In an 1850 essay, French economist Frédéric Bastiat distinguishes between seen and unseen economic forces. He argues that “in the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects”. And that we too frequently focus too much on the visible effects, and too little on the unseen series of effects that follow.

Bastiat warns against pursuing “a small present good”, as this often means we face larger problems in the future. He recommends the more difficult and courageous path of suffering a “small present evil” to achieve “a great good to come”. ..

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