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The Law [Hardcover]

Frederic Bastiat
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2010
Here, in this 1850 classic, a powerful refutation of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto, published two years earlier, Bastiat discusses: • what is law? • why socialism constitutes legal plunder • the proper function of the law • the law and morality • "the vicious circle of socialism" • the basis for stable government • and more. French political libertarian and economist CLAUDE FRÉDÉRIC BASTIAT (1801-1850) was one of the most eloquent champions of the concept that property rights and individual freedoms flowed from natural law.

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About the Author

Frederic Bastiat was born in Bayonne, Aquitaine, France. When he was nine years old, he was orphaned and became a ward of his father's parents. At age seventeen he left school to become more involved with his family's business as an exporter. Economist Thomas DiLorenzo suggests that this family business experience was crucial to Bastiat's later work because it allowed young Frédéric to acquire first-hand knowledge of some of the effects of trade regulations on the market. Sheldon Richman notes that "he came of age during the Napoleonic wars, with their extensive government intervention in economic affairs." When Bastiat was twenty-five, his grandfather and benefactor died, leaving the young man the family estate and providing him with the means to further his own theoretical inquiries. His areas of intellectual interest were diverse, including "philosophy, history, politics, religion, travel, poetry, political economy, [and] biography." His public career as an economist began only in 1844, and was cut short by his untimely death in 1850. Bastiat had contracted tuberculosis, probably during his tours throughout France to promote his ideas, and that illness eventually prevented him from making further speeches (particularly at the legislative assembly to which he was elected in 1848 and 1849) and took his life. Bastiat died in Rome on 24 December 1850. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and thought-provoking April 12 2004
Frederic Bastiat (1801-50) was a French economist, philosopher and statesman, and this book was written by him as he was already dying of tuberculosis. In The Law, Monsieur Bestiat examines what the natures of law and government are and what they should be, and shows how the natural greed of humanity leads to a perversion of them. He goes on to show that the natural result of this "legal plunder" is ultimately communism and a dictatorship, not of the proletariat, but of a self-styled elite that views the proletariat as a raw material to be molded and, if necessary, broken.
I must say that Frederic Bastiat was able to pack more fascinating analysis into a short space than any other writer I have ever seen. He was definitely cast in the same mold as the founding fathers of the United States, with his belief that life, liberty and property are the unalienable gifts of God. He persuasively argues for the defense of these rights, and shows what happens when a people decide to trample upon them.
If you are interested in the philosophy that produced the United States of America, then I highly recommend that you read this fascinating and thought-provoking book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good short argument for limited government Feb. 2 2004
This was written in 1850, just after the 1848 revolution in France. Bastiat was concerned by all the different groups that were trying to use "The Law" or in Hayek's words, "The State" to remake society into their vision of a more perfect society. Bastiat argues that trying to use the law to help out one group does so at the expense of another group, he calls this "legal plunder" and points out how in the long run this will ruin society.
Bastiat starts off saying that the basic gifts man has from God are: life, liberty, and property. It is appropriate and correct to defend yourself, your liberty, and your property. "The Law" was created to ensure that individuals in society were allowed to use these gifts.
Bastiat says that unfortunately "The Law" is abused by the greed and false philanthropy of man. There are two basic ways of getting ahead in life, the first is to work hard and produce, the second is to plunder from others. When trade off and risks for plunder are better than labor, many people will turn to plunder. It is very tempting for those who make laws to use the law to plunder. Bastiat says "legal plunder" is to use the law to take property, which if was done without the benefit of the law would have been considered a crime.
He has some fairly pointed barbs at socialists. He says many of the writers at his time seem to view people as raw material, to be formed or controlled. He says that most socialists see mankind as evil, while they (the socialists) are good. This leads the socialists to feeling justified in using "The Law" to make mankind be good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, Elegant Phrasing and Startling Insights June 22 2003
Bastiat's The Law is a liberal's nightmare. Written over 150 years ago ago, it clearly defines what is wrong with socialism and explains (actually Bastiat accurately predicted) why socialist programs breed their own corruption and defines "Legal Plunder" in the clearest of terms. Don't be put off by the age of the book; the writing is more clear and more concise than almost any current book.
Here is a quote, "But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime."
I have given away at least a dozen copies of this book; I believe the book is that important. I can think of no higher personal endorsement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Almost every paragraph of this masterpiece contains a quote for the ages. Every sentence a dagger through the heart of socialism and proponents of its policies from antiquity to 19th century France.

The author wrote this as he was dying of tuberculosis. I consider this his deathbed love letter to humanity.

NB I deduct two stars for the frequent typos in what is a short, 58-page document, not to mention the sloppy formatting (widow and orphan headings and paragraphs, full-size superscripts and footnotes). I will look for another publisher's edition for my library and donate this shoddy Cosimo copy to a friend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A work of compelling simplicity and relevance Jan. 17 2004
By A Customer
I have advanced degrees in economics and engineering, a successful career both within the corporate world and as an entrepeneur, have had the great fortune to know senators, justices and generals. My life has been blessed by a rise from scarce means and an absence of fear. Until I stumbled upon this book, which says a lot about my Magnolia League education, I had not ever felt compelled to examine the conditions under which I have been successful. I have been able to follow my talents and conscience due to my own persistance and due to the freedom afforded me by the rule of law. It is amazing that someone in France decades ago was able to desribe this environment we live in so succinctly with such relevance.
Regardless of your political persuasion, please read this book. It defines the american mind and experience in the same way that "Grapes of Wrath," "Casablanca" and "Apocalypse Now" have told the stories of america in crisis. Bastiat's simple statement of the sanctity of the rule of law produces a visceral conviction that individuals should and will triumph; this should satisfy eveyone who believes that men and women can excell.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Law
Excellent! A view of Law as it should be, written in 1850. This book could, in large part, have been written recently. Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2012 by fanrep
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
This book is probably on the shelf of every Libertarian you'll every meet and is, for it's small size, a damning indictment of big government and the very real decay it produces in... Read more
Published on Dec 23 2010 by Andrew Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars Urgent read for every politician and voter!
The Law is a refutation of the systems of socialism, communism and government interventionism written prior to it's publication or since. Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2010 by D Glover
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let Us Now Try Liberty"
Fredric Bastiat's "The Law" covers much more than simply legal constructs. It is an in-depth study of the nature of ordered liberty, economics, socialism, law, the human drive to... Read more
Published on June 6 2004 by Michael Weiser
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, short piece bashing the state on moral grounds
While Bastiat may make one never want to hear the phrase "legal plunder" again, the message of this pamphlet is as relevant now as it was in 1850. Read more
Published on June 17 2003 by Daniel L. Lurker
5.0 out of 5 stars The best secular book investment you'll ever make!!
This is it! In 60 odd pages, Bastiat concisely describes why attempts to redistribute wealth and resources for societal equity amount to no more than legal plunder and ultimately... Read more
Published on March 22 2003 by W. Huber
5.0 out of 5 stars A rock upon which to build!
Have you suspected that taxation was a bad thing? But you don't have the amunition to really *prove* that it is bad? Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2003 by Martha de Forest
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary Reading
This short book could practically serve as a tract in favor of libertarianism and classic liberalism (the latter not to be confused with the modern socialist "liberalism"... Read more
Published on Sept. 21 2002 by Adam Gonnerman
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