What is Seen and What is Unseen is a part of both the Free Man’s Reading List and the Dark Enlightenment Reading List. It was written in the early 1800s by a Frenchman, Frederic Bastiat.
The writing is solid and moderately engaging, but nothing spectacular.
It’s a rather short book at less than 50 pages, but it gets its main point, that government spending and government debt have unseen negative consequences and you should be aware of unintended consequences when making policy, quite well. Essentially, it is a debunking on Keynesian BS from over a century before Keynesian BS existed. While reading the book, I couldn’t help like feeling Bastiat was intellectually bitch-slapping Paul Krugman from beyond the grave.
Given the age of the book, most of the arguments are well known on the right or among those with some economic knowledge, so if you’re knoweldgable about economics you might already know most of these arguments, such as the broken window parable, for which the book is known. To simplify the parable, a broken window does not lead to economic gains, as the person spending money to replace the window may be employing the glazier, but the tailor/printer is losing out as her is not buying a new book or new clothes.
But even if you know most of it, the most fascinating thing about this book is how little has changed in two hundred years. How can you not read this and think of the intellectual whores like Krugman:
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it…
Or this, and think of every idiot socialist:
Our adversaries consider, that an activity which is neither aided by supplies, nor regulated by Government, is an activity destroyed. We think just the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in mankind; ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.
Or this and think of the Fed:
Whatever may be the amount of cash and of paper which is in circulation, the whole of the borrowers cannot receive more ploughs, houses, tools, and supplies of raw material, than the lenders altogether can furnish; for we must take care not to forget, that every borrower supposes a lender, and that what is once borrowed implies a loan.
Anyway, the greatest thing about this book is seeing how retarded economic ideas parroted by the ignorant and blind were intellectually destroyed two centuries ago by an economist most people have enver even heard of. Then you feel somewhat sad that mentally enfeebled will still gain traction with their debunked arguments.
I would strongly recommend reading What is Seen and What is Unseen. It’s a short, quick guide to basic economic reasoning that demolishes Keynesian arguments.
The only reason not to read this book, is if you are reading another Austrian economics book that is more in-depth. For example, I have started reading Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, and most of the subject matter of What is Seen and What is Unseen has been covered in the first few chapters of Hazlitt’s book.
But even then, the enjoyment of watching modern idiots being thrashed by some unknown Frenchman 150 years dead may make it worth your while.
Note: I am now moving onto Boston’s Gun Bible and Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, if anyone is trying to read along with me.
July 7th, 2013 at 10:43
Economics in one lesson is a Masterpiece. It’s cheap enough to hand out to any friends you think would enjoy it.
July 7th, 2013 at 17:22
Interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for them.
July 10th, 2013 at 21:52
Our Liberty Book Discussion Group just did Econ In One Lesson a few months ago. Had a TCU Econ professor take us through it. You’re in for a great read. Seen & Unseen is also pure, undiluted greatness. Have fun, sir !!!
August 30th, 2013 at 00:03
[…] if you’ve read What is Seen and What is Unseen, most of that book’s argument are also addressed here. If you read EON, it would be […]
January 11th, 2014 at 05:20
Keynesian BS? Have you even read the General Theory or studied a macro 101 textbook? Do you even know what you are talking about?
To enlighten you a tiny bit (of course this is pointless as you explicitly state you wanna undo the enlightenment), counter-cyclical fiscal policy has nothing to do with the size of the state. You can very well be a proponent of fiscal policy (which is necessary right now as monetary policy has limited traction at the zero lower bound) and a proponent of a small state. Why? Because countercyclical fiscal policy implies temporarily higher public spending in recessions and temporary lower public spending in booms and says nothing about AVERAGE public spending.
Get some fucking economic education before you talk about stuff which you have no idea about