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Frederic Bastiat
1801 - 1850

French author, political economist, author of some of the most influential political essays of all time including The Law

Books by Frederic Bastiat
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Economic Sophisms
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Law, The
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Selected Essays in Political Economy
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If every person has the right to defend - even by force - his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right - its reason for existing, its lawfulness - is based on individual rights. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force - for the same reason - cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

1850 - from The Law
The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.

Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone.

When goods don't cross borders, soldiers will.

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

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

1850 - from The Law
Life, liberty and property do not exist because men 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.

The oppressor no longer acts directly by his own force on the oppressed. No, our conscience has become too fastidious for that. There are still, to be sure, the oppressor and his victim, but between them is placed an intermediary, the state. What is better fitted to silence our scruples and to overcome all resistance?

1850 - from The Law
When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

1845 - from Economic Sophisms
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain - and since labor is pain in itself - it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

It is evident ... that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop [a] fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish 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.

1850 - from The Law
The surest way to have the law respected is to make the law respectable. When law and morality are in contradiction, the citizen finds himself in the cruel dilemma of either losing his moral sense, or losing respect for the law.

1850 - from The Law
There are people who think that plunder loses all its immorality as soon as it becomes legal. Personally, I cannot imagine a more alarming situation.