"The law perverted. And the police
powers of the state along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose
but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose. The law becomes the weapon of every kind
of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to
Those words were written 148 years ago by a French legislator who, in the final year of his life tried to warn France against the evils of socialism into which his nation had drifted and which he insisted was nothing less than a system of legalized plunder.
Those words could have been written yesterday!
The law, Bastiat wrote, exists solely to protect life, liberty and property. Used for any other purpose, the law becomes tyranny.
He defined the law as
Later, he extolled the United States as it was in the 1850s as the living proof that such a government could exist and prosper.
"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," he wrote.
Socialism perverts the law, making it an instrument of legalized plunder. Government, said George Washington is "force." And once that force is put at the disposal of socialist plunderers, liberty vanishes and government ceases to be the servant of free people and becomes, instead, their master.
The purpose of the law, Bastiat repeated, is to prevent injustice from reigning — purely a negative function.
Does all this sound familiar? Isn't the situation Bastiat described in 1850 the situation in which we find ourselves today? Listen as he describes what he called: "The most popular falacy of our times;" for it is also the most popular falacy of our times:
Listen to his descriptions of the socialists with whom he contended and try to deny that they accurately describe today's socialists who now hide under the guise of a benificent liberalism.
As a result of socialist domination and perversion of the law, the people of France in Bastiat's time had become "the most governed, the most regulated, the most imposed upon, the most harnessed, and the most exploited people in Europe. "
And, he wrote, this would continue
It is axiomatic that a nation whose people ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
We are witnessing all of the evils Bastiat experienced in his time. The law has been perverted; it no longer seeks to prevent injustice. It has become the instrument of socialists who call themselves liberals; the means by which Americans have become the most governed, the most regulated, the most imposed upon, the most harnessed, and the most exploited people in our nation's history. We have sold our liberty for a mess of socialist pottage. And we are gagging on it! We have become the sheep; our government the shepherd. And we are forever being herded into regulatory pens by countless government agencies and continuously shorn by others.
For more than a century the lives, liberties and property of the American people were safeguarded by the most perfect instrument for self-government ever conceived by the mind of man — the Constitution of the United States. It stood like a rock barrier between the people and their government, protecting them from the excesses of that force which is the law.
This past century has seen the protection afforded by the Constitution slowly eroded by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the government. It was Liberty's perfect guarantee. It is now a shell of its former self, twisted and perverted by the very people sworn to uphold it.
Bastiat was correct. We cannot at the same time be free and not free . We are either one or the other. Freedom is not divisible. The freedoms we are allowing the socialists to take from us were won by the blood of our ancestors. If we fail to reclaim them now with our deeds, our children and grandchildren will have to reclaim them with their blood.
And that blood will be on our hands.
Faugh a' Ballagh!
Perspectives column from December 31, 1999 issue of Wednesday on the Web
Philosophy of Government