We ignore how long it will take for nations to learn not to see a gain in the tort they do upon each other this way.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 205 to 209 (in French)
January 22nd, 1847

Discussions in England about the implementation of impressment (which was implemented in France by Colbert and replaced by the “inscription maritime” during the revolution) motivate Frédéric Bastiat to criticise it. If my understanding is correct, this system that became obsolete in 1965 was nothing less than mandatory conscription at the whim of government for anybody working in the maritime industry. Thus, seamen were not free to exercise their profession without a Damocles sword hanging above their heads, as they could be conscripted at any time to serve in the Navy (Five years that were financially inefficient, without mentioning the risk of being called to combat).

Frédéric Bastiat sees here a reason as important as protectionism in order to explain the weakness of the French merchant fleet and its corollary, the weakness of the French Navy.

Today’s quote falls in this context. Unfortunately, if in the particular case of conscription we know that France has changed its position at the turn of the 21st century, it is clear that the question remains valid for numerous topics on which the government keeps acting against the interests of the people (notably with protectionist policies).

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