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The enduring brilliance of Bastiat

“But is not the consternation these classes feel a just punishment? Have they themselves not set the baneful example of the attitude of mind of which they now complain? Have they not always had their eyes fixed on favors from the state? Have they ever failed to bestow any privilege, great or small, on industry, banking, mining, landed property, the arts, and even their means of relaxation and amusement, like dancing and music – everything, indeed, except on the toil of the people and the work of their hands? Have they not endlessly multiplied public services in order to increase, at the people’s expense, their means of livelihood: and is there today the father of a family among them who is not taking steps to assure his son a government job? Have they ever voluntarily taken a single step to correct the admitted inequities of taxation? Have they not for a long time exploited their electoral privileges? And now they are amazed and distressed that the people follow in the same direction! But when the spirit of mendicancy has prevailed for so long among the rich, how can we expect it not to have penetrated to the less privileged classes?”

Frederic Bastiat, quoted over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians. I also liked this following paragraph:

It’s is a terrific substantive and rhetorical point that I think has largely been overlooked in the contemporary libertarian commentary on Occupy Wall Street, yet Bastiat had it 160 years ago, and with style and panache. Bastiat may not have made any real contributions to economic theory, but no one in the history of economics has been a better economic rhetorician than he was. He knew how to take ideas and put them in a form that was persuasive and memorable. It is a skill more economists could use as we continue to try to push back during a time when bad ideas we thought were dead are reappearing, zombie-like, across the landscape.

Bastiat is also described in this piece as a “Ninja”. Nice!

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4 comments to The enduring brilliance of Bastiat

  • Alisa

    Bastiat may not have made any real contributions to economic theory

    And rightly so, since there’s absolutely no need for one.

  • RRS

    Well, he did run some “theories” down the garbage grinder of reality.

    It is equally important, if not more important, to determine what is false, than to determine what is “true.”

  • Paul Marks

    An economist should be judged on two things.

    Are his conclusions correct?

    And.

    Are his arguments correct?

    (for a person may get the correct conclusion by the wrong arguments – contra Milton Friedman getting the correct conclusion does NOT automatically validate your arguements).

    Bastiat used the correct arguments and got the correct conclusions.

    Nothing else to be said.

    Other than the fact that he was a brillient writer.

    Just as J.P. says.