Frederic Bastiat


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The Law, by Frederic Bastiat with a forward by Walter E. Williams.
(2007, Foundation for Economic Freedom; ISBN-13: 978-1-57246-214-4).

The Law is must reading for anyone who wants to understand what law ought to be. It was written by a Frenchman, Bastiat, and published around 1850, which was quite some time ago. But this slim volume, just 77 pages with supplementary materials like its index, is not difficult to read. In a short space, it fully explains the premises of liberty, a free society and free markets.

A lot of people skip introductions and forewards. But I urge you to read the foreward by Walter Williams. He summarizes well much of what Bastiat explains, namely, that “the greatest single threat to liberty is government.”

The most important concept that you can get from this book is Bastiat’s explanation of legal plunder. He tells us to look at our government and its laws: “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.”

As Williams notes, “with such an accurate description of legalized plunder, we cannot deny that most government activities, . . . are legalized plunder, or for the sake of modernity, legalized theft.” So right he is.

Bastiat sums up the proper role of law in this way:

“The law is the organization of the natural right of self defense. It is the substitution of 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.” In other words, the law’s “mission is to protect persons and property.” The law is not meant to legalize plunder, or be the source of “organized injustice.”

Bastiat addresses the tyranny of socialism, how socialists want to play God, and how they actually despise Mankind, contrary to what they profess. He also explains how socialists typically want to deny or ignore reason and facts and how they want to regiment people – and how, ultimately, they want tyranny. It’s not just that socialism results in tyranny, but that tyranny is what socialists want to impose, that tyranny is ultimately their goal.

And, all of this was written in 1850 in France!

Don’t just read the foreward. Read all of Bastiat’s work, so you can understand what law ought to be.

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To Read Frederic Bastiat'a "The Law" Read the Blueprint for a Just Society

To watch a video on legal plunder Click Here

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Quotes from "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat

"The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks
to live at the expense of everybody else."

“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.”

"When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law".

"There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are “just” because the law makes them so."

“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 not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws. What, then, is law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.”

“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.”

"The law is guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish".

"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. Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals".


Listen to the Audiobook on "The Law" 
(Approximately 2 Hours)

The Philosophy of Liberty and Legal Plunder

The Philosophy of Liberty and Property

Declaration of Independence

The Text of "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat