Do you really believe that your elected officials are acting in your interest? Do you really believe that when they tax you, when they offer up protectionist measures, when they bail out financial institutions, when they fund schools that teach cinema majors but cut nursing programs, etc. that these are programs working in your benefit? And do you also believe that your politicians honestly hope that you become better represented by the political process? And do you believe that if you were, in fact, the politicians, that your interests would be no better served than they are today?
Bastiat wrote elegantly on this idea 160 years ago. In his chapter on “Artisans and Workmen” in Economic Sophisms, he writes:
Great God in heaven! They must have been in very good humor that day! What! The capitalists made the law; they instituted the policy of protectionism, and they did it so that you workers might profit at their expense!II.6.73
But here is what is even more extraordinary.II.6.74
How does it happen that your self-styled friends, who talk to you so much about the goodness, the generosity, and the self-sacrifice of the capitalists, never cease to commiserate with you on the fact that you are deprived of your political rights? From their point of view, what could you do with them even if you enjoyed them? The capitalists have a monopoly on legislation; that is true.29* Thanks to this monopoly, they have conferred upon themselves a monopoly on iron, cloth, textiles, coal, wood, and meat—that is also true. But your self-styled friends tell you that by doing this the capitalists have impoverished themselves, without being under any obligation to do so, in order to enrich you, without your having any right to be rich! Surely, if you were voters and deputies, you could not manage your affairs better; indeed, you could not manage them so well.II.6.75
If the currently prevailing industrial organization has been designed with your interests in view, then it is perfidious to demand political rights on your behalf; for these new-fangled democrats will never escape the following dilemma: the law, as made by the middle classes, either gives you more, or it gives you less, than your natural wages. If it gives you less, they are deceiving you by inviting you to support it. If it gives you more, they are still deceiving you by urging you to demand political rights, when the middle classes are making sacrifices for you that you, in all honesty, would not dare to vote for yourselves.II.6.76
Workers, God forbid that this tract should have the effect of sowing in your hearts any seeds of resentment against the wealthy classes! If self-interest, whether badly understood or genuinely alarmed, is still the mainstay of monopoly, let us not forget that it has its roots in errors common to both capitalists and workers. Thus, rather than incite them against one another, let us strive to draw them together. And what do we need to do to achieve this end? If it is true that natural social tendencies are conducive to the elimination of inequalities among men, we need only allow these tendencies to operate, remove the artificial obstacles that interfere with their effectiveness, and let the relations among the various classes be based upon justice, which is indistinguishable, at least in my mind, from the principle of freedom .30*