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Friday, June 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Frederic Bastiat

While there may be a bit of a question on the date, on or about 29 June 1801

Claude Frédéric Bastiat

was born in Bayonne France. Bastiat received a normal education for the period, not one provided by the government, and studied a couple of years at a private college without graduating. The remainder of his life, except his last several years, were dedicated to studying and understanding human nature.

He saw in free men harmonious actions fulfilling each others needs and so fulfilling their own. Much as when the truck driver takes wheat from the farmer to the baker he is earning money for his own desires, not as a service to a bread eater. Bastiat reasoned that any interference with these harmonious transactions created economic dissonance that impaired both freedom and the efficiency of the naturally effective system. A more efficient system than free association could not be planned, so any interference is destructive on all levels.

Talking about the contrasting socialist view that seeks to impose a central order on associations Bastiat wrote "
Mankind is not in their eyes a living and harmonious being endowed by God Himself with the power to progress and to survive, but an inert mass that has been waiting for them to give it feeling and life; human nature is not a subject to be studied, but matter on which to perform experiments."

The last few years of his life were spent in public service, creating free trade associations, as a member of the French National Assembly, and most important to us as a writer. With humor and simple insights he destroyed the arguments of socialists and communists; in fact destroying the arguments of any that would steal from one to benefit another.

If you want a short entertaining story try The Candle Makers' Petition. If you want to spend just a bit more time with Bastiat as your mentor read his powerful and enduring essay The Law. After having read The Law you will be much less open to claims of those planning to steal from you "for your own good." If you want to read a single essay that will show you how to become a good economist, read What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen.

Discover Frederic Bastiat, investigate his stories and essays, you can do very little, involving so little time, that will yield larger life long benefits for yourself.


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