Powerful 19th Century Essay

Happy July 4th!

The enlightening book, “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Taleb,



introduced me to what I found to be an interesting 17th Century essay by Bastiat, Frédéric, “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.”

To me this essay helped me find better ways to plan to practice paneugenesis, that is create all good by creating interaction so everyone and everything benefits.


What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen**1


In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if weforesee them.


There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must beforeseen.


Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.


The same thing, of course, is true of health and morals. Often, the sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter are its later fruits: for example, debauchery, sloth, prodigality. When a man is impressed by the effect that is seen and has not yet learned to discern the effects that are not seen, he indulges in deplorable habits, not only through natural inclination, but deliberately.


This explains man’s necessarily painful evolution. Ignorance surrounds him at his cradle; therefore, he regulates his acts according to their first consequences, the only ones that, in his infancy, he can see. It is only after a long time that he learns to take account of the others.**2 Two very different masters teach him this lesson: experience and foresight. Experience teaches efficaciously but brutally. It instructs us in all the effects of an act by making us feel them, and we cannot fail to learn eventually, from having been burned ourselves, that fire burns. I should prefer, in so far as possible, to replace this rude teacher with one more gentle: foresight. For that reason I shall investigate the consequences of several economic phenomena, contrasting those that are seen with those that are not seen.


Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

I look forward to hearing about how you use selfish, selfless, synergy to Create All Good by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits!

3 thoughts on “Powerful 19th Century Essay

  1. Although I understand what this is saying, here is another way to look at it. Sometimes the unknown experience is the most important one to have. Going into something with no real foresight as to what will happen gives you the true lesson and the experience of achieving on your own will and instinct, or on the other hand, failing due to your own will and instinct. The failure, however, can not always be bad, in fact, it may be the biggest lesson you learn and you will then proceed and understand with greater depth for the next time you go into the experience. This is turn also allows to see the whole, from failure to success, giving you that ultimate feeling of achievement when your goal is accomplished.


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