Sunday, January 13, 2013


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


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.



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
Frédéric Bastiat

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!

If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.

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

If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, non-oppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable — whatever its political form might be.

Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government.

It can be further stated that, thanks to the non-intervention of the state in private affairs, our wants and their satisfactions would develop themselves in a logical manner. We would not see poor families seeking literary instruction before they have bread. We would not see cities populated at the expense of rural districts, nor rural districts at the expense of cities. We would not see the great displacements of capital, labor, and population that are caused by legislative decisions.

The sources of our existence are made uncertain and precarious by these state-created displacements. And, furthermore, these acts burden the government with increased responsibilities.

The Complete Perversion of the Law

But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.

How has this perversion of the law been accomplished? And what have been the results?

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: stupid greed and false philanthropy...


No comments:

Post a Comment