Frederic Bastiat: Public Choice Theorist

15 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2019

See all articles by Jon Murphy

Jon Murphy

Western Carolina University

Date Written: February 28, 2019


Frederic Bastiat is best known for his popularizing of economic ideas in pamphlets like That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, The Law, and The State, as well as his books Economic Sophisms and Economic Harmonies. However, he was also an economic theorist, a fact that gets lost in the midst of his fiery pamphlets. Examining his correspondences and early political and economic writing, I show how he began developing public choice insights into rent seeking, voter rationality, and the behavior of legislators that would anticipate scholarship that would come a century later.

Keywords: Frederic Bastiat, Public Choice, James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Voter Rationality, Rent-Seeking

JEL Classification: B12, B31, N43

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Jonathan, Frederic Bastiat: Public Choice Theorist (February 28, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Murphy (Contact Author)

Western Carolina University ( email )

1 University Way
Cullowhee, NC 28723
United States

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