Information about Western Hemisphere Hemisferio Occidental
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Back Matter

Editor(s):
Saíd El-Naggar
Published Date:
June 1996
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Appendix
A Petition from the Candlemakers

Frédéric Bastiat*

From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, Candlesticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from the Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting.

To the Honorable Members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Gentlemen:

You are on the right track. You reject abstract theories and have little regard for abundance and low prices. You concern yourselves mainly with the fate of the producer. You wish to free him from foreign competition, that is, to reserve the domestic market for domestic industry.

We come to offer you a wonderful opportunity for applying your—what shall we call it? Your theory? No, nothing is more deceptive than theory. Your doctrine? Your system? Your principle? But you dislike doctrines, you have a horror of systems, and, as for principles, you deny that there are any in political economy; therefore we shall call it your practice—your practice without theory and without principle.

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly that we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us.1

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s eyes, deadlights, and blinds—in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

Be good enough, honorable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.

First, if you shut off as much as possible all access to natural light, and thereby create a need for artificial light, what industry in France will not ultimately be encouraged?

If France consumes more tallow, there will have to be more cattle and sheep, and, consequently, we shall see an increase in cleared fields, meat, wool, leather, and especially manure, the basis of all agricultural wealth.

If France consumes more oil, we shall see an expansion in the cultivation of the poppy, the olive, and rapeseed. These rich yet soil-exhausting plants will come at just the right time to enable us to put to profitable use the increased fertility that the breeding of cattle will impart to the land.

Our moors will be covered with resinous trees. Numerous swarms of bees will gather from our mountains the perfumed treasures that today waste their fragrance, like the flowers from which they emanate. Thus, there is not one branch of agriculture that would not undergo a great expansion.

The same holds true of shipping. Thousands of vessels will engage in whaling, and in a short time we shall have a fleet capable of upholding the honor of France and of gratifying the patriotic aspirations of the undersigned petitioners, chandlers, etc.

But what shall we say of the specialties of Parisian manufacture? Henceforth you will behold gilding, bronze, and crystal in candlesticks, in lamps, in chandeliers, in candelabra sparkling in spacious emporia compared with which those of today are but stalls.

There is no needy resin-collector on the heights of his sand dunes, no poor miner in the depths of his black pit, who will not receive higher wages and enjoy increased prosperity.

It needs but a little reflection, gentlemen, to be convinced that there is perhaps not one Frenchman, from the wealthy stockholder of the Anzin Company to the humblest vendor of matches, whose condition would not be improved by the success of our petition.

We anticipate your objections, gentlemen; but there is not a single one of them that you have not picked up from the musty old books of the advocates of free trade. We defy you to utter a word against us that will not instantly rebound against yourselves and the principle that guides your entire policy.

Will you tell us that, though we may gain by this protection, France will not gain at all, because the consumer will bear the expense?

We have our answer ready:

You no longer have the right to invoke the interest of the consumer. You have sacrificed him whenever you have found his interests opposed to those of the producer. You have done so in order to encourage industry and to increase employment. For the same reason you ought to do so this time too.

Indeed, you yourselves have anticipated this objection. When told that the consumer has a stake in the free entry of iron, cola, sesame, wheat, and textiles, “Yes,” you reply, “but the producer has a stake in their exclusion.” Very well! Surely if consumers have a stake in the admission of natural light, producers have a stake in its interdiction.

“But,” you may still say, “the producer and the consumer are one and the same person. If the manufacturer profits by protection, he will make the farmer prosperous. Contrariwise, if agriculture is prosperous, it will open markets for manufactured goods.” Very well! If you grant us a monopoly over the production of lighting during the day, first of all we shall buy large amounts of tallow, charcoal, oil, resin, wax, alcohol, silver, iron, bronze, and crystal, to supply our industry; and, moreover, we and our numerous suppliers, having become rich, will consume a great deal and spread prosperity into all areas of domestic industry.

Will you say that the light of the sun is a gratuitous gift of Nature, and that to reject such gifts would be to reject wealth itself under the pretext of encouraging the means of acquiring it?

But if you take this position, you strike a mortal blow at your own policy; remember that up to now you have always excluded foreign goods because and in proportion as they approximate gratuitous gifts. You have only half as good a reason for complying with the demands of other monopolists as you have for granting our petition, which is in complete accord with your established policy; and to reject our demands precisely because they are better founded than anyone else’s would be tantamount to accepting the equation: + x = + -; in other words, it would be to heap absurdity upon absurdity.

Labor and Nature collaborate in varying proportions, depending upon the country and the climate, in the production of a commodity. The part that Nature contributes is always free of charge; it is the part contributed by human labor that constitutes value and is paid for.

If an orange from Lisbon sells for half the price of an orange from Paris, it is because the natural heat of the sun, which is, of course, free of charge, does for the former what the latter owes to artificial heating, which necessarily has to be paid for in the market.

Thus, when an orange reaches us from Portugal, one can say that it is given to us half free of charge, or, in other words, at half price as compared with those from Paris.

Now, it is precisely on the basis of its being semigratuitous (pardon the word) that you maintain it should be barred. You ask: “How can French labor withstand the competition of foreign labor when the former has to do all the work, whereas the latter has to do only half, the sun taking care of the rest?” But if the fact that a product is half free of charge leads you to exclude it from competition, how can its being totally free of charge induce you to admit it into competition? Either you are not consistent, or you should, after excluding what is half free of charge as harmful to our domestic industry, exclude what is totally gratuitous with all the more reason and with twice the zeal.

To take another example: When a product—coal, iron, wheat, or textiles—comes to us from abroad, and when we can acquire it for less labor than if we produced it ourselves, the difference is a gratuitous gift that is conferred upon us. The size of this gift is proportionate to the extent of this difference. It is a quarter, a half, or three-quarters of the value of the product if the foreigner asks of us only three-quarters, one-half, or one-quarter as high a price. It is as complete as it can be when the donor, like the sun in providing us with light, asks nothing from us. The question, and we pose it formally, is whether what you desire for France is the benefit of consumption free of charge or the alleged advantages of onerous production. Make your choice, but be logical; for as long as you ban, as you do, foreign coal, iron, wheat, and textiles, in proportion as their price approaches zero, how inconsistent it would be to admit the light of the sun, whose price is zero all day long!

*A French political economist and a brilliant satirist who wrote extensively in the first half of the nineteenth century showing the absurdity of protectionist arguments. The “Petition” illustrates his masterly technique. It has become a classic in the history of economic thought. Reprinted from Frédéric Bastiat, “A Petition,” in Economic Sophisms, translated and edited by Arthur Goddard (Princeton, New Jersey: D. Van Nostrand, 1964); copyright 1964 by the William Volker Fund.
1[“Perfidious Albion” is England, along with a typically French jibe at the English fog, which keeps the sun from interfering with artificial light in England as much as it does in France. During the 1840s, Franco-English relations were occasionally very tense.—TRANSLATOR.]

List of Participants*

Moderator

Said El-Naggar

Professor of Economics, Cairo University

Cairo, Egypt

Authors

Paul Chabrier

Director, Middle Eastern Department

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Rupa Chanda

Economist, Policy Development and Review Department

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Mohamed A. El-Erian

Deputy Director, Middle Eastern Department

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Ian Goldin

Senior Economist, World Bank

Washington, D.C.

Bernard Hoekman

Trade Economist, World Bank

Washington, D.C.

Mylène Kherallah

Consultant, World Bank

Washington, D.C.

Naheed Kirmani

Chief, Trade Policy Division

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Rakia Moalla-Fetini

Economist, Middle Eastern Department

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Carlos A. Primo Braga

Senior Economist, World Bank

Washington, D.C.

Jesus Seade

Deputy Director-General

World Trade Organization

Geneva, Switzerland

Clinton Shiells

Economist, Policy Development and Review Department

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Jamel Zarrouk

Senior Economist

Arab Monetary Fund

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Participants

Fahed Al-Ibraheem

Acting Managing Director

Kuwait Investment Authority

Kuwait

Mohammed Al-Jasser

Executive Director

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Ali Al-Khalaf

Director, Economic Affairs

Ministry of Finance and Economy

Doha, Qatar

LIST OF PARTICIPANTS

Faisal Ali-Khaled

Executive Director

World Bank

Washington, D.C.

Jassim Al-Kumar

Director, Economic Department

Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries

Kuwait

Abdraouf Al-Mubarak

Undersecretary, Ministry of Economy and Commerce

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Hasan Ali Al-Nusif

Undersecretary, Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture

Manama, Bahrain

Abdalla Al-Qwaiz

Undersecretary, Economic Affairs

Gulf Cooperation Council

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Ibraheem A. Al-Sadoun

Legal Department, Directorate of Customs

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Ratib Al-Shallah

Chairman, Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Mustafa Al-Shimali

Undersecretary, Economic Affairs

Ministry of Finance

Kuwait

Amer Al-Tameemi

Chairman, Kuwait Economic Society

Kuwait

Suliman Al-Turki

Advisor, Ministry of Finance

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Ali Attiga

Amman, Jordan

Muncif Batti

Permanent Mission of Tunisia

Geneva, Switzerland

Hicham Bissat

Regional Manager, Arab Bank

Beirut, Lebanon

Hanaa A. Kheir El-Din

Head, Economics Department

Cairo University

Cairo, Egypt

Heba Handousa

Executive Manager, FRF

Cairo, Egypt

Mamoun I. Hassan

Director-General, Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation

Kuwait

Mohsen Helal

Commercial Counsellor

Embassy of Egypt

Vienna, Austria

Taher Kanaan

Industrial Development Bank

Amman, Jordan

Abdel-Kader Lecheheb

Permanent Mission of Morocco

Geneva, Switzerland

Samir Maqdisi

Deputy President, AUB

Beirut, Lebanon

A. Shakour Shaalan

Executive Director

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C.

Mohamed Siala

Secretary, Executive Committee

Export Promotion Board

Tripoli, Libya

Khaldoun Th. Talhouni

Permanent Mission of Jordan

Geneva, Switzerland

Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development

Abdelatif Y. Al-Hamad

Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Directors

Omar Al-Noss

Hussein Amach

Mervat Badawi

Ismail El-Zabri

Sameeh Masoud

Abdulhameed Zagallai

Arab Monetary Fund

Jassem Al-Mannai

Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Directors

Samir Abyiad

Faris Bin Jaradi

Jamal Zarrouk

International Monetary Fund

Ahmed Abushadi

Mohammed Al-Jasser

Paul Chabrier Rupa Chanda

Mohamed A. El-Erian

Naheed Kirmani

Rakia Moalla-Fetini

A. Shakour Shaalan

Clinton Shiells

World Bank

Faisal Al-Khaled

Ian Goldin

Bernard Hoekman

Mylène Kherallah

Carlos A. Primo Braga

World Trade Organization

Jesus Seade

* The titles and affiliations listed are those held at the time of the seminar (January 1995).

Glossary

ACP

African, Caribbean, and Pacific

AMU

Arab Maghreb Union

APEC

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

CAP

Common Agricultural Policy (of the European Union)

c.i.f.

Cost, insurance, and freight

DSB

Dispute Settlement Body (of the WTO)

EEP

Export Enhancement Program (U.S.)

EFTA

European Free Trade Association

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

f.o.b.

Free on board

GATS

General Agreement on Trade in Services

GATT

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

GCC

Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (Gulf Cooperation Council)

GSP

Generalized System of Preferences

Maghreb countries

Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia

Mashreq countries

Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Syrian Arab Republic

MFA

Multifibre Arrangement (Arrangement Regarding International Trade in Textiles)

MFN

Most-favored-nation

NAFTA

North American Free Trade Agreement

n.e.s.

Not elsewhere specified

OECD

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

OMA

Orderly marketing arrangement

OPEC

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries

TPRB

Trade Policies Review Body (of the WTO)

TPRM

Trade Policy Review Mechanism (of the WTO)

TRIM

Trade-related investment measure

TRIP

Trade-related intellectual property right

UNCTAD

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

VER

Voluntary export restraint

VIE

Voluntary import expansion

WTO

World Trade Organization

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