This is the point of view of the consumer, and it is the consumer’s point of view that I shall never cease calling to the attention of the protectionists; for consumption is the goal of all our efforts, and it is only by adopting the point of view of the consumer that we shall find the solution to all our problems.
By this claim, Bastiat of course did not mean that producers’ welfare is to be ignored. Instead, Bastiat here reiterated Adam Smith’s valid explanation that ordinary people will grow as prosperous as possible over the long run only when consumers’ tastes and preferences are treated as the ends to be met, while production processes and arrangements – including workers’ efforts – are treated only as the means of meeting these ends.
Means are important, vitally so. Ends cannot be achieved if there are no appropriate means operating to achieve those ends. And if the best means are obstructed, then the ends are not achieved as well, as quickly, or as fully as possible. But the ultimate criterion by which to judge the performance of an economy is the degree to which people’s tastes and preferences as consumers are met and emphatically not by the degree to which people’s desires as producers are met.