What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

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Frederic Bastiat had a brief, extremely productive career as an economist. He began writing in earnest in 1844 and died of tuberculosis in 1850 at the age of 49. 1850 was also the year that his most famous essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen,” was published. Laissez Faire Books’ current volume combines this essay with the two books that make up his other classic, Economic Sophisms.

The key to Bastiat’s reputation and his enduring readability is his clarity of style and mastery of the astute literary example.

In “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen,” Bastiat immediately focuses on the thing to be explained in economics. That could be “an act, a habit, an institution, a law.” Then he directly demonstrates its indirect consequences.

The job of the economist, Bastiat insists, is to consider all the effects, not merely the first. Anyone can see the obvious. The good economist takes notice of the unseen.

Author: Frederic Bastiat