What is a privilege to some is a servitude to others.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 293 to 311 (in French)
September 5th, 1847

This speech pronounced in Marseilles at the end of August and published on September 5th in the Libre-Echange newspaper touches upon a number of recurring themes in the works of Frédéric Bastiat. From an economic perspective, he refers to Jean-Baptiste Say who said that “products are exchanged against products”, a thought that Frédéric Bastiat extended to explain that “services are exchanged against services” and which will be developed at length in the chapter On Value in the Economic Harmonies.

He also reminds us his position about the doux commerce dear to Montesquieu, which is often laughed about nowadays (albeit without demonstrating any mistake) when he asks: “As to the tight relationship existing between free-trade and peace among peoples, it is in any way questionable?”

Today’s quote seems key to me when the implementation of a policy needs to be analysed. If it creates privileges as it can be observed every day (e.g., a subsidy, a tax exemption or some regulation restricting competition), it is absolutely necessary to keep in mind that such benefits have a cost. The propensity of politicians to ignore these costs is infinite but they are real nonetheless. Taking a political decision on the ground that it is beneficial to some is not acceptable if the costs it generates (not financial costs only) are not honestly understood and discussed.

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