Life Is a Gift from God
What Is Law?
A Just and Enduring Government
The Complete Perversion of the Law
A Fatal Tendency of Mankind
Property and Plunder
Victims of Lawful Plunder
The Results of Legal Plunder
The Fate of Non-Conformists
Who Shall Judge?
The Reason Why Voting Is Restricted
The Answer Is to Restrict the Law
The Fatal Idea of Legal Plunder
Perverted Law Causes Conflict
Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder
Two Kinds of Plunder
The Law Defends Plunder
How to Identify Legal Plunder
Legal Plunder Has Many Names
Socialism Is Legal Plunder
The Choice Before Us
The Proper Function of the Law
The Seductive Lure of Socialism
Enforced Fraternity Destroys Liberty
Plunder Violates Ownership
Three Systems of Plunder
Law Is Force
Law Is a Negative Concept
The Political Approach
The Law and Charity
The Law and Education
The Law and Morals
A Confusion of Terms
The Influence of Socialist Writers
The Socialists Wish to Play God
The Socialists Despise Mankind
A Defense of Compulsory Labor
A Defense of Paternal Government
The Idea of Passive Mankind
Socialists Ignore Reason and Facts
Socialists Want to Regiment People
A Famous Name and an Evil Idea
A Frightful Idea
The Leader of the Democrats
Socialists Want Forced Conformity
Legislators Desire to Mold Mankind
Legislators Told How to Manage Men
A Temporary Dictatorship
Socialists Want Equality of Wealth
The Error of the Socialist Writers
What Is Liberty?
The Socialists Want Dictatorship
The Indirect Approach to Despotism
Napoleon Wanted Passive Mankind
The Vicious Circle of Socialism
The Doctrine of the Democrats
The Socialist Concept of Liberty
Socialists Fear All Liberties
The Superman Idea
The Socialists Reject Free Choice
The Cause of French Revolutions
The Enormous Power of Government
Politics and Economics
Proper Legislative Functions
Law and Charity Are Not the Same
The High Road to Communism
The Basis for Stable Government
Justice Means Equal Rights
The Path to Dignity and Progress
Proof of an Idea
The Desire to Rule Over Others
Let Us Now Try Liberty
|The Book and Author|
Irvington-on-Hudson, New York 10533
|Life Is a Gift from God|
|What Is Law?|
|A Just and Enduring Government|
|The Complete Perversion of the Law|
|A Fatal Tendency of Mankind|
|Property and Plunder|
|Victims of Lawful Plunder|
|The Results of Legal Plunder|
|The Fate of Non-Conformists|
|Who Shall Judge?|
|The Reason Why Voting Is Restricted|
|The Answer Is to Restrict the Law|
|The Fatal Idea of Legal Plunder|
|Perverted Law Causes Conflict|
|Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder|
|Two Kinds of Plunder|
|The Law Defends Plunder|
|How to Identify Legal Plunder|
|Legal Plunder Has Many Names|
|Socialism Is Legal Plunder|
|The Choice Before Us|
- The few plunder the many.
- Everybody plunders everybody.
- Nobody plunders anybody.
|The Proper Function of the Law|
|The Seductive Lure of Socialism|
|Enforced Fraternity Destroys Liberty|
In fact, it is impossible for me to separate the word fraternity from the word voluntary. I cannot possibly understand how fraternity can be legally enforced without liberty being legally destroyed, and thus justice being legally trampled underfoot
|Plunder Violates Ownership|
|Three Systems of Plunder|
|Law Is Force|
|Law Is a Negative Concept|
|The Political Approach|
|The Law and Charity|
|The Law and Education|
|The Law and Morals|
|A Confusion of Terms|
|The Influence of Socialist Writers|
|The Socialists Wish to Play God|
|The Socialists Despise Mankind|
|A Defense of Compulsory Labor|
One of the things most strongly impressed (by whom?) upon the minds of the Egyptians was patriotism.... No one was permitted to be useless to the state. The law assigned to each one his work, which was handed down from father to son. No one was permitted to have two professions. Nor could a person change from one job to another.... But there was one task to which all were forced to conform: the study of the laws and of wisdom. Ignorance of religion and of the political regulations of the country was not excused under any circumstances. Moreover, each occupation was assigned (by whom?) to a certain district.... Among the good laws, one of the best was that everyone was trained (by whom?) to obey them. As a result of this, Egypt was filled with wonderful inventions, and nothing was neglected that could make life easy and quiet.
|A Defense of Paternal Government|
How is that possible? These arts were invented by Trismegistus [who was alleged to have been Chancellor to the Egyptian god Osiris].
One of the first responsibilities of the prince was to encourage agriculture.... Just as there were offices established for the regulation of armies, just so were there offices for the direction of farm work.... The Persian people were inspired with an overwhelming respect for royal authority.
The Greeks, naturally intelligent and courageous, had been early cultivated by the kings and settlers who had come from Egypt. From these Egyptian rulers, the Greek people had learned bodily exercises, foot races, and horse and chariot races.... But the best thing that the Egyptians had taught the Greeks was to become docile, and to permit themselves to be formed by the law for the public good.
|The Idea of Passive Mankind|
|Socialists Ignore Reason and Facts|
We could not turn our eyes to either shore without seeing rich towns and country estates most agreeably located; fields, never fallowed, covered with golden crops every year; meadows full of flocks; workers bending under the weight of the fruit which the earth lavished upon its cultivators; shepherds who made the echoes resound with the soft notes from their pipes and flutes. "Happy," said Mentor, "is the people governed by a wise king...."
Later, Mentor desired that I observe the contentment and abundance which covered all Egypt, where twenty-two thousand cities could be counted. He admired the good police regulations in the cities; the justice rendered in favor of the poor against the rich; the sound education of the children in obedience, labor, sobriety, and the love of the arts and letters; the exactness with which all religious ceremonies were performed; the unselfishness, the high regard for honor, the faithfulness to men, and the fear of the gods which every father taught his children. He never stopped admiring the prosperity of the country. "Happy," said he, "is the people ruled by a wise king in such a manner."
|Socialists Want to Regiment People|
All that you see in this wonderful island results from the laws of Minos. The education which he ordained for the children makes their bodies strong and robust. From the very beginning, one accustoms the children to a life of frugality and labor, because one assumes that all pleasures of the senses weaken both body and mind. Thus one allows them no pleasure except that of becoming invincible by virtue, and of acquiring glory.... Here one punishes three vices that go unpunished among other people: ingratitude, hypocrisy, and greed. There is no need to punish persons for pomp and dissipation, for they are unknown in Crete.... No costly furniture, no magnificent clothing, no delicious feasts, no gilded palaces are permitted.
|A Famous Name and an Evil Idea|
To maintain the spirit of commerce, it is necessary that all the laws must favor it. These laws, by proportionately dividing up the fortunes as they are made in commerce, should provide every poor citizen with sufficiently easy circumstances to enable him to work like the others. These same laws should put every rich citizen in such lowered circumstances as to force him to work in order to keep or to gain.
Although real equality is the soul of the state in a democracy, yet this is so difficult to establish that an extreme precision in this matter would not always be desirable. It is sufficient that there be established a census to reduce or fix these differences in wealth within a certain limit. After this is done, it remains for specific laws to equalize inequality by imposing burdens upon the rich and granting relief to the poor.
In Greece, there were two kinds of republics. One, Sparta, was military; the other, Athens, was commercial. In the former, it was desired that the citizens be idle; in the latter, love of labor was encouraged.
Note the marvelous genius of these legislators: By debasing all established customs — by mixing the usual concepts of all virtues — they knew in advance that the world would admire their wisdom.
Lycurgus gave stability to his city of Sparta by combining petty thievery with the soul of justice; by combining the most complete bondage with the most extreme liberty; by combining the most atrocious beliefs with the greatest moderation. He appeared to deprive his city of all its resources, arts, commerce, money, and defenses. In Sparta, ambition went without the hope of material reward. Natural affection found no outlet because a man was neither son, husband, nor father. Even chastity was no longer considered becoming. By this road, Lycurgus led Sparta on to greatness and glory.
This boldness which was to be found in the institutions of Greece has been repeated in the midst of the degeneracy and corruption of our modern times. An occasional honest legislator has molded a people in whom integrity appears as natural as courage in the Spartans.
Mr. William Penn, for example, is a true Lycurgus. Even though Mr. Penn had peace as his objectivity — while Lycurgus had war as his objective they resemble each other in that their moral prestige over free men allowed them to overcome prejudices, to subdue passions, and to lead their respective peoples into new paths.
The country of Paraguay furnishes us with another example [of a people who, for their own good, are molded by their legislators]. 
Now it is true that if one considers the sheer pleasure of commanding to be the greatest joy in life, he contemplates a crime against society; it will, however, always be a noble ideal to govern men in a manner that will make them happier.
Those who desire to establish similar institutions must do as follows: Establish common ownership of property as in the republic of Plato; revere the gods as Plato commanded; prevent foreigners from mingling with the people, in order to preserve the customs; let the state, instead of the citizens, establish commerce. The legislators should supply arts instead of luxuries; they should satisfy needs instead of desires.
|A Frightful Idea|
|The Leader of the Democrats|
If it is true that a great prince is rare, then is it not true that a great legislator is even more rare? The prince has only to follow the pattern that the legislator creates. The legislator is the mechanic who invents the machine; the prince is merely the workman who sets it in motion.
Would you give stability to the state? Then bring the extremes as closely together as possible. Tolerate neither wealthy persons nor beggars. If the soil is poor or barren, or the country too small for its inhabitants, then turn to industry and arts, and trade these products for the foods that you need.... On a fertile soil — if you are short of inhabitants — devote all your attention to agriculture, because this multiplies people; banish the arts, because they only serve to depopulate the nation....
If you have extensive and accessible coast lines, then cover the sea with merchant ships; you will have a brilliant but short existence. If your seas wash only inaccessible cliffs, let the people be barbarous and eat fish; they will live more quietly — perhaps better — and, most certainly, they will live more happily.
In short, and in addition to the maxims that are common to all, every people has its own particular circumstances. And this fact in itself will cause legislation appropriate to the circumstances.
This is the reason why the Hebrews formerly — and, more recently, the Arabs — had religion as their principle objective. The objective of the Athenians was literature; of Carthage and Tyre, commerce; of Rhodes, naval affairs; of Sparta, war; and of Rome, virtue. The author of The Spirit of Laws has shown by what art the legislator should direct his institutions toward each of these objectives.... But suppose that the legislator mistakes his proper objective, and acts on a principle different from that indicated by the nature of things? Suppose that the selected principle sometimes creates slavery, and sometimes liberty; sometimes wealth, and sometimes population; sometimes peace, and sometimes conquest? This confusion of objective will slowly enfeeble the law and impair the constitution. The state will be subjected to ceaseless agitations until it is destroyed or changed, and invincible nature regains her empire.
|Socialists Want Forced Conformity|
He who would dare to undertake the political creation of a people ought to believe that he can, in a manner of speaking, transform human nature; transform each individual — who, by himself, is a solitary and perfect whole — into a mere part of a greater whole from which the individual will henceforth receive his life and being. Thus the person who would undertake the political creation of a people should believe in his ability to alter man's constitution; to strengthen it; to substitute for the physical and independent existence received from nature, an existence which is partial and moral.  In short, the would-be creator of political man must remove man's own forces and endow him with others that are naturally alien to him.
|Legislators Desire to Mold Mankind|
The legislator must first consider the climate, the air, and the soil. The resources at his disposal determine his duties. He must first consider his locality. A population living on maritime shores must have laws designed for navigation.... If it is an inland settlement, the legislator must make his plans according to the nature and fertility of the soil....
It is especially in the distribution of property that the genius of the legislator will be found. As a general rule, when a new colony is established in any country, sufficient land should be given to each man to support his family....
On an uncultivated island that you are populating with children, you need do nothing but let the seeds of truth germinate along with the development of reason.... But when you resettle a nation with a past into a new country, the skill of the legislator rests in the policy of permitting the people to retain no injurious opinions and customs which can possibly be cured and corrected. If you desire to prevent these opinions and customs from becoming permanent, you will secure the second generation by a general system of public education for the children. A prince or a legislator should never establish a colony without first arranging to send wise men along to instruct the youth...
In a new colony, ample opportunity is open to the careful legislator who desires to purify the customs and manners of the people. If he has virtue and genius, the land and the people at his disposal will inspire his soul with a plan for society. A writer can only vaguely trace the plan in advance because it is necessarily subject to the instability of all hypotheses; the problem has many forms, complications, and circumstances that are difficult to foresee and settle in detail.
|Legislators Told How to Manage Men|
|A Temporary Dictatorship|
Under these circumstances, it is obvious that the springs of government are slack. Give them a new tension, and the evil will be cured.... Think less of punishing faults, and more of rewarding that which you need. In this manner you will restore to your republic the vigor of youth. Because free people have been ignorant of this procedure, they have lost their liberty! But if the evil has made such headway that ordinary governmental procedures are unable to cure it, then resort to an extraordinary tribunal with considerable powers for a short time. The imagination of the citizens needs to be struck a hard blow.
|Socialists Want Equality of Wealth|
My Lord, assume the character of Lycurgus or of Solon. And before you finish reading this essay, amuse yourself by giving laws to some savages in America or Africa. Confine these nomads to fixed dwellings; teach them to tend flocks.... Attempt to develop the social consciousness that nature has planted in them.... Force them to begin to practice the duties of humanity.... Use punishment to cause sensual pleasures to become distasteful to them. Then you will see that every point of your legislation will cause these savages to lose a vice and gain a virtue.
All people have had laws. But few people have been happy. Why is this so? Because the legislators themselves have almost always been ignorant of the purpose of society, which is the uniting of families by a common interest.
Impartiality in law consists of two things: the establishing of equality in wealth and equality in dignity among the citizens.... As the laws establish greater equality, they become proportionately more precious to every citizen.... When all men are equal in wealth and dignity — and when the laws leave no hope of disturbing this equality — how can men then be agitated by greed, ambition, dissipation, idleness, sloth, envy, hatred, or jealousy?
What you have learned about the republic of Sparta should enlighten you on this question. No other state has ever had laws more in accord with the order of nature; of equality.
|The Error of the Socialist Writers|
|What Is Liberty?|
SAINT-JUST: The legislator commands the future. It is for him to will the good of mankind. It is for him to make men what he wills them to be.
ROBESPIERRE: The function of government is to direct the physical and moral powers of the nation toward the end for which the commonwealth has come into being.
BILLAUD-VARENNES: A people who are to be returned to liberty must be formed anew. A strong force and vigorous action are necessary to destroy old prejudices, to change old customs, to correct depraved affections, to restrict superfluous wants, and to destroy ingrained vices.... Citizens, the inflexible austerity of Lycurgus created the firm foundation of the Spartan republic. The weak and trusting character of Solon plunged Athens into slavery. This parallel embraces the whole science of government.
LE PELLETIER: Considering the extent of human degradation, I am convinced that it is necessary to effect a total regeneration and, if I may so express myself, of creating a new people.
|The Socialists Want Dictatorship|
The principle of the republican government is virtue, and the means required to establish virtue is terror. In our country we desire to substitute morality for selfishness, honesty for honor, principles for customs, duties for manners, the empire of reason for the tyranny of fashion, contempt of vice for contempt of poverty, pride for insolence, greatness of soul for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for good companions, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for glitter, the charm of happiness for the boredom of pleasure, the greatness of man for the littleness of the great, a generous, strong, happy people for a good-natured, frivolous, degraded people; in short, we desire to substitute all the virtues and miracles of a republic for all the vices and absurdities of a monarchy.
(At this point in the original French text, Mr. Bastiat pauses and speaks thusly to all do-gooders and would-be rulers of mankind: "Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don't you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.")
|The Indirect Approach to Despotism|
|Napoleon Wanted Passive Mankind|
In our plan, the state has only to pass labor laws (nothing else?) by means of which industrial progress can and must proceed in complete liberty. The state merely places society on an incline (that is all?). Then society will slide down this incline by the mere force of things, and by the natural workings of the established mechanism.
|The Vicious Circle of Socialism|
Once and for all, liberty is not only a mere granted right; it is also the power granted to a person to use and to develop his faculties under a reign of justice and under the protection of the law.
And this is no pointless distinction; its meaning is deep and its consequences are difficult to estimate. For once it is agreed that a person, to be truly free, must have the power to use and develop his faculties, then it follows that every person has a claim on society for such education as will permit him to develop himself. It also follows that every person has a claim on society for tools of production, without which human activity cannot be fully effective. Now by what action can society give to every person the necessary education and the necessary tools of production, if not by the action of the state?
Thus, again, liberty is power. Of what does this power consist? (Of being educated and of being given the tools of production.) Who is to give the education and the tools of production? (Society, which owes them to everyone.) By what action is society to give tools of production to those who do not own them? (Why, by the action of the state.) And from whom will the state take them?
|The Doctrine of the Democrats|
|The Socialist Concept of Liberty|
|Socialists Fear All Liberties|
|The Superman Idea|
|The Socialists Reject Free Choice|
|The Cause of French Revolutions|
|The Enormous Power of Government|
|Politics and Economics|
|Proper Legislative Functions|
|Law and Charity Are Not the Same|
|The High Road to Communism|
|The Basis for Stable Government|
|Justice Means Equal Rights|
|The Path to Dignity and Progress|
|Proof of an Idea|
|The Desire to Rule Over Others|
|Let Us Now Try Liberty|
|Bastiat.org||Liberty, as it is||A site by François-René Rideau|