These questions are very much twisted by being wrong about the causes, or by mistaking the effects for the causes.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 158 to 164 (in French)
July 11th, 1847

Here is a new response to La Presse newspaper which analyses the trade balance of France and, noting a net outflows of cash in 1846 further to the opening of wheat imports to counter a poor harvest, believes that it is a good argument in favour of protectionism.

In this article, Frédéric Bastiat acknowledges most of the given arguments but rejects the conclusion because La Presse omits to take into account the initial poor harvest. Indeed, the financial and industrial crisis are real but they result from the scourge that was the poor harvest, not from opening the borders. Without borders opening, there would have been food shortages and the crisis is preferable to them. He then proceeds to an interesting exercise in which he imagines cobbler who would break his arm. Rewriting the argument of La Presse in this new context, he shows that the logic remains on all points but that, by ignoring the initial cause, the reasoning is void. Here, we have yet another criticism of those who confuse correlation and causation, which is a major flaw in the economic understanding of the world around us.

Moreover, he mentions that if free trade had been in place before the agricultural crisis, the financial crisis could have been limited. Exchanges are limited through restriction and, when an event occurs that creates new trade imbalances, it makes it feel itself stronger than if commercial relationships with foreigners had already been in place.

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