Protection For Candle Makers

In response to the spread of protectionism, the French economist Frederic Bastiat (1801-1851) wrote the following fictitious petition, in which French candle makers ask for protection from “unfair” competition:

"We are suffering from the intolerable competition of a foreign rival, placed, it would seem, it a condition so far superior to ours for the production of light, that he absolutely inundates our national market at a price fabulously reduced. The moment he shows himself, our trade leaves us—all of our customers apply to him; and a branch of native industry, having countless ramifications, is all at once rendered completely stagnant. This rival…is none other than the sun.

"What we pray for is, that it may please you to pass a law ordering the shutting up of all windows, sky-lights, dormerwindows, curtains, blinds, bull’s eyes; in a word all openings, holes, chinks, clefts, and fissures, by or through which the light of the sun has been in use to enter houses, to the prejudice of the meritorious manufactures with which we…have accommodated our country—a country which, in gratitude, ought not to abandon us now.

"Does it not argue to the greatest inconsistency to check as you do the importation of coal, iron, cheese, and goods of foreign manufacture, merely because…their price approaches zero, while at the same time you freely admit, and without limitation, the light of the sun, whose price is during the whole day at zero?"

As printed in Microeconomics: Principles and Tools, O’Sullivan and Sheffrin

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