Thus, suffering is unavoidable, and we have little more than a choice of evils.
Needs are at the source of economic activity because man has to work in order to satisfy them. I shall split this chapter in four parts in order to extract as many quotes from it.
Introducing this chapter that will explore various aspects linked to wants and their economic consequences, Frédéric Bastiat compares it to suffering. If a want (or a need) is not satisfied, it becomes suffering (bearable or not, it’s a question of degree). The reason why man acts economically is therefore to limit this suffering and the study of economic phenomena should allow to understand how to limit this suffering.
Today’s quote clearly shows that the objective is not to eradicate suffering, which is impossible, but to limit it. In the 20th century, Thomas Sowell would express it in other words when he says: “there are no solutions, there are only trade-offs”. The economic situation depends effectively on the numerous choices (trade-offs) made by the economic agents and economic science is about studying these choices and the institutional framework in which they are made.
Other quotes from Man’s Wants:
Introduction – Part 1 – Part 2 – Conclusion