Frederic Bastiat: The Independent Institute

The Power of Independent Thinking

Frederic Bastiat
Frederic Bastiat

Claude Frederic Bastiat (1801–1850) was a French classical liberal economist, author, and statesman. Coming of age during the socialistic expansion of the Napoleonic Wars, he was most prolific in the tumultuous French Revolution era. His views on the importance of the consumer and the limited role of government in a free society made him a chief forerunner to the Austrian School, a theory of economics that championed private property rights and free market economics.

While he became an economist just six years before his death from tuberculosis in 1850, he spent those six years spreading his ideas around France and writing highly influential books and essays such as Economic Sophisms, The Law, Economic Harmonies, and What is Seen and What is Not Seen. Many of his most famous essays came out of his election to the legislative assembly in 1848 and 1849.

Bastiat is often celebrated for his use of the rhetoric technique reductio ad absurdum; in famed arguments like the “Candlemaker’s Petition” and the “Broken Window,” Bastiat reveals the absurdity of common economic fallacies using sharp, logic-based satire.

Modern economists have taken and expanded Bastiat’s ideas in such famous works as Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson and Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action. His contributions have been invaluable to economic literature and thought.