Frederic Bastiat’s Senseless Perception Of Production

In the course of economics I’ve come across some really weird and senseless statements by some people. One of those people is Frederic Bastiat, who makes this odd and incorrect statement where he claims that if a man were to live by himself off the land, he would be all the positions within production.

“The economic laws operate in a uniform manner, whether we are dealing with a totality of lonely persons or with only two persons, or with a single individual, obliged by circumstances to live in isolation. If the individual could live for a period in isolation, this individual would simultaneously be a capitalist, an entrepreneur, a worker, a producer, and a consumer. The entire economic evolution would be realised in him. By reason of his opportunity to observe every step in this evolution, namely: the need, the effort, the satisfaction of the need, enjoying the free use of profit of labour, he would be able to form an idea of the entire mechanism, even though it might be in its simplest form.”

This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, there is no realization of all production inside of him. Literally all these (capitalist, an entrepreneur, a worker, a producer, and a consumer) are titles one holds in relation to another person. You cannot be a capitalist if there is no worker. You simply cannot employ someone else in the means of production where there is no one else. Capitalist and worker is a relationship between to people in production. It can’t exist without at least two people existing.

Similarly this goes for entrepreneur as well. “Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to help launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome.” (Wikipedia) there is no venture of creating and taking to the market place if there is no market place to go to. There is no venture because that implies producing and selling. There is no selling taking place because no one is purchasing it.

So what is the purpose of this statement by Frederic Bastiat? Simple, it is intended portray the capitalist relations of production and the corresponding economic system as natural, when it is clearly not. It takes the entire productive process and claims that it is the same thing when a single individual produces for himself. That way when it is expanded into a system of millions of people the relations are the same and still supposedly as natural. Regardless of the fact that social forces come into play that completely alter the situation (i.e. different levels of poverty in different geographical locations).