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The Law: The Classic Blueprint For A Free Society

4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1936041749
ISBN-10: 193604174X
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Brown (December 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193604174X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936041749
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
"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.
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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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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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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.

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