Individualism, then, accomplishes the task that the sentimentalists of our day would entrust to brotherhood, to self-sacrifice, or to some other motive opposed to self-love.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Harmonies

I believe that this quote is the keystone of the chapter in which Frédéric Bastiat explains why individualism is not only the engine of the economy but, contrary to what constructivists believe, is at the source of social life. Adam Smith had expressed it in his An Inquiriy into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (book 1, chapter 2, part II) with this famous assessment: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

This short chapter is the opportunity to touch upon the issue of Fraternity that appears in the motto of the French Republic (Liberty – Equality – Fraternity). If the first two terms complement each other and balance out, the concept of Fraternity as noble as it is, is antinomic to the other two as long as it is imposed by the institutions. Now that it is deeply ingrained in the French culture, it is probably one of the contradictions that lock up France in a constructivist straitjacket where it is now due to the reason identified by Frédéric Bastiat who, concerning the economic interactions within society, wrote: “Now, it is no more possible to found transactions of this nature on the principle of altruism than it would be reasonable to base the ties of family and friendship upon self-interest. I shall never cease telling the socialists: You wish to combine two things that cannot be combined.” 

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