Our demand is that our fellow countrymen, who are free to work, be free to trade the fruits of their labour.
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 4 to 7 (in French)
December 19th, 1846
Already at the time, the words “free trade” were under attack as if they were swearwords (it is nowadays in fashion to attack the word “globalisation” instead but it is more or less the same). Some wanted to manoeuvre and avoid scaring the public in hiding this noble objective of the Association for the Freedom of Trade. Of course, Frédéric Bastiat refused categorically – his aim was not to mislead the people in order to reach his goals but to convince about the legitimacy of his approach.
Thus, he explains in three pages why his aim is a noble one. Today’s quote recaps this fairly well. The extent of regulation nowadays is arguably so vast that even the first half of the proposition may not be valid anymore. However, it does not make it wrong. We should all have the right to work as we see fit (if I am an unqualified hairdresser, it may be the case that I cannot find clients but I should not be prevented to open a hair salon on the grounds that I do not possess a Certificate of Professional Aptitude). Consequently, one can hardly see how I could be prevented from selling a service I produce to whomever I want, as far as the buyer agrees upon the price (under the condition that there is no fraud or misrepresentation about the service) or that, if I am in a buyer’s position, the government prohibits the sale to proceed.