Quotes from Frédéric Bastiat’s “The Law”

*I love his critique of Rousseau. I have never read anything quite like it. I thoroughly enjoy French philosophers of every century because they are so debonair and critical, melancholy and fierce in their love of wisdom.

In a country where no law may be voted and no tax may be levied save with the consent of those whom the law is to govern and upon whom the tax is to fall, the public can be robbed only if it is first deceived. Our ignorance is the raw material of every extortion that is practiced upon us, and we may be certain beforehand that every sophism is the precursor of an act of plunder. My friends, when you detect a sophism in a petition, get a good grip on your wallet, for you may be sure that this is what the petitioners are aiming at. 

Shall I speak of the corrupting immorality that seeps into the veins of the whole body politic when, in principle, the law puts itself at the service of every spoliative impulse? Attend a meeting of the National Assembly when bonuses, subsidies, bounties, restrictions are on the agenda. See with what shameless rapacity everyone tries to make sure of his share of the plunder – plunder to which he would blush to stoop as a private individual.

The state too is subject to the Malthusian law. It tends to expand in proportion to its means of existence and to live beyond its means, and these are, in the last analysis, nothing but the substance of the people. 

How is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing to a crime.

The purpose of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning. In fact, it is injustice, instead of justice, that has an existence of its own. Justice is achieved only when injustice is absent.

We assure the socialists that we repudiate only forced organization, not natural organization. We repudiate the forms of association that are forced upon us, not free association…We repudiate the artificial unity that does nothing more than deprive persons of individual responsibility.

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