Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)
Morris Coats, Shane Sanders, Norbert Michel and Chad Turner, the self-proclaimed Bastiat’s Bastions are professors of economics at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Thibodaux is in the heart (or bowels) of French Acadian south Louisiana, an area where French names and terms are common, though French is not as widely spoken as it once was. While French is seldom spoken by the locals in Thibodaux, Nicholls State and its Business School have strong connections with some schools in France and have a strong contingent of student from France. Our French heritage is not lost here at Nicholls State. In keeping with our French heritage, we chose to name our blog for Frédéric Bastiat, a French economist.
Besides being an economist, Frédéric Bastiat was also a writer and a legislator. Bastiat was probably not the most original theoretical economist of his time, but he was surely the among best economic writers of his generation and for generations to come. He was a staunch supporter of free trade and his writing largely focused on free trade and other governmental restrictions which serve to protect producer interests by restricting competition, all to the detriment of the consumers. He admired the campaign that Richard Cobden waged in England to repeal that country’s Corn Laws, which provided restrictions on the importation of grain. The Corn Laws were profitable for rich British landowners, but harmful to the masses, as these restrictions raised the cost of food in the U.K. Bastiat waged his own war against protectionism in France writing many articles and several books in the process before his early death.
Like Bastiat, the authors and editors of this blog are largely free market economists, but it is not so much Bastiat’s free market stance that has earned our support and admiration, but rather his devotion to basic principles, following precept to conclusion, and doing so with clarity along with heavy doses of wit and cleverness that has earned our strong regard. Indeed, it is difficult to see how one could read Bastiat’s A Petition or his A Negative Railroad without at least a chuckle.
The target audience of our blog is not our fellow economists, but rather students, in particular, the students at Nicholls State University. While we invite colleagues across the country and across the globe to submit short items, more importantly, we invite our students to contribute to the discussion.
Tom DiLorenzo provides an interesting biography of Bastiat and discusses his role as one of the French precursors of the Austrian School of Economics at URL: http://www.mises.org/content/fredericbastiat.asp
Also, Sheldon Richman has written “Frederic Bastiat, An Annotated Bibliography” which is to be found in the Library of Economics and Liberty website, along with much of Bastiat’s work online in both English and the original French. A paper by J. G. Hülsmann (2001) (“Bastiat’s legacy in economics,” The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 4:55-70) suggests that Bastiat was more important as a theoretician we give him credit for above.
I want to thank Geoffrey Allan Plauche, a graduate student in political science at LSU, for his helpful suggestions for this piece on Bastiat.
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