Thursday, November 5, 2009

Frédéric Bastiat – The Law…

- Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
-- Frederic Bastiat

Martin Armstrong talks a lot about the law and the importance of following the rule of law, it’s one of the primary ingredients to the formation of capital. Without it, capital will flee. Without it, society breaks down – just view the video on the preceding post to see that happening in real time. Allow the rule of law to break down too far, and eventually you will get revolt.

That’s exactly what Frederic Bastiat wrote about when he wrote “The Law,” first published in the year 1850 (he died that Christman Eve). Frequent contributor, Joe, turned me onto his writing this morning by posting the following passage from his Bastiat’s pamphlet:

"Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain — and since labor is pain in itself — it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.

It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.

But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.

This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds."

Simply stated and oh so true. What he could not see was the eventual entanglement of corporations and their money with government. Plunder is a severe understatement for what's happening in America, and why I say that we need to separate our coporations and their money from state.

So, we have a ying and a yang with government… too much law and too much government and we head into socialism (plunder); too little law and we degenerate into lawlessness. Once again life is a balance, just as Freedom and Security are intertwined and must also strike a balance. Pursue freedom, you will find security. Pursue security, you will compromise both security and freedom. Pursue security no matter the cost, and you will have neither security nor freedom.

Reading the entire work of Bastiat’s "The Law" pamphlet doesn’t take long and I highly recommend that you read it online at this site - The Law - Frédéric Bastiat.

Scroll down and you’ll begin reading with his work broken clearly into little, easy to read, pieces. Be sure to read the introduction there.

You’ll find that his thinking and writing was shaped by a revolutionary period in France. The introduction draws the analogy of France at that time (The French Revolution) to the U.S. of today and the similarities are striking.

Not only does he slam socialism, but he also slams other forms of government as well. The closest thing to perfection, in his opinion, was the then pre-Civil War United States. Of course the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence were founded upon many of the same principles as the Magna Carta. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are, according to Bastiat, a part of the order of nature.

Definitely timeless thinking and timeless writing, below are some of passages that caught my attention:

The Cause of French Revolutions
…This will remain the case so long as human beings with feelings continue to remain passive; so long as they consider themselves incapable of bettering their prosperity and happiness by their own intelligence and their own energy; so long as they expect everything from the law; in short, so long as they imagine that their relationship to the state is the same as that of the sheep to the shepherd.

The Enormous Power of Government
…But if the government undertakes to control and to raise wages, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to care for all who may be in want, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to support all unemployed workers, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to lend interest-free money to all borrowers, and cannot do it; if, in these words that we regret to say escaped from the pen of Mr. de Lamartine, "The state considers that its purpose is to enlighten, to develop, to enlarge, to strengthen, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of the people" — and if the government cannot do all of these things, what then? Is it not certain that after every government failure — which, alas! is more than probable — there will be an equally inevitable revolution?

Politics and Economics
A science of economics must be developed before a science of politics can be logically formulated. Essentially, economics is the science of determining whether the interests of human beings are harmonious or antagonistic. This must be known before a science of politics can be formulated to determine the proper functions of government.

Immediately following the development of a science of economics, and at the very beginning of the formulation of a science of politics, this all-important question must be answered: What is law? What ought it to be? What is its scope; its limits? Logically, at what point do the just powers of the legislator stop?

I do not hesitate to answer: Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice. In short, law is justice.

The Basis for Stable Government
Law is justice. In this proposition a simple and enduring government can be conceived. And I defy anyone to say how even the thought of revolution, of insurrection, of the slightest uprising could arise against a government whose organized force was confined only to suppressing injustice.

Under such a regime, there would be the most prosperity — and it would be the most equally distributed. As for the sufferings that are inseparable from humanity, no one would even think of accusing the government for them. This is true because, if the force of government were limited to suppressing injustice, then government would be as innocent of these sufferings as it is now innocent of changes in the temperature.

As proof of this statement, consider this question: Have the people ever been known to rise against the Court of Appeals, or mob a Justice of the Peace, in order to get higher wages, free credit, tools of production, favorable tariffs, or government-created jobs? Everyone knows perfectly well that such matters are not within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals or a Justice of the Peace. And if government were limited to its proper functions, everyone would soon learn that these matters are not within the jurisdiction of the law itself.

But make the laws upon the principle of fraternity — proclaim that all good, and all bad, stem from the law; that the law is responsible for all individual misfortunes and all social inequalities — then the door is open to an endless succession of complaints, irritations, troubles, and revolutions.

Justice Means Equal Rights
Law is justice. And it would indeed be strange if law could properly be anything else! Is not justice right? Are not rights equal? By what right does the law force me to conform to the social plans of Mr. Mimerel, Mr. de Melun, Mr. Thiers, or Mr. Louis Blanc? If the law has a moral right to do this, why does it not, then, force these gentlemen to submit to my plans? Is it logical to suppose that nature has not given me sufficient imagination to dream up a utopia also? Should the law choose one fantasy among many, and put the organized force of government at its service only?

There is much more worth reading, I hope you take a few minutes to read it if you aren’t familiar.

If you wish to read it in one piece, below is his work as published by the Mises Institute. The Foreword here is written by Thomas DiLorenzo and is excellent.

thelaw[1] -

I will leave you with the last two paragraphs from his work simply entitled “Government,” and ask simply, under which of the following forms of government do we currently reside?
Citizens! In all times, two political systems have been in existence, and each may be maintained by good reasons. According to one of them, Government ought to do much, but then it ought to take much. According to the other, this two-fold activity ought to be little felt. We have to choose between these two systems. But as regards the third system, which partakes of both the others, and which consists in exacting everything from Government, without giving it anything, it is chimerical, absurd, childish, contradictory, and dangerous. Those who parade it, for the sake of the pleasure of accusing all governments of weakness, and thus exposing them to your attacks, are only flattering and deceiving you, while they are deceiving themselves.

For ourselves, we consider that Government is and ought to be nothing whatever but the united power of the people, organized, not to be an instrument of oppression and mutual plunder among citizens; but, on the the contrary, to secure to every one his own, and to cause justice and security to reign.
--Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

Styx – Fooling Yourself: