Privilege is being claimed for a few; I come to claim freedom for all.
The ideas in this text will be rewritten in the first series of the Economic Sophisms in Chapter 21. Responding to the attempts from Mr. De Saint-Cricq to impose a comprehensive protectionist regime in France, some merchants and manufacturers of Bordeaux, Le Havre and Lyons have prepared petitions in order to claim for an exemption on their own interests. Their request was to differentiate the tariffs on raw materials (their costs) and manufactured products (their revenues). This is obviously either absurd or iniquitous and Frédéric Bastiat reacted to this immediately.
Detailing the arguments of the petitioners (the essence of which being that raw materials do not favour labour while their own business would), he shows that there is no fundamental difference between one and the other position and that the petitioners’ proposal is in fact even worse than that of the government. Indeed, their petition could be summed up in granted them a privilege, the cost of which would be borne by the rest of the population.
In this text, we can see that the error of associating value to labour is still there – Frédéric Bastiat will refine his thoughts later in substituting the term “service” to “labour”. However, it does not weakens the logic of the text, which shows a deep understanding of the value in exchanges, be they international or domestic.
Today’s quote underlines that the essential issue is the refusal of equality in treating the various actors and that the solution is to extend freedom for all rather than a few.