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Publisher's Summary

“When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.” (Frédéric Bastiat)

Much of the systematic mechanics and the continual advancement of modern civilization have been shaped by history's most brilliant economists and greatest thinkers. In economics, the most famous figure is undoubtedly Adam Smith, an 18th century philosopher and one of the original champions of the free market, whose ideas were encapsulated in his most famous works, The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, published in the midst of the Scottish Enlightenment. Many of Smith's ideas were recycled and expanded upon by various experts within the realm in the centuries that followed, among them 20th century Austrian-born economist Friedrich Hayek and the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize winner Milton Friedman, a proponent of laissez-faire capitalism who first proposed the notion of modern currency markets. 

Towards the center of the spectrum were conservative intellectuals like British economist John Maynard Keynes, an advocate of both free trade and democratic socialist policies who explored the need for governmental intervention in certain scenarios, such as the Great Depression, as well as the dangers of excessive savings, which he argued leads to lower demand, and in turn, economic ruin. On the opposite end of the gamut of economic thought was German-Jewish revolutionary Karl Marx, often credited as the “Father of Communism,” famed for his enmity towards capitalism and class struggle. Communist and fascist dictators who embraced these radical ideologies and administered authoritarian governments under the guise of equality and the abolition of elite privilege are why the uninitiated have trouble differentiating between socialism, communism, and fascism to this very day. 

Among those who championed free markets, perhaps no economist has written so forcefully as Frédéric Bastiat, whose seminal work The Law is still widely read today, over 150 years after his death. Bastiat’s work vigorously opposed government interference in matters affecting economies, and as socialism became more popular in the mid-19th century, he struck back at it, writing in The Law, “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. I do not dispute their right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law - by force - and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes.” 

If anything, Bastiat’s views and works have only become more critical as modern societies debate the value of government spending and private spending across the world and often reach different conclusions. Frédéric Bastiat: The Life and Legacy of the Influential French Economist chronicles his life and work, as well as the massive impact he’s had on the field of economics. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about Bastiat like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

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