Craig Green's blog discusses history, philosophy and economics from a free market perspective. See Craig's bio, premises, archives and links in the right column. From 2011, April's "Unchain the Builders" series begins with "Unchain The Builders 1," each linked to the other articles. March's "Subordinate Acts" is Craig's article on the U.S. Constitution. Also see March's LIFEPOWER articles from the 1990's. Anyone can comment without subscription, but leave email if you want to keep abreast.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
THE LAW - 10
Introduction by James Craig Green This is part 10 of 15, presenting Frederic Bastiat's 1850 masterpiece The Law. Part 1 may be seen HEREand the entire book HERE.
The Law - 10
Frederic Bastiat -
Legislators Desire to
let us examine Raynal on this subject of mankind being molded by the
legislator must first consider the climate, the air, and the soil. The
resources at hisdisposal determine his
duties. He must first consider hislocality.
A population living on maritime shores must have laws designed for navigation.
. . . If it is an inland settlement, the legislator must make his plans
according to the nature and fertility of the soil. . . .
is especially in the distribution of property that the genius of the legislator
will be found. As a general rule, when a new colony is established in any
country, sufficient land should be given to each man to support his family. . .
an uncultivated island that you are populating with children, you need
do nothing but let the seeds of truth germinate along with the development of
. . But when youresettle a nation with a
past into new country, the skill of the legislator rests in the policy of permitting the peopleto retain no injurious
opinions and customs which can possibly be cured and corrected. If you desire
to prevent these opinions and customs from becoming permanent, you will secure the
second generation by a general system of public education for the children. A
prince or a legislator should never establish a colony without first arranging to
send wise men along to instruct the youth. . . .
a new colony, ample opportunity is open to the careful legislator who desires to purify the customsand
manners of the people. If he has virtue and genius, the land and the
people at his disposalwill inspire his soul
with a plan for society. A writer can only vaguely trace the plan in advance
because it is necessarily subject to the instability of all hypotheses; the
problem has many forms, complications, and circumstances that are difficult to
foresee and settle in detail.
Legislators Told How
to Manage Men
instructions to the legislators on how to manage people may be compared to a
professor of agriculture lecturing his students: “The climate is the first rule
for the farmer. His resources determine
his procedure. He must first consider his locality. If his soil is clay, he
must do so and so. If his soil is sand, he must act in another manner. Every
facility is open to the farmer who wishes to clear and improve his soil. If he
is skillful enough, the manure at his disposalwill suggest to him a plan of operation. A professor can only vaguely trace
this plan in advance because it is necessarily subject to the instability of
all hypotheses; the problem has many forms, complications, and circumstances
that are difficult to foresee and settle in detail.”
sublime writers! Please remember sometimes that this clay, this sand, and this
manure which you so arbitrarily dispose of, are men! They are your equals! They
are intelligent and free human beings like yourselves! As you have, they too
have received from God the faculty to observe, to plan ahead, to think, and to
judge for themselves!
is Mably on this subject of the law and the legislator. In the passages
preceding the one here quoted, Mably has supposed the laws, due to a neglect of
security, to be worn out. He continues to address the reader thusly:
these circumstances, it is obvious that the springs of government are slack. Give thema new tension, and the evil
will be cured. . . . Think less of punishing faults, and more of rewarding that which youneed.
In this manner you will restore to your republic
the vigor of youth. Because free people have been ignorant of this procedure,
they have lost their liberty! But if the evil has made such headway that
ordinary governmental procedures are unable to cure it, then resortto an extraordinary tribunal with considerable
powers for a short time. The imagination of the citizens needs to be struck a
this manner, Mably continues through twenty volumes. Under the influence of
teaching like this—which stems from classical education—there came a time when
everyone wished to place himself above mankind in order to arrange, organize,
and regulate it in his own way.
Equality of Wealth
let us examine Condillac on this subject of the legislators and mankind:
Lord, assume the character of Lycurgus or of Solon. And before you finish
reading this essay, amuse yourself by giving laws to some savages in America or
Africa. Confine these nomads to fixed dwellings; teach them to tend flocks. . .
. Attempt to develop the social consciousness that nature has planted in them.
. . . Force them to begin to practice the duties of humanity. . . . Use
punishment to cause sensual pleasures to become distasteful to them. Then you
will see that every point of your legislation will cause these savages to lose
a vice and gain a virtue.
people have had laws. But few people have been happy. Why is this so? Because
the legislators themselves have almost always been ignorant of the purpose of
society, which is the uniting of families by a common interest.
in law consists of two things: the establishing of equality in wealth and
equality in dignity among the citizens. . . . As the laws establish greater
equality, they become proportionately more precarious to every citizen. . . . When
all men are equal in wealth and dignity—and when the laws leave no hope of
disturbing this equality—how can men then be agitated by greed, ambition,
dissipation, idleness, sloth, envy, hatred, or jealously?
you have learned about the republic of Sparta should enlighten you on this
question. No other state has ever had laws more in accord with the order of
nature; of equality.