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cover for The Law

The Law — by Frédéric Bastiat

Rating: 9/10

The Law was a delightful read. It’s unusual to find authors who can communicate a point across as clearly and succinctly as Bastiat.

My favorite ideas from the book:

Each of us has a natural right to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. The law is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Therefore, the law must be used by an individual to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. It must never be used to attack or steal another person’s life, liberty, or property. Justice and law are different concepts, although most people think of them as one. The fact that something is made legal by law does not imply that it is just. If the law was limited to be used in self-defense, there wouldn’t be as much interest as it now exists for citizens to hold public office, since the law would change very little from term to term – and when it does change, it wouldn’t be for the benefit of anyone in particular. When people start using law to bend society in a way in which they individually desire, they are looking down on humanity and seeing people as inert matter that can be molded in certain ways to lead them to achieve a specific outcome. We should respect each other and never use force to make someone into who we want them to be.

The book also left me with questions:

What’s the best way for a state to fund the operations with which they will allow citizens to use the law to defend themselves? Would humans still have natural rights (life, liberty, property) if we were to take God out of the equation?

And finally, a couple of my favorite quotes:

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”