Monday, May 5, 2008

Loi - The Law - by Frederic Bastiat

A book recommended by both Morton Blackwell and Ron Paul, is The Law by Frederic Bastiat. An RP supporter handed it to me last week insisting that I read it, and read it I did. The whole way through, you can't help but think "Wow, this was actually written in the 1800's?" What a great critique of government intrusion, that rings true today, perhaps as much as it did in Bastiat's time. He points to the United States (in the year 1850, when he was writing) as a model country in which people are allowed to live their lives as they please, while having their freedoms protected by the government.

"There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation. But even in the United States, there are two issues - and only two - that have always endangered the public peace."
Bastiat goes on to speak further about those two - slavery and protective tariffs.

Here Bastiat draws an excellent distinction about why government should not tread into other areas of social planning. This piece is called "Law is Force."
Since the law organizes justice, the socialists ask why the law should not also organize labor, education, and religion.

Why should not law be used for these purposes? Because it could not organize labor, education, and religion without destroying justice. We must remember that law is force, and that, consequently, the proper functions of the law cannot lawfully extend beyond the proper functions of force.

When law and force keep a person within the bounds of justice, they impose nothing but a mere negation; they oblige him only to abstain from harming others. They violate neither his personality, his liberty nor his property. They safeguard all of these. They are defensive they defend equally the rights of all.
He throughout the book delivers a critique of socialism , including in this piece entitled "A Confusion of Terms."
Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.
We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state- enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
The title of this piece, "Proper Legislative Functions" tells you what you can expect.

It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our persons and property. The existence of person and property preceded the existence of the legislator, and his function is only to guarantee their safety.

It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents, or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person.

Since law necessarily requires the support of force, its lawful domain is only in the areas where the use of force is necessary. This is justice.

Every individual has the right to use force for lawful self-defense. It is for this reason that the collective force - which is only the organized combination of the individual forces - may lawfully be used for the same purpose; and it cannot be used legitimately for any other purpose.

Law is solely the organization of the individual right of self-defense which existed before law was formalized. Law is justice.

Somehow in this 105 page book - I come to the conclusion that I have an ally on my side when I hear people make the ludicrous comments like: "Reagan brought down the Berlin Wall" or "Reagan destroyed communism." Bastiat dislikes the concept of social planning by government and dislikes the pomposity of the great faith put in the power of social planners. One more quote from Bastiat before I call it a night.

If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest or mankind?
- Allan in Highwood, IL

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