Student Of Liberty

VIII. – POST HOC, ERGO PROPTER HOC.

And yet people come forward to accuse freedom of the disasters that it prevents and puts right, at least in part!

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Sophisms Second Series

For those who failed to pay attention during the Latin classes, the title translates into: “after this, therefore because of this.”

In this very short pamphlet, we discover that liberals used to be accused of all the wrongs that could be in the mid-19th century, including the suffering created by poor harvests. As a matter of fact, the free-market advocates were explaining enthusiastically how free trade was about to enrich the whole country; unfortunately, the corn laws were repealed in 1846 (which was the most important liberal success of all times) after two bad harvests in 1845 and 1846, which was hiding somewhat the benefits from this liberalisation.

Bastiat reminds us here that a serious analysis of the situation cannot get away with looking at two phenomena to conclude that one is causing the other. In other words, correlation is not causation (the sophism being then “cum hoc, ergo propter hoc”).

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