Doug French

Life's twists and turns will take a person on journeys he would never imagine. A kid from rural Kansas growing up where people simply speak their minds, all the while lacking the fancy elocution offered by supposedly highly educated city folk, couldn't imagine a school of economics offered clearly and simply.

Indeed the Austrian tradition of clear and sound economics is a long one. In the early 19th century, Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat took up where the Spanish Scholastics left off. As the brilliant wordsmith and Wall Street analyst Jim Grant explains,

Because nobody else can understand them, modern economists speak to one another. They gossip in algebra and remonstrate in differential calculus. And when the pungently correct mathematical equation doesn't occur to them, they awkwardly fall back on the English language, like a middle-aged American trying to remember his high-school Spanish. The economist Frédéric Bastiat, who lived in the first half of the 19th century, wrote in French, not symbols. But his words — forceful, clear and witty — live to this day.

The modern dean of the Austrian School, Murray Rothbard himself, wrote,

Bastiat was indeed a lucid and superb writer, whose brilliant and witty essays and fables to this day are remarkable and devastating demolitions of protectionism and of all forms of government subsidy and control. He was a truly scintillating advocate of an untrammeled free market.

Bastiat's wisdom has gone unheeded. The modern world is anything but a free market. It is blanketed with volumes of regulations while forced to operate under the regime of fiat money, central-bank interest-rate setting, and monetary pumping. The economy lurches through a continuous maze of distortions — soaring asset bubbles followed by gut-wrenching crashes — and lingering high unemployment and inflation masked by understated official statistics issued by government agencies.

While most of the public sees and believes what the government wants them to see, Austrians take Bastiat to heart, as Rothbard makes clear:

In this way, the "economist," Bastiat's third-level observer, vindicates common sense and refutes the apologia for destruction of the pseudo-sophisticate. He considers what is not seen as well as what is seen. Bastiat, the economist, is the truly sophisticated analyst.

Doug French

Doug French is is president of the Mises Institute and author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply and Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth

Be the first to read Bill Barker’s column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.


Get the best of Townhall Finance Daily delivered straight to your inbox

Follow Townhall Finance!