by Frederic Bastiat
In Economic Sophisms, Frederic Bastiat destroys the myths propagated by economic protectionists, those people who seek special favors from the government for certain industries. Bastiat, in essay after essay, shows how taxes and protective tariffs, by artificially raising prices, harm consumers and make the economy less productive, thereby reducing the amount of consumer needs that can be met. Only the free market, says Bastiat, can direct labor, capital and prices in an efficient way, one which maximizes the economy’s productive capacity. In making this argument, Bastiat both expounds the merits of free trade and ridicules the absurdity of opponents’ arguments. For instance, he famously shows that tariffs are ridiculous by comparing them to a group of candlemakers who petition the government to protect their industry from unfair competition by blocking out the sun. He compares the arguments for protecting inefficient domestic employment to laws requiring workers to tie one hand behind their back or chop wood only with dull axes. While it would be wrong to consider Economic Sophisms to be only an economic resource – for Bastiat makes many insightful observations about the nature of the state itself – this book is ultimately a devastating critique of the anti-free market arguments that Bastiat encountered in his day and of those that we encounter in a slightly altered form today.
Praise for Economic Sophisms
“What gives this work its unique quality and places it among the classics of economic literature is not only the logical rigor with which each fallacy is demolished, but the highly original and striking way in which the author uses wit, irony, satire, dialogue, and apologue to reduce erroneous ideas to patent absurdity.” – Arthur Goddard, Translator of Economic Sophisms
“If at least some of us see some of these truths more clearly today, we owe a large part of our clear-sightedness to Bastiat. He was one of the earliest economists to attack the fallacies not only of protection but of socialism.” – Henry Hazlitt, author of Economics in One Lesson
What to Read Next
What is Seen and What is Not Seen | Frederic Bastiat
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism | Robert Murphy
Economic Facts and Fallacies | Thomas Sowell
Economics in One Lesson | Henry Hazlitt
The essays in Economic Sophisms are included in this collection of Bastiat’s writings.