The Law

The Law

by Frédéric Bastiat

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.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Politics
  • Rating: 4.39
  • Pages: 61
  • Publish Date: June 30th 2011 by Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • Isbn10: 1933550147
  • Isbn13: 9781933550145

Read the Book "The Law" Online

A few interesting quotes: "The mission of law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even thought the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit. In this matter of education, the law has only two alternatives: It can permit this transaction of teaching-and-learning to operate freely and without the use of force, or it can force human wills in this matter by taking from some of them enough to pay the teachers who are appointed by government to instruct others, without charge. But in the second case, the law commits legal plunder by violating liberty and property." "As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose--that it may violate property instead of protecting it--then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder." This book is right up there with The Road to Serfdom as a seminal work of limited government.

Socialists, like all other monopolists, desire to make the law their own weapon. The newly enfranchised majority has decided to formulate law on the same principle of legal plunder that was used by their predecessors when the vote was limited.

While I agree with Bastiat entirely, the way that he has presented "the classic blueprint for a just society," is exactly why people who lean more towards socialist ideas scoff at those who are for capitalism, economic stability, and most importantly honoring the fundamentals of the need for law: to protect life, liberty, and property. "Yes!" I kept telling myself, "this is definitely true." Unfortunately the truth was told, in this case, in a way that I don't think would be very accessible to the people that Bastiat was intent on reaching.

It so clearly states what the law (government) should do, and what the law should not do.

The visceral disdain silently sizzling by the subjected, to the omnipotent machines gears, locked and spinning, reducing all commoners to the lowest level of human comportment. The tyranny that law manifests unabated and unabashed, until anarchy and revolution, by the natural order, will adjust the field, after its long course, to level it.

Only the truly heroic dare flout it, but the rest of us obey illegitimate law only out of fear of the consequences of disobedience (sometimes coupled with ignorance of its illegitimacy).

Where exactly in the middle I am is mostly a mystery to myself as of now, but I do feel as if I am approaching the controversial libertarian movement's alluring belief system due to my strong views on individual liberties and freedom (freedom of speech in particular), but my actual poitical party or philosophy will most likely never be set in steady stone. I've already read some Ayn Rand and have found it surprisingly enjoyable and most misunderstood if way too extreme and stern for my taste, and I have now just finished my first reading of Frederic Bastiat's passionate plea against what he believes to be the evils of socialism and communism, and a strong defense for his belief that the law should be no less than "justice", and should only be utilized to protect the individual liberties of all! Whether you agree or disagree (I actually did disagree with a few of his points in this work, believe it or not (as I said I'm not a full on libertarian and probably never will be)) with Bastiat's strong and heavy and controversial beliefs, this is still something of a must read for those interested enough in political science and just all history in general.