Summary of the Bastiat Project

[Updated: July 17, 2019]

Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

See also our companion project, the Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) Project page.

Places to Begin

Good places to begin exploring Bastiat’s ideas:

Latest Additions: we have put online the following works:

About Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was one of the leading advocates of free markets and free trade in the mid-19 century. He was inspired by the activities of Richard Cobden and the organization of the Anti-Corn Law League in Britain in the 1840s and tried to mimic their success in France in the French Free Trade Association. His scores of articles and pamphlets on behalf of free trade reached a wide audience of readers and he is rightly recognized today as one of the best economic journalists who has ever lived.

After the outbreak of Revolution in February 1848, Bastiat turned his attention to politics, becoming an elected member of the Constituent Assembly and then the Vice-President of its Finance Committee. For the next 3 years he was an outspoken critic of excessive government spending, high taxation, and socialist ideas which had spread among many groups during the 1840s and which some were trying to put into practice following the revolution. His writings were very popular and were quickly translated and republished in the U.S. and throughout Europe. His incomplete magnum opus, Economic Harmonies (1850), is full of insights (many of which were Austrian or Public Choice in nature) into the operation of the market and is still of great interest to economists.

Some of Bastiat’s writings were published in English in the 19th century, but he did not become well known to Americans until the Foundation for Economic Education undertook a new translation project in the 1950s and 1960s. Even so, less than half of his work was translated. As a result of the activity in promoting the work of Bastiat by the French businessman and president of the Cercle Frédéric Bastiat, Jacques de Guenin (1931-2015) Liberty Fund agreed to translate and publish all of Bastiat’s writings in 2001. This came about because Guenin organized a conference in the south west of France in 2001 to celebrate the bicentennial of Bastiat’s birth. This conference was well attended by a contingent of Americans who knew and highly respected the work of Bastiat and had made the journey almost as a pilgrimage in his honour. The group included members of the Board of Liberty Fund and as soon as they heard Guenin’s proposal they agreed to underwrite the project. The first volume of six appeared in March 2011, the second in 2012, and the third in 2017.

Resources on Bastiat in the OLL

The following is a summary of the resources on Bastiat which can be found in the OLL.

Works by Bastiat:

Works about Bastiat: