Brad Miller

Best of Bastiat – part 1

In Advocates of Liberty on August 2, 2011 at 1:28 am

Frederic Bastiat : Advocate of Free Trade and Individual Liberty

Frederic Bastiat was a Frenchman who lived from 1801 – 1850.  He was a merchant, a politician and an economist. In the last six years of his life he produced some of the greatest works defending the cause of liberty ever written.

He lived during a time like our own, where government intervention was expanding exponentially.  He devoted his life to combating the errors of Socialism and advocating for Free Trade and Individual Liberty along with his counterpart in England, Richard Cobden.

Today if you pick up his Essay “The Law” or read his famous “candle makers petition” you will find some of the most persuasive, relatable, clear arguments against coercive-destructive government intervention you will ever find.  His words are just as true today as they were in France almost 170 yrs ago.

Bastiat was a committed enemy of Socialism in all its forms. But he always relied on persuasion not personal attacks to refute those who espoused the collectivist creed.  Bastiat  built his defense of the Free Market and individual Liberty upon the unshakeable foundation of Natural Rights. His opposition to Socialism was based on the God-given rights of Life, Liberty and Property.

Bastiat’s writings are filled above all with optimism.  He truly believed that human interactions were fundamentally “harmonious” and that voluntary exchanges between individuals on the Free Market did not need any government interference.

This is how Bastiat begins “The Law”…

“The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish! If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.”

“The Law Perverted” … He pulls no punches. I wish more of us who love liberty would do the same. And the fact that he felt it his duty to inform his fellow-citizens is an important point. He did not rest just complaining to other like minded individuals or writing to demonstrate how smart he was. He instead strove to teach the world the blessings of Liberty and Free Trade and warn against the evils of collectivism.

Bastiat to me defines the minarchist or strictly limited government position when he wrote:

“We must remember that law is force, and that, consequently, the proper functions of the law cannot lawfully extend beyond the proper functions of force.

“The law and force keep a person within the bounds of justice, they impose nothing but a mere negation. They oblige him only to abstain from harming others. They violate neither his personality, his liberty, nor his property. They safeguard all of these. They are defensive and secure the rights of all.”

(This is the proper scope of the law whether it’s administered by private or public courts and police departments.)

In this next passage he clearly demonstrates that any government intervention into peaceful voluntary exchanges violates Natural Law.

“Try to imagine a regulation of labor imposed by force that is not a violation of liberty; a transfer of wealth imposed by force that is not a violation of property. If you cannot reconcile these contradictions, then you must conclude that the law can not organize labor and industry without organizing injustice.”

If the folks in Washington read Bastiat,  maybe they could see why their central planning and regulations could never produce prosperity.

But the Washington approach is always to promote injustice. Bastiat knew that  inherent in any attempt at “equalization ” is injustice.  He understood the perils of redistribution schemes and forced equality before there was a Soviet Union.

He wrote:

“The law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons. When the law does this, it is an instrument of plunder. With this in mind, examine the protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, relief and welfare schemes, public education, progressive taxation, free credit, and public works. You will find that they are always based on legal plunder, organized injustice.”

My favorite phrase by Bastiat describing  the law as “ plunder, organized injustice.”

That sums up what the law is today and he wrote that back in 1844!!! If you are looking for a systemized, logical, articulate defense of the free market and individual liberty and a concrete condemnation of Socialism and government intervention, check out “The Law” and other works by Frederic Bastiat, my favorite Frenchman.

And that’s my take.



You can read “The Law”  for free at

Also check out,, and for all of Bastiat’s works online for free.

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