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The Law

"La Loi" (French for "The Law") is a pamphlet written by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850. Bastiat argues that the law has been perverted by scholars of public law (publicists) and other intellectuals, so that instead of serving as organized justice, it has become the means for legalized plunder.


Annotated Bibliography of Frédéric Bastiat, by Sheldon Richman, Jul 2000
Opens with a biography, then discusses Bastiat's major works and concludes with a current perspective; includes short list of works about Bastiat and links to other sites
Bastiat's ... The Law, is his venture into explicit political philosophy. In its clarity and brevity it is an achievement to behold ... Bastiat is squarely in the natural law camp ...: "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." He locates the source of law in human nature to live ... Bastiat concludes with a call for freedom and a rejection of all proposals to impose unnatural social arrangements on people.
Bastiat, Frédéric (1801-1850), by Jörg Guido Hülsmann, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
In his essay "The Law," Bastiat argues that the whole point of this artificial institution, the law, is to protect the private property of each member of society: "It is not because men have enacted laws that personality, liberty and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty and property already exist that men make laws." The law is "the collective organization of the individual's right to legitimate self-defense." Only insofar as man-made law supports nature-given private property is it just, and from the maintenance of justice a harmonious social order results.
The Bastiat Solution, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 29 Aug 2008
Analyzes segments of Bastiat's The Law (Dean Russell's translation) as "the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery" of the election season
The election season ... makes me want to reread Frederic Bastiat's The Law. It is the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery that issues forth from across the political spectrum ... Here are some gems ... that are particularly apt as the campaigns heat up.
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. ... If every person has the right to defend—even by force—his person ... then it follows that a group of men have the right ... Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness—is based on individual right.
The Early History of FEE, by Henry Hazlitt, The Freeman, Mar 1984
Excerpted from Hazlitt's remarks at the Leonard E. Read Memorial Conference on Freedom, November 1983; reprinted in the May 2006 issue, including photos of early FEE senior staff
[I]n an amazingly short time a stream of publications began to pour forth [from FEE] ... Frederic Bastiat's 75-page pamphlet, The Law, was translated by Dean Russell and published by FEE in 1950. So far, the Foundation has distributed 344,000 copies.
Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jun 1997
Biographical essay of Frédéric Bastiat, covering those who influenced him as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
In June 1850, Bastiat ... produced one of his most beloved works, The Law. He affirmed the natural rights philosophy, the most powerful intellectual defense of liberty which, except for the American abolitionist movement, had virtually vanished from the English-speaking world ... In [it], Bastiat celebrated "liberty, whose name alone has the power to stir all hearts and set the world to shaking ... freedom of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of movement, of labor, of exchange; in other words, the freedom of everyone to use all his faculties in a peaceful way ..."
Reading the Literature of Liberty, by Roy A. Childs, Jr., May 1987
Childs' selection of "great books" on liberty and libertarianism, including works by Hazlitt, Bastiat, Rose Wilder Lane, Nock, Ayn Rand, Friedman, Hayek, Rothbard, Mises and Nozick
Move from [Economics in One Lesson] to one of the keenest essays ever written on political theory, Frederic Bastiat's The Law. We are born into the world naked, he writes, and to live we human beings must produce the things we need. That's why we need property rights, and the function of just laws under a just government should be to protect these basic rights. But alas! the law has been perverted, and has become an instrument for legalized plunder. The Law was first published as a pamphlet in 1850; its truths remain eternal.
The Roots of Modern Libertarian Ideas, by Brian Doherty, Cato Policy Report, Mar 2007
Survey of the history of libertarian ideas, from ancient China and Greece to 20th century writers; adapted from Radicals for Capitalism (2007)
Oppenheimer distinguished between the "political" means of acquiring wealth—taking it—and the "economic" means—production and exchange ... The political means is especially dangerous when it masquerades as law. The 19th‐​century libertarian pamphleteer Frederic Bastiat in The Law complained of "the law perverted," of the law "not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely different purpose. The law became the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!"


The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat, Sheldon Richman (foreword), Walter E. Williams (introduction), Foundation for Economic Education, 1850
Translated by Dean Russell. Partial list of headings (added by translator): Life is a Gift from God - What is Law? - A Just and Enduring Government - The Complete Perversion of the Law - A Fatal Tendency of Mankind - Property and Plunder
Related Topic: Law