Do we have the right to assume that they have any other motive than conviction?
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 93 to 100 (in French)
March 14th, 1847
In this article, Frédéric Bastiat attacks those of his opponents who recognise that “the free-trade doctrine is right in principle” but talk and act as if it were not. He admits that one can err or even that one does not wish to implement immediately some reforms for practical reasons (this makes me think about Milton Friedman who advocated a progressive reduction in tariffs in order to avoid the disruptions it would create) and therefore disagree on policies to be implemented. However, intellectual integrity requires that, once the truth has been identified, it is not possible to oppose it systematically.
Today’s quote sums up his position in debating ideas. To disagree does not prevent respecting others and progress can only be made through honest discussion. This means that recognising the truth in one’s opponent ideas in order to destroy his ability to argue is not an option. In the present case, those of the democratic party who recognise that he is right in principle but oppose the logical consequences of it (implementing free-trade) necessarily have a motive they do not reveal and the conviction they are resting on desserves to be called into question (even if he does not try to guess what it actually is).