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Frederic Bastiat: Must Read!

February 8, 2010

I am embarrassed to write that although I’ve heard about his analogy of the candlemakers’ guild, I’ve never actually read any of his works.  In reading The Law, I am happy to say I’ve corrected that.

There has been a renaissance in the reading of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in the past year and there deserves to be one for The Law as well.  And unlike Rand’s thousand-plus pages, Bastiat’s work is only 58 pages in the Foundation for Economic Education’s 2007 printing.

Bastiat is classified as an economic writer because his main topic is economic liberty.  But in his defense of economic liberty he finds that the main threat is government and it’s application of the law.  It’s brilliant, really: writing just after the 1848 revolution in France, Bastiat nails the socialists to a “T”.  He could be writing about the Progressives of today.

His defense of liberty is absolute and clearly in line with the social contract theory of Locke that the Founders built into the Constitution.  Government’s sole purpose is the defense of our God-given liberties.  It is justified in taking our money only for that purpose; everything else is legalized plunder designed to reward the followers of the party in power.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Utopians are simply socialists who think they are smarter than the rest of us and therefore have the right to make laws to control us and to mold us into the kind of people they think we ought to become.  Socialists are simply communist-lite.  As various factions fight for power, they court the voter with one face only to change face immediately upon gaining that power.  Each faction in turn rewards its followers and punishes its enemies.  The law is not absolute–it is a weapon to be wielded against one’s opponents.

I have heard some on the left say that our Constitution is outdated because it was written in the 18th century, borrowing on 17th century ideas and designed for a pre-industrial society.  Here is my answer: Bastiat writes in the middle of the 19th century during the Industrial revolution and in the middle of the rise of socialism.  The critique of socialism proves liberty still prevails.  In today’s post-industrial society it is socialism that has become obsolete.

Outside of the Declaration of Independence you could not ask for a better defense of Liberty.

Frederick Bastiat, The Law, Foundation for Economic Education, 2007.


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