by James Craig Green
I cannot overemphasize the importance of Frederic Bastiat's elegant masterpiece THE LAW. Published in 1850 - the year of his death, it was the most powerful critique of Karl Marx's COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, published two years before (1848).
Marx's Manifesto was primarily a critique of European monarchies - which deserved to be criticized - but went much too far down the road of collectivism, which has been, arguably, the most successful political philosophy of the last two centuries. I argue strenuously that this "success" in the minds of too many Americans today came at the cost of freedom and individual rights - the tenets of the founders' American Republic. The intoxicating promises of Marx' utopian vision for the future of Europe were compelling ideas at a time of the radical political reforms which still dominate American universities - and our society - today. Little did he know it would flourish first in Russia - not Western Europe.
Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union - the ultimate expression of Marxism - today's western democracies still cling to the dangerous and destructive ideas of Marx' philosophy. What most Americans don't know is the Soviet Union collapsed economically in the 1920's, to be saved by American industrialists like Armand Hammer.
Today, American government continues to be corrupted by Marxian ideas, including the further expansion of the welfare state (now bankrupting America), a powerful central bank that has destroyed the dollar by a century of inflation, and most importantly - the idea that democratic government is the ultimate, and best, form of government.
It was the rejection of democracy that drove the American founders' ideals.
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine. - Thomas Jefferson
See: THE PROBLEM WITH DEMOCRACY
I sincerely hope serious students of history, philosophy and government will read both Bastiat's THE LAW and Marx' COMMUNIST MANIFESTO - to contrast their fundamental tenets. Marx' manifesto, of course, was the driving force behind failed socialist states around the world like the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba and many South American banana "republics." Today's Communist China would have likely already collapsed were it not for capitalist reforms to limit the damage, including taking back capitalist Hong Kong in 1997, to generate profitable capitalist trade for China. Most western democracies today are mixed economies, as much fascist as socialist. By allowing private property to exist - heavily regulated to provide a productive cash cow - modern democratic states such as the US are still blind to the long term dangers of TRILLIONS of dollars of public debt and the apparent growth of governments which are collapsing everywhere we look - even in US cities like Detroit, Chicago and Washington D.C. The American - and World - economies cannot continue their Soviet-like policies without the most severe long term consequences.
There is NO contradiction between Marxism and Democracy (Marx' COMMUNIST MANIFESTO promoted winning the battle of democracy). BOTH are forms of collectivism - the idea that the individual is subordinate to the will of the mob (politely called the majority). This was the unfortunate legacy of the French Revolution, in which the collective was supreme over the indiviual. This led to the Reign of Terror, the Guillotine and finally, the Emperor Napoleon. This is contrasted to the American Revolution, whose elegant Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights exalted the rights of individuals above that of lynch mobs, monarchies and yes, democracies - which had always been tried and had always failed.
See: MADISONS CRITIQUE OF DEMOCRACY
The primary focus of Bastiat's THE LAW is recognition of John Locke's individual rights of life, liberty and property - the complete opposite of Marx' failed collectivism. The success of the American Revolution was its recognition of INDIVIDUAL rights as being superior to collective rights. Bastiat recognized these individual rights as necessary precursors to these fraudulent "collective rights" depending on plunder, rather than production. As socialist states around the world have repeatedly discovered... without private property, there is soon no wealth to redistribute.
See: THE LAW online.
Following are excerpts from Bastiat's masterpiece which I hope will motivate you into reading this short book, and other brilliant economic works by Bastiat (Economic Sophisms, Petition of Candlemakers, etc). The best current version of THE LAW of which I am aware is published by LAISSEZ FAIRE BOOKS. If you like this little 5 dollar book as much as I do, why not purchase copies to hand out to your friends?
The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.
Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?
If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.
A Just and Enduring Government
The Complete Perversion of the Law
Perverted Law Causes Conflict