Bastiat on Economic Fallacies
The Economics of Freedom
by Frédéric Bastiat
This work is available at no charge as pdf from Students for Liberty.
Bastiat, the 19th Century French political economist, was a genius at toppling economic fallacies. This collection of his work includes his classic essays on the broken window fallacy and the protectionist petition from candle makers.
This reading works well for a single meeting. Suggested review questions follow.
Review Questions for Bastiat, Pages 1-56
1. Is Bastiat correct that the central problem of economics is taking account of "later consequences" as well as the immediately visible? ("What Is Seen," p. 1)
2. How does Bastiat's example of the broken window relate to modern American policies? ("The Broken Window," pp. 2-4)
3. When is firing a government employee good for the economy? ("The Demobilization," pp. 4-6)
4. Does government spending promote industry and employment? ("Taxes," pp. 7-10)
5. Do art subsidies create net employment? What are other arguments for and against subsidizing the arts? ("Theaters and Fine Arts," pp. 10-15)
6. What does Bastiat mean when he writes, "Money creates an illusion for us?" ("Public Works," pp. 15-17)
7. What is the function of middlemen, and what are the problems with bureaucrats serving that role? ("Middlemen," pp. 17-23)
8. What are the two basic types of association, and what are the characteristics of each? ("Middlemen," pp. 21-23)
9. What is protectionism, and what is its impact on the wealth of a region? ("Restraint of Trade," pp. 23-27)
10. What is the impact of productive machinery on a region's wealth and employment? ("Machines," pp. 27-32)
11. What would Bastiat say about the government-promoted mortgages leading up to the modern housing bust? ("Credit," pp. 32-35)
12. What would Bastiat say about the government of any region forcing its citizens to subsidize those in another region? ("Algeria," pp. 35-38)
13. Does the lavish spender "stimulate" the economy moreso than the person who invests? ("Thrift and Luxury," pp. 39-44)
14. What would Bastiat say about modern Democrats who claim subsidizing unemployment "stimulates" the economy and subsidizing "green" energy creates jobs? ("The Right to Employment," pp. 44-46)
15. Does Bastiat effectively make his point in "A Petition" and "A Negative Railroad," and can we fruitfully adapt his method today? ("A Petition," "A Negative Railroad," pp. 47-52)