Respect the French

It is nice to see Frédéric Bastiat cited in the Telegraph, and the “seen/unseen” point to be spreading more widely.  But Tim Worstall couldn’t be more wrong in saying that Bastiat was “the only Frenchman who ever really understood economics.”

As can be learned from Murray Rothbard’s Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Bastiat was but one eminent representative of  a “pre-Austrian” French tradition of outstanding economic pioneers that went back to Tracy, Say, and Turgot.  That might even be extended to the founder of economics, Richard Cantillon, who wrote in French, but was of Irish extraction.

And don’t forget the outstanding French liberals who Ralph Raico covers so well in chapters 5 and 6 of his Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School.

Comments

  1. I don’t know if it’s a British tradition that we have adopted or what, but here in the States we love picking on the French for some reason. You will get a free pass from virtually everyone for practically anything derogatory said toward the French. I think for most people it is intended to be in good fun, but there is certainly a layer of ignorance beneath it.

  2. Since most English speakers, even in Academia, don’t bother to read Spanish or French or German, they naturally think that the World is centered around them. This recent publication shows otherwise:
    Mathieu Laine (ed.), Dictionnaire du libéralisme. Larousse, April 2012.
    65 contributors, a few of them non-French (Jesus Huerta de Soto, Anthony de Jasay, Gary Becker, Victoria Curzon-Price, Guido Hülsmann, Hernando de Soto). 300 entries, 639 pages.

    As for Jean-Baptiste Say, his magnum opus was quickly translated into English.
    http://www.1902encyclopedia.com/S/SAY/jean-baptiste-say.html

  3. As a Frenchman, I have to wonder, how did the French turn so wrong on the way to the 20th century, when it seemed to have such excellent thinkers?

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