Portrait of Frédéric Bastiat

Bastiat on the fact that even in revolution there is an indestructible principle of order in the human heart (1848)

Found in: The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics

The French classical liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was impressed by the relative order which prevailed in the early days of the February Revolution in Paris in 1848. After having lived under an oppressive regime for more than half a century, the French people seemed to have an “indestructible principle of order” in their hearts:

Politics & Liberty

When we go through the streets of Paris, which are scarcely wide enough to contain the throngs of people, and remember that in this immense metropolis at this moment there is no king, no court, no municipal guard, no troops, and no civil administration other than that exercised by the citizens over themselves, when we reflect that a few men, only yesterday emerged from our ranks, are taking care of public affairs on their own, then, judging by the joy, the sense of security, and the confidence shown on every face, our initial feelings are admiration and pride…

There is no getting round the fact that in France we have become accustomed to excessive and grossly intrusive government. We have ended up believing that we would tear each other to pieces if we had the slightest liberty and if the state did not regulate all our movements.

This great experiment reveals indestructible principles of order within the hearts of men. Order is a need and the first of the needs, if not of all, at least of the vast majority. Let us be confident therefore and draw from this the lesson that the great and extravagant government machine which those involved called indispensable can and should be simplified.