The Bastiat Collection, 2nd Edition

By Frédéric Bastiat

Synopsis: This book is a 1000+ page collection of the greatest writings of 19th century French economist and political philosopher Frédéric Bastiat. Bastiat was a forerunner to the Austrian school of economics. This work includes the very important "That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen" economic treatise, his famous work, "The Law," as well as "Government" (sometimes translated "The State"), and other works entitled "What Is Money?" and "Capital and Interest." After these appears the work "Economic Sophisms" which shows the fallacies of protectionism and anti-free trade policies, and finally the "Economic Harmonies" which demonstrate the harmony existing in the free market system which God has ordained.

Strong Points: Bastiat was a genius, a rare blessed mind, and a superb economist. To all the common economic questions and problems of today, he seemed to have figured out all the answers already. His ideas are a razor sharp analysis, comprising irrefutable logic. His grasp of economics, particularly in his place and time, is such a rare wonder that it is doubtful he has ever had an equal. In no place of this entire volume am I aware of any intellectual errors; in fact, he improved upon the thinking of the classical economists, correcting their errors. His teachings about liberty and freedom from government spoliation are fantastic and very quote-worthy, and have served as an underpinning to some of Ezra Taft Benson's thought. Frequent mention of God is made in Bastiat's writings, making it a doubly inspiring read. The book starts off strong with the powerful "That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen," showing the errors of only considering obvious and short-term effects of economic policies. It continues with the famous and incredibly insightful treatise, "The Law," which discusses how the government has turned the law from a thing that protects rights to property, to something which pillages property. Other excellent works follow, which are very readable and very well-written.

Weak Points: When I reached the "Economic Harmonies" section of the book, which was Bastiat's magnum opus written hastily before his death, I noticed a marked change in the feel of the book: it became very wordy and not as pristine as the previous works. Unfortunately, the "Economic Harmonies" comprised the entire last 58% of the book. Also, some phrases throughout the book were left untranslated by the translators, which wasn't helpful because I don't speak French and Latin (hence the need for a translation).

Interesting: 3.5/5

Must Read: 3/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Selected Quotes: "In the economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause—it is seen. The others unfold in succession—they are not seen: it is well for us if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference—the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil." (p. 1).

"It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws." (p. 50).

"But think of the difference between the gardener and his trees, between the inventor and his machine, between the chemist and his substances, between the agriculturist and his seed! The Socialist thinks, in all sincerity, that there is the same difference between himself and mankind." (p. 68).

 
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