when the first two "Series" of the Economic Harmonies were published. He could write more serious even technical articles or he was equally capable of writing very clever and amusing satires. He was stung by a review of the 1st Series (published early 1846) which accused him of being too dry and dull in his form, so he increased the number of the more amusing and light-hearted pieces in the 2nd Series (early 1848 before the February Revolution). Then when the Revolution broke out he decided that matters had become so serious that it was now inappropriate for puns, jokes, and satire and that his critique of socialism and interventionism required much more blunt and hard-hitting language.

173 In Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The Would-Be Gentleman) (1670) by J. B. P. Molière (1622–1673), Act II, scene VI, the Instructor of Philosophy is instructing M. Jourdain on how to behave like a gentleman. Jourdain wants to woo a woman of higher social status than he is and wants to be able to write her a letter. When asked by the Philosopher if he wants to write verse or prose M. Jourdain gets confused because he doesn't know the difference between the two. He is told told that everyday speech is a form of prose and Jourdain is astonished that for 40 years he had been speaking prose without knowing it. Oeuvres complètes de Molière, avec les notes de tous les commentateurs. Édition publiée par L. Aimé-Martin. Tome septième (Paris: Lefèvre, 1826), pp. 138-40. See the glossary entry on "Molière."

174 The quotation comes from Bentham, Théorie des peines et des recompenses, ed. É. Dumont, chap. 3, "De la diffusion des sciences," p. 249. See the glossary entry on Bentham."

175 Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment and one of the founders of modern economic thought with his work The Wealth of Nations (1776). An important French edition of the Wealth of Nations was published by Guillaumin with notes and commentary by leading French economists such as Blanqui, Garnier, Sismondi, and Say and appeared in 1843. See the glossary entry on "Smith."

176 Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) was the leading French political economist in the first third of the nineteenth century. He had the first chair in political economy at the Collège de France. Say is best known for his Traité d'économie politique (1803) and the Cours complet d'économie politique pratique (1828-33). See the glossary on "J.B.Say."

177 Auguste Saint-Chamans (1777-1860) was a deputy (1824-27) and a Councillor of State. He advocated protectionism and a mercantilist theory of the balance of trade. See the glossary entry on "Saint-Chamans."

178 Louis Jacques Thénard (1777–1857) was a chemist who became a professor at the Collège de France in 1804, discovered hydrogen peroxide, and had a significant influence on the teaching of science in 19th century France; Adrien-Marie Legendre (1752-1833) was a mathematician who was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1783 and is best known for his work on polynomials and the least squares method; Étienne Bezout (1730-1783) was a French mathematician who was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1758 and is best known for his general theory of algebraic equations. See the glossary entries on "Thénard," "Legendre," and "Bezout."

179 One of Bastiat's cleverest sophisms ES2 IX "Theft by Subsidy" [below, pp. ???] includes a parody of Molière's parody about the primitive medical practices of the 17th century, including that of purging. In The Hypocondriac Molière creates a fictional oath of induction for new doctors in which they promise to "purge, bleed, stab" their patients to death. Bastiat does the same for tax collectors in which they pledge to "steal, plunder, filch" from all passers-by. See "Bastiat's Rhetoric of Liberty" in the Introduction, above, pp. ???

180 The Latin phrase "verba et voces, praetereaque nihil" (words and voices and nothing more) has been attributed to various authors such as Ovid and Quintilian but there is no firm evidence for their authorship. It is similiar to a line from Horace, Epistle I.i.34, which says "sunt verba et voces" (there are spells and sayings).

181 Here (circa November 1845) Bastiat argues that the "racine commune" (common root) for a thousand sophisms is to overlook men's interests as consumers." In 1847 when he wrote a brief draft of a chapter on Montaigne's essay "Le Profit d'un est dommage de l'autre" (One man's gain is another man's loss) he called this phrase the "classical example of a sophism, the root stock sophism from which comes multitudes of sophisms" (Sophisme type, sophisme souche, d'où sortent des multitudes de sophismes). See ES3 15 "One man's gain is another man's loss."

182 The "maître d'armes" (fencing instructor) instructs M. Jourdain in the two simple secrets for success in fencing: to give and not to receive thrusts of the sword and to deflect any thrust of the sword made at you away from the line of the body. See Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The Would-Be Gentleman), Act II, Scene III. in Oeuvres complètes de Molière, avec les notes de tous les commentateurs. Édition publiée par L. Aimé-Martin. Tome septième (Paris: Lefèvre, 1826), p. 122. See the glossary entry on "Molière."

183 Joseph Marie Charles (Jacquard) (1752-1834) was a French weaver and inventor who was a pioneer in the development of the mechanical loom which revolutionized the production of woven cloth. His contribution in 1801, the Jacquard loom, built upon the work of others and depended upon the use of punched cards with holes which controlled the pattern woven into the cloth. It was one of the earliest examples of a programmable machine.

184 Bastiat uses the word "la ruse" (fraud or trickery) which is an important part of his theory of Plunder. See the glossary entry on "Plunder."

185 Here Bastiat seems to be suggesting that the Dedication he wrote for the volume (possibly what we have called "The Author's Introduction") was written last and in some haste, and that the Conclusion was meant to have been put at the beginning of the volume and thus should have been the Preface. These remarks suggest that the volume was edited and published in some haste at the end of 1845, perhaps without Bastiat's full editorial control.

186 (Paillottet's note) This thought, which ends the first series of the Sophisms, will be taken up again and developed by the author at the start of the second series. The influence of plunder on the destiny of the human race preoccupied him greatly. After having covered this subject several times in the Sophisms and the Pamphlets (see in particular Property and Plunder and Plunder and Law) (OC, vol. 4, p. 394, "Propriété et spoliation"; and vol. 5, p. 1, "Spoliation et loi"), he planned a more ample place for it in the second part of the Harmonies, among the disturbing factors. Lastly, as the final evidence of the interest he took in it, he said on the eve of his death: "A very important task to be done for political economy is to write the history of plunder. It is a long history in which, from the outset, there appeared conquests, the migrations of peoples, invasions, and all the disastrous excesses of force in conflict with justice. Living traces of all this still remain today and cause great difficulty for the solution of the questions raised in our century. We will not reach this solution as long as we have not clearly noted in what and how injustice, when making a place for itself amongst us, has gained a foothold in our customs and our laws." ["Property and Plunder" and "Plunder and Law" also appear in The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, in the volume titled "The Law," "The State," and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, pp. 000–00 and pp. 000–00.]



T.39 (1845.12.15) "The English Free Trade League and the German League" (JDE, Dec., 1845)


T.39 (1845.12.15) "The English Free Trade League and the German League" (La Ligue anglaise et la Ligue allemande. Réponse à la Presse), Journal des Économistes, Dec. 1845, T. 13, no. 49, pp. 83-85. [OC2.26, pp. 141-47.] [CW6]


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T.40 (1845.12.15) "A Question submitted to the General Councils of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce" (JDE, Dec., 1845)


T.40 (1845.12.15) "On the Questions submitted to the General Councils of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce" (Sur les questions soumise aux conseils généraux de l'agriculture, des manufactures et du commerce), Journal des Économistes, Dec. 1845, T.13, no. 49, pp. 4-25. [OC1, pp. 392-405.] [CW6]


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Bastiat's Writings in 1846

T.41 (1846.??) "To M. de Larnac, Deputy of Les Landes, on Parliamentary Reform"


T.41 (1846.??) "To M. de Larnac, Deputy of Les Landes, on Parliamentary Reform" (A M. de Larnac, député des Landes: De la réforme parlementaire). [OC1, pp. 480-506.] [CW1.2.2.3, p. 367-86.]


To M. Larnac, Deputy for the Landes

You have considered it appropriate to circulate a letter which I had the honor of sending you and your reply to it. I do not reproach you for this. No doubt you assumed that at the elections we would meet in opposing camps, and if my letter revealed to you a man who professed mistaken and dangerous opinions, you had the right to warn the general public. I allow that you took this decision with this sole preoccupation with the general interest in mind. Perhaps it would have been more fitting to choose between absolute silence and total publicity. You have preferred something that is neither of [368] these, pompous yet hard to pin down scandalmongering about a letter of which I have not kept a copy and whose terms, consequently, I cannot explain nor defend. So be it. I have not the slightest doubt about the accuracy of the copyist responsible for reproducing it and that is enough for me.

However, sir, is this enough to achieve your aim, which is doubtless to enlighten the beliefs of the electors? My letter relates to a particular fact, followed by a political doctrine. I have scarcely touched on this fact, and this is simply explained, since I was addressing someone who was aware of the full circumstances. I sketched the doctrine as one can do in letter form. This is not enough detail for the general public, and since you have involved them in this matter, allow me to address them in my turn.

I find it too distasteful to introduce actual names into this debate to underline particular facts. Only the need to defend myself personally could make me decide to do this and I hasten to come to the major political question which is the subject of your letter, the conflicts of interest of a legislative mandate with work in the civil service.

I make it clear at the outset, I am not actually asking for civil servants to be excluded from the House; they are citizens and should be able to enjoy the rights of citizenship, but they should be admitted to it only as citizens and not as civil servants. If they wish to serve the nation over which the law reigns, they cannot be the executors of the law. If they wish to represent the general public which pays the government, they cannot be the salaried agents of that government. I consider that their presence in the Chamber be subordinated to a measure which I will indicate later; and I unhesitatingly add that, in my eyes at least, there are many more disadvantages in admitting them to the Chamber unconditionally than to excluding them unremittingly.

“Your thesis is truly immense (you say); if I were dealing a priori with the question of conflicts of interest, I would begin by castigating this tendency to suspiciousness, one which appears very illiberal to me.”

But sir, what is the body of our laws if not a series of precautionary measures against the dangerous tendencies of the human heart? What is the constitution? What are all these checks and balances and the counterbalancing of powers if not a system of barriers to possible and even fatal encroachments in the absence of any restraint? What is religion itself, at least in one of its essential aspects, if not a source of grace intended by Providence to remedy native and therefore foreseen weakness in our nature? If you would remove from our symbols, charters, and law codes all that which has been [369] placed there by what you call suspicion and I call prudence, you would make the task of legislators very easy, but make the fate of men quite precarious. If you believe man to be infallible, burn the laws and charters. If you consider him to be fallible, in that case, when it is a matter of conflicts of interest or even a particular law, the question is not to know whether it is founded on suspicion but whether that suspicion is an impartial, reasonable, enlightened one, in other words on a prediction unfortunately justified by the indelible infirmity of men’s hearts.

This reproach made to suspicious tendencies has so often been directed against anyone who petitions for parliamentary reform that I feel obliged to repel it with some insistence. When we are very young and have just escaped from the atmosphere of Greece and Rome, where the university compels us to absorb our initial impressions, it is true that the love of liberty is too often mistaken in us with impatience in the face of any rules, of any government, and consequently with a puerile aversion to public office and civil servants. For my part, age and reflection have totally cured me of this aberration. I acknowledge that, except in instances of abuse, whether in public or private life, each person provides society with similar services. In one case, he satisfies the need for food and clothing, in another the need for order and security. I therefore do not take up arms against public office or suspect any civil servant individually. I have esteem for very many of them and I am a civil servant myself,24 although one of very modest rank. If others have pleaded the cause of conflicts of interest under the influence of a narrow and bitter jealousy or of an alarmist version of democracy, I can pursue the same goal without associating myself with these sentiments. Of course, without exceeding the boundaries of reasonable caution, it is permissible to take account of man’s passions or rather the nature of things.

However, sir, although public office and private industry have in common that both render similar services to society, it cannot be denied that they differ in one circumstance which it is essential to note. Each person is free to accept or refuse the services of private industry and receive them insofar as they suit him and to discuss their price. On the other hand, anything that concerns public office is regulated in advance by law and removed from our free will. It prescribes for us the quantity and quality we have to consume (pardon this rather too technical language) as well as the remuneration that [370] will be attached. For this reason, it would seem that it is up to those for whom and at whose expense this type of service is established to approve at least the law which determines its particular purpose, its scope, and the salaries involved. If the field of hairdressing were regulated by law, if we left to wig makers the job of making the law, it is likely (and I would not at all wish to ruffle the feelings of wig makers, nor to display a tendency to illiberal suspiciousness but simply to base my reasoning on the knowledge we have of the human heart), it is likely, I repeat, that we would soon be inordinately well groomed, indeed to the point of tyranny and the emptying of our purses. In the same way, when the electors have laws passed which regulate the provision of public safety and the salaries thereby entailed, or those of any other governmental product, by civil servants who earn their living from this work, it would seem to me to be indisputable that these electors run the risk of being administered and taxed beyond all reasonable measure.

Obsessed by the idea that we are prey to illiberal suspiciousness, you add: “In periods of intolerance, we would have said to candidates, ‘You must not be either a Protestant or a Jew’; these days, we say, ‘Do not be a civil servant.’ ”

In that case we would have been absurd, whereas now we are being rational. Jews, Protestants, and Catholics, regulated by the same laws and paying the same taxes, are voted for by us as equals. How can a religious creed be a motive justifying exclusion for anyone among us? However, with regard to those who apply the law and earn a living from taxation, the prohibition against voting for them is not at all arbitrary. Administrative authority itself acts in accordance with this principle and thus demonstrates that it is common sense. M. Lacave-Laplagne does not have the accounts audited by the accountants. It is not him personally, it is the very nature of these two orders of functions that causes conflicts of interest. Would you not find it laughable for the minister to base it on religious creed, the length of the nose, or the color of hair? The analogy you offer is of this nature.

“I think that you need very serious, patently clear, and proven reasons for asking that an exception should be made of someone. In general, this idea is bad and retrograde.”

Do you mean to satirize the Charter? It lays down that anyone who does not pay five hundred francs of taxes should be excluded on the simple conjecture that anyone who is not rich is not independent. Am I not aligning myself with its spirit when, since I have only one vote to allocate and am obliged to reject all the candidates except for one, I include among those I [371] reject one who perhaps has financial resources but who, since he has gained them from the minister, seems to me to be more dependent than if he had none?

“I am in favor of the progressive adage sunt favores ampliandi, sunt odia restringenda.25

Sunt favores ampliandi! Ah, sir, I very much fear that under this dispensation there are too many people. Be that as it may, I ask whether deputation has been created for the deputies or for the general public? If it is for the general public, show me how they benefit by delegating civil servants. I can well see that this tends to expand the budget, but not without restricting the resources of taxpayers.

Sunt odia restringenda! Useless functions and expenditure, these are the odia that need to be restricted. Tell me how, therefore, we can expect this of those who carry out the first and gobble up the second?

In any case, there is one point on which we agree. This is on the extension of electoral rights.26 Unless you classify these among the odia restringenda, you have to include them in the number of the favores ampliandi, and your generous aphorism tells us that electoral reform can count on you.

“I have confidence in the workings of our institutions (in particular, I dare say, in the one which is the subject of this correspondence). I believe it to be conducive to the production of morality. This condition of society lies essentially in the electors; it is summed up in its representatives, it passes through the votes of majorities, etc.”

This is certainly a most touching picture, and I like this morality which rises from the base to the summit of the edifice. I could trace a less optimistic picture and show the political immorality that descends from the summit to the base. Which of the two would be more true to life? What! The disorderly placement of the voting and execution of laws and the voting and control of the budget in the same hands produces morality? Logically, I have difficulty understanding this. Evidentially, I have even greater difficulty.

You invoke the adage Quid leges sine moribus?27 I am doing nothing else. I have not called the law to account but the electors. I have uttered the hope [372] that they will get themselves represented by deputies whose interests are in harmony with and not in opposition to theirs. This is very much a matter of mores. The law does not forbid us to elect civil servants but it does not oblige us to do so either. I do not hide the fact that it would seem to me to be reasonable for it to contain a few precautions in this respect. In the meantime, let us take them ourselves: Quid leges sine moribus?

I said, “Whether right or wrong, it is a deep-seated idea of mine that deputies are the controllers of power.

You jeered at the words whether right or wrong. So be it. I give way to you on this. Let us substitute this sentence: I may be mistaken, but I have the conviction that deputies are the controllers of power.

“What power?” you ask. Obviously executive power. You say: “I acknowledge only three powers: the king, the Chamber of Peers, and the Chamber of Deputies.”

If we return to abstract principles, I will be forced to differ in opinion from you, as I fundamentally acknowledge only one power: national power. All the others are delegated, and it is because executive power is delegated that the nation has the right to control it. And it is in order that this control is not derisory that the nation, in my humble opinion, would be wise not to place in the same hands both power and control. Assuredly it is free to do so. It is free to draw down on itself, as it does, various impediments and taxes. In this it seems to me unwise and even less wise to complain about the result. You think that I hold a serious grudge against the government; not at all, I admire it and find it very generous, when the general public is so obliging, to limit itself to a budget of 1.4 to 1.5 billion. For the last thirty years taxes have scarcely doubled. This is something to be surprised at and it should be acknowledged that the avidity of the taxman has remained well below the rashness of the taxpayers.

You find the following thought vague: “The mission of deputies is to delineate the arena in which power should be exercised.” “This arena,” you say, “is clearly delineated; it is the Charter.”

I have to say that, in the Charter, I do not know of a single clause which relates to the question. It must clearly be the case that we do not understand each other, so I will endeavor to explain my thoughts.

A nation may be more or less subject to government. In France and under the dispensation of the Charter, there are a multitude of services which may leave the scope of private industry and be entrusted to public authority and vice versa. In past times, spirited arguments were held to find out in which [373] of these two modes of activity the railway system would remain. Even more heated is the question concerning to which of these two education should belong. One day, perhaps, the same doubts will arise with regard to religions. There are countries, such as the United States, in which the state does not interfere and they are all the better for this. Elsewhere, in Russia or Turkey, for example, the contrary system has prevailed. In the British Isles, as soon as the conflict over freedom of trade is settled in favor of the latter, another conflict is in the offing in favor of the voluntary system in religious matters or the disestablishment of the established church. I mentioned freedom of trade; in our country, the government has made itself, through variations in tariffs, the regulator of industry. Sometimes it favors agriculture over manufacturing and sometimes manufacturing over agriculture, and it has even the singular pretension to make all the sectors of production prosper at the expense of each other. It is exclusively the government that operates the carrying of mail, the handling of snuff and tobacco, etc., etc.

There is therefore a division to be made between private activity and collective or governmental activity. On the one hand, many people are inclined to increase the attributions of the state indefinitely. The most eccentric visionaries, such as Fourier, come together on this point with the most practical of the men of state, such as M. Thiers. According to these powerful geniuses, the state must, under their supreme management, naturally, be the great administrator of justice, the great pontiff, the great teacher, the great engineer, the great industrialist, and the people’s great benefactor. On the other hand, many sound minds espouse the opposite view; there are even those who go so far as to want the government to be limited to its essential functions, which are to guarantee the security of people and property, to prevent and repress violence and disorder, to ensure for all the free exercise of their faculties and the proper reward for their efforts. It is already not without some danger, they say, that the nation entrusts to a hierarchically organized body the redoubtable responsibility for the police force. This is indeed necessary, but at least the nation should refrain from giving this body more jurisdiction over moral, intellectual, or economic life, if it does not wish to be reduced to the status of so much property or of a mere thing.

And it is for this reason that there is a Charter. And it is for this reason that in this Charter there is Article 15: “All tax laws must be first passed by the Chamber of Deputies.” For, note this well, every invasion by public authority into the field of private activity implies a tax. If the government claims that it will take over education, it will need paid teachers and therefore [374] a tax. If it aspires to subjecting our moral life to some religion or other, it will need clergy and therefore a tax. If it has to operate the railways and canals, it will need capital and therefore a tax. If it has to make conquests in Africa and Oceania, it will need armies, a navy, and therefore a tax. If it has to weight the profits of various industries through the action of tariffs, it will need a customs service and therefore a tax. If it is responsible for providing work and bread for all, it will need taxes and even more taxes.

However, for the very reason that, according to our national law, the nation is not the property of its government and that it is for the nation and not the government that religion, education, industry, the railways, etc., exist, it is up to the nation, not the government, to decide which services should be entrusted to or removed from government. Article 15 of the Charter gives the nation the means to do this. It just needs to refuse a tax to acquire liberty by this very action.

But if it abandons to the state and its agents, to executive power and its instruments, the task of establishing this great divide between the fields of collective and private industry, if in addition it delivers Article 15 of the Charter to it, is it not likely that the nation will shortly afterward be administered to death, that an indefinite number of functions will be created to substitute forced service for voluntary service in each sector and also the taxes to finance these functions? And is it possible to perceive any end to this series of encroachments and taxes which are mutually necessary, for, without wishing to attack individuals nor exaggerate man’s dangerous leanings, can we not state that it is in the nature of any constituted and organized body to try to expand and absorb all forms of influence, power, and wealth?

Well, sir, the meaning of the sentence you found vague is this: when the nation nominates deputies, part of the mission it gives them is to circumscribe the government’s sphere of action, to establish the limits which this action must not exceed and to remove from it any means of taking over the liberties the nation intends to retain, through a perspicacious use of Article 15 of the Charter. It will inevitably fail in this objective if it abandons this restrictive power to the very people in whom there resides the force for expansion that needs to be contained and restricted. May you, sir, not find the commentary less clear than the text.

Finally, there is in my letter another sentence which must lead me into lengthy explanation, since it appears to have shocked you particularly and it is this:


“From the moment the deputies have the possibility of becoming ministers, it is a simple fact that those who are ambitious seek to carve themselves out a route to the minister’s position through systematic opposition.”

Here, sir, I am no longer blaming those who occupy office, but, on the contrary, those who seek it; not civil servants but clearly those who wish to supplant them. I hope that in your eyes this will be irrefutable proof that I am not imbued with any bitter jealousy of a particular individual or class.

Up to now, I have dealt with the question of the eligibility of civil servants to become deputies and, adopting the taxpayers’ point of view, I have tried to prove that they could scarcely (to use the expressions you quote with such insistence) hand over control to those being controlled without risking both their wealth and liberty.

The passage I have just quoted leads me to discuss the eligibility of deputies for public office and envisage the relationship of this wide-ranging question with government itself. In this way, the loop of the forms of conflicts of interest will come full circle.

Yes, sir, I regard the eligibility of deputies for public office, in particular in government, as essentially destructive of all effectiveness, stability, and consistency of governmental action. I do not think it possible to imagine a combination more adverse to the interests of the monarch and those who represent him or a pillow more lumpy for the king’s head or those of his ministers. Nothing in the world seems more likely to me to arouse the spirit of partisanship, fan the flames of factions, corrupt all the sources of information and publicity, distort the action of the tribune and press, mislead public opinion after having aroused it, hinder administration, foment national hatred, provoke external war, wear out and scorn those in government, discourage and corrupt those being governed, and, in a word, throw out of alignment all the springs of the representative system. As far as I am concerned, I know of no social plague that compares with this. Since this side of the question has never been discussed or even noticed by the partisans of parliamentary reform, as far as I know, since in all their draft laws, if Article 1 raises the principle of conflicts of interest, Article 2 swiftly creates exceptions in favor of governments and their ministries, embassies, and all of what are known as high political positions, I am obliged to develop my thoughts at some length.

Above all, I must reject your preemptively seeking to define my argument out of court. You state that my case contradicts the Charter. Not at all. The [376] Charter does not prohibit a conscientious deputy from refusing a portfolio or prudent electors from selecting candidates from those who renounce this illogical pluralism. If it is not farsighted, it does not prohibit us from being farsighted. That having been said, I continue:

One of the predecessors of the current prefect of the Landes did me the honor of paying me a visit. The elections were close and conversation turned naturally to conflicts of interest and in particular on deputies’ noneligibility for government office. Like you, the prefect was astonished that I dared to profess a doctrine which appeared to him, as to you, to be excessively rigid, impractical, etc.

I told him: “I think, sir, that you would do justice to the General Council of the Landes by acknowledging that you found a highly independent spirit there with no personal and systematic opposition. The measures you put forward are examined on their own merit. Each member votes for or against, depending on whether he considers them good or bad. Each person takes account of the general interest as he perceives it and perhaps local or personal interest, but there is no one who can be suspected of rejecting a useful proposal from you just because it comes from you.”

“Never,” said the prefect, “has the notion crossed my mind.”

“Well, let us imagine that a regulation in the following terms were to be introduced into the law governing these councils: ‘If a measure proposed by the prefect is rejected, he will be dismissed. The Council member who raised the opposition will be appointed as prefect and he will be able to distribute all the leading positions, such as general tax collection, the management of direct and indirect contributions, etc., in the département to his chance companions.’

“I ask you, is it not probable or even certain that such an article would completely change the spirit of the Council? Is it not certain that this Chamber, in which independence and impartiality currently reign, would be transformed into an arena of intrigue and faction? Is it not likely that ambition would be fueled in line with the sustenance offered it? And whatever good opinion you have of the virtue of Council members, do you think that they will avoid succumbing to this test? In any case, would it not be highly imprudent to attempt this dangerous experiment? Can we doubt that each of your proposals would become a battlefield of personal strife, that they would no longer be examined for their relevance to the public good but solely from the point of view of the opportunities they would create for the parties? [377] And now, you surely agree that there are newspapers in the département. It is clear that belligerent militants would not fail to attract them to their cause and their entire polemics would be infused with the passions engulfing the Council. And when election day arrives, corruption and intrigue, fanned by the flames of attack and defense, will know no limits.”

“I confess,” said the prefect to me, “that in such a state of affairs, I would not wish to retain my office, even for twenty-four hours.”

Well, sir, is not this fictional constitution of a general council which so frightened a prefect the genuine constitution of the Chamber? What difference is there? Just one. The arena is vaster, the theater higher, the battlefield wider, the feeding of passion more exciting, the prize for the combat more coveted, the questions used as the text or pretext for the combat more burning, more difficult, and therefore more apt to mislead the sentiments and judgment of the multitude. It is disorder organized on the same model but on a vaster scale.

Men have filled their minds with politics, that is to say, they have dreamed of grandeur, influence, wealth, and glory. Suddenly the winds of election blow them into the legislative enclosure, and what does the constitution of the country say to them? To one it says: “You are not rich. The minister needs to swell his ranks; all the positions are in his gift and none of them is forbidden to you by law. The decision is yours.” To a second it says: “You feel you have talent and daring. There is the ministerial bench. If you remove them, the place is yours. The decision is yours.” To a third: “Your soul is not up to this level of ambition but you promised your electors to oppose the government. However, there is still an avenue to the region of power open to you; here is a party leader, link your fortune to his.”

Then, invariably, this muddle of mutual accusations begins, these outrageous efforts to attract the power of transitory popularity to one’s side, this ostentatious display of unachievable principles when one is on the attack and abject concessions when one is on the defensive. These are just traps and countertraps, mines and countermines. You can see the most disparate elements forming alliances and the most natural alliances dissolving. People bargain, stipulate, sell, and buy. Here the party spirit enters into a coalition, there subterranean ministerial cunning causes another to fail. Any event that arises, even if it bears in its wake general conflagration, is always seized upon by the assailants if it offers ground on which the boarding ladders can rest. The public good or general interest is just words, pretexts, or means. The essential [378] point is to draw from a question the power which will help one party to overthrow the government and walk over the body. Ancona,28 Tahiti,29 Syria,30 Morocco,31 fortifications, or visiting rights are all good pretexts. All that is needed is the proper arrangements for putting them into practice. At this point we are drenched in the eternal stereotyped lamentations; internally, France is suffering, anxious, etc., etc.; externally, France is humiliated, scorned, etc., etc. Is this true, is it untrue? No notice is taken. Does this measure bring us into conflict with Europe? Does it oblige us to maintain five hundred thousand troops on constant alert? Will it stop the march of civilization? Will it create obstacles for future administrations? This is not what it is all about; just one thing is of interest, the fall and the triumph of two names.

And do not think that this sort of political perversity pervades only base souls in the Chamber, those hearts consumed by low ambition or the prosaic lovers of highly paid positions. No, it also and above all attacks elite souls, noble hearts, and powerful intellects. To quell and subdue them, it just has to awaken in the secret depths of their consciences, in place of the following trivial thought: You will achieve your dreams of wealth, another no less attractive: You will achieve your dreams of public good.

We have a remarkable example of this. There is not in France a man’s head on which as many accusations, verbal abuses, and flagrant insults have been heaped as on that of M. Guizot. If the language used by the parties contained bloodier epithets than turncoat, traitor, or apostate, they would not have been spared him. However, there is one reproach that I have never [379] heard formulated or even insinuated against him, that of having used parliamentary success to boost his personal wealth. I acknowledge that he pushes probity to the point of self-sacrifice. I accept that he will never seek personal triumph other than the better to ensure the triumph of his principles. This is, moreover, a form of ambition that he has formally admitted.

So, we have seen this austere philosopher and man of principle in opposition. What did he do there? Everything that might suggest a thirst for power. For example, he displayed democratic views that are not his own, he adopted a mantle of fierce patriotism of which he does not approve, he caused embarrassment to his country’s government, he contrived obstacles to the most important negotiations, he fomented coalitions, and he formed leagues with any individuals, even enemies of the throne, provided that they were enemies of some minister. Being out of office, he opposed matters he would have supported within office. He supported the direction of the batteries of Ancona against M. Molé, just as M. Thiers directs the batteries of Morocco against him. In short, he conjured up a ministerial crisis with all his determination and might and deliberately created for his own future government the difficulties that result from such precedents. That is what he did, and why? Because in the Charter there is an Article 46, a tempting serpent which told him:

“You will be equal to the gods; achieve power, by whatever route, and you will be the savior of the country!” And so the deputy, beguiled, made speeches, set out doctrines, and carried out acts which his conscience condemned, but he said to himself: “This is necessary to reach office; once I have reached it, I will adopt once more my genuine philosophy and true principles.”

Is there any need for further examples? My God, the history of the war for portfolios is the entire history of parliament.

I am not attacking anyone in particular; I am attacking the institution. If the prospect of power is offered to deputies, it is impossible for the Chamber to be other than a battlefield.

Let us see what is happening in England. In 1840 the government was on the point of bringing about free trade. However, there was one man in the opposition, imbued with the doctrines of Smith,32 a man who couldn’t sleep at the thought of Canning’s and Huskisson’s glory, who wished at all costs to be the instrument of this vast revolution. It was going to be accomplished [380] without him. What did he do? He declared himself the protector of protection. He aroused every shred of ignorance, prejudice, and egoism in the country. He rallied the terrified aristocracy and aroused the popular classes who were so easy to mislead. He combated his own principles in Parliament and on the hustings. He ousted the reforming government. He came to office with the express mission of closing the ports of Great Britain to foreign goods. As a result, a deluge of ills, unprecedented in the annals of history and which the Whigs had hoped to avert, swamped England. Production stopped; inactivity desolated both town and country, escorted by its two faithful satellites, crime and illness. Everyone with intellect or heart rose up against this frightful oppression and Mr. Peel, in betrayal of his party and the majority, came to Parliament to admit: “I made a mistake, I was wrong, I renounce protection and give my country free trade.” No, he was not mistaken. He was as much of an economist in 1840 as he was in 1846. But he wanted glory and for that he delayed the triumph of truth, through countless calamities, for six years.

There are therefore very few deputies whom the prospect of positions and portfolios does not cause to swerve from the line of rectitude in which their constituents hope to see them walk. It would not be so bad if the harm did not go beyond the walls of the Palais Bourbon! But, as you know, sir, the two armies who dispute power carry their battlefield outside. The warlike masses are everywhere; only the leaders are in the Chamber and it is from there that they issue orders. They are fully aware that, to reach the center of the fort, they have to conquer the outer works, the newspapers, popularity, public opinion, and electoral majorities. It is thus fatal for all these forces, to the extent that they enroll under the banner of one of the line commanders, to become imbued and permeated with the same insincerity. Journalism, from one end of France to the other, no longer discusses the measures; it pleads their cause and not from the point of view of whether they contain good or evil points in themselves but from the sole viewpoint of the help they can temporarily provide to one or the other leader. It is well known that there are few eminent journalists whose future will not be affected by the outcome of this portfolio war. What policy is the prime minister pursuing in Texas,33 Lebanon, Tahiti, Morocco, or Madagascar? It does not matter. [381] The progovernment press has a single motto, È sempre bene;34 while the opposition press espouses what the old woman in the satire had written on her petticoat for us to see: Argumentabor.35

It would need a more experienced pen than mine to recount all the harm done in France by the partisan press, who (mark my words, this is the core of my thesis) disseminate their views solely to serve a particular deputy who wants to become a minister. You have access to the king, sir, I don’t like to involve him in these discussions. However, I am able to say, since this is the opinion held by Europe, that he has contributed to maintaining world peace. But perhaps you have witnessed what sweat in the form of moral exertions is needed to wrench out of him this success worthy of the acclaim of nations. What is the reason for all this sweat, these problems, this resistance to such a noble task? Because at a given moment, peace was not supported by public opinion. And why was it not supported? Because it did not suit certain newspapers. And why did it not suit certain newspapers? Because it was unwelcome to a particular deputy. And why finally was it unwelcome to this deputy? Because peace was the policy of the ministers, and therefore war was necessarily that of those deputies who wished to become ministers. Indubitably, this is the root of the evil.

Shall I make mention of Ancona, the fortifications of Paris, Algiers, the events in 1840, visiting rights, tariffs, anglophobia, and so many other questions in which journalism led public opinion astray, not because it was itself led astray but because this was part of a coldly premeditated plan whose success was of importance to a particular ministerial alliance?

I prefer to quote here the admissions that were themselves proclaimed by journalism in the most widely distributed of its outlets, La Presse (17 November 1845).

“M. Petetin describes the press as he sees it, as he prefers to dream it. In all good faith does he believe that, when Le Constitutionnel, Le Siècle, etc., attack M. Guizot, when in turn Le Journal des débats confronts M. Thiers, these broadsheets are campaigning uniquely on philosophical grounds, for truth as provoked by the interior needs of conscience? To define the press in these terms is to paint it as one imagines it, not as it really is. It does not cost us anything to state this, since while we are journalists, we are less so by vocation than by circumstance. Every day we see newspapers in the service of [382] human passion, rival ambition, ministerial alliances, parliamentary intrigue, and political calculations of every hue, the most violently opposed and the least noble, and we see them closely involved in this. However, we rarely see them in the service of ideas, and when by chance a newspaper happens to espouse an idea, this is never on its own merits, it is always as a ministerial instrument with which to defend or attack. He who is penning these lines is speaking from experience. Every time he has attempted to draw journalism out of the rut of party politics and introduce it to the field of ideas and reforms, to the path of wholesome applications of economic science to public administration, he found himself alone and had to acknowledge that outside the narrow circle traced by the assembled letters of four or five names, there was no possibility of discussion. There was no policy. What good does it do to deny this evil? Does it stop it existing? When newspapers do not ally themselves with special interests, they ally themselves with passions and when these are themselves examined closely, in the majority of cases these passions are merely selfish interests. This is the truth of the matter.”

What, sir, are you not scandalized, not appalled by this terrible admission? Or do you still have some doubt as to the cause of a situation so fraught with humiliation and peril? It is not I who am speaking. It is not a misanthropist, a republican, or a seditionist. It is the press itself that has unveiled its secret and is telling you to what depths this institution whose morality inspires such confidence in you has reduced it. The place where laws are supposed to be debated has been transformed into a battlefield. The destiny of the country, war and peace, justice and iniquity, order and anarchy count for nothing, absolutely nothing in themselves; they are instruments of combat that are taken up and put down according to one’s own imperatives. What does it matter that at each turn of this impious struggle upheaval is experienced throughout the country? It has scarcely returned to calm when the armies change position and the combat is once more engaged with even more fervor.

Finally, do I have to demonstrate the existence of partisan spirit, this insidious worm, this devouring cancer which draws its life and strength from the eligibility of deputies for executive power, within the electoral college? I am not speaking here of opinions, passions, and political errors. I am not even speaking of the faintheartedness or venality of certain consciences; it is beyond the power of the law to make men perfect. I am targeting only the passions and vices which directly result from the cause I am discussing, which is linked to the portfolio war engaged in within the Chambers [383] and waged over the entire range of the newspapers. Is it really so difficult to calculate its effect on the electoral body? And when, day after day, the tribune and press make a point of preventing anything but false glimmers, false judgments, false quotations, and false assertions reaching the public, is it possible to have any confidence in the verdict pronounced by the grand national jury thus misled, circumvented, and impassioned? What is it called upon to judge? Its own interests. Never does anyone speak of these to it, for ministerial battle is waged at Ancona, Tahiti, in Syria, wherever the public is not to be found. And what does it know of what is going on in these far-off regions? Only what it is told by orators and writers who, on their own admission, do not utter a single word either orally or in writing that is not inspired by the intense desire for personal success.

And then, suppose I wished to raise the veil that covers not only the errors but the turpitudes of the electoral urn! Why does the elector ensure that his vote is so valued, require it to be sought, and consider it as a valuable object of commerce? Because he knows that this vote contains the fortune of the fortunate candidate who is soliciting it. Why, for his part, is the candidate so flexible, so crawling, so generous with his promises, and so little concerned with any shred of dignity? Because he has ulterior motives, because the position of deputy is a stepping-stone for him, because the constitution of the country enables him to see in the distance, should he succeed, intoxicating prospects, positions, honors, wealth, power, and this golden cloak which hides all shame and absolves all base acts.

So, where are we now with all this? Where are the electors now? How many of them dare to remain and show themselves to be honest? How many will honestly deposit a ballot in the urn which faithfully expresses their political beliefs? Oh! They would be afraid of being seen as idiots and dupes. They are careful to trumpet loudly the bargain they have made of their vote and they will be seen to deposit their own ignominy at the door of the church rather than to cast doubt on their deplorable cunning. If there are still a few virtues that have survived this major shipwreck, these are negative virtues. They believe nothing, hope for nothing, and keep themselves from being contaminated, in the words of some poet or another:

  • A calm indifference
  • is the surest of virtues.36

They let things happen, that is all. In the meantime, ministers, deputies, and candidates sink under the burden of promises and undertakings. And what is the result? This. The government and the Chamber change roles. “Do you wish to let me dispose of all jobs?” say the deputies. “Do you wish to let me decide on the laws and the budget?” reply the ministers. And each abandons the office for which he is responsible for one which does not concern him. I ask you, is this representative government?

But it does not stop there. There are other things in France than ministers, deputies, candidates, journalists, and electors. There is the general public, thirty million men who are being accustomed to being counted for nothing. They do not see this, you may say, and proof of this is their indifference. Ah, do not become confident in this seeming blindness. While they do not see the cause of the evil, they see its effects, the budget constantly increasing, their rights and titles trampled underfoot, and all favors becoming the price of electoral bargains from which they are excluded. Please God that they learn to link their suffering to its true cause, for irritation is growing in their hearts. They are seeking the means of enfranchising themselves and woe to the country if they make a mistake. They are seeking, and universal suffrage is taking hold of all minds. They are seeking, and communism is spreading like wildfire. They are seeking, and while you are drawing a veil over the hideous wound, who can count the errors, the theories, or illusions in which they think they have found a remedy for their ills and a brake against your injustices?

In this way, everyone is suffering from a state of affairs so profoundly illogical and vicious. However, if the full extent of the evil is appreciated somewhere, it must be at the summit of the social scale. I cannot believe that such statesmen as M. Guizot, M. Thiers, or M. Molé can be in contact with all these turpitudes for so long without having learned to recognize them and calculate their terrifying consequences. It is not possible for them to have been in turn in the ranks, facing systematic opposition, assailed by personal rivalry, and forced to struggle against artificial obstacles placed in their way by the urge to topple them, without saying to themselves that things would be different, administrative authority would be more steady, and the task of government much lighter if deputies could not become ministers.

Oh! If ministers were to deputies what prefects are to general councillors, if the law eliminated in the Chamber those prospects which foment ambition, I consider that a calm and fruitful destiny would be open to all the elements of the social body. The depositories of power might well still [385] encounter errors and passions but never these subversive alliances for which any means are permitted and whose only aspiration is to overthrow one cabinet after another with the support of a fallacious and transitory unpopularity. Deputies could not have interests other than those of their constituents. Electors would not be made to prostitute their votes to selfish views. The press, freed from any links with leaders of parties which would no longer exist, would fulfill its proper role of enlightening public opinion and providing it with a mouthpiece. The people, wisely administered with consistency and economy, and who are happy or who cannot hold the authorities responsible for their sufferings, would not let themselves be beguiled with the most dangerous utopias. Finally the king, whose thoughts would no longer be a mystery to anyone, would hear during his lifetime the judgment that history reserves for him.

I am not unaware, sir, of the objections that may be made to parliamentary reform. There are disadvantages to it. But, my goodness, everything has its disadvantages. The press, civil liberty juries, and the monarchy have theirs. The question is never to see whether a reformed institution has disadvantages, but whether that institution without reform does not have even greater ones. And what calamities might emanate from a Chamber of taxpayers that are not equal to those which are disseminated over the country by a Chamber of ambitious deputies who are fighting each other for the possession of power?

It is said that such a Chamber would be too democratic, driven by passions that are too popular. It would represent the nation. Is it in the nation’s interest to be badly administered, invaded by foreigners, such that justice is not rendered?

The strongest objection, unceasingly repeated, is that the Chamber would lack enlightenment and experience.

There is a lot to say on this subject, However, if the exclusion of civil servants gives rise to dangers, if it appears to violate the rights of honorable men who are also citizens, if it circumscribes the liberty of electors, would it not be possible, while opening the gates of the Palais Bourbon to the agents of government, to circumscribe their presence with precautions dictated by the most elementary prudence?

You are not expecting me to formulate a draft law at this point. However, I consider that public good sense would approve a measure drafted in terms of this sort:

“All French citizens, without distinction of profession, are eligible (except [386] for exceptional cases in which a high official position would imply direct influence on voting, such as that of prefect, etc.).

“All deputies would receive suitable, uniform remuneration.

“Elected civil servants would resign their functions for the period of their mandate. They would not receive payment. They may neither be dismissed nor promoted. In a word, their life in the administration would be totally suspended and start again only once their legislative mission has expired.

“No deputy may be called upon to fill a public position.”

Finally, far from admitting, as Messrs. Gauguier, Rumilly, Thiers, and others have done, that exceptions would be made on the principle of conflict of interest in favor of ministries, embassies, and all those functions known as political positions, it is exactly those that I wish to exclude, mercilessly and in the first place, since it is clear to me that it is the aspiring ambassadors and ministers who upset the world. Without wishing in the least to offend the leaders of parliamentary reform who put forward exceptions like these, I dare to say that they do not perceive or wish to perceive the millionth part of the evils that result from the eligibility of deputies for public office, that their so-called reform does not reform anything, and that it is just an underhand measure, one that is limited, with no social purchase, dictated by a narrow sentiment of base and unjust jealousy.

But, you say, what about Article 46 of the Charter? I have no answer to this. Is the Charter made for us or are we made for the Charter? Is the Charter the final expression of human wisdom? Is it a sacred Koran descended from heaven, whose effects may not be examined however disastrous they may be? Should we say: Let the country perish rather than change a comma in the Charter? If this is so, I have nothing to say, other than: Electors! The Charter does not forbid your using your vote for deplorable purposes, but it does not order you to do so either. Quid leges sine moribus?37

In ending this all too long letter, I should reply to what you tell me of your personal position. I will refrain from doing so. You consider that the reform, if it takes place, cannot affect you since you do not depend on responsible power but in fact on irresponsible power. Good for you! The legislature has decided that this position does not lead to legal incapacity. It is up to the electors to decide whether this does not constitute the clearest imaginable form of moral incapacity.

I am, sir, your faithful servant.



On 28 March 1831, Bastiat was appointed a justice of the peace of Mugron County.


“Favors ought to be extended; disagreeable things ought to be restricted.”


Reference to a proposed electoral reform intended to widen the electorate by lowering the required level of tax payment and admitting candidates exercising certain professions previously restricted.


“What are laws without customs?”


In order to stop disturbances in the papal states, Pope Gregory XVI called upon Austria for assistance. On 28 June 1832, Austrian troops entered Bologna, Italy. For reasons of diplomatic balance, a French garrison was sent to the seaport of Ancona, about 120 miles southeast of Bologna. The garrison remained in Ancona until 1838.


In 1842 Tahiti was a French protectorate. Following incidents with English ships, Admiral Dupetit-Thouars transformed it into a territory of “direct sovereignty.” This created tension between London and Paris. The latter disavowed the admiral on 24 February 1844.


France supported Mehmet Ali, pasha of Egypt, over Syria, part of the Ottoman Empire. England and Russia supported the sultan.


A brief conflict arose between France and Morocco in 1844 because Morocco refused to sign the Treaty of Tangiers, allowing cruisers of the signatory states to control merchant ships in order to ascertain the absence of slaves. This “right of search” did not fail to raise trouble between France and England for a while, as English cruisers, outnumbering those of other nations, exerted a de facto policing of the seas.


Adam Smith.


In 1844 the U.S. Congress accepted the entrance of Texas into the Union. The French and English governments had advised the Texas governor against it.


“It is always good.”


“I shall prove it.”


Source unknown.


See note 27, p. 371.



T.42 Economic Sophisms. Series I. Conclusion is dated "Mugron, 2 Nov., 1845". Published in Paris, by Guillaumin, in Jan. 1846.


T.42 (1846.01) Sophismes économiques. Première série (Paris: Guillaumin, 1846) (Economic Sophisms. First Series) Published in Jan. 1846 from material written and published in 1845 (see above). [OC4, pp. 1-126.] [CW3 - ES1]


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T.43 (1846.01.15) "Theft by Subsidy" (JDE, Jan. 1846)


T.43 (1846.01.15) "Theft by Subsidy" (Le vol à la prime), Journal des Économistes, Jan. 1846, T. XIII, no. 50, pp. 115-120; also ES2.9. [OC4, pp. 189-98.] [CW3 - ES2.9]

IX. Theft by Subsidy291 [January 1846] (final draft)

Publishing history

  • Original title, place and date of publication: "Le vol à la prime" (Theft by Subsidy) [Journal des Économistes, January 1846, T. XIII, pp. 115-120].
  • Published as book or pamphlet: 1st French edition of ES2 alone 1848. 1st edition combined ES1 & ES2 1851.
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 4: Sophismes économiques. Petits pamphlets I. (1854), 2nd ed., pp. 189-98.
  • Previous translation: 1st American ed. 1848, 1st British ed. 1873, FEE ed. 1964. See "Note on the Publishing History."


People find my small volume of Sophisms too theoretical, scientific and metaphysical. So be it. Let us try a mundane, banal and, if necessary, brutal style. Since I am convinced that the general public are easily taken in as far as protection is concerned, I wanted to prove it to them. They prefer to be shouted at. So let us shout:

Midas, King Midas has ass's ears!292

An explosion of plain speaking often has more effect than the politest circumlocutions. Do you remember Oronte and the difficulty that the Misanthropist293, as misanthropic as he is, has in convincing him of his folly?

Alceste: We risk playing the wrong character.

Oronte: Are you trying to tell me by that that I am wrong in wanting …

Alceste: I am not saying that, but …

Oronte: Do I write badly?

Alceste: I am not saying that, but in the end …

Oronte: But can I not know what there is in my sonnet …?

Alceste: Frankly it is fit to be flushed away.

Frankly, my good people, you are being robbed. That is plain speaking but at least it is clear.

The words, theft, to steal and thief seem to many people to be in bad taste.294 Echoing the words of Harpagon to Elise295, I ask them: Is it the word or the thing that makes you afraid?

"Whosoever has fraudulently taken something that does not belong to him is guilty of theft." (Penal Code, Article 379).

To steal: To take something furtively or by force (The Dictionary of the Academy).

Thief: A person who exacts more than is due to him. (Ditto)296

Well, is not a monopolist who, through a law he has drafted, obliges me to pay him 20 fr. for something I can buy elsewhere for 15, fraudulently taking away 5 fr. that belongs to me?

Is he not taking it furtively or by force?

Is he not exacting more than is due to him?

He withdraws, takes or exacts, people will say, but not furtively or by force, which is what characterizes theft.

When our tax forms show a charge of 5 fr. for the subsidy that is withdrawn, taken or exacted by the monopolist, what can be more furtive, since so few of us suspect it? And for those who are not taken in by it, what can be more forced, since at the first refusal we have the bailiffs at our heels?

Anyway let monopolists rest assured. Theft by subsidy or tariff does not violate the law, although it transgresses equity as much as highway robbery does; this type of theft, on the contrary is carried out by law. This makes it worse but does not lead to the magistrate's court.

Besides, whether we like it or not, we are all robbers and robbed in this connection. It is useless for the author of this volume to cry thief when he makes a purchase, the same could be shouted at him when he sells297; if he differs considerably from his fellow countrymen, it is only in this respect: he knows that he loses more than he gains in this game, and they do not know this; if they did, the game would cease in a very short time.

What is more, I do not boast that I am the first to give this situation its real name. More than sixty years ago, Smith said:298

"When businessmen get together, we can expect a conspiracy to be woven against the pockets of the general public."

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or in some contrivance to raise prices."299 Should we be surprised at this, since the general public pays no attention to it?

Well then, an assembly of businessmen officially has discussions under the authority of the General Councils.300 What goes on there and what is decided upon?

Here is a highly abridged version of the minutes of a meeting.

A SHIP OWNER: Our fleet is on the ropes (aggressive interruption). This is not surprising because I cannot build without iron. I can certainly find it at 10 fr. on the world market but, according to the law, French ironmasters force me to pay them 15 fr.; therefore 5 fr. is being taken from me. I demand the freedom to buy wherever I like.

AN IRONMASTER: On the world market, I can find transport at 20 fr. By law, ship owners demand 30 for this; they are therefore taking 10 fr. from me. They are looting me, so I loot them, and everything is just fine.

A STATESMAN: The ship ship-owner's conclusion is very rash. Oh! Let us cultivate the touching unity which gives us our strength; if we remove one iota of the theory of protectionism, the entire theory will go by the board.

THE SHIP OWNER: But protection has failed us; I repeat that the fleet is on the ropes.

A SAILOR: Well then! Let us raise a surtax and let ship owners who take 30 from the public for freight take 40.

A MINISTER: The government will push the excellent device of the surtax to the limit, but I am afraid that it will not be enough.301.

A CIVIL SERVANT: You are all worrying about nothing. Does our salvation lie only in tariffs, and are you forgetting taxation? If consumers are generous, taxpayers are no less so. Let us burden them with taxes, and let ship owners be satisfied. I propose a subsidy of 5 fr. to be taken from public taxes to be handed over to builders for each quintal of iron they use.

Mixed cries: Hear! Hear! A farmer: Let me have a subsidy of 3 fr. per hectoliter of wheat! A weaver: Let me have a subsidy of 2 fr. per meter of cloth! etc. etc.

THE CHAIRMAN: This is what has been agreed. Our meeting has given birth to the system of subsidies and this will be its eternal gory. What industry will be able to make a loss in the future, since we have two very simple means of changing losses into profits: Tariffs and subsidies? The meeting is at an end."

Some supernatural vision must have shown me in a dream the next apparition of the subsidy (who knows even whether I had not put the thought into the mind of Mr. Dupin302) when I wrote the following words a few months ago:

"It seems obvious to me that protection, without changing either its nature and effects, might have taken the form of a direct tax levied by the State and distributed as indemnity subsidies to privileged industries."

And, after comparing protectionist duties with subsidies:

"I admit frankly my preference for the latter system. It seems to me to be more just, more economic and fairer. More just because if society wants to give handouts to a few of its members, everyone has to contribute; more economic because it would save a great deal of collection costs and would cause a great many obstructions to disappear and finally, fairer since the public would see clearly how the operation worked and what they were being made to do."303

Since the opportunity has so kindly been offered to us, let us examine theft by subsidy. What can be said of it applies just as well to theft by tariffs, and while theft by tariffs is slightly better disguised, direct filching304 will help us understand indirect filching. The mind moves forward in this way from the simple to the compound.

What then! Is there no type of theft that is simpler still? Oh, yes, there is highway robbery: all it needs is to be legalized, monopolized or, as we say nowadays, organized.305

Well, this is what I have read in a traveler's account306:

"When we arrived in the kingdom of A, all branches of production claimed to be in difficulty. Agriculture wailed, manufacturing complained, commerce grumbled, shipping groused and the government did not know whom to listen to. First of all, it thought of levying heavy taxes on all those who were discontented and handing out the product of these taxes to them after taking its share: that would have been a lottery, just as in our beloved Spain. There are a thousand of you, the State will take one piastre from each of you; it then subtly pilfers 250 piastres and distributes 750 in lots that vary in size between the players. Forgetting that he has given a whole piastre, the upright Hidalgo who receives three-quarters of a piastre, cannot contain his joy and runs off to spend his fifteen reals in the bar. This would have been similar to what is happening in France. Be that as it may, as barbarous as this country was, the government did not think that its inhabitants were stupid enough to accept such strange forms of protection, so it thought up the following scheme.

The country was criss-crossed with roads. The government measured them accurately and said to the farmers: "Everything that you can steal from passers-by between these two posts is yours; let it serve as a subsidy , protection and motivation for you." It then assigned to each manufacturer and ship owner a section of road to exploit in accordance with this formula:

Dono tibi et concedo 307 [I give to you and I grant]
Virtutem et puissantiam [virtue and power]
Volandi [to steal]
Pillandi [to plunder]
Derobandi [to filch]
Filoutandi [to swindle]
Et escroquandi [to defraud]
Impune per totam istam [At will, along this whole]
Viam [road] 308

"Well, it so happened that the natives of the kingdom of A. are now so familiar with this regime and so accustomed to take account only of what they steal and not of what is stolen from them, so essentially inclined to regarding pillage only from the point of view of the pillager, that they see the tally of all individual thefts as profits to the nation and refuse to abandon a system of protection outside of which, they say, there is no form of production capable of surviving."

Are you astounded? It is not possible, you say, that an entire nation should agree to see what the inhabitants steal from one another as an increase in wealth.

Why not? We are certainly convinced of this in France, and every day we organize and perfect here the mutual theft that goes under the name of subsidies and protective tariffs.

Even so, let us not exaggerate. Let us agree that viewed from the angle of the method of collection and taking account of the collateral circumstances, the system in the kingdom of A. might be worse than ours, but let us also say that as far as the principles and necessary effects are concerned, there is not an atom of difference between all these types of theft that are legally organized to provide additional profit to producers.

Note that if highway robbery has several disadvantages as to its execution, it also has advantages that are absent from theft by tariffs.

For example: with highway robbery, an equitable share can be given to all the producers. This is not so for customs duties. These by their very nature are powerless to protect certain sectors of society, such as artisans, merchants, men of letters, lawyers, soldiers, odd-job men, etc. etc.

It is true that theft by subsidy also provides opportunities for an infinite number of subdivisions, and from this angle it is no less perfect than highway robbery. On the other hand, however, it often leads to such strange, idiotic results that the native inhabitants of the kingdom of A. might very justifiably laugh at them.

What the person robbed loses in highway robbery is gained by the robber. At least the object stolen remains in the country. However, under the sway of theft by subsidy, what is taken from the French is often given to the Chinese, the Hottentots, the Kaffirs or the Algonquins, in the following way:

A piece of cloth is worth one hundred francs in Bordeaux. It is impossible to sell it below this price without making a loss. It is impossible to sell it for more because competition between merchants prevents this. In these circumstances, if a Frenchman comes forward to obtain this cloth, he has to pay one hundred francs or do without it. But if an Englishman comes along, then the government intervenes and says to the seller: "Sell your cloth and I will see that you are given twenty francs by the taxpayers. The merchant, who does not want nor is able to obtain more than one hundred francs for his cloth, hands it over to the Englishman for 80 francs. This sum, added to the 20 francs, produced from the theft by subsidy, makes his price exactly. It is exactly as though taxpayers had given 20 francs to the Englishman on condition that he buys French cloth at a discount of 20 francs, at 20 francs below production cost and 20 francs below what it costs us ourselves. Therefore, theft by subsidy has this particular characteristic, that those robbed are in the country that tolerates it and the robbers are spread out over the surface of the globe.

It is truly miraculous that the following proposition continues to be held as proven: Anything that an individual steals from the whole is a general profit. Perpetual motion, the philosopher's stone or the squaring of the circle have fallen into oblivion, but the theory of Advancement through theft is still in fashion. However, a priori, we might have thought that of all forms of childishness, this is the least viable.

There are some who tell us: "Are you then in favor of laissez passer?309 Economists of the outdated school of Smith and Say? Do you therefore not want work to be organized?"310 Well, Sirs, organize work as much as you like. We, for our part, will see that you do not organize theft.

A greater number repeat: "Subsidies and tariffs have all been used excessively. They have to be used without being abused. Wise freedom combined with a moderate form of protection is what is being claimed by serious and practical men.311 Let us beware of absolute principles.312

According to the Spanish traveler, this is precisely what was being said in the kingdom of A. "Highway robbery", said the wise men, " is neither good not bad; it all depends on the circumstances. It is just a question of weighting things correctly and paying us, the civil servants, for the work involved in this moderation. Perhaps too much latitude has been given to pillage and perhaps not enough. Let us look at, examine and weigh in the balance the accounts of each worker. To those who do not earn enough, we will give an extra length of road to exploit. To those who earn too much, we will reduce the hours, days or months of pillage."

Those who said these things acquired a great reputation for moderation, prudence and wisdom. They never failed to attain the highest positions in the State.

As for those who said: "Let us repress all injustices as well as the lesser forms of injustice. Let us not tolerate theft, half-theft or quarter-theft", these were taken for ideologues, boring dreamers always repeating the same thing. The people, in any case, find their reasoning too easy to understand. How can you believe what is so simple?


291 (Paillottet's note) Taken from the issue of Le Journal des Economistes dated January 1846.

292 This might also be translated as "The Emperor has no clothes!" King Midas was ruler of the Greek kingdom of region Phrygia (in modern day Turkey) sometime on the 8th century BC. According to legend, after he had been granted the power to turn anything he touched into gold, he became disillusioned and retired to the country where he fell in love with Pan's flute music. In a competition between Pan and Apollo to see who played the best music King Midas chose Pan's flute over Apollo's lyre. Apollo was so incensed at the tin ears of Midas he turned them into the ears of a donkey.

293 This is a scene, in highly truncated form, from Molière's play The Misanthrope (1666), Act I Scene II. Alceste is a misanthrope who is trying to tell Oronte, a foolish nobleman, that his verse is poorly written and worthless. After many attempts at avoiding the answer with circumlocutions Alceste finally says that "Franchement, il est bon à metre au cabinet" (frankly, it is only good to be thrown into the toilet). Théatre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 4 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1882), p. 86. See the glossary entry on "Molière."

294 Bastiat uses a variety of words in his attempt to speak plainly and brutally in this chapter. Here is a list with our preferred translation for each: "dépouiller"(to dispossess), "spolier" (to plunder), "voler" (to steal), "piller" (to loot or pillage), "filouter" (filching); and variants such as "le vol de grand chemin" (highway robbery). See "Plain Speaking" in the "Note on the Translation" for details.

295 From Molière's play L'Avare (The Miser) (1668). The miserly moneylender, Harpagon, asks his daughter, Elise, who wishes to get away from the family by marrying Valère, whether she fears the fact of marriage or the word "marriage". She is more concerned about her father not taking into account their love for each other but only financial concerns. Théatre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 6 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1892), Act I, Scene IV, p. 23. See the glossary entry on "Molière."

296 Bastiat provides an accurate but somewhat truncated definition from the 6th edition of 1835 of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française. The full definition of "to steal" is "Prendre furtivement ou par force la chose d'autrui, pour se l'approprier" (to take furtively or by force something belonging to another in order to appropriate it for oneself); and of "thief", definition 1 "Celui, celle qui a volé, ou qui vole habituellement" (someone who has stolen or who steals habitually) (not quoted by Bastiat), or definition 2 "Celui qui exige plus qu'il ne devrait demander" (someone who demands more than he ought to demand). See Dictionnaire de l'Académie française (Paris: Didot frères, 1835. 6e édition). Online at The ARTFL Project. Dictionnaires d'autrefois. <>.

297 (Bastiat's note) Since he owns some land, which provides him with a living, he belongs to the class of the protected. This circumstance should disarm critics. It shows that, where he uses harsh expressions, it is against the thing itself and not against people's intentions. [DMH - letter in vol. 1 where FB expresses doubt about justice of his family's land holdings???] [Letter to Paillottet, 11 october, 1850, OC vol. 1, p. 280.]

298 Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment and one of the founders of modern economic thought with his work The Wealth of Nations (1776). An important French edition of the Wealth of Nations was published by Guillaumin with notes and commentary by leading French economists such as Blanqui, Garnier, Sismondi, and Say and appeared in 1843. See the glossary entry on "Smith."

299 This is a colourful but not accurate translation by Bastiat of Smith's well-known comment about what people in the same business do when they get together: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or in some contrivance to raise prices." It comes from Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. I ed. R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, vol. II of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981). I.x.c., Part II: Inequalities occasioned by the Policy of Europe. </title/220/217407/2313110>. However, Smith on a couple of occasions did refer to governments taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers as the following quotation shows: "Those modes of taxation, by stamp–duties and by duties upon registration, are of very modern invention. In the course of little more than a century, however, stamp–duties have, in Europe, become almost universal, and duties upon registration extremely common. There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people." From Wealth of Nations, V. ii. h, Appendix to articles i and ii: Taxes upon the Capital Value of Lands, Houses, and Stock. </title/200/217522/2316719>. This might be another example of Bastiat quoting from memory and conflating two different passages by Smith.

300 The General Councils for Commerce (1802), Manufacturing (1810), and Agriculture (1819) were set up within the Ministry of the Interior to bring together commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural elites to advise the government and to comment on legislation. Their membership came from either members of the chambers of commerce and industry or by appointment by the minister concerned. See the glossary entry on "General Councils."

301 (Bastiat's note) Here is the text: "I will again quote the customs laws dated 9th and 11th June last, whose object is in the main to encourage long-distance shipping by increasing the surtaxes attached to foreign flags on several articles. Our customs laws, as you know, are generally aimed at this object and gradually, the surtax of 10 francs, established by the law dated 28th April 1816 and often inadequate, is disappearing to give way to … more effective protection, which is in closer harmony with the relatively high cost of our shipping." This word disappearing is priceless. (The opening speech of Mr. Cunin-Gridaine, in the meeting on 15th December 1845). [DMH - We have not been able to find the source of this reference.] Laurent Cunin-Gridaine (1778-1859) was a very successful textile manufacturer who was Minister for Trade from 1840 to 1848 and a strong supporter of protection for the textile industry. See the glossary entry on "Cunin-Gridaine."

302 Charles Dupin (1784-1873) was a pioneer in mathematical economics and worked for the statistical office of France. In 1828 he was elected deputy for Tarn, was made a Peer in 1830, and served in the Constituent and then the National Assemblies during the Second Republic. See the glossary entry on "Dupin."

303 (Bastiat's note) Chapter V of the first series of Economic Sophisms, pages 49 and 50.

304 Here Bastiat uses more of a slang word, "le filoutage" from the verb "filouter" (to filch, swipe, or rob). We translate it here as "filching".

305 Bastiat is referring to one of the commonly used socialist slogans of the mid-1840s, namely "organization" (the organization of labor advocated by Blanc) and "association" (cooperative living and working arrangements advocated by Fourier). See the glossary entry on "Association and Organization."

306 This is invented by Bastiat in order to display one of his cleverest parodies which is a parody of Molière's parody of 17th century doctors. See the glossary entry on "Molière."

307 This pseudo latin is partly made from French words. We provide a translation in brackets.

308 Bastiat is making a parody of Molière's parody of the granting of a degree of doctor of medicine in the last play he wrote Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, or the Hypocondriac) (1673). Molière had a very low opinion of the practice of 17th century medicine with its purges and use of leeches. The play ends with an elaborate dance of doctors and apothecaries (and would be doctors) in which a new doctor is inducted into the fraternity. Most of the dialog is in Latin, including the swearing in of the new doctor (Bachelierus) by Praeses who says: "Ego, cum isto boneto / Venerabili et doctor, / Don tibi et concedo / Virtutem et puissanciam / Medicandi, / Purgandi, / Seignandi, / Perçandi, / Taillandi, / Coupandi, / Et occidendi / Impune per total terram." This might be loosely translated as (thanks to Arthur Goddard's excellent translation in the FEE edition, p. 194): "I give and grant you / Power and authority to / Practice medicine, / Purge, / Bleed, / Stab, / Hack, / Slash, / and Kill / With impunity / Throughout the whole world." See Théatre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 8 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1883), Third Interlude, p. 286. See the glossary entry on "Molière."

309 This is the second half of the Physiocrats' policy advice to the government, "laissez-faire, laissez-passer" (let us be free to do what we will and to be free to go wherever we will) See the glossary entries on the "Physiocrats," "Laissez-faire," "Adam Smith," and "Jean-Baptiste Say."

310 The rallying cry of many socialists in the 1840s was that workers and factories be "organized" by the state and not be left to the uncertainties of the free market. See the glossary entry on "Association and Organization."

311 See also ES3 XI "The Specialists" below, pp. ???

312 See also ES1 XVIII "The are no Absolute Details" above, pp. ???



T.44 (1846.02.08) "Plan for an Anti-Protectionist League" (MB, Feb. 1846)


T.44 (1846.02.08) "Plan for an Anti-Protectionist League" (Projet de ligue anti-protectionniste), Mémorial bordelais, 8 Feb. 1846. [OC7.6, pp. 30-33.] [CW6]


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T.45 (1846.02.09) "Plan for an Anti-Protectionist League. Second Article" (MB, Feb. 1846)


T.45 (1846.02.09) "Plan for an Anti-Protectionist League. Second Article" (Projet de ligue anti-protectionniste. 2e article), Mémorial bordelais, 9 Feb. 1846. [OC7.7, pp. 34-38.] [CW6]


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T.46 (1846.02.10) "Plan for an Anti-Protectionist League. Third Article" (MB, Feb. 1846)




T.46 (1846.02.10) "Plan for an Anti-Protectionist League. Third Article" (Projet de ligue anti-protectionniste. 3e article), Mémorial bordelais, 10 Feb. 1846. [OC7.8, pp. 38-42.] [CW6]



T.47 "Thoughts on Sharecropping" (15 Feb. 1846, JDE)

[CW4 draft 16 June, 2017]


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 e