Now living the life of a moneyed gentleman, Bastiat was
able to focus on his intellectual pursuits, studying philosophy,
history, politics, religion, travel, poetry, political economy,
biography, etc.. Bastiat wrote a number of pro free-market
articles opposing tariffs, taxes on wine, land taxes etc..
Inspired by the British Anti-Corn Law League in Britain,
Bastiat organized the French Free Trade Association to fight
trade barriers in France. He was the editor of the Association's
newspaper. In 1844, Bastiat received widespread attention
with his "The Influence of French and English Tariffs
on the Future of the Two Peoples," published in the Journal
des Économistes. Numerous essays and pamphlets on economics
followed, some of which comprised his best-selling collection
of essays, Economic Sophisms (1845). Bastiat won a seat
in the French legislature. His influential essay on the
philosophy of law and government, "The Law", was
published in 1850, as were his "Economic Harmonies"
and "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen". Bastiat
died on Christmas Eve, 1850.
taxation theft? Where does government get its authority
to use force? What is the scope of the power held by government?
What happens to society when government ignores limits on
the scope of its power, and establishes for itself the power
to violate individual rights of life, liberty and/or property?
are the questions focussed upon by Bastiat in his famous
pamphlet, "The Law". Owing much to John Locke
(in particular, Locke's "Second Treatise of Government"),
the essence of Bastiat's message is that "Life is a
gift from God", that life requires an individual to
exercise his thoughts and body so as to survive (liberty),
and that the fruits of one efforts cannot sustain one if
one is deprived of his right to use those fruits in the
way he or she sees fit (property). Bastiat states that rights
of life, liberty and property justify the use of force when
one is faced with force (or the threat of force ) as against
his person or property (self defence). Bastiat explains
that a government's authority to use force is delegated
to it by the citizens whose behaviour it governs: accordingly,
government is to use force only to protect the life, liberty
and property of those it governs. When it uses force against
the governed to deprive them of life, liberty or property
- except in response to the initiation of coercive physical
force - government is doing so without authority because
no individual has the authority to initiate the coercive
use of physical force, and a person cannot delegate to government
an authority that the person does not have. Bastiat states
that when government steps outside of the role of protector,
and initiates the coercive use of force against an individual,
the law is perverted. The law then becomes a means of plundering,
rather than protecting, the governed. This enhances the
importance of government, and the importance of befriending
and influencing government, because government determines
the beneficiaries of the ill-gotten gains. In the result,
everyone is turned against everyone else, in a formalized
version of a Hobbesian state of nature: government becomes
little more than a large gang in a society without justice.
treasured by those opposed to socialism or communism, "The
Law" is undeniably a rich source of topics for debate
for politicos of all stripes. It challenges those in favour
of collectivism to examine the logical consistency, and
the moral implications, of their philosophy. But it also
challenges strong proponents of life, liberty and property
to examine the economic and governmental implications of
their stance. For example, how is one to finance the operations
of government without taxation?
your political orientation, you are sure to find "The
Law" to be an interesting read.
brief word of thanks: "The Law" was originally
written in French. Mondo Politico is thankful to the Foundation
for Economic Education ("F.E.E.")
for granting permission to add the Dean Russell translation
of this important text to the Mondo Politico library.