Economic Sophisms/Chapter 25

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Economic Sophisms by Frédéric Bastiat
The Two Hatchets

II.


OBSTACLE, CAUSE.


THE obstacle mistaken for the cause,—scarcity mistaken for abundance,—this is the same sophism under another aspect; and it is well to study it in all its phases.

Man is originally destitute of everything.

Between this destitution and the satisfaction of his wants, there exist a multitude of obstacles which labour enables us to surmount. It is curious to inquire how and why these very obstacles to his material prosperity have come to be mistaken for the cause of that prosperity.

I want to travel a hundred miles. But between the starting-point and the place of my destination, mountains, rivers, marshes, impenetrable forests, brigands—in a word, obstacles—interpose themselves; and to overcome these obstacles, it is necessary for me to employ many efforts, or, what comes to the same thing, that others should employ many efforts for me, the price of which I must pay them. It is clear that I should have been in a better situation if these obstacles had not existed.

On his long journey through life, from the cradle to the grave, man has need to assimilate to himself a prodigious quantity of alimentary substances, to protect himself against the inclemency of the weather, to preserve himself from a