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Frederic Bastiat was born in Bayonne, France on June 29th 1801. He lived until 1850 and spent much of his life living as a farm owner and scholar. He was an ardent supporter of freedom, individual rights, and the power of free trade between people. As a consequence, he was also an ardent critic of government meddling in the economy, especially tariffs and taxes, which he called "legal plunder".

Bastiat's main tool against the government was his wit. He used satire extensively in his writing, as can be seen in The Petition of the Candlemakers, in which he argues for laws against natural light so as to boost business for candlemakers and other related workers. He also used exaggeration extensively in his writing, taking arguments for tariffs and protectionism to their logical conclusion to demostrate their inherent absurdity.

Later in his life, Bastiat's writing began to have international influence. He founded the French Free Trade Association and wrote two books on economics, Economic Sophisms and Economic Harmonies. These books, and many of his other essays were translated into other languages and free trade associations sprung up throughout Europe. The focus of his later writings was on the way that labour and capital work together to create wealth, by working in harmony rather than acting as enemies.

Unfortunately, Bastiat died soon after writing Economic Harmonies. He was just starting to become a prolific writer and was taken from the world too soon. His work has lived on however, and others have followed in his footsteps. These include economists such as Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard.




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Last updated 14.8.2003