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Economic Sophisms Paperback – June 1, 2010
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About the Author
Frédéric Bastiat (1801—1850) was a French economist, statesman, and author. He was the leader of the free-trade movement in France from its inception in 1840 until his untimely death in 1850. The first 45 years of his life were spent in preparation for five tremendously productive years writing in favor of freedom. Bastiat was the founder of the weekly newspaper Le Libre Échange, a contributor to numerous periodicals, and the author of sundry pamphlets and speeches dealing with the pressing issues of his day. Most of his writing was done in the years directly before and after the Revolution of 1848—a time when France was rapidly embracing socialism. As a deputy in the Legislative Assembly, Bastiat fought valiantly for the private property order, but unfortunately the majority of his colleagues chose to ignore him. Frédéric Bastiat remains one of the great champions of freedom whose writings retain their relevance.
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Bastiat's starting point is that desirable economic decisions come from viewing voluntary exchange through the consumer's eyes rather than through the producer's. For example, the "negative railway" highlights the fallacy of adding barriers to productivity in order to increase the costs of transportation. By breaking the tracks from France to Spain, the City of Orleans and its hotels, boatmen, and porters benefit since goods need to unloaded and moved to a new train and passengers are made to disembark. This looks good for producers but terrible for consumers. Especially since following this logic would mean that every city along the tracks should also tear down the rails!
The genius of this book is that Bastiat does not need lengthy discussions of externalities and production frontiers to get his point across. Through the simple illustrations, the reader learns these concepts anyway even without being formally introduced to them.