One of his most important essays was “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.” Here Bastiat explains that we must evaluate an action not just by looking at the immediate – or seen – effects. We must also examine the subsequent – or unseen – effects from the action.
This, he notes, is the difference between a good economist and a bad economist: “the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen and also of those which it is necessary to foresee.” We witness this frequently in the political world. Politicians love to gain votes by supporting laws that seem to be beneficial one group or another. They rarely worry about the future consequences of their actions, knowing they’ll be gone when it comes time to pay the piper.
Let’s face it, though, we can see the same thing right within our own homes. If we use a credit card to go on a fantastic family vacation, we might be paying for it for years to come. Every year millions of people take on a huge debt burden buying Christmas gifts for everyone on their lists. Some are probably still paying it off when the next Christmas comes around. It can be easy to whip out a credit card in the heat of the moment, but we need to look ahead and see what the long term effects of that swipe will be.
When it comes to raising children, the same principle applies. Sometimes it is easier for me to just clean up a mess than to corral my kids and get them to finish the job. The seen effect of me doing the work is that the mess gets cleaned up more quickly. The unseen effect is that I’ve missed the chance to teach my children to clean up after themselves … thus ensuring future messes left for me.
Whether dealing with economics, politics, or home life, considering the unseen effects of an action can save a lot of problems down the road.
Colleen Hroncich loves that homeschooling allows her to learn right alongside her children. A published author and former policy analyst, Colleen’s favorite subjects are economics/public policy and history. She has been active in several homeschool co-ops and is a speech and debate coach.