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Economic Sophisms

JULY 29, 2009

Bastiat was a French liberal of the 19th century and perhaps the best popularizer of free market economics ever. This collection centers around his criticisms of protectionism and defenses of free trade. He takes on all the fallacies of his day, most of which are fallacies of our own day as well. Of particular note is the inclusion of his famous “Petition” from the candle makers and other demanding that sunshine be blocked from entering houses so as to stimulate the economy by forcing people to buy artificial light. That essay is the economics equivalent of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” The case for free trade has perhaps never been better made than here.

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For centuries, hierarchical models dominated human organizations. Kings, warlords, and emperors could rally groups--but also oppress them. Non-hierarchical forms of organization, though, are increasingly defining our lives. It's no secret how this shift has benefited out social lives, including dating, and it's becoming more commonplace even in the corporate world. But it has also now come even to organizations bent on domination rather than human flourishing, as the Islamic State shows. If even destructive groups rely on this form of entrepreneurial organization, then hierarchy's time could truly be coming to an end.
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