Personal Rights & Liberty: A Review of The Law by Frederic Bastiat

Personal Rights & Liberty: A Review of The Law by Frédéric Bastiat
“It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist.  On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws…The law, then, is solely the organization of individual rights that existed before law.  Law is justice.”


These prescient words were written in Mr. Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 essay, The Law. Bastiat’s words are as true now, maybe even more so, than when they were written. A compelling argument is made for natural rights and against socialism: the law should reign down justice over everyone.  Bastiat eloquently explains the idea that government should advocate for the individual and his or her natural rights.  I recommend everyone read it; a copy of The Law is only a few dollars and less than 100 pages.


“…the law takes from some persons that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to them.”


The above is just one of the many examples Bastiat offered to illustrate what he referred to as “legal Plunder”.  It is a common theme and a simple concept we all learned when we were young: don’t take what isn’t yours and isn’t freely given. It is an approach our government, and governments around the world, need to adhere to.  Too often government seems to think it is above the natural law and can violate people’s property or the fruits of their labor to engage in misconceived philanthropy.


Since the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to allow them liberty, how comes it to pass that the tendencies of organizers (i.e. elected officials) are always good?”


Bastiat understood that the people serving government were not superior to the people being governed.  As I look at our politicians today, I wholeheartedly agree. Often times I do not think that our government is acting in the interest of the many, rather it acts for the interest of the few: the campaign donor.  Our government should be by the people, for the people, not for the campaign donors and special interest groups.


It is under the law of justice, under the reign of right, under the influence of liberty, security, stability, and responsibility, that every man will attain to the fullness of his worth, to all the dignity of his being.”  

The “American Dream” will be realized by the maximum amount of people when government exists only to enforce justice.  Too often in today’s regulatory environment we lose efficiency and wealth to needless over-regulation and over-criminalization.  Our government must only act at the point of injustice, and it should stand out of the way when no injured party exists. The U.S. Constitution does a good job defining what the U.S. government should do, and it limits what the federal government can do. Our federal legislators must stop all things the government is doing outside of the Constitution and outside of “the reign of right.”


It is no other than the instinctive effort of every people towards liberty…the free exercise, for all, of all the inoffensive faculties….the destruction of all despotisms, even of legal despotism, and the reduction of law to its only rational sphere, which is to regulate the individual right of legitimate defense, or to repress injustice.”


This was Bastiat’s goal, and what he was endeavoring to promote.  “The law is justice.”  He said it much better than I ever could.  The Law, i.e. the government, should always promote the individual’s right to defend his or her person, liberty, and property. Our federal government must stand up for the people and their natural rights. It must stop going down the road to socialism.  It’s time for a change in D.C., and I hope it starts with me.

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Peter Churchman





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