Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on March 29, 2017

in Crony Capitalism, Seen and Unseen, Subsidies

… is from page 178 of Liberty Fund’s forthcoming new and expanded English-language edition, expertly edited by David Hart, of Frédéric Bastiat’s ingenious Economic Sophisms and “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”; specifically, this passage is from the new translation of Bastiat’s January 1846 essay “Theft by Subsidy” (“Le vol à la prime”) (original emphasis):

imagesIt is truly miraculous that the following proposition continues to be held as proven: Anything that an individual steals from the whole is a general profit.  Perpetual motion, the philosopher’s stone, or the squaring of the circle have fallen into oblivion, but the theory of Advancement through theft is still in fashion.

DBx: A perfect monument, in the United States, to the prevalent superstition that the people of a country grow richer whenever their government seizes what belongs to many of them and gives the booty to some of them is that great geyser of cronyism, the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

This mercantilist superstition holds that Americans at large are enriched when, after they refuse voluntarily to underwrite as many loans to buyers of American exports as U.S. government officials (by some sorcery) divine that they should underwrite, Uncle Sam forces Americans to underwrite more such loans.  Voila!  Americans are enriched!  And how do we know?  Why, look!  Boeing and a few other American corporations are exporting more!  What could be plainer?  And surely no one but a pin-headed laissez-faire ideologue doubts that the resources used to produce these additional exports would, without the Ex-Im Bank’s vision and munificence, have been used less productively – indeed, would likely have lain idle.


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