A philosopher in front of whom movement was refuted started to walk.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 100 to 104 (in French)
April 25th, 1847

In this short article, Frédéric Bastiat uses reduction ad absurdum in order to answer the following question: “When considering the most essential things, is free-trade in the interest of the people or not?”

In it, he publishes a table of tariffs implemented by the legislatures of 1795, 1791, 1817 and 1822 in which there is a progression from a limited number of relatively low tariffs to a higher number of goods subject to increasing tariffs. The reason why 1795 is presented in the first column is that  the legislatures have been classified according to the degree of democracy, the electorate being progressively restricted from everybody to taxpayers and double vote. I have to admit that it can be said here that correlation is not causation. However, is it reasonable to consider that chance is the reason when the pattern is so clear across four different legislatures? Frédéric Bastiat reinforces his conviction by citing what could be observed in England and the United States as well.

The demonstration may be a bit weak but nonetheless, today’s quote desserves to be considered each time a protectionnist professes pointless arguments. Reduction ad absurdum remains the best way of detecting mistakes.

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