Who Owns The Negative Railroad?

“Railroad crossing” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

I first came across the work of Frédéric Bastiat in Robert Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers, a readable survey of the major economic thinkers, in which Bastiat plays a minor role. I was attracted by Bastiat’s deft use of the reductio ad absurdum, as in his story of a hypothetical “negative railroad,” which is (de)constructed by a series of limitations meant to stimulate trade, but which wind up destroying it instead. It goes…