Frederic Bastiat's The Law Analysis

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In his book, “The Law”, Frederic Bastiat aims to counter the trend in legislation which he identified in France during his life. A legislator himself, Bastiat worried that the scope of the law had expanded far past what was just and thus performed the very acts of greed and plunder which it should aim to prevent. Bastiat based his argument on the idea that the essence of man is found in his personality, liberty, and property. The role of law is to protect these faculties of man, and anything beyond is abuse of power and legal plunder. Bastiat views these elements which comprise man as innate. They do not exist as the result of laws, but rather are the reason laws exist. Man has a desire to protect these faculties, but individually this is…show more content…
In explaining human nature, he writes that man derives pleasure from acquiring property either through his own production by labor or through taking the products of others’ labor by plunder. Labor is more costly to the individual than plunder, therefore man’s inclination will be towards plunder, as is proven throughout history. Therefore, Bastiat explains that plunder ceases when it becomes more costly than labor; this is accomplished through laws which protect property. Because laws must be created, the man or group of men who determine these laws yield a great amount of power. As man is inclined to plunder, it is incredibly likely that men will use this unique position to reach this end. He defines legal plunder as laws which take from one person or group to give to another person a group, an act that if a citizen were to conduct on his own would be…show more content…
To some extent, this appears to be the only just course of action, but this could easily become a form of legal plunder and lead to undesirable consequences. If the means of compensation take from the group who profited from the injustice to benefit the group who faced the injustice, this falls into Bastiat’s definition of plunder. Bastiat writes that when a law falls into this category it will rapidly develop into a system of similar laws, and unrelated groups will aim to capitalize on this legal plunder and procure benefits for themselves. Bastiat would describe policies based on intentions such as the above as “misconceived philanthropy” (page 17). The difficulty of correcting unjust laws demonstrates the ramifications of injustice. In the context of slavery, a whole group of people were denied personhood and stripped of personality, liberty, and property- the very essences of man according to Bastiat. This is a such a perversion of the law that simply removing the law does not remove the
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