Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 26: Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1850)
Born in Bayonne on 30 June 1801, Frédéric Bastiat became an orphan at an early age and had to leave the religious school he attended before obtaining his Baccalauréat diploma. In 1818, he started to work in the trade company of his uncle but soon got bored. He left and lived in a landed property that his family possessed in Mugron, in the Landes, but, rather than managing the estate, he preferred to study philosophy, history and political economy – in particular the works of the French classics: Jean-Baptiste Say, Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer. Bastiat’s first writings date from 1830 and support a liberal candidate to the Parliament, François Faurie. He was himself an unsuccessful candidate during the 1831 elections, but was elected in 1833 to a local position, as Conseiller général of the Canton of Mugron. In 1844, in England, he attended some meetings of the Anti-Corn Laws League and met its leaders. He kept in touch with Richard Cobden and translated into French, in 1845, the main speeches of the League leaders. Bastiat also published his first article in Journal des économistes – “De l’influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l’avenir des deux peuples” – which was successfully received. Following the English model, he tried to organize a Free Trade movement: in 1846 he created the Association bordelaise pour la liberté des échanges, and then a similar association in Paris. The 1848 Revolution opened new perspectives. Bastiat realized that he had not...
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