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May 3, 2011 / 74

A Series of Effects

“A Series of Effects

In the economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause – it is seen. The others unfold in succession – they are not seen: it is well for us if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference – the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen and also of those which is it necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

Claude Frédéric Bastiat – 1850 (P 1 of “The Bastiat Collection” 2nd edition.)

(Emphasis added)

It would seem that not only did Monsieur Bastiat foresee our present economists – but that he knew their type rather well – thus our present great evils.

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