Always and everywhere, we find that [man] looks upon toil as the disagreeable aspect, and on satisfaction as the compensatory aspect, of his condition.
Frédéric Bastiat identifies personal interest as the source of war. Indeed, if satisfactions require toiling, they do not require that the work is made by the individual who gets the satisfaction. Exchange and plunder also allow to benefit from other people’s work. In the first case, personal interest is beneficial but in the second one, it is pernicious. However, reality is not an option (as Thomas Sowell says) and personal interest is part of human nature. The legal and regulatory framework needs to take personal interest into account in order for it to be beneficial rather than pernicious.
Today’s quote describes a fact that allows to understand how personal interest can become pernicious (at least with ethically-challenged people). I also find it interesting because it is applicable to exchange in general and international trade in particular. It is always good to remind ourselves that when considering exchange, the cost is what is given away and the benefit is what is received. It is also true about international trade in which the cost is constituted by goods and services that are exported and the benefit is constituted by goods and services that are imported. The mercantilist approach that is widespread among politicians nowadays still cannot understand this after 250 years of economic history that exposes it.
Other quotes from War:
Self-sacrifice – Plunder – Self-interest