Freeman

ARTICLE

John Chamberlain

OCTOBER 01, 1994

George Roche, the head of Hillsdale College, was an early protégé of Leonard Read, the creator of The Foundation for Economic Education. Where did Read pick up this theories? They came from what Roche calls the “historical ash-heap” of Frederic Bastiat, who lived in the French countryside and in Paris in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Doing a book for Read’s Architects of Freedom series in 1973, Roche chose to call it Frederic Bastiat: A Man Alone. The actual fact, however, was that Bastiat had many similarly minded friends. They happened, for the most part, to be free traders in England, such as Cobden and Bright, who brought the free trade idea to France.

The original title was rejected for a new edition with the title, Free Markets, Free Men (Hillsdale College Press and The Foundation for Economic Education, 1993, $14.95 paperback), and a good thing, too. That says it all.

In his introduction, Roche justifies the book’s purposes as a reprint: the need to reinform today’s public of one of “the most intrepid explorers” of free market philosophy. Bastiat was trying to tell people that they couldn’t get something for nothing. That, obviously, has to be said again and again.

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Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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