All Commentary
Friday, February 28, 1958

The Candlemakers’ Petition

We candlemakers 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.



  • Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was the great French liberal economist, philosopher, polemicists, and journalist.