Friday, June 17, 2011

Bastiat on Business - June 17, 2011

Bastiat on "rent-seeking" (i.e. going to the government and asking for special concessions for your company or industry or protection from "unfair" competition).

This is becoming more and more popular as the government acquires more and more power. And when the scheme fails to produce wealth (as it so often does) the schemers and bureaucrats blame the free market - and the answer, they claim, is more regulation and consumer protection. A win-win for government, and a lose-lose for everyone else.

In this work, Frediric Bastiat sarcastically petitions the French government to protect all candlemakers and the related industry from unfair competition... from the sun.

The Candlemaker's Petition

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly that we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us.

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights, and blinds—in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

Be good enough, honorable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.

If France consumes more tallow, there will have to be more cattle and sheep, and, consequently, we shall see an increase in cleared fields, meat, wool, leather, and especially manure, the basis of all agricultural wealth.

Read the entire petition HERE

A real world example of rent-seeking HERE

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