Isqua Istari

The Wise Wizards

Bastiat Describes a Nation

Posted in Other by Ziggy Thursday October 6, 2011 at 15:27

Keep in mind, this passage was written 150 years ago. The ever relevant Frederic Bastiat:

It is quite common, however, to attribute to capital a kind of deadly efficiency that would implant selfishness, hardness, and Machiavellian duplicity in the hearts of those who possess it or aspire to possess it. But is this not confused thinking? There are countries where labor is mainly fruitless. The little that is earned must quickly go for taxes. In order to take from you the fruit of your labor, what is called the state loads you with fetters of all kinds. It interferes in all your activities; it meddles in all your dealings; it tyrannizes over your understanding and your faith; it deflects people from their natural pursuits and places them all in precarious and unnatural positions; it paralyzes the activities and the energies of the individual by taking upon itself the direction of all things; it places responsibility for what is done upon those who are not responsible, so that little by little the distinction between what is just and what is unjust becomes blurred; it embroils the nation, through its diplomacy, in all the petty quarrels of the world, and then it brings in the army and the navy; as much as it can, it perverts the intelligence of the masses on economic questions, for it needs to make them believe that its extravagances, its unjust aggressions, its conquests, its colonies, represent a source of wealth for them. In these countries it is difficult for capital to be accumulated in natural ways. Their aim, above all, is by force and by guile to wrest capital from those who have created it. The way to wealth there is through war, bureaucracy, gambling, government contracts, speculation, fraudulent transactions, risky enterprises, public sales, etc. The qualities needed to snatch capital violently from the hands of the men who create it are exactly the opposite of the qualities that are necessary for its creation. It is not surprising, therefore, that in these countries capital connotes ruthless selfishness; and this connotation becomes ineradicable if the moral judgments of the nation are derived from the history of antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Though I would love to credit Bastiat with incredible foresight, it appears he is merely observing a current state of affairs. What this passage really says is that things have not become materially worse than they were a couple of centuries ago. Unfortunately, neither is our understanding (as a culture) much improved.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Powered by Wordpress, theme by neuro