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Concerning the word "harmonique" harmonious his first two uses of the word occur in the very important pair of articles which he wrote on the eve of his arrival in Paris in May , which show the advanced state of his thinking on this topic before he came into contact with the Paris economists. Here he is chastising Lamartine for advocating coercive, state charity instead of a completely free and voluntary system to aid needy workers: From these two concepts, harmonious natural laws and artificial disturbing factors causes artificielles perturbatrices , the resolution of the social problem will be deduced.

Details about his planned book on "social harmonies" can be gleaned from scattered remarks in letters he wrote to his friends and supporters, and occasionally in some of his own writings. He first began work on the project in the fall of when he gave some lectures at the Taranne Hall in Paris to some Law and Medical students, using the first volume of his Economic Sophisms as the text book. Sometime during the fall when his lectures were underway he wrote an ironic letter to himself in the form of a "Draft Preface" to the book he hoped to write.

To rectify this he wanted to apply the ideas of J. At the same time as he was giving these lectures at the School of Law in late he was preparing the second volume of his Economic Sophisms which would appear in January The two opening chapters which were undated but possibly also written at this time, dealt with the nature of plunder. Bastiat himself seems to have been torn over how he should approach writing the books given the very severe time constraints placed upon him by his parliamentary duties and his worsening health.

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In an undated note quoted by Fontenay and Paillottet Bastiat discusses the problem he faced in organising the project: It would appear that he planned to write a very large volume on "social harmonies" to explain the big picture and a companion volume to explain the nature, origins, and history of the "social disharmonies" which disturbed or disrupted those harmonies.

But as his health was failing and time was running out he realised he had to limit himself to an important subset of this larger project and this eventually became the "economic harmonies.

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His friends cobbled together what unfinished papers and chapters they could find in his effects and published "vol. An interesting question to ask is how much of this ambitious project had Bastiat conceived while he was still living in Mugron before he came to Paris in May and how much of it evolved as he became involved in the free trade movement and the circle of economists who were part of the Guillaumin network. Perhaps the idea had been germinating in his mind over the previous 20 years of intense reading of economics in his home town of Mugron?

One of the best examples of what Bastiat meant by "social harmony" singular can be found in a passage in the new introduction to his essay "On Competition" which was originally published in May in the JDE which he revised over the summer of and became Chapter X of EH1. In another passage in a chapter on "Producers and Consumers" which appeared in EH2 Bastiat describes what he calls "la loi essentielle de l'harmonie sociale" the essential law of social harmony , namely that man is perfectible, that the standard of living will continue to improve over time, and that more and more people will approach this increasingly common, higher standard of living: By "economic harmonies" Bastiat meant that subset of "harmonies" which were part of the broader framework of "social harmonies" discussed above.

These would include what he described as "purely economic subjects, such as value, property, wealth, competition, wages, population, money, credit. It will make a pair with the other; the first knocks down and the second would build up. And there is his moving last ditch attempt to explain what he wanted to do in the Conclusion to EH1 when he must have known in his heart that he would never live to see the project completed.

In this passage he ties together several of his key ideas on harmony and disharmony, property and plunder, freedom and oppression: It will be included in our CW5 which will contain the Economic Harmonies book. As a counterpoint to his theory of harmony Bastiat also had a theory of its opposite, namely "disharmony. The bulk of the references to disharmony occur in his book Economic Harmonies for the obvious reason that he was able to contrast it with the main topic of his interest. However, there were a few references before he began work in earnest on his book, such as this one from the Introduction to his book on Cobden and the League July where it is very clear from the context that what caused disharmony was the use of violence to enforce a protectionist trade policy: In his pamphlet "Baccalaureate and Socialism" early he stated: By "rightly understood interests," Bastiat realised that individuals were fallible and would make mistakes, but because they were thinking beings capable of planning and choosing between alternatives, they were able to correct their mistakes, better understand what their true interests were, and act accordingly.

Thus, the disharmony caused by poor decisions was self-correcting. By "legitimate interests," Bastiat meant any activity which was undertaken without coercion or fraud, which was engaged in voluntarily by both parties to an exchange, and where the property rights of each individual were respected. Interests which were pursued by means of force or fraud were illegitimate in his view and caused considerable disruption and disharmony to the social order.

Of course, Bastiat was acutely aware that society was not harmonious in the way it functioned, given the glaring facts of the existence of poverty, war, slavery, and various other forms of oppression, not to mention the social and political problems which gave rise to the recent Revolution of February , facts which the socialist critics of political economy in his day frequently pointed out.

Bastiat had several responses to this line of criticism. Firstly, he argued that there was a tendency for societies to be harmonious "les grandes tendances sociales sont harmoniques" but nothing inevitable about this occurring because men had free will, were fallible, and often made mistakes. However, if left free to act and make choices, men would correct their mistakes and they individually and society in general would more towards a more harmonious situation.

In other words, there existed a self-correcting mechanism which elsewhere he described as "les forces restoratives" restorative forces. Since Bastiat was very witty and loved to play with words, as we can see so ably demonstrated in many of his "Economic Sophisms", it is not surprising that he came up with a clever phrase to encapsulate how free societies were self-correcting. In this case it is "une dissonance harmonique" or a "harmonious disharmony. Secondly, he believed that many people erred in not understanding their "rightly understood interests" and how they were not inherently antagonistic with the interests of others see the discussion above.

Thirdly, that people had been duped by the sophistical arguments put forward by numerous vested interests which sought government subsidies, monopolies, and protection for their particular industries at the expence of taxpayers and consumers. The political struggles which this system of privilege created led to enormous antagonism and disharmony within society as people jostled for the ear of the King or the Chamber of Deputies to get their special interests protected by "la grande fabrique de lois" the great law factory in Paris.

In his view war and legal plunder were the two "disturbing factors" which did the most to create and entrench disharmony in society. An idea of what he had in mind for this book can be found in the opening chapter of ES2 "The Physiology of Plunder" written late , his address "To the Youth of France" in the opening to EH1 and the Conclusion both written in mid or late , as well as a number of pamphlets such as Property and Plunder July Paillottet tells us in a footnote that Bastiat had told him on the eve of his death how important he thought this project was: But of course he did not live long enough to see his books on Social and Economic Harmonies completed, let alone another volume on the History of Plunder.

See the glossary entries on "Laplace" and "Arago. Paris: Guillaumin, London: T. Cadell, Besoins, Efforts, Satisfactions". June , above pp.

FEE ed. Only fragments of it can be pieced together from essays and lectures posthumously published and from notes bequeathed to future historians. We have indicated in the footnotes when Bastiat expresses a view which is close to that of the Austrian school. This happens frequently enough to suggest that this is not an accident, but that he was slowly moving in their direction some 20 years ahead of his time. More detail of this line of thinking will be given in volume 5 of the Collected Works which will contain his treatise Economic Harmonies.

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In the mid-twentieth century economists like Joseph Schumpeter and Hayek had little which was good to say about Bastiat as a theorist other than he was a very good economic journalist and popularizer of economic ideas. However, the floodgates of the Bastiat renaissance were opened at the bicentennial conference on Bastiat held in Mugron in June where 14 papers were given re-evaluating the work of Bastiat years after his birth.


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These ideas were beginning to come together in the Economic Harmonies which he began writing in earnest in with the essays "Natural and Artificial Organization" Jan. If you take freedom away from this actor, he becomes merely a sad and sorry mechanism. This suggests they were concepts relatively new to his thinking and which he was grappling with just before he died. In this same chapter, Bastiat brought many of these proto-Austrian ideas together in the following paragraph: The real thing which is the subject matter of praxeology, human action, stems from the same source as human reasoning.

Action and reason are congeneric and homogeneous; they may even be called two different aspects of the same thing. That reason has the power to make clear through pure ratiocination the essential features of action is a consequence of the fact that action is an offshoot of reason. The theorems attained by correct praxeological reasoning are not only perfectly certain and incontestable, like the correct mathematical theorems. They refer, moreover, with the full rigidity of their apodictic certainty and incontestability to the reality of action as it appears in life and history.

Praxeology conveys exact and precise knowledge of real things. It was to help readers see these self-evident truths that Bastiat used his thought experiments involving Robinson Crusoe to explain the nature of human action in the abstract. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis.

A Fire to Conquer Darkness

See, especially chap. Edited and with and Introduction by Randall G. Review of Political Economy 79—; and Michael C. Editor-in-Chief: Garello, Pierre.

In nineteeth-century France the word individualism had strong negative connotations, and Bastiat seemed to share some of the contemporary reservations about embracing the term to describe his own philosophy. Bastiat rejected the idea that there [] were only three means by which society could be organized: authority of the church and the state , individualism, or fraternity under socialism.

Liberal conservatives, on the other hand, like Alexis de Tocqueville writing in the late s, worried that the democracy unfolding in America would result in a form of individualism that would weaken the ability of intermediate institutions to reduce its deleterious effects. Later in the century attitudes to individualism had changed significantly.

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Anybody who acquired wealth through voluntary exchange and productive activities belonged to a class of people collectively called les industrieux. In contrast to les industrieux were those individuals or groups who acquired their wealth by force, coercion, conquest, slavery, or government privileges. Bastiat is now seen as one of the leading advocates of the idea of laissez-faire in the nineteenth century, yet the origin of the term is surrounded by controversy. The origins of the term laissez-faire are not clear. Do not govern us too much to make the same point.

Ne pas trop gouverner. At the end of Letter 4 to Proudhon Bastiat has some quite lyrical reflections on the importance of leisure in which he argues that there is more to life than just working. He then asks himself, what makes it possible for this general increase in wealth which makes leisure possible?

He begins by criticising the Greeks and Romans such as the Stoics , and their modern counterparts such as many socialists , who thought having wealth was immoral or something to be shunned. The key point for Bastiat was how that wealth was acquired, either by voluntary transactions or by plunder, not the amount that one had. Paris: Charpentier, This is a theory first formulated by the anti—Corn Law campaigner Colonel Perronet Thompson — in —36 and taken up by Bastiat in in which it is argued that tariff protection or subsidies to industry result in a directly observable and obvious profit for one industry and its workers but at the expense of two other participants in the market.

These other participants or would-be participants suffer a loss equal to the benefit gained by the first party: the consumer loses by having to pay a higher price for a good which he or she could have bought more cheaply from another supplier often foreign , and unknown third parties also lose because the consumer who was forced to pay more for a good which is protected or subsidized has that much less to spend on other goods and services. The understanding of the misery of this basis, depends upon a clear comprehension of the way in which the gain to the monopolist is lost twice over by other parties; or what in England has been called the double incidence of loss.

Bastiat recognized that this was a powerful argument which could be used against defenders of tariff protection and subsidies to industry. Bastiat was to take these ideas much further in order to cover the economic impact on more than three parties in his theory of the ricochet effect. Thomas Malthus is best known for his writings on population, in which he asserted that population growth increasing at a geometric rate would outstrip the growth in food production growing at a slower arithmetic rate :.

I said that population, when unchecked, increased in a geometrical ratio; and subsistence for man in an arithmetical ratio….

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This ratio of increase, though short of the utmost power of population, yet as the result of actual experience, we will take as our rule; and say, That population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years or increases in a geometrical ratio…. It may be fairly said, therefore, that the means of subsistence increase in an arithmetical ratio. Let us now bring the effects of these two ratios together….

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No limits whatever are placed to the productions of the earth; they may increase for ever and be greater than any assignable quantity; yet still the power of population being a power of a superior order, the increase of the human species can only be kept commensurate to the increase of the means of subsistence, by the constant operation of the strong law of necessity acting as a check upon the greater power. His ideas were very influential among nineteenth-century political economists, especially An Essay on the Principle of Population.