Bastiat was quite innovative in his use of some of these formats and may have even invented one. Although this argument is standard modern textbook material today, it is possible that Bastiat used it for the first time in some of his sophisms. The most appropriate style to use when writing the sophisms was something Bastiat could never settle on, whether he should use the amusing and satirical style for which he had a certain flair, or something more serious and formal.
Bastiat was stung by a critical review of the First Series, which accused him of being too stiff and too formal, and so he was determined to make the Second Series more lighthearted and amusing. Thus he oscillated between the two different approaches, never being able to decide which was better for his purposes.
This is no better illustrated than in the turmoil he experienced when he was writing What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, which he lost once and rewrote twice, tossing one draft into the fire because it was too serious in style. By the name of fallacy it is common to designate any argument employed or topic suggested for the purpose, or with the probability of producing the effect of deception, or of causing some erroneous opinion to be entertained by any person to whose mind such an argument may have been presented.
As he stated:. To give existence to good arguments was the object of the former work [the Theory of Legislation ]; to provide for the exposure of bad ones is the object of the present one—to provide for the exposure of their real nature, and hence for the destruction of their pernicious force. Sophistry is a hydra of which, if all the necks could be exposed, the force would be destroyed. In Edition: current; Page: [ liv ] this work, they have been diligently looked out for, and in the course of it the principal and most active of them have been brought in view.
Bastiat, on the other hand, categorized the types of sophisms he was opposing along the lines of the particular social or political class interests the sophisms were designed to protect.
Had Bastiat lived longer, he would have written at least two more books: the first to complete his main theoretical work on political economy, Economic Harmonies, which he left half-finished at his death; the second, on the history of plunder. Paillottet quotes Bastiat:. A very important task to be done for political economy is to write the history of plunder [ la spoliation ]. It is a long history Edition: current; Page: [ lvi ] in which, from the outset, there appeared conquests, the migrations of peoples, invasions, and all the disastrous excesses of force in conflict with justice.
Living traces of all this still remain today and cause great difficulty for the solution of the questions raised in our century. We will not reach this solution as long as we have not clearly noted in what and how injustice, when making a place for itself among us, has gained a foothold in our customs and our laws. Perhaps realizing that his time was limited and that it was unlikely he could achieve his ambitious goals, Bastiat inserted the few sketches he had about the theory of plunder at the end of the First Series dated 2 November and at the beginning of the Second Series which appeared in January These sketches sit rather awkwardly with his other sophisms and look as if they were added at a late stage in the editing, 19 as if Bastiat wanted to provide a broader theoretical framework for his sophisms which otherwise was lacking.
There is a slight bitterness in some of his Edition: current; Page: [ lvii ] remarks, as they obviously were based on what he observed going on in the Chamber of Deputies when a free-trade bill was before the Chamber and which the advocates of protection were able to have defeated in committee between April and July But at least in civilized nations, the men who produce the wealth have become sufficiently numerous and strong to defend it.
Is this to say that they are no longer dispossessed? Not at all; they are just as dispossessed as ever and, what is more, they mutually dispossess each other.
Only, the thing which promotes it has changed; it is no longer by force but by fraud that public wealth can be seized. In order to steal from the public, it is first necessary to deceive them. To deceive them it is necessary to persuade them that they are being robbed for their own good; it is to make them accept imaginary services and often worse in exchange for their possessions.
This gives rise to sophistry. Theocratic sophistry, economic sophistry, political sophistry, and financial sophistry. Therefore, ever since force has been held in check, sophistry has been not only a source of harm, it has been the very essence of harm. It must in its turn be held in check.
And to do this the public must become cleverer than the clever, just as it has become stronger than the strong. Let religious morality therefore touch the hearts of the Tartuffes, the Caesars, the colonists, sinecurists, and monopolists, etc. The task of political economy is to enlighten their dupes. Which of these two procedures works more effectively toward social progress? Do we have to spell it out? I believe it is the second. I fear that humanity cannot escape the necessity of first learning a defensive moral philosophy. No matter how much I look, whatever I read or observe and whatever the questions I ask, I cannot find any abuse carried out on anything like a wide scale that has been destroyed through the voluntary renunciation of those benefiting from it.
On the other hand, I have found many that have been overcome by the active resistance of those suffering from them. Describing the consequences of abuse is therefore the most effective way of destroying it. And how true this is, especially when it concerns abuses like protectionism, which, while inflicting genuine harm on the masses, nurture only illusion and disappointment in those who believe they are benefiting from them.
The means Bastiat adopted to achieve his political goals was to write in a style which ordinary people would find appealing, amusing, and convincing, and an analysis of the devices he used in composing his Sophisms reveals the great pains Bastiat took in trying to do this. The style and the rhetorical devices Bastiat used in the individual sophisms show considerable variety and skill in their construction. Bastiat has been justly recognized for his excellent style by economists such as Friedrich Hayek and the historian of economic thought Joseph Schumpeter, but his methodology has not been studied in any detail.
Admired by sympathizers, reviled by opponents, his name might have gone down to posterity as the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.
I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist. His innovations in a number of areas suggest that had he lived long enough to complete Economic Harmonies he might have taken his insights into subjective value theory predating the Marginal Revolution of the s by twenty years and public choice theory about the behavior of political actors predating the work of James Buchanan and others by over a hundred years , into realms that were much ahead of their time. The sheer number and range of materials which Bastiat was able to draw upon in his writings is very impressive.
Sometimes Bastiat goes beyond quoting a famous scene from a well-known classic work and adapts it for his own purposes by rewriting it as a parody. A clue comes from material written soon after the appearance of the First Series of Economic Sophisms. People find my small volume of Sophisms too theoretical, scientific, and metaphysical. So be it.
Let us try a superficial, banal, and, if necessary, brutal style. Since I am convinced that the general public are easily taken in as far as protection is concerned, I wanted to prove it to them. They prefer to be shouted at. So let us shout:. An explosion of plain speaking often has more effect than the politest circumlocutions. Do you remember Oronte and the difficulty that the Misanthropist, as misanthropic as he is, has in convincing him of his folly?
As a result he may well have decided deliberately to use more sarcasm, humor, and parody in future Sophisms. Frankly, my good people, you are being robbed. That is plain speaking, but at least it is clear. The words theft, to steal, and thief seem to many people to be in bad taste. Echoing the words of Harpagon to Elise, I ask them: Is it the word or the thing that makes you afraid? Bastiat, too, found it helpful to offer thought experiments that used the fictional figure of Robinson Crusoe, shipwrecked on his Island of Despair, to show the obstacles he needed to overcome in order to achieve some level of prosperity, the opportunity costs of using his time on one task rather than another, the need to deprive himself of some comforts in order to accumulate some savings, and when Friday and visitors from other islands appear on the scene the benefits of the division of labor and the nature of comparative advantage in trade.
There are only single references scattered across the writings of economists who were writing in the s, s, and s, such as Jeremy Bentham, Jane Marcet, Thomas Babbington Edition: current; Page: [ lxv ] Macaulay, Richard Whately, and Thomas Hodgskin, and none of them uses the Robinson Crusoe analogy to express serious economic ideas. Let us run off to the island to see the poor shipwrecked sailor. Let us see him in action. Let us examine the motives, the purpose, and the consequences of his actions. We will not learn everything there, in particular not those things that relate to the distribution of wealth in a society of many people, but we will glimpse the basic facts.
When you start your horses with the sole aim of knowing which is the best runner, I can understand that you make the weights equal. David M. We could see some riders dropped here, but they will get the opportunity the get back on once over the other side where there's a wide sweeping descent which is fairly fast. Let us go back to the thirteenth century. I will nevertheless do this, first of all because this is the nub of the matter and also because it will give me the opportunity of setting out a law of economics of the greatest importance which, when correctly understood, seems to me to be destined to bring back into the fold of science all the sects that these days seek in the land of illusion the social harmony that they have been unable to discover in nature. But at least in civilized nations, the men who produce the wealth have become sufficiently numerous and strong to defend it.
We will observe general laws in their simplest form of action, and political economy is there in essence. After two weeks of intense labor chipping away at a log with an axe, Crusoe finally has his plank and a blunt axe. The free trader then presents an alternative scenario: what if Crusoe had not commenced making his plank and saw that the tide had washed ashore a proper saw-cut plank the new plank is an obvious reference to a cheaper overseas import which the protectionists believed would harm the national French economy.
With the introduction of a second person, Friday, Crusoe now has someone with whom he can cooperate. They can pool their resources, plan their economic activities, develop a simple form of the division of labor, and even trade with each other.
Bastiat uses this three-way conversation to make his points. Interestingly, he gives the European Crusoe the protectionist arguments; the native islander Friday is given the domestic free-trade arguments, and the visitor becomes an advocate of international free trade. He explicitly mentions four specific types of sophistry: theocratic, economic, political, and financial sophistry. Bastiat devoted most of his efforts to exposing economic sophisms, mentioning theocratic and financial sophisms only in passing if at all.