In a previous post I discussed Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and politician who lived from 1801-1850. One of his seminal works, The Law, was published not long before his death in 1850. At the time he wrote The Law, socialists in France were proposing government program after government program to “solve” perceived social and economic problems. Bastiat was trying to show people that the law is meant to protect their rights not violate them.
“The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!” Bastiat gets off to a roaring start on the first page of The Law.
Bastiat goes on to note, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty , and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” The law is the “collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.” Thus the law should not be used for any purpose other than to defend the life, liberty, and property of all.
When the law is used to take from one group and give to another, Bastiat calls this “legal plunder” and denounces the practice. When the law permits the government to do to citizens what would be illegal for citizens to do to each other then the law has been perverted. Bastiat provides numerous examples of the injustices perpetrated by the government under the socialists’ plans: protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, and more. Examine these, he says, and you will find they are always based on “legal plunder, organized injustice.”
The best summary of The Law is probably Bastiat’s frequently repeated phrase, “The law is justice.” More precisely, he points out, the purpose of the law is to prevent injustice. If governments could stick to this definition of the law, freedom would abound.
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.