This book warns against the dangers of socialism and how its hijacking of a nation’s laws will erode the liberties of citizens. It was written by French politician Frederic Bastiat in 1849.
Bastiat argues that the purpose of law is to protect a person’s liberty and property but no more. It should not be used by the state in order to burden its citizens, but that’s exactly what socialism requires. Instead of being used to protect liberty, the laws of socialist states specifically impinges on liberty while taking the property of others. This is sanctioned by a large percentage of the population because it’s human nature to want to avoid the pain of work by taking what has been earned from another man’s labor:
Now, labor being in itself a pain, and man being naturally inclined to avoid pain, it follows, and history proves it, that wherever plunder is less burdensome than labor, it prevails; and neither religion nor morality can, in this case, prevent it from prevailing. When does plunder cease, then? When it becomes less burdensome and more dangerous than labor. It is very evident that the proper aim of law is to oppose the powerful obstacle of collective force to this fatal tendency; that all its measures should be in favor of property, and against plunder.
…as long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true mission, that it may violate property instead of securing it, everybody will be wanting to manufacture law, either to defend himself against plunder, or to organize it for his own profit.
When a portion of wealth passes out of the hands of him who has acquired it, without his consent, and without compensation, to him who has not created it, whether by force or by artifice, I say that property is violated, that plunder is perpetrated.
The result is the legal plunder of certain classes by other classes. In other words, socialism. Bastiac argues that the injustice of inequality does not make right the injustice of plunder. The law should not be used to create a “self-serving fountain” for people to grab what they want simply because they have less.
But how is [legal plunder] to be distinguished? Very easily. See whether the law takes from some persons that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to them. See whether the law performs, for the profit of one citizen, and, to the injury of others, an act which this citizen cannot perform without committing a crime.
Here I am encountering the most popular prejudice of our time. It is not considered enough that law should be just, it must be philanthropic. It is not sufficient that it should guarantee to every citizen the free and inoffensive exercise of his faculties, applied to his physical, intellectual, and moral development; it is required to extend well-being, instruction, and morality, directly over the nation. This is the fascinating side of socialism.
An absense of liberty is required for any state to legally take from one class to give to another.
When prosperous, we should not, it is true, have to thank the State for our success; but when unfortunate, we should no more think of taxing it with our disasters, than our peasants think of attributing to it the arrival of hail or of frost.
Socialists want to tinker with societies from the top down to create their ideal utopias because they believe humanity is inherently flawed. Only they have the vision to make it better.
This tendency of the human race, it must be admitted, is greatly thwarted, particularly in our country, by the fatal disposition, resulting from classical teaching, and common to all politicians, of placing themselves beyond mankind, to arrange, organize, and regulate it, according to their fancy.
…liberty consists, not only in the right granted, but in the power given to man, to exercise, to develop his faculties under the empire of justice, and under the protection of the law.
Socialists believe that citizens need constant guidance and instruction from the state, never to be trusted with their own choices in regard to education or commerce. This requires an authoritarian government with a thick book of law to uphold their vision of morality and righteousness, which often goes against human nature. Therefore, liberty and socialism are mutually exclusive.
Ask a socialist what facet of man’s life should be untouched by state interference and you will find a short list. Nearly everything must be regulated. Sadly, in spite of this, the lot of the average man (and woman) are quick to pick socialism over liberty, because such a scheme requires less labor of them while they can receive legal plunder from those who are more successful. If you’re on the fence about socialism and whether it is just or not, I recommend this book to put you on the right path.
Read More: “The Law” on Amazon