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April 21, 2011

Bastiat. The dude knew how to write about liberty and stuff.
[ArthurK]

(open blog! mua ha ha ha)

Bastiat's most famous work is a long pamphlet pubished in 1850, The Law.

It's an astounding piece of work. When I read it, something hit me hard at least once every page. Here's an example ...


Perverted Law Causes Conflict

As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose -- that it may violate property instead of protecting it -- then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious. To know this, it is hardly necessary to examine what transpires in the French and English legislatures; merely to understand the issue is to know the answer.

Is there any need to offer proof that this odious perversion of the law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord; that it tends to destroy society itself? If such proof is needed, look at the United States [in 1850]. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation. But even in the United States, there are two issues -- and only two -- that have always endangered the public peace.

Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder

What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of plunder.

Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.

Its is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime - a sorrowful inheritance of the Old World - should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States - where only in the instance of slavery and tariffs - what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of law is a principle; a system?

Besides the link there are free copies in all sorts of formats all over the web. Amazon has a handy kindle edition for 99 cents. And if you can't get a hard copy for 5 bucks or less, you're not trying very hard.

(btw, I used the quoted section simply to give an example of his writing. I'm not trying to start a discussion of slavery but of Bastiat's work in general. Why not hit the link and read a few random pages before commenting? It's remarkable how pertinent his ideas are.)

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posted by Open Blogger at 06:28 PM

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