Celebrating Bastiat

Economist Don Boudreaux reminds us that 209 years ago today, the great economic journalist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was born. F.A. Hayek in his introduction to some selected Bastiat essays wrote that he was “a publicist of genius” and quoted Joseph Schumpeter’s assessment of Bastiat as “the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.”

On his birthday, it’s worth rereading some of his most memorable essays, such as “What is seen and what is not seen,” “The broken window,” and the “Petition of the candle makers against the Sun.

Here’s a short excerpt from “The broken window”:

From which, by generalizing, we arrive at this unexpected conclusion: “Society loses the value of objects unnecessarily destroyed,” and at this aphorism, which will make the hair of the protectionists stand on end: “To break, to destroy, to dissipate is not to encourage national employment,” or more briefly: “Destruction is not profitable.”