… is from page 307 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 November 1847 essay “The Specialists” (“Les hommes spéciaux”):
Is it for a lawmaker to balance the profits of various types of industry?
Can he do this without compromising the general good?
Can he, without injustice, increase the profits of some while decreasing those of others?
When endeavoring to do so, will he succeed in distributing his favors equitably?
In this same instance, will this operation not result in a dissipation of energy, owing to an inefficient management of production?
And is the evil not worse still if it is totally impossible to favor all types of industry equally?
In sum, are we paying a government to help us damage each other or, on the contrary, to stop us from doing so?”
DBx: I here put these questions to all proponents of industrial policy.