It is true that self-interest is the cause of all the evils, as well as all the benefits, that can fall to the lot of man.
Frédéric Bastiat exposes here the constructivists, whom he call the “social philosophers and political theorists” (or sometimes “socialists”) and who criticise him for taking into account self-interest to which all the evils of society are attributed and who, consequently, fight against it or ignore it. They forget too quickly that it is also self-interest that drives all the progress made by society.
Social progress is not the work of government, which may have legislated here or there according to the evolution of society (one can think about child labour for instance – no, this is not the legislator that ended it but the enrichment of societies that ended up legislating against it). What Frédéric Bastiat exposes here, is that the constructivists are trying to shape society according to their own vision of what “should be”, without taking into account the true motive force of society that makes it evolve. No, these people are not anointed and are not able to know what is good for society. Proof of it can be found in the fact that they disagree on what is good, each of them having their own vision of what should be as an objective. Their main fault is to ignore human nature, which translates by the conclusion of this chapter: “They dream up a social order not connected with the human heart; then they invent a new human heart to go with their social order”.