Skip to comments.Quotes - Legal Plunder - Frederic Bastiat
Posted on 10/03/2008 8:43:46 AM PDT by Loud Mime
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.
Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder
What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.
Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.
It is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime a sorrowful inheritance from the Old World should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States where the proper purpose of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery and tariffs what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?
Two Kinds of Plunder
Mr. de Montalembert [politician and writer] adopting the thought contained in a famous proclamation by Mr. Carlier, has said: "We must make war against socialism." According to the definition of socialism advanced by Mr. Charles Dupin, he meant: "We must make war against plunder."
But of what plunder was he speaking? For there are two kinds of plunder: legal and illegal.
I do not think that illegal plunder, such as theft or swindling which the penal code defines, anticipates, and punishes can be called socialism. It is not this kind of plunder that systematically threatens the foundations of society. Anyway, the war against this kind of plunder has not waited for the command of these gentlemen. The war against illegal plunder has been fought since the beginning of the world. Long before the Revolution of February 1848 long before the appearance even of socialism itself France had provided police, judges, gendarmes, prisons, dungeons, and scaffolds for the purpose of fighting illegal plunder. The law itself conducts this war, and it is my wish and opinion that the law should always maintain this attitude toward plunder.
The Law Defends Plunder
But it does not always do this. Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise involve. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim when he defends himself as a criminal. In short, there is a legal plunder, and it is of this, no doubt, that Mr. de Montalembert speaks.
This legal plunder may be only an isolated stain among the legislative measures of the people. If so, it is best to wipe it out with a minimum of speeches and denunciations and in spite of the uproar of the vested interests.
How to Identify Legal 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.
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. If such a law which may be an isolated case is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.
Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
Legal Plunder Has Many Names
Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole with their common aim of legal plunder constitute socialism.
Now, since under this definition socialism is a body of doctrine, what attack can be made against it other than a war of doctrine? If you find this socialistic doctrine to be false, absurd, and evil, then refute it. And the more false, the more absurd, and the more evil it is, the easier it will be to refute. Above all, if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out every particle of socialism that may have crept into your legislation. This will be no light task.
Socialism Is Legal Plunder
Mr. de Montalembert has been accused of desiring to fight socialism by the use of brute force. He ought to be exonerated from this accusation, for he has plainly said: "The war that we must fight against socialism must be in harmony with law, honor, and justice."
But why does not Mr. de Montalembert see that he has placed himself in a vicious circle? You would use the law to oppose socialism? But it is upon the law that socialism itself relies. Socialists desire to practice legal plunder, not illegal plunder. Socialists, like all other monopolists, desire to make the law their own weapon. And when once the law is on the side of socialism, how can it be used against socialism? For when plunder is abetted by the law, it does not fear your courts, your gendarmes, and your prisons. Rather, it may call upon them for help.
To prevent this, you would exclude socialism from entering into the making of laws? You would prevent socialists from entering the Legislative Palace? You shall not succeed, I predict, so long as legal plunder continues to be the main business of the legislature. It is illogical in fact, absurd to assume otherwise.
The Choice Before Us
This question of legal plunder must be settled once and for all, and there are only three ways to settle it:
The few plunder the many. Everybody plunders everybody. Nobody plunders anybody.
We must make our choice among limited plunder, universal plunder, and no plunder. The law can follow only one of these three.
Limited legal plunder: This system prevailed when the right to vote was restricted. One would turn back to this system to prevent the invasion of socialism.
Universal legal plunder: We have been threatened with this system since the franchise was made universal. The newly enfranchised majority has decided to formulate law on the same principle of legal plunder that was used by their predecessors when the vote was limited.
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). 
The Proper Function of the Law
And, in all sincerity, can anything more than the absence of plunder be required of the law? Can the law which necessarily requires the use of force rationally be used for anything except protecting the rights of everyone? I defy anyone to extend it beyond this purpose without perverting it and, consequently, turning might against right. This is the most fatal and most illogical social perversion that can possibly be imagined. It must be admitted that the true solution so long searched for in the area of social relationships is contained in these simple words: Law is organized justice.
Now this must be said: When justice is organized by law that is, by force this excludes the idea of using law (force) to organize any human activity whatever, whether it be labor, charity, agriculture, commerce, industry, education, art, or religion. The organizing by law of any one of these would inevitably destroy the essential organization justice. For truly, how can we imagine force being used against the liberty of citizens without it also being used against justice, and thus acting against its proper purpose?
The Seductive Lure of Socialism
Here I encounter the most popular fallacy of our times. It is not considered sufficient that the law should be just; it must be philanthropic. Nor is it sufficient that the law should guarantee to every citizen the free and inoffensive use of his faculties for physical, intellectual, and moral self-improvement. Instead, it is demanded that the law should directly extend welfare, education, and morality throughout the nation.
This is the seductive lure of socialism. And I repeat again: These two uses of the law are in direct contradiction to each other. We must choose between them. A citizen cannot at the same time be free and not free.
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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Bastiat were taught in school? This is how people ought to see the world.
Sound familiar to any of you voters?
In talking to students, I find they know nothing of our founding fathers other than they owned slaves. They never heard of Bastiat, they cannot identify our second president, they cannot explain the reason for the Declaration of Independence.
This is why Obama is so popular; because of their lack of education his people do not understand the economic and social dangers that he poses. They see profit from legal plunder and care not for its consequences.
Back to your point, any education should carry these materials; otherwise it’s not an education, it is an indoctrination.
Taught in the original French so that we would have little difficulty shoving it down their Euro-socialist throats!
The CURE?: A republic of several States that stand against the Central Government.. and central democracy.. or a central MoB that controls all the State Mobs.. Better the State MOBs fight against each other.. to keep them busy..
“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” James Madison, “Letter to Edmund Pendleton,”
— James Madison, January 21, 1792
“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
— James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)
“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
— James Madison, speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 16, 1788
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
—Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817
“the true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best . . . (for) when all government . . . shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as . . . oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
“We still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping at the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without a tribute.”
— Thomas Paine
“We must confine ourselves to the powers described in the Constitution, and the moment we pass it, we take an arbitrary stride towards a despotic Government.”
— James Jackson, First Congress, 1st Annals of Congress, 489
And sadly this is NO accident! They are being dumbed down by design in order to accommodate the socialist agenda currently in vogue!
The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesnt need its brain anymore so it eats it. Its rather like getting tenure.
Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained
Sure....add me to it.
>They are being dumbed down by design in order to accommodate the socialist agenda currently in vogue!<
And the schools have been doing in by increasing increments for the past thirty some odd years or more!
For heaven’s sake, everyone, CALL YOUR CONGRESSCRITTERS TODAY AND TELL THEM TO VOTE NO ON THE BAILOUT!!!!!
FAR longer than that I'm afraid. I began in earnest in the 1920's in this country but that was just THIS country.
Great Britain is another story.
Being a public school graduate 1974, I don't recall Bastiat in our reading. I am currently reading Washington Irving's Life of Washington, in 4 volumes and really enjoy the thought-fullness exhibited in the letters quoted of those involved in the founding. It has taken me a couple months because the idiom and many archaic usages, but well worth the time.
However Bastiat writing in 1850 about slavery and tariffs is not really one of the founders, but a second generation thinker applying the founders principles/insights to the issues of his times.
And he’s French?
Like de Toqueville, Bastiat was in a fine position to tell us exactly how right the Founding Fathers really were.
Lately I’ve been enjoying a book “The Summer of 1787” about the writing of the Constitution. We almost did not have a U.S. because of the slavery question. We almost slipped into different countries.
I leave it at that, as it is good reading.
Fortunately, we still said the pledge of allegiance every morning, had Christmas programs with manger scenes and Christmas carols. We had paper and metal drives, bought stamps to help the war (WWII) effort. The country came together inspite of the depression, and together we did it!
The people had to do without butter, beef, gasoline, rubber, stockings (that leg paint was awful) metal products. Every household had rationing books. And everyonem had vegetable gardens. (Those carrots tasted so good warm from the earth!) America was still America.
Maybe we need another good depression!
Uh, no. I prefer freedom to some quaint "national unity." I don't want to return to rationing and an 85% marginal tax rate.
“The people had to do without butter, beef, gasoline, rubber, stockings (that leg paint was awful) metal products. Every household had rationing books. And everyonem had vegetable gardens. (Those carrots tasted so good warm from the earth!) America was still America.
Maybe we need another good depression!”
This country needs a wake up call. Throwing $700 billion at the big boys didn’t do it.
BTW, I have some of those ration stamps from ww2...my mother saved everything!
Well I heard the bailout just passed. It was a good country while it lasted.
You call national unity quaint? We may be in for far more than just rationing, and an exorbitant tax rate, Clemenza.
(The first year I had to pay income tax was l951, and it was only 10%. We financed the war with War Bonds, not income taxes.
Back to the subject at hand: I am VERY VERY angry right now that I and my children will have to pay for other people's bad business decisions, to say nothing of the Fed's incompetence, and, well, see my tagline.
Reference bump! ;-)
I believe a few on here will not understand your depression remark. Today’s youth provides the perfect example of those whose conveniences have them judging life from a very high minimum level. If they can’t live life in comfort with unseen slaves tending to their every need, life ain’t worth living!
They have never known hunger; instead they know obesity and childhood diabetes. They do not know earned advancement; instead they know quotas, affirmative action, discrimination and racism that only whites can practice. They do not know character and virtue; instead they know what clothes, what car and what language to use to get attention, and they know what body parts to use to gain financial advantage over others.
Virtue has been minimized in out society; it has been replaced by the pragmatism that powers Obama’s cult followers.
When government accounts for its finances from its first penny, we will have a better government. When a person counts their blessings with their first breath, we will have better persons. That’s what a depression will bring to all of us.
Glad to see this going again.
I enjoy, please keep me
That would end 90% of Government, which is illegimate.
His little work on the ‘Law’ is a masterpiece for limited Government along Christian principles.
No! The very FIRST thing we need to do is make the Democrat party the 21st century Whig party and we can begin the process in a little under a month!
We ought to throw them out of office in wholesale lots!
I dunno about that, Bigun. Seems as though the people who went through the great depression have more sense in every way than those who’ve had everything handed to them on a silver platter.
As one of those who did go through one, I can tell you that people have a better list of priorities; they are savers rather than a big spenders; they appreciate things more; and they are smart but humble rather than disrespectful.
I repeat, “Maybe we need another good depression”!
Meanwhile vote for Sarah Palin!