… is from page 361 of Liberty Fund’s 2011 collection of Frédéric Bastiat’s writings, The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics – which is the first volume in what will eventually be six volumes, expertly edited by David Hart, of The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat; specifically, this quotation is drawn from Bastiat’s 1846 letter “To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever” (original emphasis):
Let us suppose that this regime were not forced on us by law, but directly by the will of the monopolists. Let us suppose that the law left us entirely free to purchase iron from the Belgians or the Swedes, but that the ironmasters had servants enough to prevent the iron from passing our frontiers and to force us thereby to purchase from them and at their price. Would we not complain loudly of oppression and injustice? The injustice would indeed be more obvious; but as for the economic effects, it cannot be said that they would be any different. After all, are we any the fatter because those gentlemen have been clever enough to have carried out by customs officers, and at our expense, that policing of the frontier that we would not tolerate were it carried out at their own expense?
DBx: By draping their plunder with superficially plausible but utterly ludicrous rationales, calling it “trade policy,” and having it carried out by impressively titled state officials, protectionists not only enrich themselves at the greater expense of their fellow citizens, they insult the intelligence of every person with intelligence by promenading publicly as benefactors of the general welfare.