Friday, August 27, 2010

Who is Frédéric Bastiat, and Why Would Libertarians Care?

... Apparently he's 'kind of a big deal' (see Burgundy, Ron) as "one of the nineteenth century’s great apostles of the free trade gospel," writes Michael C. Behrent in the French philosophy magazine La Vie des Idées. And he's got a lot to do with the modern American libertarian movement: (...)

"The American right’s intellectual romance with Bastiat is not new. In the aftermath of the Second World War, his works were rediscovered and reprinted as libertarian manifestos against the prevailing climate of “collectivism” ... Leonard Read, a prominent apostle of the postwar conservative resurgence, discovered Bastiat in 1935 thanks to the Harvard professor Thomas Nixon Carver. In 1943, Read sent to each of the 3,000 members of the small group that he ran a copy of Bastiat’s short pamphlet, The Law, thus launching its strange career as a canonical text of American libertarianism. (...)"

 And dig this:

Obama and the Return to Bastiat

"Thus if Bastiat’s name and slogans are common currency among the opponents of Obama’s stimulus bill (in 2009) and health-care reform (in 2010), they have been in circulation for some time. His writings have acquired an almost canonical status in certain libertarian circles. [...] On April 15 2009, the day of the first national Tea Party demonstration (and the day by [which] Americans must file their tax returns), Paul R. Rickert, a professor at Liberty University, invoked Bastiat in a speech delivered in Washington D.C. to warn of the government’s penchant for “legal plunder.” The same day, at a tea party in Broward County, Florida, a blogger witnessed a demonstrator with a sign bearing the same slogan—“legal plunder.” This term, he reminded his readers, was one “that Frederic Bastiat used in his 1849 book, The Law, to refer to the work of the socialists. (...)”

And for those readers who prefer (or maybe just want) to read in French, see related material here.

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