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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Law: The Classic Blueprint For A Free Society
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"The Law" is a small book on the basics of economic principles written by Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), a French economist and member of their National Assembly. He only published works during the last 5 years of his life, which was cut short by a lingering illness.

The Law struck me as an ecnomics version of Thomas Paine's Common Sense - a short, easy to understand book full of impassioned, clearly laid out arguments and examples that clearly demonstrate the author's arguments.
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Bastiat was a man who was not in synch with his times or his country. He grew up in Napoleonic France, a time and place that replaced the idea of individual liberty with government action for the good of the individual. Bastiat argues (and supplies plenty of examples to back his arguments) that this is a perversion of the purpose of government: "The organizers maintain that society, when left undirected, rushed headlong to its inevitable destruction because the instincts of the people are so perverse. The legislators claim to stop this suicidial course and to give it a saner direction. Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above humankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority. They would be shepherds to us, their sheep. Certainly such an arrangement presupposes that they are naturally superior to the rest of us." (pp. 62-3)
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Bastiat begins with a look at the origins of government. He argues, like Locke and Hobbes that governments had to have been organized to protect life and property. That is their purpose and when they stray from it, be it with protectionist schemes like tariffs or with Legal Plunder programs that "take from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong...if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do with commiting a crime...then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but it is a fertile source for further evils...it will spread, multiply and develop into a system." (p. 21)
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Bastiat would not be happy with amount of influence most modern Western governments have over the economies of their countries and the lives of their people. I can only imagine this Frenchman would be a proud supporter of the Tea Party movement - low taxes, no loopholes or special breaks for favored industries, take a hard look at all government programs and get rid of those that engage in the "Legal Plunder" that I mentioned in the previous program.

So, what is this short book "The Law?" I found it to be exciting, invigorating, intellectually stimulating, simple in it language and argument and every bit of a match for Thomas Paine's Common Sense. If the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence have meaning for you, if Adam Smith'sThe Wealth of Nationsmakes sense to you, if you think Hayek's The Road to Serfdomand Freidman's Free to Choose are relevant to the modern world make a point of reading this short book - it is powerful in its simplicity and it still has meaning 160 years after its initial publication.

I cannot recommend this book enough.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2010
Bastiat believed that men had god given rights: the right to property, the right to liberty--the right to decide what you want to do with what is yours as long as you dont infringe on any other man's liberty--, and the right to pursue happiness with the facilities given to you. And the purpose of the law was to protect these rights, the purpose of the law was to be just, to act in the self defense of the law's proprietors and nothing more. And when the law acted outside these bounds it would be commiting an injustice, when the law took from one man and gave to another the law would be violating man's god given right to property, when the law or legislature forced men to work, like in the American South, the law would be comitting an injustice against man's right to liberty. These injustices made any social structure unstable threatining it with collapse and war. And not so coincedentially i believe twelve years after Bastiat wrote The Law (1850)there was war in America over the very same things he had warned against tariffs, as violation of property, and slavery, as violation of liberty and freedom.
There is a great amount of wisdom in this book, or i should say long pamphlet. I reccommend it to anyone really. Student of liberty or not. It is the first (possibly?) piece of liteature that advocated a legislature that made it harder to steal than to work that didnt violate the very rights it was trying to protect. And maybe to believe that a legistature, a state, can exist without violating the rights it was meant to protect, like in the american constitution, is to believe in a myth, the hobbesian myth. But should you read this you may not come to the same conclusion i have come to.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2010
After reading all the comments on the content of this book with such a dominance of five stars, my expectation was maybe too high. This high expectation was probably the cause for not being stunned after reading this book and not giving it unconditional glory and perfect score. However, for anyone dealing with politics, economics and law this is a must read. A must read not for one time, but rather maybe once a year just to keep the idea of liberty and nature of governance fresh and accurate. The need for reread is caused also by the the writing style and the pure content of the book. Writing style is obviously little bit archaic and can be sometimes burdensome. Numerous quotations of influential philosophers of our past which carry from time to time more serious philosophical traits, will also push you to reread some lines for better understanding and deeper reflection. In my opinion the end of the book and final conclusion is the most impressive part and it's strongest point. In less than a one page story of a newborn child and it's future capacities, author succeeds to encircle very descriptively central idea of entire book, which is the idea of human liberty and how it should be treated. Timeless and illuminating, but as I said, in some parts little bit flat and hard to read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2011
Frederic Bastiat's "the law" is an excellent book for the case for limited government. If you want a book that is persuasive that you can give to friends I recommend this one, it's short and clear and explains why it is immoral for the government to use the law for anything except to protect life, liberty and property.

Get many copies of this book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2011
This is a book that should be read by anyone who cares about the direction of our nation. Even though it was written in the 1800's it is full of prescient thoughts about what it happening each and every day in our world. Bastiat was writing to warn France about the dangers of socialism, and since we are facing that very danger today, his philosophical ideas are every bit as appropriate. Would that each of our politicians read and heed Bastiat's wisdom!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2010
This book by Bastiat, although an old book, is SO relevant today. Is asks important questions about the role and nature of government, especially tax funded programs. It's a must read for any homeschool highschool student, law student or concerned citizen. It may very well influence who you vote for during election time!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2012
This was a Great Gift I got which I cherish and which despite the matters involved is pretty easy to understand and read,This is ahead of it's time and while originally written long ago still Rings as true today as it did then,The book despite it's short page count and no index except for the contents page packs a punch.Taking Robespierre,Roseau and other like-minded so-called intellectuals(read Statism)and destroys them completely in such eloquently written words,Every Self-Described Conservative and person who loves freedom should read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
You will read this short book by Frédéric Bastiat and think it was written within the last 12 months. How encouraging it is to read history that is still so relevant. This was a purchase for school (Masters in Public Policy), but I still refer to his work as often as I can. If you're reading Karl Marx, you owe it to yourself to explore the other side and must read Frédéric Bastiat. He wasn't even American, but you will find his principles are still current for any democracy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2012
This is one of my favorite books. This book should be read and discussed in school, and a must read for all politicians. It's been one of most influential books in my political philosophy. Just can't recommend it enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2012
Frederic Bastiat wrote this work in 1850. It is a clear concise work on the nature of law and how laws can enslave or free a society. A must read for anyone interested in civics or citizenship.
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