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Government Power Was His Mortal Enemy

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


 “Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it,” wrote novelist N.D. Wilson. “The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself.”

In the last six of his 49 years of life, brought to an untimely end by tuberculosis, the classical liberal Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat produced an astonishing volume of books and essays in defense of free markets and free people. He towered over the smug intellectuals and politicians of his native France, most of whom were mentally mired in the country’s ancient traditions of statist central planning of the economy.

“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws,” he reasoned. “On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

Bastiat also gave us perhaps the world’s most succinct description of the redistributive apparatus of government: “The State is the great fiction through which everyone lives at the expense of everyone else.

The world in the 21st century is beset with economic fallacies that are, for the most part, modern versions of those that Bastiat demolished 16 decades ago.

If a posthumous Nobel Prize were to be awarded to just one person for crystal-clear writing and masterful storytelling in economics, no one would be more deserving of it than Bastiat. Here is the great pity of his short time on this earth: while he lived and ever since, his own country never possessed the collec…

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