Bastiat - The Law
Bastiat - The Law
During the French Revolution, as the Jacobins, were busily guillotining their political enemies in the name of equity, Frederic Bastiat observed that the heart of their problem was an “odious perversion of the law.”
He writes, “As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose (that of protecting life, liberty, and property) —that it may violate property instead of protecting it—then everyone will want to participate in making the law either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominate, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, the struggle within will be no less furious. . . . “
He turns to the United States of his day for inspiration, “There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain, the protection of every person’s liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation.”
Today, however, Bastiat’s “odious perversion of the law ” has struck America. The more we see the law being used to protect political friends and to attack political enemies, and the more we see it used to extort massive settlements from any person or corporation with deep pockets, the less we respect the law. The lawlessness we’re experiencing on our streets and in our institutions is a direct result of that disrespect.
One may fear, but never respect law that is little more than an exercise of power. But without respect for law, however, there can be no liberty, no prosperity, and certainly be no “social justice.”
The French citizens of Bastiat’s day required a “reign of terror” before they came to their senses. It appears that we too shall require the same—an American tragedy.
Art DeJong, Sheboygan