We may note, however, that for beings endowed with a capacity for experimenting, learning, and improving, progress is the general law.
The editor in 1864 added a dozen pages at the end of the chapter, mentioning that these were notes from the author that were due to be inserted if the works had been finalised. The way they are written is hence different from the original text – instead of trying to convince his reader, Frédéric Bastiat seems to try and convince himself and it is here possible to see with more clarity his reasoning while he is researching what value is.
Today’s quote has a much larger scope than value only and I note it down for its double teachings about life.
The first teaching pertains to the issue of a society and its economy when it is centrally managed. The functioning of such a society does not leave room for innovation (at least, as little as possible). The lack of experimentation (everything is ordered by legislation, regulation and procedures) is at the source of the lack of progress. It is one of the major reasons why the “communist” societies of the 20th century have been a failure (and those of the 21st century will be as well) – these societies are structurally stagnant.
The second teaching is about progress through trial and error. A central government does not proceed by successive trials and errors but through instructions. This is the reason why, in case an instruction is actually a mistake, it lasts longer than it should and why the reckoning is more painful. A society led by the “emergent order” dear to Friedrich Hayek proceeds progressively, corrects its mistakes before they become too costly and internalise its successes. This is the reason why a liberal society is superior to any other when progress is the assessment criteria.
Other quotes from On Value:
Introduction – Part 1 of 10 – Part 2 of 10 – Part 3 of 10 – Part 4 of 10 – Part 5 of 10 – Part 6 of 10 – Part 7 of 10 – Part 8 of 10 – Part 9 of 10 – Part 10 of 10 – Conclusion – Epilogue