Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Law: Book Review

In this masterpiece Frederic Bastiat clearly and concisely champions the cause of liberty and limited government. Though written over 150 years ago, its message still rings true today.

Bastiat begins his discussion by defining the law.

"What then is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Each of us has a natural right- from God- to defend his life, his liberty and his property.... It follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights continually "

The purpose of the law is simply to do what each man has a right to do individually on a larger scale. To protect justice. That's all. Period.

As the book continues, Batiat lays out a compelling argument. Each citizen has the God-give right to life, liberty and the work of their hands and to defend these rights against infringement. However, individuals may not plunder others for their own benefit or even to help others.

And just as you and I may not plunder our neighbor, so the government may not plunder. Anytime the law permits the taking of goods from one set of citizens to be used to benefit others: whether the legislators, the merchants, the poor.... it is perverting justice and permitting legalized plunder of the people.

According to Bastiat, there are only three ways to settle the question of legalized plunder:

1. The few plunder the many.
2. Everybody plunders everybody.
3. Nobody plunders anybody.

He clearly proposes the third as the only just, logical and peaceful choice. Even when plunder is proposed for "philanthropic purposes", Bastiat contends that it defeats liberty and extends far beyond its limited scope. We see this today.

And if the government undertakes to provide education and food and prosperity to the citizens, who is to blame when the children can't read, the poor go hungry and the economy staggers?

It is not the duty of the law to provide charity or fraternity or education. The purpose of the law is to defend justice and liberty.

Bastiat ends The Law with a passionate appeal to us to "reject all systems and try liberty. For liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works."

photo by creationc

1 comment:

Johanna said...

Aaron got me to read The Law some months ago when I was still in Singapore. He was trying to stamp subconscious socialistic ideas out of me :)