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Economic Sophisms

JULY 29, 2009

Bastiat was a French liberal of the 19th century and perhaps the best popularizer of free market economics ever. This collection centers around his criticisms of protectionism and defenses of free trade. He takes on all the fallacies of his day, most of which are fallacies of our own day as well. Of particular note is the inclusion of his famous “Petition” from the candle makers and other demanding that sunshine be blocked from entering houses so as to stimulate the economy by forcing people to buy artificial light. That essay is the economics equivalent of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” The case for free trade has perhaps never been better made than here.

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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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