There is only one thing the public doesn’t want to deal with, and that is public affairs.
Complete Works volume I, page 54 (in French)
Letter dated May 23rd, 1845
Today’s quote follows a small political success associated with a disappointment that Frédéric Bastiat experienced upon his arrival in Paris. The details are not specified because ‘it would be too long to tell.’
I find this quote interesting from two perspectives. The first one concerns the role of the State. Frédéric Bastiat advocated for a government power limited to sovereign functions, and although during his time the weight of the State was much lower than it is nowadays, he was concerned about its interference in matters that should have been relegated to private affairs.
The second aspect of this quote is that it reveals the reason why this is a problem: the public’s unwillingness to engage in public affairs leads to the crony capitalism in which we are immersed. The elected officials, despite all the romanticism surrounding them when one is young and coming out of adolescence, are not primarily in the service of the people but rather in the service of themselves and well-understood private interests. The shame-ectomy they have undergone allows them to announce with a smile that their main concern is to serve France, but it became clear as early as 1845 that it is not the case. Only the naive still believe what they say instead of observing what they do.