Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Law” as Want to Read:
The Law
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview read book* *Different edition

The Law

4.4 of 5 stars 4.40  ·  rating details  ·  4,899 ratings  ·  398 reviews
How is it that the law enforcer itself does not have to keep the law? How is it that the law permits the state to lawfully engage in actions which, if undertaken by individuals, would land them in jail? These are among the most intriguing issues in political and economic philosophy. More specifically, the problem of law that itself violates law is an insurmountable conundr ...more
Paperback, 70 pages
Published August 13th 2008 (first published November 14th 1849)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Law, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Law

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
My favorite book. Changed my life.
6.0 stars. The newest member of my list of "All Time Favorite" books. I can not believe I have never read (or until somewhat recently heard) of this classic of limited government and libertarian political philospophy. Bastiat's message is clear...the only proper role of the law (i.e. government) is to safeguard the individuals right to his/her life, liberty and property. Any actions by the government beyond this limited sphere will actually act to violate the rights of one group at the expense ...more
Mar 13, 2008 Brenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ALL who love Freedom
the same situation exists in America today as in the France of 1848

Socialists desire to practice legal plunder, not illegal plunder. Socialists, like all other monopolists, desire to make the law their own weapon. And when once the law is on the side of socialism, how can it be used against socialism? For when plunder is abetted by the law, it does not fear your courts, your gendarmes, and your prisons. Rather, it may call upon them for help.

Limited legal plunder: This system prevailed when the
While I agree with Bastiat entirely, the way that he has presented "the classic blueprint for a just society," is exactly why people who lean more towards socialist ideas scoff at those who are for capitalism, economic stability, and most importantly honoring the fundamentals of the need for law: to protect life, liberty, and property.

The first chapter started out wonderfully, articulately and simple. It was accessible and easy to understand and apply. I was excited as I hoped to share this with
David Reed
I believe EVERYONE should read this short little book. It so clearly states what the law (government) should do, and what the law should not do. If someone desires FREEDOM in their life, they should take to heart what is presented in this very readable book. While written in 1850 (by a Frenchman!), I have never found a more clear, succinct writing on this subject.

It is in from this book that I learned an appropriate phrase for taxes: Legal Plunder. I understand now how individuals can not give t
Mar 08, 2010 §-- rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liberals
Shelves: politics
I...don't know about this--there's a lot to think about here. Bastiat is basically defending--in a very sharp way--Locke's ideas without mentioning Locke.

What I do know is that this would never catch on in the United States today, which is not that bad of a thing since I don't think the current generation can be trusted with any more liberty than has been given. Bastiat seems to believe that liberty allows people to improve, yet I see no evidence in support of this belief. Like my political the
Bastiat's most important work was probably "The Law." Published in the year of his death, it is a concise formulation of the case for classic liberalism, and a stern warning against the dark clouds of socialism that were descending upon Europe, particularly after the great upheavals of 1848.

Bastiat begins by clarifying the proper role of law in an enlightened Liberal society: the preservation of life, liberty, and property:

"If every person has the right to defend--even by force--his person, his
Samuel Marinov
This is a great little book on law, government, and politics. Its main goal is to refute the socialist claim that one can create equality through the law. When law is given a goal other than its proper one, defense of rights through force, it becomes an instrument for plunder and destruction. Instead of creating equality, it ends up destroying property, liberty, and on occasion, life itself. Two goals drive that strive: greed and false philathropy.

Bastiat also argues that almost every politician
I listened to this as an Audiobook and just now remembered that I have not added it to my collection. This is a reminder that I need to read it in print. It's a foundational book for anyone interested in the philosophy of Politics (with a capital "P") and wanting to understand whence comes any legitimacy of the Law itself. Hint: Much of what purports now to be legitimate law is not, per Bastiat. Only the truly heroic dare flout it, but the rest of us obey illegitimate law only out of fear of the ...more
I really enjoyed his plain, easy to understand explanation of law and the logical development of his views. A must read!
Nov 01, 2014 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wayne Cribb
An amazing little pamphlet, and a must read and re-read. Clear and concise, this book explains the proper relationship between law and liberty, and predicts the perversion of the law - "The law has been perverted through the influence of two very different causes—naked greed and misconceived
philanthropy" (i.e. good intentions).

Letting Bastiat talk about the law:

Nothing, therefore, can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense; it is the substit
The Pillars Of Liberty
Written by TJ Lawrence
Tuesday, 09 February 2010 01:52

The Law, a book authored by French economist, politician and political theorist Frederic Bastiat was originally published as a pamphlet in the final year of Bastiat's life having died in December of 1850 while suffering from tuberculosis. The Law, originally written in French during a time when France was rapidly turning into complete Socialism was entitled La Loi, the book has been translated into English, published several times since its
The Law exists in a comical realm of fringe reality. While reading this, I had this thought, “Libertarianism only exists in a world without causation.” Basically, this reality can only exist in a world where no other interactions take place. This is similar to all extreme ideologies, be it Communism or Milton Friedman’s version of Capitalism. Like those concepts, The Law fails to take into account human nature in the slightest. Better yet, it fails to take in the realities of the natural world. ...more
My husband and I have agreed that this is an important enough book that everyone in the whole world should read it!! If our government officials understood this book our budget would be far more balanced! I am not even close to a political or any kind of economist but this book was very readable and I understood it all.

"The state is a great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else."
Feb 17, 2008 Kimbolimbo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: read-in-2008
155650 Every time I read this book I can't help but wish that everyone I know would take the time to study the principles within. Great book. Let me say that again, great book. A must have in every home, office, bathroom, car, backpack, library and shelf.
David Ranney
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protected and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.

Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred.


Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack.

Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain – and since labor is pain in itself – it follows that men will r
This short essay is one of the best arguments on the purpose of law and government that I have ever read. Though it was first published in 1850, you might think it came out of the mind of some present day "Tea Party" conservative or the Heritage Foundation think tank.

In a nutshell, Bastiat presents the purpose of law--all law: "Law is justice." Just that, nothing more. "Its [proper] mission is to protect the people, and to secure to them the possession of their property." Any government legisla
Very short, simple, and logical assertion of what "law" is and what "law" is for. Questions of the desirability of unlimited liberty aside, as the essay progresses I think it suffers from an uneven tone and it strays from its simplicity, expanding into lecture on Sparta, Paraguay, and other topics. Perhaps his unveiling of the socialist motives of his colleagues in the chaotic French legislature of 1848 were easier to receive in contemporary ears than in ones of present day, though his passion i ...more
Rara Rizal
Fiery, passionate writing that actually makes sense? How can it not be five-stars? And how dare we expect less from the great Mr. Bastiat?
His message really is simple: that the law is made to protect individual liberty so by God, why should it be used for any other purpose?

"It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws. What, then, is law? ... It is the
This short book provides one of the most succinct explanations of what the relationship between law and freedom should be that I have found so far. It is a must read of anyone who values their freedom, which should be you. Here are some gems:

"It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws."

"Hence come an infinite multitude of plans for organization; teriffs
Jessica Courter
It was with much skepticism that I started The Law. It seemed impossible that anyone could properly identify the goal, function, and bounds of law apart from Scripture - and indeed, they cannot. However, although Mr. Bastiat’s work has its flaws, fallacies and incorrect root issue identifications, I found it is most certainly still brimming with brilliant “hit-the-nail-on-the-head” statements.

I will address some of my praises and then proceed to explain the concerns.

First, Mr. Bastiat has an e
Over 150 years after its first publication, Frédéric Bastiat's The Law remains a great introduction for people who are new to, or wish to know more about, the school of thought that is best known today as libertarianism.

It's a short work, and Bastiat touches on numerous topics and principals which he uses to reinforce what I take to be his main two premises. First, that 'collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute', an
amazon review:
The Law was originally published in French in 1850 by Frederic Bastiat. It was written two years after the third French Revolution of 1848. From Wikipedia: Claude Frédéric Bastiat (29 June 1801 – 24 December 1850) was a French classical liberal theorist, political economist, and member of the French assembly. He was notable for developing the important economic concept of opportunity cost. Bastiat was born in Bayonne, Aquitaine, France. When he was nine years old, he was orphaned a
Same issues we face with creeping socialism were denounced in 1850 by this man in France .............

"But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it
Sumirti Singaravel
Aug 08, 2013 Sumirti Singaravel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves conflicts
Recommended to Sumirti by: The Libertarian Economist blog

There are certain books which drastically change the way you look at the world. They will shook you down, call you a fool at your face, pass a quiver through your spine and give you goose bumps.

This is one such book.

Although written in the 19th century, every word this book utters, holds good even today. It is a strong argument put forth to defend the 'Liberty' of man. The author chides away every attempt to apply the instrument
Just like his other short essays (The Candle-maker's Petition and the Broken Window Fallacy), this book provides some of the basic tenets of a true capitalistic society. It is written at a time when this kind of economic belief was new to the American experiment and was revolutionary in its simplicity. Bastiat perfectly describes the way "Law" is used to enrich and enable on part of the population at the expense and detriment of the other. He then goes on to layout how proper adherence to the la ...more
This is one of those books where you're reading and you have to put it down to go "Holy Shit!" An eye opener to say the least. Even though Bastiat's points are quite logical and self-evident, they are a revelation because we just don't think about things this way.

For Bastiat to have kept the flame of liberty alive during the time of statists and utopians like Robespierre is astounding and evidence of his genius. What's more, these lessons are still as relevant today, if not more so, than they we
Brilliant! It is amazing how that which is moral and ethical can stand the test of time. This could have been written yesterday and still ring just as true.
Bastiat states that "The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense." He presents the argument that any other use of law is a perversion and is nothing more than legal plunder. He says that it is human nature to want "to live and prosper at the expense of others", so "it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking
Although some of the men that Bastiat makes references to were unfamiliar to me, the Law is an essay that calls upon the hypocrisy of the law. The law is misrepresented as to what its original intentions were as opposed to its apparent purpose. Rather than the law protecting life, liberty and property, the law is used as a tool for legal plunder. Not only do legislators wish upon plundering, but they think that they are superior and omnipotent beings, and the nation will crumble without them to ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Liberty-Lit: The Law by Frédéric Bastiat 10 12 Feb 05, 2014 10:12AM  
is this the book you told me about last summer in DC? 5 60 Apr 24, 2013 08:57AM  
  • What Has Government Done to Our Money? and The Case for the 100 Percent Gold Dollar
  • Human Action: A Treatise on Economics
  • The Proper Role of Government
  • Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century
  • Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
  • The Road to Serfdom
  • End the Fed
  • Defending the Undefendable
  • The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
Claude Frédéric Bastiat (29 June 1801 – 24 December 1850) was a French classical liberal theorist, political economist, and member of the French assembly.
More about Frédéric Bastiat...
That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen Economic Sophisms The Economics of Freedom: What Your Professors Won't Tell You Essays on political economy Bastiat Collection

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” 134 likes
“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?” 88 likes
More quotes…