Daniel Kuehn: Facts & other stubborn things: Making predictions is difficult, particularly about the future: “Bob Murphy has an interesting comment….

“If Bastiat came back today, I am not saying he would call himself an anarcho-capitalist, but I’m pretty sure he would not be a ‘liberal’ in the way Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow use the term.”…

I am of course not claiming that libertarians don’t have a claim to the word “liberal”. They clearly do…. Bastiat–a liberal in his own time–would be a libertarian today…. I have no dispute with Bob about that…

Well, Daniel may not dispute, but I do!

Read the whole thing, and you find passages like:

Frederic Bastiat:

[O]ften, nearly always if you will, the government official [who receives his salary and] renders an equivalent service to Jacques Bonhomme. In this case there is… only an exchange…. When Jacques Bonhomme gives a hundred sous to a government official for a really useful service, this is exactly the same as when he gives a hundred sous to a shoemaker for a pair of shoes. It’s a case of give-and-take, and the score is even…

Frederic Bastiat:

There is an article in the Constitution which states: “Society assists and encourages the development of labor…. through the establishment by the state, the departments, and the municipalities, of appropriate public works to employ idle hands.” As a temporary measure in a time of crisis, during a severe winter, this intervention on the part of the taxpayer could have good effects… as insurance. It adds nothing to the number of jobs nor to total wages, but it takes labor and wages from ordinary times and doles them out, at a loss it is true, in difficult times…

Frederic Bastiat:

Jacques Bonhomme has sweated to earn his hundred-sou piece…. The tax intervenes to take this satisfaction away from him and give it to someone else…. [I]t is up to those who levy the tax to give some good reasons for it…. If the state says to him: “I shall take a hundred sous from you to pay the policemen who relieve you of the necessity for guarding your own security, to pave the street you traverse every day, to pay the magistrate who sees to it that your property and your liberty are respected, to feed the soldier who defends our frontiers,” Jacques Bonhomme will pay without saying a word…

Frederic Bastiat:

[L]ast year I was… told…. “A certain amount of ostentation in the ministerial and diplomatic salons is part of the machinery of constitutional governments, etc., etc…” Whether or not such arguments can be controverted, they certainly deserve serious scrutiny. They are based on the public interest, rightly or wrongly estimated; and, personally, I can make more of a case for them than many of our Catos, moved by a narrow spirit of niggardliness or jealousy…

Frederic Bastiat:

Should the state subsidize the arts?… [A]rts broaden, elevate, and poetize the soul of a nation; that they draw it away from material preoccupations, giving it a feeling for the beautiful, and thus react favorably on its manners, its customs, its morals, and even on its industry. One can ask where music would be in France without the Théâtre-Italien and the Conservatory; dramatic art without the Théâtre-Français…. To these reasons and many others, whose power I do not contest, one can oppose many no less cogent…. Do the rights of the legislator go so far as to allow him to dip into the wages of the artisan in order to supplement the profits of the artist?… I confess that I am one of those who think that the choice… should come from below, not from above, from the citizens, not from the legislator…

Frederic Bastiat is a very good economist. He is very concerned with properly analyzing things in general equilibrium–in making sure to include distant and indirect but inevitable consequences of policies as well as immediate and obvious ones in his benefit-cost analyses. But for Bastiat the question to be answered is: is the market or the government more likely to perform this mission most efficiently?

Frederic Bastiat is a liberal in the modern sense–concerned with positive as much as negative liberty, as eager to use government to boost people’s power to accomplish their purposes (when it can effectively do so) as to preserve individuals’ freedom of action from pointless regulatory meddling.