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Bastiat's Law

Author

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  • Lane Georges

    (Université Paris IX Dauphine)

Abstract

In 1850, Bastiat outlined the original notion of mans aversion to uncertainty and used it to explain why people freely associated or cooperated in the world of uncertainty where they lived. He dealt with two special instances of association, mutual insurance and wage system. His analysis, which can be termed Bastiats law of association, has been evicted by economists and is unknown by most of them today.Several decades before Bastiat, Ricardo had already expounded an explanation of association, but within a theoretical framework of certainty, and founded it on the notion of labor cost. Contrary to Bastiats law, Ricardos law has always been well known by economists.The article does not only describe Bastiats law but also shows that it is both coherent with Ricardos law and even more general since it includes it. Finally, it is claimed that Bastiats law heralded what will happen in the second half of the twentieth century: from 1950s, the aversion to uncertainty will become a theoretical economic notion widely used; from 1970s, the theory of organizations/associations will be developed within an explicit context of uncertainty.En 1850, Bastiat a délimité le concept original daversion de la personne pour lincertitude et sen est servi pour expliquer la libre association ou coopération des gens dans le monde dincertitu- de où ils vivent. Il sest intéressé à deux exemples particuliers dassociation, lassurance mutuelle et le salariat. Force est de constater que son analyse, quon dénommera loi de Bastiat, a été mise de côté par les économistes et quaujourdhui elle est inconnue de la plupart dentre eux.Plusieurs décennies avant Bastiat, Ricardo avait déjà proposé une explication de lassociation, mais dans un cadre théorique de certitude, et lavait bâtie sur la notion de coût du travail. Contrairement à la loi de Bastiat, la loi de Ricardo a toujours été bien connue des économistes.Non seulement, larticle présente la loi de Bastiat, mais encore il montre quelle est à la fois compatible avec la loi de Ricardo et plus générale puisquelle linclut. Il revendique enfin que la loi de Bastiat a annoncé ce qui va arriver dans la seconde moitié du vingtième siècle: à partir de la décennie 1950, laversion pour lincertitude va devenir une notion de théorie économique largement employée et à partir de la décennie 1970, la théorie des organisations/associations sera développée dans un contexte dincertitude explicite.

Suggested Citation

  • Lane Georges, 2001. "Bastiat's Law," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 11(2), pages 1-38, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:11:y:2001:i:2:n:12
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