Selected Essays On Political Economy Bastiat

Selected Essays On Political Economy Bastiat-42
There is of course no guarantee that the market will satisfy each individual at each point of time.Bastiat does not claim that the market would be free from "causes perturbatrices" (pp. Quite to the contrary, he spends many pages of his book emphasizing these features of the social world (see, for example, 1851, pp. His point does not refer at all to the question of whether all members of society always act in harmony with each other, but to the question whether their interests are always harmonious. The interests of all members of society are harmonious as long as they respect each other's property, deriving from self-ownership, because cooperative production is more physically productive than individual production.5 Each member of society can profit from a well-ordered division of labor, and there is nothing in the market that would make such a division of labor from the outset impossible.

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In other words, the free market does not inherently operate against the interests of any strata of the population.

The only group whose interests it cannot possibly reconcile with the interests of all other groups are the impostors or thieves who live off the invasion of other people's property.

These rebuttals would certainly gain in strength if they were combined with a more general attack on the fallacy underlying all these individual cases.

And when it comes to such endeavors, present-day economists will benefit very much from the careful study of Bastiat's doctrine of economic harmonies.

radically apart from the school of the economists is not this or that question of detail…; it is the point of departure, it is this preliminary and paramount question: Are human interests, left to themselves, harmonious or antagonistic?

A brief look at the history of twentieth-century economic thought confirms Bastiat's insight into the common denominator of interventionist schemes.

He brilliantly argued that all these proposals involved some variant of the claim that the free market by its very nature antagonizes the interests of certain individuals or groups.

This is the great subject of his unfinished Economic Harmonies.

As Bastiat said about these limits of otherwise universal economic harmonies: "However much we love reconciliation, there are two principles that cannot be reconciled: liberty and coercion."4 Thus the free market can satisfy all interests except for the interests of those who, for whatever reason, seek to invade the property of others.

As a consequence it is not necessary to call for institutionalized intervention.


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