Economic horizons do not have limits – catching sight of new ones is my felicity, whether I am the one who discovered them or be there somebody else to show them to me.
Complete Works volume I, page 204 (in French)
Letter dated July 3rd., 1850
Further to the publication of the Economic Harmonies, Frédéric Bastiat has to face some critics made to it. Today’s quote responds to the argument consisting in criticising some ideas for the simple reason that they contradict the ideas of famous predecessors. In the present case about the concept of value, which, we now know had been misunderstood by immense economists such as Adam Smith.
What the quotes tells us is that knowledge is supported by past knowledge (which does not excludes that they sometimes clash) and that consequently, future knowledge will be supported by our current knowledge (and this does not excludes that they will clash sometimes). Let’s be humble. Being the one who discovers an explanation by himself or because somebody else is explaining to him is not what is important. What counts is that knowledge progresses each and every day, with no end in sight.
Leonard Read will express this idea in his book The Path of Duty when he writes, concerning the limits of knowledge: “The more one knows, the greater is the awareness of not knowing”.