II. The Law by Frederic Bastiat
If we were to take the greatest economists from all ages and judge them on the basis of their theoretical rigor, their influence on economic education, and their impact in support of the free-market economy, then Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) would be at the top of the list.
Through the years, I have read this seventy-six-page gem several times and never tire of it. I am suggesting it because much of the same situation exists in America today as in France in 1848, when they were faced with the seductive fallacies that rapidly turned them into a Socialist country. Presently, our American politicians constantly bombard their constituents with the same sophistic promises of Socialism, as were the French, screaming that by following their reckless reasoning they can provide a land of utopia.
Sadly, America’s unfunded liabilities of $200T are a result of these Socialist/Progressive fallacies of a ‘free lunch’ whereby the political elite who have made the laws have now legally turned to the forceful taking of its citizen’s privately earned property to finance their own personal devices. Bastiat calls this ‘lawful plunder’, but today we call it ‘wealth redistribution’ or ‘national fairness’. The Law examines how our body of basic law is thus diverted from its true purpose of preventing injustice to that of legally aiding and abetting the national plunder of an individual’s wealth and liberty.
The Law further suggests that by diverting these basic rules from their original purpose, such that they may now violate property rather than protecting it, everyone will ultimately want to participate either to prevent him or herself from being plundered or engage in it. The individual citizen is now faced with law and morality at odds, and what is legal is legitimate. This perversion of the law becomes the weapon for every kind of greed; and, the law itself becomes guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish. Sound familiar?
The Law was Bastiat’s last book, written while in ill health, and has become a classic moral defense of liberty and limited government; it is a message of immutable principal that is both timely and brilliant. To read The Law in light of today’s constant mantra, “…that more government is better government”, strikes a frightening chord of reality about today’s political rhetoric. It could happen here!
39th ATS, DAFB, 1962-1962
Book Reviews to Come:
III. Present at the Creation by Dean Acheson
IV. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
V. The Math Book by Clifford A. Pickover
VI. Before the Dawn by Shimazaki Toson and translated by W.E. Naff
VII. Leviathan by Hobbes
VIII. The Berlin Airlift
IX. Sacred Fire