Friday, March 20, 2009

A quote from Frederic Bastiat on socialism

Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist, who unfortunately knew more about economics in the early 1800's than about 98% of people living today, including a certain president. (He was, however, one of Ronald Reagan's favorite economists.)

Those who haven't read his book Economic Fallacies have missed one of the most incisive and readable books on economics ever written. I happened upon a blog entry quoting his description of one of the fallacies of socialism, written in his book The Law, which is as relevant today as when it was written over 150 years ago.

"Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain."

Ludwig von Mises' book Socialism, written in the 1920's, was perhaps the greatest early book to devastate socialist theory, but this quote from Bastiat shows how well he had socialism pegged more than 70 years before von Mises.

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