An inspiring exposition of the natural harmony that results when people are free to pursue their individual interests.
Ever since the publication, in 1850, some months before Bastiat's death, of the first ten chapters of this work—all that he lived to put into finished form—it has been recognized as a classic in its field; and subsequent editions of it which have included the extensive notes he sketched, during his last illness, for the remaining chapters have only served to enhance its reputation.
The essential doctrine of the book is the great truth that lies at the foundation of all human society, namely, that the interests of all men are fundamentally compatible, that there is and can be no antagonism between the welfare of one and the welfare of all, that all mankind can live in peace and prosperity, provided that violence or the threat of violence is reserved exclusively for the maintenance, by the state, of a free market in which goods and services are voluntarily exchanged without coercion from any quarter. The author at the same time refutes the contrary doctrine, which is the basis of every variety of collectivism, namely, that there is an irreconcilable antagonism between the interests of different social classes, races, nations, industries, etc., which requires that some men be empowered to allocate, by force, all human and material resources to collective ends that transcend those of individual persons.
Economic science—ordinarily regarded as a dry collection of abstract formulas having only a remote relation to the realities of human existence—is here presented so that its pertinence to the most important issues confronting mankind becomes immediately clear and vivid. A master of the art of lively and lucid exposition, Bastiat writes in a style that combines sharp wit, striking imagery, apt examples, imaginary dialogues between partisans of opposing points of view, and pages of impassioned eloquence, as he demonstrates the connection between all the major problems of economics—the formation of prices, wages, value, competition, monopoly, profit, rent, war, population, wealth, etc.—and the teachings of ethics, political science, and religion.
The present edition forms a fitting supplement to Bastiat's more polemical Selected Essays on Political Economy and Economic Sophisms, also newly translated for this series. It comprises an Introduction by Dean Russell, the full text of Bastiat's work, including his notes and materials for the incomplete chapters, all the notes of his French editor, and a set of explanatory comments by the translator designed to elucidate points that the modern reader might otherwise have found obscure.
Did you find this review helpful?