We candelmakers are suffering from the unfair competition of a foreign rival. This foreign manufacturer of light has such an advantage over us that he floods our domestic markets with his product. And he offers it at a fantastically low price. The moment this foreigner appears in our country, all our customers desert us and turn to him. As a result, an entire domestic industry is rendered completely stagnant. And even more, since the lighting industry has countless ramifications with other native industries, they, too, are injured. This foreign manufacturer who competes against us without mercy is none other than the sun itself!
Here is our petition: Please pass a law ordering the closing of all windows, skylights, shutters, curtains, and blinds — that is, all openings, holes, and cracks through which the light of the sun is able to enter houses. This free sunlight is hurting the business of us deserving manufacturers of candles. Since we have always served our country well, gratitude demands that our country ought not to abandon us now to this unequal competition.
We hope that you gentlemen will not regard our petition as mere satire, or refuse it without at least hearing our reasons in support of it.
First, if you make it as difficult as possible for the people to have access to natural light, and thus create an increased demand for artificial light, will not all domestic manufacturers be stimulated thereby?
For example, if more tallow is consumed, naturally there must be more cattle and sheep. As a result, there will also be more meat, wool, and hides. There will even be more manure, which is the basis of agriculture.
Next, if more oil is consumed for lighting, we shall have extensive olive groves and rape fields.
Also, our wastelands will be covered with pines and other resinous trees and plants. As a result of this, there will be numerous swarms of bees to increase the production of honey. In fact, all branches of agriculture will show an increased development.
The same applies to the shipping industry. The increased demand for whale oil will then require thousands of ships for whale fishing. In a short time, this will result in a navy capable of upholding the honor of our country and gratifying the patriotic sentiments of the candlemakers and other persons in related industries.
The manufacturers of lighting fixtures — candlesticks, lamps, candelabra, chandeliers, crystals, bronzes, and so on — will be especially stimulated. The resulting warehouses and display rooms will make our present-day shops look poor indeed.
The resin collectors on the heights along the seacoast, as well as the coal miners in the depths of the earth, will rejoice at their higher wages and increased prosperity. In fact, gentlemen, the condition of every citizen of our country — from the wealthiest owner of coal mines to the poorest seller of matches — will be improved by the success of our petition.
Translated and slightly condensed by Dean Russell from Selected Works of Frederic Bastiat, Volume 1. Paris: Guillaumin, 1863. pp. 58-59.
Ideas On Liberty
Though I’ve taken my legal deductions
(My tax-form acumen’s transcendent),
There doesn’t exist
Any place I can list
The Government as a dependent!
Reprinted by Special Permission of THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. Copyright 1955 by the Curtis Publishing Co.