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The Law


The Law, original French title La Loi, is an 1850 book by Frederic Bastiat. It was written at Mugron two years after the third French Revolution and a few months before his death of tuberculosis at age 49. The essay was influenced by John Locke's Second Treatise on Government and in turn influenced Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. It is the work for which Bastiat is most famous along with The candlemaker's petition and the Parable of the broken window. In The Law, Bastiat says "each of us has a natural right - from God - to defend his person, his liberty, and his property." The State is a "substitution of a common force for individual forces" to defend this right. The law becomes perverted when it is used to violate the rights of the individual, when it punishes one's right to defend himself against a collective effort of others to legislatively enact laws which basically have the same effect of plundering. Justice has precise limits but philanthropy is limitless and government can grow endlessly when that becomes its function. The resulting statism is "based on this triple hypothesis: the total inertness of mankind, the omnipotence of the law, and the infallibility of the legislator." The relationship between the public and the legislator becomes "like the clay to the potter." Bastiat says, "I do not dispute their right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law - by force - and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes." Hide synopsis

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Reviews of The Law

Overall customer rating: 4.875
Alan L E

Everyone should read

by Alan L E on Mar 17, 2011

This book was written in a time when people were thinking, not opining. If one is truly interested in freedom and how laws are written and the rationale behind those written laws should read this book.


Short but to the point; easy but powerful

by Khlit on Jun 22, 2009

This very short book is a very powerful treatise in favor of natural law, the free market, capitalism, the private sector, and limited government. Refutes the ideas of socialism very quickly and easily. Its very easy to understand and does not take long to read at all. Every US legislator should have to read this book. Next to the constitution and declaration of independence, it is the most important book in america


Paradigm Shift

by ShawnCL on Jul 5, 2007

I grew up in a socialist country thinking that government intervention was a good thing. Moreover, I thought that 'rights' entailed entitlements I had on everyone else, especially the wealthy. Bastiat's work on 'The Law' challenges that whole conception from head to toe. Moreover, it is the kind of paradigm shifting gem you rarely come across in political, legal, or economic literature. In less than a hundred pages, Bastiat lucidly argues the case that laws should only be minimally used to defend, and not to remove, personal liberty. It single-handedly changed my mind on a number of issues. Highly reccomended, especially since it can be had so cheaply.


Economic version of LEX REX

by JSGINC on Jun 22, 2007

Excellent book! A necessary read for all engaged in economics and politics (hence, everybody)!!! This book should be a required reading for all university students in all disciplines. Bastiat is both brilliant and rhetorically sublime with his depth and ease of comprehension.



by Huffy on May 24, 2007

This skinniest of wee tomes, is packed with amazing philosophical truths. In it, one of the great philosophers so clearly presents a discourse on Liberty, it can be understood by even us ordinary citizens. Many readers will have epiphanies upon learning Bastiat?s definition of the SOCIALISM, so cleverly incorporated in U.S. government since the 1860?s. He terms Socialism ?LEGAL PLUNDER, ? contending that the LAW [ which is in our case, our government] has as its purpose protection of citizens from plunder, but ?the Law, not only fails to do so, it participates in it,? placing ?the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons ?? at the service of the plunderers. The government then treats the victim--when he defends himself?as a criminal.? Bastiat defines Legal Plunder: ?See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to others 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.? Every person who pays taxes, loves his U.S. heritage, or cares about his children?s future, should read The Law as an accompaniment of the United States Constitution.

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