This is the way an opinion gains acceptance in France. Fifty ignoramuses repeat in chorus some absurd libel that has been thought up by an even bigger ignoramus; and, if only it happens to coincide to some slight degree with prevailing attitudes and passions, it becomes a self-evident truth.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Harmonies

This quote that refers in particular to the attacks against Malthus in the 19th century by those who had not even read his books makes me sad. I am French indeed and if, as mentioned by Frédéric Bastiat, it is a French characteristic to create opinions on the basis of ignorance, it does not bode well for the future.

Moreover, I observed this phenomenon personally in my youth. At the end of the 1980s, the names of Milton Friedman and the Cato Institute attached to him were swearwords in France. I am sure there were some people whom nobody heard who thought differently but around me, the self-evident truth was clear – we were facing a bunch of unapologetic selfish despicable people working for the rich. At the time, the Free to Choose series was broadcast all around the world but France and access to the American writings was limited (often not even translated I reckon, although the level of English language knowledge within the population was lamentable). The opinion was thus built on ignorance and the elements that could have made it change were not available. It was exactly the same situation as the French population discovering Malthus through de Sismondi who himself had discovered him through Godwin, as lamented by Frédéric Bastiat here.

That said, I shall conclude on a more optimistic touch. Those who read me and have not yet done it have the opportunity to watch Free to Choose now, which is available everywhere with an internet access, which makes a huge different from France in the 20th century. Moreover, internet is an marvellous tool for those who want to learn or think about a topic. Cato Institute is publishing everyday texts that are not coinciding with prevailing attitudes and passions in France but are now available online. The works of Milton Friedman are also accessible easily. Of course, reading English makes it easier but Artificial Intelligence translations are coming and will make these ressources even more accessible than they already are.

Other quotes from Population:
Malthus – Ignorance – Reality – Prevention – Hubris – Wealth

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