Words of wisdom

What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen**1

In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if weforesee them.
There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.
Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.
The same thing, of course, is true of health and morals. Often, the sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter are its later fruits: for example, debauchery, sloth, prodigality. When a man is impressed by the effect that is seen and has not yet learned to discern the effects that are not seen, he indulges in deplorable habits, not only through natural inclination, but deliberately.

This explains man’s necessarily painful evolution. Ignorance surrounds him at his cradle; therefore, he regulates his acts according to their first consequences, the only ones that, in his infancy, he can see. It is only after a long time that he learns to take account of the others.**2 Two very different masters teach him this lesson: experience and foresight. Experience teaches efficaciously but brutally. It instructs us in all the effects of an act by making us feel them, and we cannot fail to learn eventually, from having been burned ourselves, that fire burns. I should prefer, in so far as possible, to replace this rude teacher with one more gentle: foresight. For that reason I shall investigate the consequences of several economic phenomena, contrasting those that are seen with those that are not seen.

Frederic Bastiat


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2 Responses to “Words of wisdom”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ah-ha! My sweet friend, Wisdom.

    True Wisdom
    By Michael Sage

    True wisdom is not when we judge or ridicule one another,
    As none of us are better than one from the other.

    True wisdom is not all the facts that you think you know,
    Every time you open your mouth for the entire world to show.

    True wisdom is not your version and the opinions you convey,
    But rather tolerance, acceptance and understanding is the way.

    True wisdom is usually conspicuous through silent interaction,
    And shown by the deeds that you continually put into action!

    Words of Wisdom
    by Anonymous

    Carefully watch your thoughts
    for they become your words.
    Manage and watch your words
    for they will become your actions.
    Consider and judge your actions
    for they will become your habits.
    Acknowledge and watch your habits
    for they shall become your character.
    Understand and embrace your character
    for it becomes your destiny and your dreams.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh so true Gordon. Your philosophy is my enlightenment.

    Humble one

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