Revisiting Frédéric Bastiat

Frédéric Bastiat

Frédéric Bastiat

The Wisdom of Frédéric Bastiat:

“Once the legislator is placed at this incommensurable distance from other men, and believes, in all conscience, that he can dispose of their time, their labor, and their transactions, all of which are their property, what man in the whole country has the least knowledge of the position in which the law will forcibly place him and his line of work tomorrow? And, under such conditions, who can or will undertake anything?”

“What must be the consequence of all this? Capital and labor will be frightened; they will no longer be able to count on the future. Capital, under the impact of such a doctrine, will hide, flee, be destroyed. And what will become, then, of the workers, those workers for whom you profess an affection so deep and sincere, but so unenlightened? Will they be better dressed when no one dares to build a factory? Will they have more employment when capital will have disappeared?”

“Whereas the legislator’s principle involves virtual slavery, the economists’ principle implies liberty. Property, the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor, the right to work, to develop, to exercise one’s faculties, according to one’s own understanding, without the state intervening otherwise than by its protective action—this is what is meant by liberty. And I still cannot understand why the numerous partisans of the systems opposed to liberty allow the word liberty to remain on the flag of the Republic.”

“Let us never forget that, in fact, the government has no resources of its own. It has nothing, it possesses nothing that it does not take from the workers. When, then, it meddles in everything, it substitutes the deplorable and costly activity of its own agents for private activity.”

Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist and legislator who devoted himself to the promotion and protection of Liberty. The ideas and ideals expressed in his writings are as relevant today as they were when they were written over 160 years ago. So many of the large problems that we face today as a nation could have been avoided if we had not ignored the ideas of such great thinkers as Adam Smith, or Edmund Burke, or the subject of this post, Frederic Bastiat.

I have added a new page devoted to a slightly excerpted version of Bastiat’s essay on Property and Law, which I encourage everyone to link to here.

Obama vs. the Founding Fathers

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it! If you do not, I shall repent it in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it!”

John Adams to Abigail Adams, April 26, 1777

The most recent mutation of social collectivism will be perpetuated as an idea with the re-election of Barack Obama. It’s small comfort to know that the only thing standing in the way of its full implementation is the House of Representatives, which is controlled by a majority of Republicans. Those who understand the stakes involved must insist that they not surrender an inch of ground in this all important struggle for the future of our country.

Obama and his supporters firmly believe that some Americans are entitled to the wealth created by others Americans. They ran a campaign that said the wealthiest Americans must accept a tax rate increase because they are not paying their “fair share” to fund government services. Clearly, Obama liberals agree with Karl Marx’s idea From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” though they rarely will admit it in public. (For those of you who may not know, Karl Marx is considered the father of modern communism, a theory of economics and social order that has wreaked unimaginable sufferings on its human subjects every time it has been tried. We’ll have to save a discussion of the history and consequences of collectivism for another time.)

Part of the Democrat party’s strategy at election time has been simple: Convince enough voters that there is nothing wrong with awarding themselves goodies paid for by another set of Americans. Our founding fathers warned against this type of political arrangement which they called the tyranny of the majority. Benjamin Franklin once noted that, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” That discovery has been made and the fact is that wealth, which of course is property, is no longer secure in America. Founding father John Adams warned that, “Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.”

Under Obama’s misleadership the federal government’s reckless borrowing and spending will probably continue. Before long the $16 trillion federal debt will grow to $17 trillion, then to $18 trillion and so on. We will borrow more against future wealth that doesn’t yet exist. That’s a real gamble, a gamble our lenders may not always be willing to make. If our credit dries up, then what? Observe Greece.

The electorate that re-hired Obama is effectively ensuring that the next couple of generations will be worse off than we are. They will be required to pay off our debts. They will be slaves to a debt that they were not party to and did not benefit from. The morality of this arrangement is never questioned by liberals. Thomas Jefferson explored the subject in 1789 in a private letter he wrote to James Madison, another founding father:

“The question whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here on the elementary principles of society has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be transmitted I think very capable of proof. I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;” that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it”

“Then I say the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully, and in their own right. The 2d. generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the 1st., the 3d. of the 2d. and so on. For if the 1st. could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not the living generation. Then no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”

Were he alive today, I think Jefferson would agree that it’s time that Americans learn to live within their means. We must all be made to recognize that massive reliance on government for our every need will lead to the ultimate collapse of the U.S. economy. Look at what is happening to countries like Greece and Spain, where the people of those countries have been hypnotized by the hollow promises of their nanny state governments. Now the government checks have stopped coming, one in four people cannot find work, suicides are skyrocketing. We are heading in that direction. It’s time to turn this ship around before it’s too late.

What are you going to do about it?