Frédéric Bastiat has said that the Harmonies is a counterpart to Economic Sophisms, and, while the latter pulls down, the Harmonies builds up. Charles Gide and Charles Rist in a standard treatise, A History of Economic Doctrines, have referred to “the beautiful unity of conception of the Harmonies,” and added, “we are by no means certain that the Harmonies and the Pamphlets are not still the best books that a young student of political economy can possibly read.”
Unfortunately the Harmonies after chapter 10 are unfinished fragments and therefore are filled with repetitions which Bastiat would have corrected had he lived. It is also important to keep in mind that parts of the Harmonies were first given as speeches.
This translation follows as faithfully as possible the original French standard edition of the complete works of Bastiat. Cross references have been included among the three volumes of the present translation.
"The Motive Force of Society
It is not within the province of any branch of human knowledge to give the ultimate reason for things.
Man suffers; society suffers. We ask why. This is equivalent to asking why God has given man feeling and free will. We know on this subject only what is revealed to us by the faith in which we believe.
But whatever may have been God's plan, what we do know as a positive fact, what human knowledge can take as a starting point, is that man was created a sentient being endowed with free will.
This is so true that I defy anyone who may be astonished at it to conceive of a living, thinking, desiring, loving, acting being—of anything, in a word, resembling man—yet lacking in sensibility or free will."
Frédéric Bastiat was born in Bayonne in 1801, and died in Rome in 1850. He spent the better part of his last years in Paris, as the editor of "Le Journal des Economistes", and from 1848, as a member of Parliament. As an economist, gifted with a very clear mind and a devastating sense of humor, he renewed the Economic science of his time by developing it from the standpoint of the consumer, i.e. the people. He was the tireless apostle of freedom of exchange and freedom of choice by individuals, without constraints or subsidies. His works are as fresh and relevant today as they were 150 years ago, and his numerous predictions about the evolution of Institutions and Societies have invariably come true. As a philosopher, he was the precursor of many present day Libertarians, building normative ethics on the foundations of individual liberty and responsibility. As a local judge, he was a paragon of efficiency and equity. As a politician with a great foresight, he was an advocate of minimum government, and fought against the indefinite extension of public expenditure. He criticized colonial expeditions and slavery. He argued for the separation of powers, for preventing MPs from being ministers at the same time, and for limiting the number of civil servants in the Assembly. He was for a greater participation of women in politics. His major writings are “The Law”, “The State”, “Economic Sophisms”, “What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen”, “Economic Harmonies”. They have been translated into many languages.
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