19th century French economist
Frédéric Bastiat

Claude Frédéric Bastiat (30 June 1801 - 24 December 1850) was a French classical liberal theorist, political economist, and member of the French assembly. He was notable for developing the important economic concept of opportunity cost, and for penning the influential Parable of the Broken Window. His ideas have gone on to provide a foundational basis for libertarian and the Austrian schools of thought.

Circle Bastiat


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


Chronologie von Leben und Werk Frédéric Bastiats
Detailed chronological list, in German
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."
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

Frederic Bastiat - Libertarian
Advocates for Self-Government, reprints Laissez Faire Books' biography
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."


Frédéric Bastiat: An Annotated Bibliography, by Sheldon Richman, 2000
Opens with a biography, then discusses Bastiat's main works and concludes with a current perspective; includes short list of works about Bastiat and links to other sites
"Bastiat's first book, Economic Sophisms, is a collection of short essays showing with unparalleled imagination the fallacy of government intervention. ... Bastiat's next book, The Law, is his venture into explicit political philosophy. ... Bastiat moved to the broader examination of the market system as a whole in his third book, Economic Harmonies. ..."
Frédéric Bastiat: Two Hundred Years On, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 2001
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."
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850): Between the French and Marginalist Revolutions, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Biographical essay which also analyses Bastiat's ideas in relation to the Austrian School
"While Bastiat was shaping economic opinion in France, Karl Marx was writing Das Kapital, and the socialist notion of 'class conflict' that the economic gains of capitalists necessarily came at the expense of workers was gaining in popularity. Bastiat's Economic Harmonies explained why the opposite is true that the interests of mankind are essentially harmonious if they can be cultivated in a free society where government confines its responsibilities to suppressing thieves, murderers, and special-interest groups who seek to use the state as a means of plundering their fellow citizens."
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
"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.'"
Liberty's Greatest Advocate, by Walter E. Williams, 4 Jul 2001
Reflections on certain Bastiat writings on the 200th anniversary of his birth
"Do our elected representatives protect property and punish plunder or do they punish property and protect plunder? It's a mixed story. Two-thirds to three-quarters of next year's $2 trillion federal budget represents legalized plunder ... This legalized plunder isn't limited to money handouts. There's plunder in the form of special privileges such as import tariffs and quotas, licenses and franchises, where government rigs the market in favor of certain sellers, particularly those making large campaign contributions."
The Bastiat Solution, by Sheldon Richman, 29 Aug 2008
Analyses segments of Bastiat's The Law as an antidote for the demagoguery of the election season
"The election season will subject us to a nonstop barrage of platitudes ... 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. We just need to show them that the rules are the same for politicians."
Related Topic: 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."
Related Topics: War, Broken Window Fallacy
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)
Freedom in Transactions, 1848
Contrasts how freedom of exchange causes vast numbers of provisions to arrive in Paris on a daily basis with what would happen if government were to direct these transactions
"... eighty departments have been labouring today, without concert, without any mutual understanding, for the provisioning of Paris. How does each succeeding day bring what is wanted, nothing more, nothing less, to so gigantic a market? What, then, is the ingenious and secret power which governs the astonishing regularity of movements so complicated ... That power is an absolute principle, the principle of freedom in transactions."
Related Topics: Free Market, Government
La Vitre cassée, Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas, Jul 1850
The famous essay, in French
Related Topic: Broken Window Fallacy
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: Economics, Children, 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 Claude 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 Topic: Law

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