How is it that the law permits the state to lawfully engage in actions which, if undertaken by individuals, would land them in jail?
The problem has never been discussed so profoundly and passionately as in this essay by Frederic Bastiat from 1850.
The essay might have been written today.
It applies in ever way to our own time, which is precisely why so many people credit this one essay for showing them the light of liberty.
Bastiat's essay here is time because applies whenever and wherever the state assumes unto itself different rules and different laws from that by which it expects other people to live.
This new edition from the Mises Institute revives a glorious translation that has been out of print for a hundred years, one that circulated in Britain in the generation that followed Bastiat's death.
When the law enforcer is permitted to do with others' lives and property what would be illegal if the citizens did them, the law becomes perverted.
Bastiat doesn't avoid the difficult issues, such as why should we think that a democratic mandate can convert injustice to justice.
He deals directly with the issue of the expanse of legislation: It is not true that the mission of the law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our will, our education, our sentiments, our sentiments, our exchanges, our gifts, our enjoyments.
More from Bastiat's The Law: Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds Government and society.
We object to a State religion - then we would have no religion at all.
We object to an equality which is brought about by the State then we are against equality, etc., etc.
They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State.
How is it that the strange idea of making the law produce what it does not contain - prosperity, in a positive sense, wealth, science, religion - should ever have gained ground in the political world?
Whether you buy one or one hundred, you can look forward to one of the most penetrating and powerful essays written in the history of political economy.