Bastiat's statement is easily applicable to the concept of opportunity cost. The difference between the economist and the non-economist is that the economist will take into account the opportunity cost in the decision-making process. As in one comment I made, there are countless of arguments for policing or regulating markets because they are imperfect, they aren't like the textbook perfectly competitive market. Because, there are opportunity costs in trying to make markets resemble the perfectly competitive markets. A quote I often use is the one by Ronald Coase criticizing the use of the perfectly competitive market as a benchmark for regulating markets (fixing those market failures): "Until we realize that we are choosing between social arrangements, which are all more or less failures, we are not likely to make much headway" (1969). The perfectly competitive market model is a useful model to study why market fails, why you have profits, why you have losses, etc. But it's a very poor tool to be used for normative purposes. This is what Harold Demsetz called the Nirvana Fallacy.
To follow up on a post I read quoting the Naked Economics's author Wheelan, what Wheelan doesn't mention at least in the quotes is that economists and market participants are well-aware of these asymmetric information problems but as Kenneth Arrow mentioned in the postscript of his first article discussion asymmetric information (moral hazard) and healthcare, there are many market institutions that have emerged and been developed to mitigate these problems. Akerlof also points to these mechanisms such as warranties and certifications to mitigate the problems associated with adverse selection. Myself when I buy an used book online, sometimes in another country, I know that the seller might lie about the book condition or might not even mail me the book after I enter my credit card number but there are market mechanisms that I can use to prevent this. I can read the previous customers ratings and reviews.
And even if these mechanisms were absent, one should wonder what the government can do better that markets can't (I encourage you to read that opinion piece by Gary Becker from the WSJ from early september here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904199404576536930606933332.html).
If market fails because human beings are faillible individuals with asymmetric information problem, why government will not where markets have. Governments also consist of faillible human beings. To quote Milton Friedman, because governments also fail, often the solutions that the government provide to these market problems tend make the problems worse than the problem itself and even if they didn't (which is extremely rare), there are opportunity costs. How significant is the problem and what is the opportunity cost of fixing the problem. I mentioned in a previous comment about the sustainability issue and global warming. There is indeed global warming but how significant is it? What will be the benefits of slowing down global warming? What are the costs? But more importantly what are the opportunity costs of slowing down global warming? The millions of dollars that could be used to rely on geo-engineering to send into the atmosphere SO2 to cool down earth could be used in other alternative uses such as R&D on drugs to cure cancer or a HIV.
I also want to follow up on a comment about opportunity cost and the impact of innovation and globalization. Innovation is largely the results of the specialization process, the division of knowledge and accompanying increase in productivity & economies of scale allowing the lowering costs of production. Similarly, globalization which is nothing more than the increasing interdependence between individuals, firms, regions, nations resulting from the fact that trade allowed people to specialize where they have a comparative advantage. But, if anything, with the increasing specialization, division of labor and knowledge, more markets have emerged (you have markets for dog walkers, wedding planners, house sitters, etc) where people can specialize themselves where they have a comparative advantage thus lowering the costs of goods and services produced because specialization has allowed for that by increasing productivity, having economies of scale, innovation, and thus lowering cost of production. So the results of this increasing interdependence between people, firms, regions, and nations also increased the opportunity cost for one not to rely on his/her neighbors to get the goods or services is not providing. The time that it will take to any of us to assemble an iPhone compare to the time it takes a Chinese worker to do so would be better use developing new models, new technologies, new drugs, etc. Similarly, the time it would take a Chinese worker to develop a new drug (U.S. is among the top developer of pharmaceutical drugs) could be spend assembling hundreds if not thousands of iPhones.
Now because of this increasing opportunity cost associated with specialization and the ensuing globalization, we are indeed more dependent of our neighbors. As a student in my class asked me this morning, is this a bad thing. The answer is while we are engaging in trade with our neighbors, we are not waging war against them. I believe (my opinion) that's why Mises relabeled Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantages, the Law of Association. Trade allows for division of labor and knowledge, which allows us to specialize where we have a comparative advantage and rely on our neighbors to get the goods and services we are not producing and them to rely on us to get what they can't produce. But ultimately, trade and division of labor and knowledge allow for us to associate ourselves with people we share little with only the desires to get goods and services they produce but this association is peaceful because they want the same from us. Ultimately, everybody is better off (some more than others but that's not what matters. What matters is that everybody wins). Trade and Specialization lead to peace and where there is no trade, often there is poverty and often it leads to plunder.
To conclude, I reiterate what I say at the beginning. The difference between an economist and a non-economist is that the economist (at least good ones) understands that "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch!" Even a free lunch has an opportunity cost!