… is from pages 126-127 of Liberty Fund’s 2017 expanded English-language edition, brilliantly edited by David Hart, of Frédéric Bastiat’s indispensable work Economic Sophisms and “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”; specifically, it’s from Bastiat’s February 1848 essay “The Physiology of Plunder” (“Physiologie de la Spoliation”):
[G]overnments take it upon themselves to cure all the ills of humanity. They will revive commerce, they say; they will bring prosperity to agriculture, develop factories, encourage arts and letters, abolish poverty, etc., etc. All that is needed is to create some new government functions and pay for some new functionaries.
In a word, the tactic consists in presenting as real services things that are only hindrances; the nation then pays, not for services but for disservices. Governments take on gigantic proportions and end up absorbing half of the total revenue. And the people are surprised at having to work so hard, at hearing the announcement of astonishing inventions that will infinitely increase….