VIDEO: Assessing Frédéric Bastiat’s Legacy


Our friends at the American Institute for Economic Research have released a three-part video series in which historian David Hart discusses Frédéric Bastiat’s life and intellectual legacy. This short trilogy is an excellent introduction to the famous Frenchman’s thought. In Part 2, for example, Hart says:

One of the things that Bastiat says several times in his writings is that there are all these freedoms we can identify: political freedom, economic freedom, social freedom. But Liberty—with a capital L—is the combination of all of these. And that’s what I find most interesting about Bastiat—in fact, that’s what makes him much more like modern libertarians today, who have this overall picture of how broad and all-encompassing liberty is, whereas so many of the classical liberal of the 19th century, I think, were more compartmentalized in their thinking.

In addition to Bastiat’s economic and political insights, Hart adds some fascinating details about his private life, from his love of sports as a child to his playing the cello and possible flirtations with prominent liberal-minded socialites of the day like Hortense Cheuvreux. Hart also repeats Don Boudreaux’s amusing theory that Bastiat’s creativity and originality of mind were likely enabled by the fact that he never went to graduate school, and was thus never beaten into a received mode of approved thinking.

Many Competitive Enterprise Institute scholars have quoted and referenced Bastiat’s works over the years. See blog posts Fran Smith (“Celebrating Bastiat,” June 30, 2010), Alex Harris (“The ‘Stimulus’ and the Broken Window Fallacy,” February 13, 2009), and Ryan Young and Drew Tidwell, (“Broken Windows, Broken Logic,” December 16, 2008).