However, I cannot refrain from making a general observation. Presumption is always unfavorable to collective expenditure carried out through taxes.

Frédéric Bastiat
What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

Frédéric Bastiat mentions that it is only a presumption because there exist indeed some collective expenditure that can be carried out more efficiently through taxes (he mentions the custom officer, among others). These are public goods (defined as non-rivalrous and non-excludable). For all other goods and services, it may sometimes be necessary or desirable for political reasons to make a collective expenditure through taxes but let’s face it, it is less efficient. It is impossible for a bureaucrat sitting in Paris or in Brussels to know better than me how to spend my own money. Spending through taxes is the spending of taxpayers’ money by a bureaucrat.

It is at the opportunity of debates pertaining to the colonisation of Algeria that Frédéric Bastiat reminds us this truth because the advocates of colonisation then tried to use economic arguments to justify their conquests and the corresponding expenditures. As an advocate for liberty, he could not be in favour of colonisation but hearing these fallacious economic arguments to justify injustice was more than he could bear. He shows easily how the costs of colonisation are higher than expected benefits and this, without taking into account the costs of decolonisation that will take place hundred years later (he could glimpse at it and mentioned the soldier that was necessary to protect the settler but he could not have guessed all the horrors brought around by the 20th century).

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