Oh, let us not readily believe that Ricardo, Say, Malthus, and Rossi, such eminent and well-founded minds, are mistaken. But let us not, either, lightly admit a theory that leads to such monstrosities.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Letters
This letter is not dated

Here is a long letter sent in response to the plagiarism accusation by Henry Charles Carey further to the publication of the Economic Harmonies (the accusation sounds absurd given the different positions of both authors – Frédéric Bastiat recognises Carey’s works on land property but not all his views). The second part of the letter explains on which point the two economists agree and oppose their famous predecessors.

In this second part, Frédéric Bastiat blames the Journal des Economistes for falling prey to the argumentum ad verecundiam. He explains why he opposes Ricardo (as well as Say, Malthus or Rossi) on their positions towards real estate property, viz. that his theory leads logically to “monstrosities” (landowners would enrich themselves to the detriment of others who would be doomed to misery). Frédéric Bastiat wrote the Economic Harmonies while being convinced that laissez faire was beneficial to all, not only to the rich of the day. Trade is not a zero-sum game, “the seller always enriches himself and the buyer as well”.

What today’s quote is highlighting is that the scientific approach to a phenomenon requires to be able to question an analysis if inconsistencies appear. The quest for truth cannot be content in invoking the greatness of a man (or four men in this case) in order to conclude that there is no room for debate. Said otherwise, errare humanum est!

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