What is the candle maker's petition?

By Andrew Beattie AAA
A:

The "Candle Maker's Petition" is a satire of protectionist tariffs written the by great French economist, Frederic Bastiat. In many ways, it expanded on the free market argument against mercantilism set forth by Adam Smith, but Bastiat's target was government tariffs that were levied to protect domestic industries from competition. In Bastiat's "Candle Maker's Petition", all the people involved in the French lighting industry, including "the manufacturers of candles, tapers, lanterns, sticks, street lamps, snuffers and extinguishers, and from producers of tallow, oil, resin, alcohol, and generally of everything connected with lighting" call upon the French government to take protective action against the unfair competition of the sun.

They argue that forcing people to close "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" will lead to a higher consumption of candles and related products. In turn, they reason, the industries that those in the lighting industry depend on for materials will have greater sales, as will their dependent suppliers, and so on until everyone is better off without the sun.

This satirical essay suggests that forcing people to pay for something when a free alternative is available is often a waste of resources. In this case, the money that people spend on additional lighting products would indeed boost profit for candle makers, but because this expenditure is not required, it is wasteful, and diverts money from other products. Rather than producing wealth, instituting the candle maker's petition would lower overall disposable income by needlessly raising everyone's costs.

Similarly, using tariffs to force people to pay more for the domestic goods when cheaper foreign imports are available allows domestic producers to survive natural competition, but costs everyone as a whole. Additionally, the money put into an uncompetitive company would be more efficiently placed into an industry where domestic companies have a competitive advantage. (To learn more about the theories that have shaped economics, read The History Of Economic Thought.)

RELATED FAQS

  1. What methods can the government use to control inflation?

    Find out what inflation is, what a government can do to control it, and how the results of those actions help or hurt the ...
  2. What special powers does the government have to collect student loans?

    Contact student loan companies before student loans default, as the government has the power to get its money. Prior to default, ...
  3. Who regulates a credit rating agency?

    Find out how American and international regulators interact with Credit Rating Agencies, and learn about the rules adopted ...
  4. What are the main reasons for why there could be a negative gross profit margin and ...

    Find out how to calculate a company's gross profit margin, why a firm might experience a negative margin and how to interpret ...
RELATED TERMS
  1. Administrative Order On Consent (AOC)

    An agreement between an individual or business and a regulatory ...
  2. Licensed For Reinsurance Only

    A license that allows a company to engage in services related ...
  3. Insurance Regulatory Information System (IRIS)

    A collection of databases and tools used to analyze the financial ...
  4. Financing Entity

    The party in a financing arrangement that provides money, property, ...
  5. File-And-Use Rating Laws

    Insurance regulations allowing an insurance company to use new ...
  6. Advance Dividend

    An estimate of the present value of an asset being liquidated ...

You May Also Like

Related Articles
  1. Investigate these expat havens if you seek a developed country with low barriers for getting a permanent resident visa – sometimes even citizenship.
    Personal Finance

    5 Developed Countries That Welcome Expats

  2. Some countries put up very high barriers for foreigners to get citizenship
    Personal Finance

    5 Countries Where It's Hardest To Become ...

  3. There are many ways to rank the word's most powerful companies. Looking at market value, brand value or sales revenue are all methods used to rank the biggest companies in the world.
    Economics

    Most Powerful And Influential Public ...

  4. Depending on their parents, people not born in the U.S. either inherit U.S. citizenship or need to achieve it. Here are the steps to become an American.
    Personal Finance

    How To Become A U.S. Citizen

  5. A look at China's plan to control population growth and how it could change going forward.
    Economics

    China's One-Child Policy Explained

Trading Center