Without perceiving what is happening, he will permit himself to be carried along, content merely to consider effects, obstacles, the interests of the producer, and worse yet, to confuse those interests with the public interest. This, in fact, amounts to choosing the ills instead of the benefits…
As a conclusion to this chapter on wealth, Frédéric Bastiat insists on the issue created by economists when they confuse utility (which is sought after in wealth) and value (the cost allowing to create utility). He also reminds us that sometimes (here with Proudhon), the mistake “lies entirely in your erroneous explanation, and not at all in the facts”.
Today’s quote is also of interest in debunking the too frequent allegations that liberals are in the service of big business. Clearly, the shift from capitalism towards crony capitalism was well in its way in the first half of the 19th century. Frédéric Bastiat here gives the benefit of the doubt to politicians in letting the door open for the possibility of misunderstandings that would lead to confusing the public interest with that of the producer but what he is exposing is indeed the fact that politicians can act in the service of the producers instead of the service of the consumers (which indeed are the same, the issue being linked to the help brought to some that create distorsions because of an initial intention that is wrong).