Generous with Someone Else’s MoneyDoug Bandow Jun 29
Until people understand that Uncle Sam shouldn't be a year-round Santa Claus, public officials will continue to act like Delia Curry and Arne Duncan.
If a posthumous Nobel Prize were to be awarded to just one person for crystal-clear writing and masterful storytelling in economics, no one would be more deserving of it than Frédéric Bastiat (June 30, 1801–December 24, 1850). He set the standard over a century and a half ago.
This remarkable Frenchman was an economist in more than the traditional sense. He understood the way the economic world works, and he knew better than anybody how to explain it with an economy of words. He employed everyday language and a conversational tone, an innate clarity that flowed from his logical and orderly presentation. Nothing he wrote was stilted, artificial, or pompous. He was concise and devastatingly to the point. To this day, nobody can read Bastiat and wonder, "Now what was that all about?"
Economic writing these days can be dull and lifeless, larded with verbosity and presumptuous mathematics. Bastiat proved that economics doesn't have to be that way: the core truths of the science can be made lively and unforgettable. In literature, we think of good storytelling as an art and stories as powerful tools for understanding. Bastiat could tell a story that stabbed you with its brilliance. If your misconceptions were his target, his stories could leave you utterly, embarrassingly disarmed.
If you aspire to be an economist or a policy maker or a teacher or just an influential communicator, take time to study at the feet of this 19th-century master.
At the end of his short life, Bastiat served two years in France's Constituent and Legislative Assemblies, where he worked tirelessly to convince fellow members of the merits of freedom and free markets. They proved to be his toughest audience. Most were far more interested in selfish and ephemeral satisfactions (such as power, money, reelection, and the dispensing of favors to friends) than in enduring truths. Biographer Dean Russell writes,