Editor's Note: The following publisher's statement was included in a 20th-century reprinting of "That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen" by Frédéric Bastiat. The publisher, Freedom Newspapers, Inc., was a publishing conglomerate founded by R.C. Hoiles, an ardent promoter of liberty and an early supporter of FEE.
The reason we are publishing Bastiat’s essay on “That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen” is that we believe Bastiat shows the fallacies of government intervention better than any other writer of any period. Since he wrote over a century ago, his work cannot be regarded as party politics now. It deals with fundamental principles of political economy, which outlasts all parties.
Bastiat was the first person who ever wrote on political and economic subjects interestingly, clearly and entertainingly enough that his writings did not need to be subsidized. Cobden, who was largely responsible in breaking down tariffs in England, said Bastiat’s writings were as interesting as a novel. The Encyclopedia Britannica said “he was unrivaled in his exposure of economic fallacies, for he had extraordinary wit and logical power.”
Adam Smith’s works were subsidized by the Duke of Buccleuch. Other patrons financed the works of John Stuart Mill. Bastiat was instrumental in getting France to reduce tariffs. He contended that where goods do not cross border lines (because of protective tariffs) soldiers will, there will be wars.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says “he wrote in rapid succession a series of brilliant and effective pamphlets and essays, showing how socialism was connected with protection.”
Henry Hazlitt wrote a book “Political Economy in One Lesson,” and Sir Ernest Benn who was a great economist of England, said it was a rewrite of Bastiat and that a little of Bastiat’s philosophy would be worth a lot of lend lease to the English people. Sir Ernest Benn’s “Confessions of A Capitalist” sold over a quarter of a million copies. We believe a better understanding of Bastiat would do much to turn the trend back toward belief in private property. That is the reason we are republishing this masterpiece.
Bastiat said in one of his other works, “Harmonies of Political Economy”: “There is a leading idea which runs through the whole of this work which pervades and emanates every page and every line of it, and that idea is embodied in the opening words of the Christian Creed, ‘I believe in God.’”
Rose Wilder Lane said she wished she had read Bastiat 40 years ago. She used to write for The Saturday Evening Post when it was truly liberal, she paid income tax in one year on $65,000 as a professional writer. Among her writings were the “True Story of Henry Ford,” “Give Me Liberty,” “The Discovery of Freedom,” “Let The Hurricane Roar.”
Bastiat’s father was a merchant, hardly surviving through the perilous times. As a schoolboy Bastiat heard of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow and his defeat at Waterloo. He was 14 when the emperor was exiled to St. Helena and Russia moved into Europe to restore autocracy. Three years later the boy went to work in his uncle’s counting house. He spent six years there learning the difficulties of merchandising. Then he inherited his grandfather’s little farm at Megron and became a farmer.
In the evenings Bastiat read what few books he had, and he thought. The revolution had shattered the old basis of thought; the Europeans were beginning to attempt to combine the new idea that men were free with the ancient belief that men were not free. The attempt to do this always encountered itself coming back from the opposite direction. The King of France was liberal and reactionary. The French royalty were liberals and the French republicans were imperialists. Political action was stymied.
Bastiat wrote his essays on political economy, on sophisms and harmonies when France was in a turmoil, just as we here in the United States are in a turmoil.
Freedom Newspapers Inc.