Bastiat’s The Law

December 20, 2008

Bastiat’s The Law.

It’s good, but he spends entirely too much time responding to people who I have never heard of, and thus was I forced to skip about 1/4 of the essay. The beginning and end are highly worthwhile.

Some excerpts:

Open at random any book on philosophy, politics, or history, and you will probably see how deeply rooted in our country is this idea—the child of classical studies, the mother of socialism. In all of them, you will probably find this idea that mankind is merely inert matter, receiving life, organization, morality, and prosperity from the power of the state. And even worse, it will be stated that mankind tends toward degeneration, and is stopped from this downward course only by the mysterious hand of the legislator.

Excellent, and this paragraph provides a good starting point for anarchists. In a lot of anti-anarchy thinking there is an embedded belief that without the government, we would all be doomed. I know this to be the case because I believed it when I called myself a libertarian. I’ve made this point before, but a successful defense of anarchy depends on it. Anarchists must start by showing people that even if they have never explicitly stated this thought, they believe that government is essential to order. Most people have never considered that this is a statement whose truth or falsity needs to be evaluated.

The last paragraph, shorter: Hobbes’ description of the state of nature as a war of all against all is not self-evidently true, nor, upon further reflection, true at all.

Next:

This must be said: There are too many “great” men in the world—legislators, organizers, do-gooders, leaders of the people, fathers of nations, and so on, and so on. Too many persons place themselves above mankind; they make a career of organizing it, patronizing it, and ruling it.

Now someone will say: “You yourself are doing this very thing.”

True. But it must be admitted that I act in an entirely different sense; if I have joined the ranks of the reformers, it is solely for the purpose of persuading them to leave people alone. I do not look upon people as Vancauson looked upon his automaton. Rather, just as the physiologist accepts the human body as it is, so do I accept people as they are. I desire only to study and admire.

Yes. Well, unless the people in question decide they want more government. That would be no good.

That’s all on The Law for now.

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