The action principle, the desire for improvement is not embedded in the science but in humanity.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 1, pages 440 to 451 (in French)
June 1846

Here is a review of François Vidal’s book About the Distribution of Wealth (available in French here) that starts with a merciless criticism. Obviously (I have not read the book though), François Vidal is attacking the liberal position with passion, which makes Frédéric Bastiat react vehemently.  He ascribes the following injunction to him: “what an interesting science is the one that can be summed up with a negative conclusion: to do nothing” and then explains that indeed, the objective of political economy is not to define what the government should do but to warn about the consequences of its acts and decisions. The laisser-faire policy does not mean that there is nothing to do but requires from the government to lie on the sidelines instead of intervening where it is not its role to do so.

Frédéric Bastiat then mocks the author who asserts as I do that he is in favour of peace and against misery, or rather that “it will be necessary to apportionate production to the means of consumption […] to strongly organise labour […] to combine a good industrial mechanism…” and other good intentions coveted by all constructivists.

After illustrating the impossibility of putting in place a system such as the one dreamt about by the constructivists (or rather “as the ones” because there are as many systems as writers ready to impose their own views to society) Frédéric Bastiat exposes with today’s quote the reason why the criticism they make towards economic science (to not give a “solution”) is leading them to deception. This idea will be then explored in depth by Ludwig von Mises in his Magnus Opus, Human Action.

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