Student Of Liberty

4. – ONE PROFIT VERSUS TWO LOSSES.

An individualist, a bourgeois, a trader who does not know what self-denial, self-sacrifice, fraternity, or philanthropy are.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Sophisms Third Series

This is how the iron-master insults the woodcutter who is explaining how tariffs protecting national producers from cheaper imported products are more costly than it seems (it is not a simple wealth displacement from the consumer to the producer but value destruction indeed).

What I find interesting in this quote is that it reminds of the position of Milton Friedman when he mentioned that the responsibility of companies was to make profits. This position is often denounced as inhuman, exactly the same way as the insult quoted denounces how the woodcutter can be inhuman in pursuing his own interest when buying iron. But does should our own interest not come ahead of other considerations when we are finding ourselves in a commercial relationship? Self-denial and self-sacrifice are noble causes indeed that individuals should not ignore to live a better life but these are not necessarily the best guides in the context of a commercial relationship.

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