19th century French economist
Frédéric Bastiat

Claude Frédéric Bastiat (30 June 1801 – 24 December 1850) was a French economist and writer who was a prominent member of the French Liberal School.

Circle Bastiat


Bastiat, Frédéric (1801-1850), by Jörg Guido Hülsmann, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Claude Frédéric Bastiat, economist, popular writer, and statesman, made seminal contributions to the advance of libertarian principles and policies. His influence has been enormous and is especially evident in the fields of public choice, international trade, and law and economics. ... Bastiat went on to produce a stream of articles, pamphlets, and books making the case for free trade and laissez-faire in a series of original and compelling arguments. In the last months before his death, he wrote Economic Harmonies, his (unfinished) magnum opus, and two of his most important essays, 'The Law' and 'What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.'"
Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850), The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
Includes picture and list of selected works with links to those hosted by the Library of Economics and Liberty
"Joseph Schumpeter described Bastiat nearly a century after his death as 'the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.' Orphaned at the age of nine, Bastiat tried his hand at commerce, farming, and insurance sales. In 1825, after he inherited his grandfather's estate, he quit working, established a discussion group, and read widely in economics. ... Bastiat was supremely effective at popularizing free-market economics."


30 Jun 1801, in Bayonne, France


Laissez Faire Books
"The Frenchman Bastiat (1801-1850) was enormously effective expressing the freedom philosophy in popular terms. Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek called him 'a publicist of genius.' Bastiat wrote brilliant essays and satires showing why protectionism is plunder. His most famous satire is a petition by candlemakers who want the government to prevent unfair competition from the sun by forcing everybody to block out sunlight."
Leben und Werk Frédéric Bastiats — Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)
Link to detailed chronological list of events in the life of Bastiat, in German
The Life of Frederic Bastiat
Biographical notes by Subir Grewal
"Bastiat tried his hand at business, working for his uncle in Bayonne. It was here that he gained first-hand knowledge of the manner in which duties, tarrifs and regulations affect trade, knowledge that was to serve him in good stead later in life. An interest in questions of Political Economy was sparked and Bastiat began to study the works of Jean-Baptiste Say and Adam Smith with rigour."

Mailing Lists

Bastiat-Fans -- Fans of Frédéric Bastiat
Meeting place for people interested in the life and/or works of Frédéric Bastiat

Web Sites

Cercle Frédéric Bastiat
French site, includes biography and bibliographies by and about Bastiat
Frederic Bastiat
German site, maintained by Marianne and Claus Diem, includes German translations of several Bastiat works
Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)
Maintained by the Committee to Preserve the Works of Frédéric Bastiat, includes biography and several of his works in the original French, plus English and Spanish translations

Web Pages

Claude Frédéric Bastiat | Mises Institute
Includes picture, short profile and links to his works
"Claude Frédéric Bastiat was a French economist, legislator, and writer who championed private property, free markets, and limited government. Perhaps the main underlying theme of Bastiat's writings was that the free market was inherently a source of 'economic harmony' among individuals, as long as government was restricted to the function of protecting the lives, liberties, and property of citizens from theft or aggression. To Bastiat, governmental coercion was only legitimate if it served "to guarantee security of person, liberty, and property rights, to cause justice to reign over all.'"
Frederic Bastiat - Libertarian
Advocates for Self-Government, reprints Laissez Faire Books' biography
Frédéric Bastiat | Libertarianism.org
Short profile and links to essays, videos and other resources about Bastiat
"There is perhaps no writer better at articulating the economic way of thinking and exposing the myths that plague political debate than the Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat. During his short life (1801-1850), Bastiat wrote such classics as 'The Law' and 'What is Seen and What Is Not Seen'. He possessed a remarkable ability to pierce the sophistry of protectionism, socialism, and other ideologies of big government. And Bastiat did this with astounding clarity and wit."
Frédéric Bastiat - Online Library of Liberty
Includes portrait, short biography, tables of contents to his works in French and English, timeline of his life and works, links to various editions of Bastiat's writings and links to selected quotations
"Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was one of the leading advocates of free markets and free trade in the mid-19 century. He was inspired by the activities of Richard Cobden and the organization of the Anti-Corn Law League in Britain in the 1840s and tried to mimic their success in France. Bastiat was an elected member of various French political bodies and opposed both protection and the rise of socialist ideas in these forums. His writings for a broader audience were very popular and were quickly translated and republished in the U.S. and throughout Europe."
Frederic Bastiat | People | Foundation for Economic Education
Includes short description, picture and links to over a dozen essays by Bastiat, such "The Law", "The Candlemaker's Petition" and "That Which Is Seen and that Which Is Not Seen"
"Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was the great French liberal economist, philosopher, polemicists, and journalist."


Crony-in-Chief: Donald Trump epitomizes Ayn Rand's "Aristocracy of Pull", by Steve Simpson, 2 Feb 2017
Examines the issues of "cronyism" or "pull-peddling", suggesting --as Ayn Rand did-- that the solution is "to limit government strictly to protecting rights and nothing more"
"These are just two examples of how government takes money and property or prevents individuals from voluntarily dealing with one another. There are many, many more. Both Democrats and Republicans favor these sorts of laws and willingly participate in a system in which trading on this power has become commonplace. 'Rent seeking' doesn't capture what is really going on. Neither, really, does 'cronyism.' They're both too tame. A far better term is the one used by nineteenth-century French economist Frederic Bastiat: 'legal plunder.'"
Economic Lunacy, by Walter E. Williams, 15 Nov 2004
Criticizes comments made in newspaper articles after hurricanes Frances and Jeanne hit Florida, describing Bastiat's "Seen and Not Seen" and the "broken window" parable, also criticizing Paul Krugman's similar analysis after the 11 Sep 2001 attacks
"French economist Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) wrote a pamphlet 'What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen,' in which he says, 'There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: The bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.' In the case of Florida's hurricane disaster, what is seen is the employment associated with rebuilding. What is unseen is what Floridians would have spent the money on and the benefits therefrom had there not been hurricane destruction."
Frédéric Bastiat: An Annotated Bibliography, by Sheldon Richman, 2000
Opens with a biography, then discusses Bastiat's major works and concludes with a current perspective; includes short list of works about Bastiat and links to other sites
"Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) merits a hallowed place in the annals of political economy. A member of the French Liberal, or laissez-faire, school of economists that included the great J. B. Say, Bastiat marshaled logic, clarity, and exuberant wit in the cause of understanding society, prosperity, and liberty. In a series of brief essays and pamphlets, and a treatise on political economy, Bastiat taught, contra Rousseau, that there is a natural harmonious order to the social world, an order that emanates from the free exchange between human beings driven to satisfy unlimited wants with limited resources. "
Frédéric Bastiat: Two Hundred Years On, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 2001
Extensive survey of Bastiat's life and writings
"Bastiat proceeds by parable, humorous dialogues, fables, satire, parodies of French literature, and - perhaps best of all - reductiones ad absurdum (tongue-in-cheek legislative proposals and the like). Really, all of Bastiat's writings, even the most technical, are in effect 'popular.' Bastiat, the gentleman farmer with practical business knowledge, argues from experience by way of clear propositions to conclusions which seem obvious once he has spelled things out. Taken as a whole, Bastiat's writings lay out the purpose, method, and conclusions of political economy."
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850): Between the French and Marginalist Revolutions, by Thomas DiLorenzo
Biographical and bibliographical essay which also analyzes Bastiat's ideas in relation to the Austrian School
"Bastiat was orphaned at age ten, and was raised and educated by his paternal grandparents ... He was a voracious reader, and he discussed and debated with friends virtually all forms of literature. His closest friend was his neighbor, Felix Coudroy ... Coudroy was initially a follower of Rousseau and, like most of Rousseau's admirers, then as now, was a socialist. But Bastiat, who always said he preferred a one-on-one conversation to giving a speech to thousands of people, converted Coudroy to classical liberalism. Bastiat's first published article ... explained why all tariffs should be abolished completely."
Frédéric Bastiat and Subjective Marginal Utility, by Sheldon Richman, 2 Aug 2013
Explains marginal utility as presented by Menger and examines Bastiat's writings on how exchanges take place
"We might call Bastiat's theory a labor-spared theory of value. But when you recall that for Bastiat a thing has to be found useful for it to be a valuable good, there is perfect harmony with the theory of subjective marginal utility: Given that I find a good useful, what's the best way for me to obtain a unit of it? If someone is willing to furnish it to me, what service must I render in return to that person? Can I obtain the unit on better terms either by making it myself or by exchanging services with someone else?"
Frederic Bastiat - Hero of the Day, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
Excerpted from Laissez Faire Books' biography and from a translation of The Law
"The mission of the law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even though the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit. Its mission is to protect persons and property. Furthermore, it must not be said that the law may be philanthropic if, in the process, it refrains from oppressing persons and plundering them of their property; this would be a contradiction."
Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jun 1997
Lengthy biographical essay, covering those who influenced Bastiat as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Félix Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
"Frederic Bastiat ranks among the most spirited defenders of economic freedom and international peace. Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek called Bastiat 'a publicist of genius.' The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises saluted Bastiat's 'immortal contributions.' ... Said intellectual historian Murray N. Rothbard: 'Bastiat was indeed a lucid and superb writer, whose brilliant and witty essays and fables to this day are remarkable and devastating demolitions of protectionism and of all forms of government subsidy and control. He was a truly scintillating advocate of an untrammelled free market.'"
How a 19th century French pamphleteer preempted two centuries of economic fallacies, by Christopher Todd Meredith, 18 Oct 2016
Examines some of the main themes in Bastiat's writings, such as ethics and economics, the seen and the unseen and the State
"One liberal thinker who was particularly adept at opposing the prevailing current of ideas in his day was the French statesman, journalist, and pamphleteer Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). An eloquent opinion leader who occupied a place in his society comparable to that occupied in our society by the pundits on the op-ed pages of the newspapers a generation ago or by top-tier political bloggers today, Bastiat made a career out of puncturing the fallacies of opponents ... To such opponents, he invariably responded that they were guilty of sloppy thinking in the realm of economics as well as in the realm of ethics."
How Nationalism and Socialism Arose from the French Revolution, by Dan Sanchez, 12 Apr 2017
Examines how three crucial ideas (liberalism, nationalism and socialism) emerged around the same time (18th and 19th century) and how they depended on the rise of the modern people's state
"By the 1840s, Paris was abuzz with socialist agitation. Frédéric Bastiat, the leading French liberal of the time, recognized socialism as a threat to liberty that was just as severe as autocratic royalism, if not more. ... In the Revolution, the victims of this regularized robbery rose up and overthrew their kleptocrats. But then, instead of abolishing legal plunder, the new Republican government, by creating popular access to the machinery of legal plunder, invited the masses to partake in it. In the new people's state, 'partial plunder' was replaced by what Bastiat called 'universal plunder.'"
Leonard E. Read: A Portrait, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Sep 1998
Memorial and biographical essay, focusing mostly on Read's life before founding FEE; written for the centennial of his birth
"Thomas Nixon Carver ... attended a luncheon at which Leonard was the speaker. After the talk Carver approached Leonard and said, 'Mr. Read, you sound like Frederic Bastiat.' 'Who is Bastiat?' inquired Leonard. Carver responded and promised to mail Bastiat's booklet titled 'Communism versus Free Trade.' Leonard loved it and soon issued it under the imprint of Pamphleteers, Inc. ... Not long after this, Mr. Hoiles reprinted three of Bastiat's books in the English translation of about 130 years ago. Several years after founding FEE, Leonard published Dean Russell’s robust translation of Bastiat's The Law."
Liberty's Greatest Advocate, by Walter E. Williams, 4 Jul 2001
Reflections on some Bastiat writings, particularly those related to legalized plunder, on the 200th anniversary of his birth
"Frederic Bastiat wrote several important works, among them 'Economic Sophisms' and 'The Law.' In all of his writings, he attacked tyranny, economic ignorance and self-serving myths. His observations about human nature and government are just as true today as during his time. Bastiat warned: 'Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain – and since labor is pain in itself – it follows that man will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.'"
Related Topic: Government
National Servitude, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Jun 2013
Discusses calls for "national service", contrasts them to insights from Frédéric Bastiat and Adam Smith, and counters possible objections
"As Bastiat pointed out in Economic Harmonies, 'It is impossible not to be struck by the disproportion, truly incommensurable, that exists between the satisfactions [a person belonging to a modest class] derives from society and the satisfactions that he could provide for himself if he were reduced to his own resources. I make bold to say that in one day he consumes more things than he could produce himself in ten centuries.'"
Related Topics: Adam Smith, Society
Reading the Literature of Liberty, by Roy Childs, May 1987
Childs' selection of "great books", including works by Hazlitt, Bastiat, Rose Wilder Lane, Nock, Ayn Rand, Friedman, Hayek, Rothbard, Mises and Nozick
"... one of the keenest essays ever written on political theory, Frederic Bastiat's The Law. We are born into the world naked, he writes, and to live we human beings must produce the things we need. That's why we need property rights, and the function of just laws under a just government should be to protect these basic rights. ... The Law was first published as a pamphlet in 1850; its truths remain eternal. If you want a collection of Bastiat's essays that includes The Law along with other breathtaking essays too, get Selected Essays on Political Economy. Bastiat anticipates Henry Hazlitt and Ayn Rand in important respects."
Read, Leonard E. (1898-1983), by Donald J. Boudreaux, Nick Slepko, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"After encountering Frédéric Bastiat's booklet 'Communism versus Free Trade,' Read worked with R. C. Hoiles, publisher of the Orange County Register, to reprint three more of Bastiat's works. The lack of interest in these works was disappointing. Read surmised that 'the rather archaic British prose of the translation must have prevented others from sharing his enthusiasm.' Later, with the founding of FEE, he commissioned Dean Russell to do a modern translation of The Law, which eventuated in some 500,000 copies being sold. The success of the edition prompted Read to have more of Bastiat's works translated into modern English."
The Bastiat Solution, by Sheldon Richman, 29 Aug 2008
Analyzes segments of Bastiat's The Law as "the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery" of election season
"While the candidates are busy outcompeting one another in proposing new ways to spend our money (while promising to cut taxes), I take refuge in Bastiat's sound philosophy. Where is he when we need him? ... Think of how many things people in government do that they could not do outside the government. Those things Bastiat calls 'legal plunder.' ... Luckily, we have Bastiat to turn to for solace. But even more important, we have Bastiat's implicit strategic advice. Our family, friends, and neighbors would never think to threaten force to get their way because they know it is wrong."
Related Topics: The Law, Politics
The Bright Side of War, by Sheldon Richman, 24 May 2004
Comments on a Washington Post article on the economic benefits of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
"More than 150 years ago, a French economist blasted the fallacy on which that newspaper article is based. Frédéric Bastiat wrote that to understand economic events, one has to observe both the seen and the unseen, including what would have happened but didn't. ... Bastiat told the story of a youth who broke a shop window. Just as everyone on the street was bemoaning the shopkeeper’s misfortune, someone who thought he was an economist found good fortune instead ... Destruction did not make the community richer. Is anyone surprised?"
Related Topics: Broken Window Fallacy, War
The Market Is a Beautiful Thing, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Jul 2013
Explores whether most people's aversion to the market is aesthetic and explains the beauty in the dynamics of the (freed) market, with quotes from Bastiat and Adam Smith
"Frédéric Bastiat knew what he was doing when he called his (unfinished) magnum opus Economic Harmonies. His purpose throughout was to show that the market setting harmonizes people's deepest interests and enables them to further their own causes by cooperating with others through exchange. For him, a central feature of the market is its inexorable transfer of wealth from the private to the 'communal domain,' as technological innovation and competition increasingly substitute the gratis services of nature for arduous human labor. As a description of this harmony, his book is a work of art ..."
Related Topics: Esthetics, Free Market, Prices
The Reagan Record On Trade: Rhetoric Vs. Reality [PDF], by Sheldon Richman, Policy Analysis, 30 May 1988
Analysis of Reagan's stance on free trade and protectionism, contrasting what he and those in his administration said with a lengthy list of actual quotas, tariffs and trade negotiation results
"Ronald Reagan says that one of his heroes is Frederic Bastiat. Reagan ought to reread Bastiat: 'The protectionists compare the field of industry to a race track. But at the race track, the race is at once means and end. ... if your end were getting an important and urgent piece of news to the winning post, would it be consistent for you to put obstacles in the way of the horse that had the best chance of getting there first? Yet that is what you protectionists do with respect to industry. You forget its desired result, which is man's well-being. ...'"
There's No Free Lunch, by Walter E. Williams, 3 Oct 2001
Criticizes comments from Paul Krugman made after the 11 Sep 2001 attacks that they "could do some economic good", pointing out the lessons from Bastiat's "Seen and Not Seen"
"There's another question related to both the Krugman article and measures that Congress is considering to jumpstart the economy: Where does the government or private money come from for rebuilding the destruction or bailing out the airlines? ... They both might benefit from reading ... Frederic Bastiat's pamphlet 'What is Seen and What is Not Seen,' where he writes, 'There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: The bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.'"
Related Topic: No Free Lunch
The Roots of Modern Libertarian Ideas, by Brian Doherty, Cato Policy Report, Mar 2007
Survey of the history of libertarian ideas, from ancient China and Greece to 20th century writers
"Following in the French liberal tradition was the greatest libertarian publicist of the 19th century, Frederic Bastiat. ... Bastiat was a great epigrammist for freedom. 'The State is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everyone else' is one classic. ... Bastiat celebrated the abundance markets create and mocked the blinkered small-mindedness of producer-centered economics, which makes human life less abundant. He showed how free markets achieve what the 19th-century socialists hoped to achieve through the state: more wealth and a better life for all."
Would-Be Rulers without Clothes, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, May 2008
Examines Hillary Clinton's assertion about "wanting" a universal health care plan
"The rights of the whole can't be greater than the sum of the rights of its parts. Frédéric Bastiat wrote in The Law, '...since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force -- for the same reason -- cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.'"


Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas, Jul 1850
(What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen), 12 essays, in French, starting off with "La Vitre cassée" (The Broken Window Pane)
La Vitre cassée, That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, Jul 1850
The famous essay, in French
Related Topic: Broken Window Fallacy
Our Secret Desires, 1848
Originally "Abondance, Disette" (Abundance, Scarcity), an essay in Economic Sophisms, translated in 1964 by Arthur Goddard
"Do we make cotton textiles? We wish to sell them at the price that is most advantageous for us. We should heartily approve the proscription of all rival manufacturers; and though we do not dare to express this wish publicly or seek its full realization with any likelihood of success, we nevertheless attain it to a certain extent by roundabout means: for example, by excluding foreign textiles, so as to diminish the supply, and thereby to produce, by the use of force and to our profit, a scarcity of clothing."
Related Topics: Free Trade, Labor, Money, Prices
That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, Jul 1850
12 essays, translated from French
"I. The Broken Window
II. The Disbanding of Troops
III. Taxes
IV. Theatres and Fine Arts
V. Public Works
VI. Intermediates
VII. Restriction
VIII. Machinery
IX. Credit
X. Algeria
XI. Frugality and Luxury
XII. Having a Right to Work, Having a Right to Profit"
The Broken Window, That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, Jul 1850
The famous essay, translated from French
"Now, as James B. forms a part of society, we must come to the conclusion, that, taking it altogether, and making an estimate of its enjoyments and its labours, it has lost the value of the broken window. When we arrive at this unexpected conclusion: 'Society loses the value of things which are uselessly destroyed;' and we must assent to a maxim which will make the hair of protectionists stand on end - To break, to spoil, to waste, is not to encourage national labour; or, more briefly, 'destruction is not profit.' "
Related Topic: Broken Window Fallacy
Wants, Efforts, Satisfactions, Economic Harmonies, 1850
Examines the concepts of sensation, pain, wants, satisfactions and connects them by the concepts of activity or human effort to postulate that the exchange of services in a social framework are what constitute the science of economics
"The subject of political economy is man. But it does not embrace the whole man. ... What does it deal with? With transactions carried on between people who do not know each other, who owe each other nothing beyond simple justice, who are defending and seeking to advance their own self-interest. ... This is not to say that political economy does not have its own special poetry. Whenever there is order and harmony, there is poetry. But it is to be found in the results, not in the demonstrations."
Related Topics: Children, Economics, Labor, Metaphysics

Books Authored

Economic Fallacies, 1848
Partial contents: Abundance-Scarcity - Obstacle-Cause - Effort-Result - To Equalise the Conditions of Production - Our Products are Burdened with Taxes - Balance of Trade - The Petition of the Candlemakers - Immense Discovery - Reciprocity
Related Topic: Economic Fallacies
Economic Sophisms, 1848
Partial contents: Physiology of Spoliation - Two Principles of Morality - The Two Hatchets - Lower Council of Labour - Dearness, Cheapness - To Artisans and Workmen - A Chinese Story - Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc - The Premium Theft - The Taxgatherer
Related Topic: Economic Fallacies
Selected Essays in Political Economy, 1850
Partial contents: What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen - The Law - Property and Law - Justice and Fraternity - The State - Property and Plunder - Protectionism and Communism - Plunder and Law - Academic Degrees and Socialism - The Balance of Trade
Related Topic: Economics
The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat, Sheldon Richman (Foreword), Walter E. Williams (Introduction), Foundation for Economic Education, 1850
Translated by Dean Russell. Partial list of headings (added by translator): Life is a Gift from God - What is Law? - A Just and Enduring Government - The Complete Perversion of the Law - A Fatal Tendency of Mankind - Property and Plunder
Related Topics: Law, The Law


Bastiat - The Broken Window Fallacy, by Meat for Thought, 15 Nov 2016
Animated summary of Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy
Related Topic: Broken Window Fallacy
Frédéric Bastiat: Campaigner for Free Trade, Political Economist, and Politician in a Time of Revolution, by David M. Hart, 14 Oct 2011
Video of presentation by Hart, editor of the multi-volume The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, introduced by Jason Kuznicki, a translation project of the Liberty Fund

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Frédéric Bastiat" as of 14 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.