Bastiat’s Conundrum

Claude-Frédéric Bastiat, a 19th Century economist and political philosopher of the French Liberal Schoolthink proto-libertarian – was more than a little concerned about society turning its back to what is good and embracing what it is evil.

When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.

— Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Harmonies (1850 AD)

Not, of course that this is new thought or warning. It goes back to at least Biblical times.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20, The Bible (KJV)

But, inherent to these very thoughts and proscriptions in the conundrum. Who are the misguided of the public? Who, indeed, have chosen to call evil good, and good evil? When a society – truly, at this point more of a population than a society – cannot even agree upon what words mean, much less what are examples thereof, it becomes almost moot to try to decide this. And yet, from the standpoint of both utility and primal, existential need, decide this America must do.

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The Liberal Complaint

In all functional ways there is no significant difference between the Socialists of the 19th century and the Liberals and Progressives of the 20th and 21st centuries. They all have the same complaints about their more normative American enemies.

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-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.

— Frdric Bastiat
The Law

Bastiat died of tuberculosis of tuberculosis at the age 49 in 1850 yet his position is still valid, even unto this benighted day in a far lesser and darker age age of Man’s descent into damnation.

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