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The Law (1850)

by Frédéric Bastiat

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1,846319,367 (4.29)12
Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

The Law, original French title La Loi, is a 1849 book by Frdric Bastiat. It was published one year after the third French Revolution of 1848 and one year before his death of tuberculosis at age 49. The essay was influenced by John Locke's Second Treatise on Government and in turn influenced Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. It is the work for which Bastiat is most famous along with The candlemaker's petition and the Parable of the broken window.

In The Law, Bastiat states that "each of us has a natural right from God to defend his person, his liberty, and his property". The State is a "substitution of a common force for individual forces" to defend this right. The law becomes perverted when it punishes one's right to self-defense in favor of another's acquired right to plunder.

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English (25)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I a must read for every man wanting to be a productive member of the Kingdom. ( )
  Aidan767 | Feb 1, 2024 |
Summary: Small government is good government. I mean really small. You should pretty much trust individual people and groups unregulated by law to take care of most of the stuff the current Australian Government does on our/their behalf.

Things I liked:

Interesting argument

Plenty of examples/quotes

Amusing, kind of sarcastic style.

Things I thought could be improved:

Could have spent more time identifying and engaging opposing ideas.

Probably would have been good to to acknowledge some weaknesses in his arguments or unanswered questions requiring further investigation (he came off as a bit of know it all).

Highlight:

Probably the bit where he says our mistake isn't in admiring the leaders in the past, its in thinking we can't do any better. ( )
  benkaboo | Aug 18, 2022 |
Spouses' textbook ( )
  The_Literary_Jedi | Jun 11, 2021 |
Although obviously dated (first published in 1849), this pamphlet mentions more key ideas of liberalism than I was expecting, and uses some terms that surprised me a bit.

For example, I wasn't expecting to read such a scathing critique of “socialism”. Or to find such a clear definition of the State and of State force as necessarily limited to protecting the (pre-existent, natural) rights of individuals (“personality, freedom, and property”) and to prevent injustice, rather than actively pursuing justice. It's a very clear defence of private property, individual projects of life and personal initiative, and an attack on redistribution, tariffs, subsidies, and an ever-expanding government that meddles with every aspect of life. Definitely, I was not expecting to find the word “communism” in the text!

I guess I had my historical timing wrong. For example, I had forgot that [b:The Communist Manifesto|30474|The Communist Manifesto|Karl Marx|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1565912767l/30474._SY75_.jpg|2205479] was published just months before (in 1848), so there is that. Also, and according to a very quick search on Wikipedia, terms such as “socialism” are much older than I thought.

Overall an interesting read, if nothing else because it is enlightening to learn how many of “modern” dilemmas in economics, political philosophy, and contingent politics, were current 170 years ago, or even before that. ( )
  tripu.info | Jan 5, 2021 |
A great argument from a French classical liberal (modern libertarian) philosopher of the early 1800s about which matters are proper for the law and state to speak on (defense of life, liberty, and property) and are improper (socialism and resource redistribution.) ( )
  octal | Jan 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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The law perverted!
La loi pervertie !
Quotations
Il faut le dire : il y a trop de grands hommes dans le monde ; il y a trop de législateurs, organisateurs, instituteurs de sociétés, conducteurs de peuples, pères des nations, etc. Trop de gens se placent au dessus de l'humanité pour la régenter, trop de gens font métier de s'occuper d'elle.
Life, faculties, production – in other words, individuality, liberty, property – this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
No legal plunder: This is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony, and logic. Until the day of my death, I shall proclaim this principle with all the force of my lungs (which alas! is all too inadequate).
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

The Law, original French title La Loi, is a 1849 book by Frdric Bastiat. It was published one year after the third French Revolution of 1848 and one year before his death of tuberculosis at age 49. The essay was influenced by John Locke's Second Treatise on Government and in turn influenced Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. It is the work for which Bastiat is most famous along with The candlemaker's petition and the Parable of the broken window.

In The Law, Bastiat states that "each of us has a natural right from God to defend his person, his liberty, and his property". The State is a "substitution of a common force for individual forces" to defend this right. The law becomes perverted when it punishes one's right to self-defense in favor of another's acquired right to plunder.

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Book description
Ce texte est un condensé de la philosophie libérale. Rédigé de manière claire par un des grands libéraux français du 19e siècle, il expose les fondements du droit et de l'économie dans une société juste. Ce texte fondateur est aussi une sorte de testament de l'auteur, décédé peu après sa rédaction.
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