Happy Birthday Frederic Bastiat

Today is Frederic Bastiat’s 214th birthday.  Over at Carpe Diem, Mark Perry has a great tribute to the man by listing some of his best quotes and his works.

Frederic Bastiat is a huge influence on me.  I’d be lying if I said anything else.  He’s a brilliant and concise writer, with enough humor and sarcasm to remain entertaining.  I highly recommend any of his writings, but none more so than That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen.  You will be better off for reading it.

6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Frederic Bastiat

  1. It’s worth remembering that the nature of unseen effects is the main thing that different schools of economics argue about. Disputes in economics are always about one school claiming unseen effects that are different than what the others see.

    So then, Keynes argued that the multiplier is an effect unseen by most. Scott Sumner argues for connections between monetary policy and NGDP that are unseen by most. Austrians argue for inflation that is unseen by most. Donald Trump sees dangers in free trade that are unseen by most.

    The fact that many economic effects are unseen by most is the one thing everyone agrees on. They just disagree on which unseen effects count the most.

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    • To some extent, you are correct. There are always those external factors. What Bastiat discusses are the things that do not show up in the statistics (much of what you discuss are tracked and can be quantified).

      For example, replacing a broken window may cause GDP to rise, but the opportunity cost is still there: the money spent to fixing the broken window and returning to the status quo could not be used to improve one’s conditions. So, $X is spent in both ways, but in one it’s to maintain the status quo and in the other it’s to advance one’s standard of living. Given that the goal of economic activity is to advance, it is then perverse to call “broken windows” economic advancement even though it shows up in the statistics as such

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      • Yup. He’s in second place by a comfortable margin in recent polling for the Republican nomination. I look forward to some hilarious debates.

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  2. Yes, I believe we are on the same page on this one Ron. You may enjoy this list of common references to the Donald:

    1. “Short-fingered vulgarian”
    Spy Magazine, 1988

    2. “America’s greatest living comedian”
    Walter Kirn, New York magazine, 2000

    3. Playing off of Spy magazine: “short-memoried vulgarian”
    New York magazine, 2006

    4. “Gelatinous cartoon slumlord”
    Jim Newell, Gawker, 2011

    5. “Financially embattled thousandaire”
    Gail Collins, the New York Times, 2011

    6. “A television star famous for his ‘billionaire’ character who makes a good living licensing his name after failing in the casino business”
    Alex Pareene, Salon, 2011

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