Archive | November 2010

The Law by Frédéric Bastiat

The Law

by Frédéric Bastiat (1801 – 1850)

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Introduction from Foreword: Collapse of communism, technological innovations, accompanied by robust free-market organizations promoting Bastiat’s ideas, are the most optimistic things I can say about the future of liberty in the United States. Americans share an awesome burden and moral responsibility. If liberty dies in the United States, it is destined to die everywhere. A greater familiarity with Bastiat’s clear ideas about liberty would be an important step in rekindling respect and love, and allowing the resuscitation of the spirit of liberty among our fellow Americans. ~ Walter E. Williams

Excerpt: Life, faculties, production – in other words, individuality, liberty, property – this is man,” Bastiat writes. And since they are at the very core of human nature, they “precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.” Too few people understand that point. Legal positivism, the notion that there is no right and wrong prior to the enactment of legislation, sadly afflicts even some advocates of individual liberty (the utilitarian descendants of Bentham, for example). But, Bastiat reminds us, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

Excerpt: In the years since The Law was first published, little has been written in the classical liberal tradition that can approach its purity, its power, its nearly poetic quality. Alas, the world is far from having learned the lessons of The Law. Bastiat would be saddened by what America has become. He warned us. He identified the principles indispensable for proper human society and made them accessible to all. In the struggle to end the legalized plunder of statism and to defend individual liberty, how much more could be asked of one man? ~ Sheldon Richman

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