It is a far cry from a social order founded on the general laws of humanity to an artificial, contrived, and invented order that does not take these laws into account or denies them or scorns them—an order, in a word, such as some of our modern schools of thought would, it seems, impose upon us.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Harmonies

This first chapter of the Economic Harmonies is key in order to understand one of the fundamental difference between liberals and the advocates of democratic centralism.

On of the essential concepts of a market economy is reviewed using the same method used by Adam Smith in his allegory of the woollen coat that will be revised later by Leonard Read in his famous essay I, Pencil, which will then be presented brilliantly by Milton Friedman. The market price is the coordination tool that allows men to cooperate on a global scale and across an indefinite timeframe. Understanding this generally leads to the conviction that the economy is a complex system (I use this adjective rather than “complicated” that would allow to believe that there is a “solution” to the “economic problem”), which is what the advocates of centralism and artificial organisation refuse to see. These are the people who pretend that they can “manage” society. This latter point reminds us of the School of Public Choice that will appear a hundred years later with James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock based on the opposition to the following principle exposed by Frédéric Bastiat: “society, as they conceive it, will be led by infallible men completely immune to the motive of self-interest”.

As a conclusion, I would date to say that this introduction to the Economic Harmonies show us that Frédéric Bastiat had understood what Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek would later insist upon in simple words, namely that spontaneous order “is the result of human action but not of human design” (It seems that the quote is from Adam Fergusson in 1767, i.e. before Bastiat was born, so he must have read it).

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