Dec

10

 An interesting passage from the great Frenchman Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850):

Peter is the possessor of the only plow which is to be had in France; John and James wish to borrow it. John, by his honesty, his property, and good reputation, offers security. He inspires confidence; he has credit. James inspires little or no confidence. It naturally happens that Peter lends his plow to John.

But now, according to the Socialist plan, the state interferes, and says to Peter, "Lend your plow to James, I will be security for its return, and this security will be better than that of John, for he has no one to be responsible for him but himself; and I, although it is true that I have nothing, dispose of the fortune of the taxpayers, and it is with their money that, in case of need, I shall pay you the principal and interest." Consequently, Peter lends his plow to James: this is what is seen.

And the socialists rub their hands, and say, "See how well our plan has answered. Thanks to the intervention of the state, poor James has a plow. He will no longer be obliged to dig the ground; he is on the road to make a fortune. It is a good thing for him, and an advantage to the nation as a whole."

Indeed, it is no such thing; it is no advantage to the nation, for there is something behind which is not seen.

It is not seen, that the plow is in the hands of James, only because it is not in those of John.

It is not seen, that if James farms instead of digging, John will be reduced to the necessity of digging instead of farming.

That, consequently, what was considered an increase of loan, is nothing but a displacement of loan. Besides, it is not seen that this displacement implies two acts of deep injustice.

It is an injustice to John, who, after having deserved and obtained credit by his honesty and activity, sees himself robbed of it.

It is an injustice to the taxpayers, who are made to pay a debt which is no concern of theirs.

Chris Tucker adds:

What is not seen is that John, by the nature of his character as shown by his other virtues, would probably do a better job of farming than James and so, in my opinion, there is a probable loss of production by letting James use the plow and therefore a loss of utility to the state. And there is significant moral hazard in that lending to James demonstrates to all that one not need do the things (work) that inspire confidence thus creating a culture of entitlement. The list goes on and on.


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