By the way, I have not lost sight of what you told me one day, that the movement, which occurred in a bottom-up process in England, needs to be top-down in France.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works volume I, page 129 (in French)
Letter dated March 25th, 1846

Frédéric Bastiat is still discussing his plans to create a movement in favour of free-trade when he mentions the remarks that Richard Cobden made to him earlier is the topic of today’s quote.

I found this quote rather sad but reality is not an option. One of the fundamental difference between the English culture and the French culture pertains to their views on the organisation of society. Individualism may not always be properly understood but it is clearly present across the Channel. The political evolution of the country is made through a bottom-up movement, which is eminently democratic. However in France, the individual has never been at the center of society, which helps collectivism and constructivism develop in the minds of people. Culturally, French people do not understand that a political decision can be brought through a bottom-up process. Power is in the hands of the central government who is the only one able to impose its views.

This may be one of the reasons why France seems to be the champion of strikes, demonstrations and other social movements – in order for an idea to go through, it needs to be imposed by the government and everybody is trying to persuade the government to impose their own views (including through constraint and threat if needed).

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