Men of power keep themselves busy in retaining it only.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works volume I, page 54 (in French)
Letter dated June 5th, 1845

Frédéric Bastiat was not jaded to the extent that the quote above was not qualified – as a matter of fact, it should read “It is asserted that men of power…”. However, it seems clear to me that he already observed the trend then and would not have adhered to the current romanticism that leads a large part of the electorate to idealise democracy by granting elected officials an integrity that they do not always possess (to say the least).

This letter from June 5th, 1845 is also historically interesting for anybody who is interested in Bastiat because he refers to his discussions with Guillaumin in view of publishing a series called Economic Sophisms and announces to his friend Félix Coudroy that, afterwards, he will have to write and publish the Social Harmonies which will later become the Economic Harmonies. According to him, this latter book would “have the greatest utility because it would satisfy our times’ propensity to seek artificial harmonies and organisations by showing them the beauty, the order and the progressive principle that lies in the natural and providential harmonies”. He is here preceding Friedrich Hayek, the proud advocate of emergent order.

This objective that he assigns to the Harmonies may seem ambitious (it is nothing less but to convince his political opponents that they are mistaken) but his optimism is justified by his report of a conversation he had with M. Raoul Duval revealing that the industrialists in Rheims have been convinced by the arguments in his article on tariffs, although Rheims was a stronghold of protectionism.

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