It’s a week of reposts. I was happy to stumble on this post about Frederic Bastiat’s book The Law from May 27, 2010, and thought I’d share it again because it’s just as true now as it was then.
I just finished reading Frederic Bastiat’s mid-19th-century book, The Law. [You can, and should, find the book here. Bastiat’s concise but brilliant book reminds me why I love French writers so much- writers like Alexis deTocqueville, Blaise Pascal, and even Moliere. After reading The Law, I think I have to move Bastiat up to deTocqueville’s level. The clarity of his arguments is supplemented by the elegance only a Frenchman’s political prose can succeed at.
Bastiat’s central argument is that the purpose of the law is to prevent injustice through the use of collective force, and anything outside the prevention of injustice is unlawful force. By this reasoning- which I am well persuaded is absolutely true- even the current state of our democracy is unlawful. Many of us have realized that the American government is unconstitutional, but Bastiat argues that it is against the principle of law as a universal principle as well.
I love America, but I do not love big government, so I appreciate Bastiat’s arguments immensely. He lays them out clearly enough for me to follow, know why I agree, and remember, and he does it in less than 100 pages too. I wish I had read this in college- why doesn’t Hillsdale require it in one of the core classes? I’m sure several professors do.
Being in D.C., working at a newspaper, and reading this book have all made the transience of government and human frailty of legislators clearer than ever to me. That sounds depressing, but actually I find it encouraging for two reasons. First, it means the system we operate under does not always have to be the current form of democracy. Second, it means that those who understand the purpose of law, that, as Bastiat repeats over and over in his conclusion, “law is liberty,” have a chance to change our system of government in favor of liberty and justice for all.