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Sep 20, 2009

Frederick Bastiat's "The Law": A review

The Law, first published as a pamphlet in June, 1850, as a response to socialism in France, is already more than a hundred years old. And because its truths are eternal, it will still be read when another century has passed.

Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before - and immediately following -- the Revolution of February 1848. This was the period when France was rapidly turning to complete socialism. As a Deputy to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Bastiat was studying and explaining each socialist fallacy as it appeared. And he explained how socialism must inevitably degenerate into communism.

In "The Law" ,Bastiat demonstrates a thorough and flawless understanding of both the bright and dark sides of human nature, of the essential role each has played in the growth and divergence of collectivist and (18th century) liberal ideologies, and most importantly, the resulting tendency for government, in all of its most common manifestations, to grow and for liberty to yield. The principles proffered herein are the very genesis of the body of thought most commonly attributed to such brilliant authors as Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Adam Smith, and Thomas Paine. Bastiat was the consummate humanitarian, and a genius with no peer.

An excerpt from the book:

"But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense."

Overall, a must read book for anyone who wants to understand the nature of the government and the value of liberty!