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The Law

4.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,571 Ratings  ·  507 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, 61 pages
Published June 30th 2011 by Ludwig von Mises Institute (first published November 14th 1849)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Feb 16, 2008 zikafus rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, philosophy
My favorite book. Changed my life.
Mar 13, 2008 Brenda rated it really liked it  ·  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
Sep 09, 2008 Katherine rated it it was ok
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
Apr 11, 2009 David Reed rated it it was amazing
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
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."
Mar 08, 2010 §-- rated it it was ok
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
Feb 22, 2009 Gary rated it really liked it
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
Timothy Matias
Jul 29, 2014 Timothy Matias rated it it was ok
Having been greatly encouraged by some libertarian friends to read “The Law” by Frédéric Bastiat, I finally got around to reading it today, and if I were to simplify my impressions of it in as few words as possible, it would be an anti-communist manifesto. In fact, the book’s structure, style, methodology, and zealotry are almost identical in form and potency. Like Marx’s Communist manifesto, it starts out by stating ideals which it assumes all members of society to hold in common, describes how ...more
Jan 30, 2012 Tom rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 01, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing
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
Samuel Marinov
Dec 25, 2013 Samuel Marinov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: law, politics, government
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
Feb 17, 2008 Kimbolimbo rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Jan 22, 2009 Dina rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed his plain, easy to understand explanation of law and the logical development of his views. A must read!
Apr 18, 2011 Jeremy rated it really liked it


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
Mar 11, 2011 Cathy rated it it was amazing
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
Rara Rizal
Apr 26, 2013 Rara Rizal rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 14, 2014 Patrick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ideas
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
Mar 16, 2012 Ross rated it it was amazing
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
The Pillars Of Liberty
May 05, 2010 The Pillars Of Liberty rated it it was amazing
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
Sumirti Singaravel
Mar 11, 2015 Sumirti Singaravel rated it it was amazing
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
Jay Roberts
Mar 01, 2016 Jay Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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
Oct 12, 2011 Clinton rated it really liked it
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
Ahmad Mustafa
كتاب صغير في الحجم لكنه كبير في المحتوى،،،
القوانين ؛الحق الذي أريدَ به باطل .
تناوله للاشتراكية و الديموقراطية و نقدهم لها بمنظور مختلف و رائع،،
أنصح بقراءته و موجود منه نسخة مترجمة ممتازة على المواقع .
Apr 01, 2010 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, law
This book must be read by everyone, short and sweet! Many things he said were the most well thought out propositons that I've ever read, and prophetic! When you buy yours get and extra and give it away.
Bastiats logic is keen, his views were right on the money.
Many of the things he said would happen because of this or that policy have and are happening as I write this. He lived in France long ago but the economic rules for then and now haven't change.
David Robins
May 22, 2011 David Robins rated it it was amazing
Bastiat writes a great little book; short but to the point: the law should not be used for immorality or plunder, but should be based on a sound standard with commensurate retribution and reparations to the wronged; it should never, as so often used today, be used for "social engineering", arbitrary punishment, or against any victimless crime (non-crime).
David Ranney
Mar 10, 2014 David Ranney rated it liked it
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.
Cynthia Egbert
Jan 01, 2015 Cynthia Egbert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plain and simple, everyone should read this book. More than once in fact.
Fabricio Terán
Mar 20, 2016 Fabricio Terán rated it really liked it
Breve y claro. Para Bastiat la función de la ley es proteger derechos preexistentes a la ley. Para contextualizar al autor hay que, a mi parecer, fijarse en algo más que el debate jurídico-filosófico sobre si los derechos preceden a la ley o son creados por la ley, pues Bastiat le dice "derechos" a facultades intrínsecas innegables del ser humano: su propia existencia, su capacidad de elegir, y su producción para subsistir (que en términos de Bastiat son los derechos a la vida, libertad y propie ...more
Florin Andrei
Sep 06, 2015 Florin Andrei rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, philosophy
Indulge me, M. Basitat, and imagine yourself in a society where the law is but the criminal code, for that is what you propose in your pamphlet (or should I call it an essay?). Imagine a society where you are free to do everything except that which violates the persons' liberty and property. Am I missing something?

Let us make a bargain. I will sell you the beans land makes over the next Y years for a sum of money, X.

Scenario 1: war breaks out and the price of beans increases, I give you X back a
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Claude Frédéric Bastiat (29 June 1801 – 24 December 1850) was a French classical liberal theorist, political economist, and member of the French assembly.
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“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.” 195 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?” 120 likes
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