It is easier to keep a reform alive when it is in place than removing an abusive legislation. 

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 58 to 63 (in French)
December 27th, 1846

This article follows the suspension of tariffs (except for the port of Bayonne) on wheat because of poor harvest that year. After noting the absurdity there is in removing the tariffs everywhere but the port of Bayonne*, Frédéric Bastiat welcomes the fact that the government is legislating a partial free-trade policy on wheat at the very time when it should maintain the corn laws if it were consistent with its objectives. Indeed, he shows that there can be only four situations of abundance and scarcity between France and abroad while the one that would command the support to producers (and the fight against foreign wheat “invasion”) is precisely the then current one, viz. abundance abroad and scarcity in France.

This is the situation in which today’s quote finds its place. What is highlighted here is of a more general order than the corn laws themselves. All measures going against commercial freedom create situations in which vested interests are put in place. It then becomes extremely difficult to suppress them without their beneficiaries starting to fight against reform. However, once reforms have been enacted, it is relatively easy to keep them in place. Here, we find the issue of concentrated benefits and diffused costs that will be exposed in the Author’s Introduction to Economic Sophisms

* “As of today, the French ports are open to cereals from anywhere in the world”. This is inconsistent with the following article dated May 8th 1847 – I cannot explain why there is such a discrepancy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *