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The Law – Frederic Bastiat (Commentary Part II)

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A continuation of my previous commentary on – or just providing relevant parts of – The Law…
As with last entry, all hiliting and italics are mine. Comments in brackets [] are also mine.

Let us start this time with philanthropy. Forced that is…

“Here I am taking on the most popular prejudice of our time. It is not considered enough that law should be just, it must be philanthropic. It is not sufficient that it should guarantee to every citizen the free and inoffensive exercise of his faculties, applied to his physical, intellectual, and moral development; it is required to extend well-being, instruction, and morality, directly over the nation. This is the fascinating side of socialism. But, I repeat it, these two missions of the law contradict each other. We have to choose between them. A citizen cannot at the same time be free and not free [please leave aside the issue of Schrödinger’s cat – we are not in boxes]. Mr. de Lamartine wrote to me one day thus: “Your doctrine is only the half of my program; you have stopped at liberty, I go on to fraternity.” I answered him: “The second part of your program will destroy the first.” And in fact it is impossible for me to separate the word fraternity from the word voluntary. I cannot possibly conceive fraternity legally enforced, without liberty being legally destroyed, and justice legally trampled under foot. Legal plunder has two roots: one of them, as we have already seen, is in human greed; the other is in misconceived philanthropy.”

“Before I proceed, I think I ought to explain myself upon the word plunder. I do not take it, as it often is taken, in a vague, undefined, relative, or metaphorical sense. I use it in its scientific acceptation, and as expressing the opposite idea to property. When a portion of wealth passes out of the hands of him who has acquired it, without his consent, and without compensation, to him who has not created it, whether by force or by artifice, I say that property is violated, that plunder is perpetrated. I say that this is exactly what the law ought to repress always and everywhere. If the law itself performs the action it ought to repress, I say that plunder is still perpetrated, and even, in a social point of view, under aggravated circumstances. In this case, however, he who profits from the plunder is not responsible for it; it is the law, the lawgiver, society itself, and this is where the political danger lies.”

“…as a friend of mine once remarked to me, to say that the aim of the law is to cause justice to reign, is to use an expression that is not rigorously exact. It ought to be said, the aim of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning. In fact, it is not justice that has an existence of its own, it is injustice. The one results from the absence of the other.”

“You say, “There are men who have no money,” and you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury, in favor of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens and other classes have been forced to send to it.
What so many either forget or ignore (to primarily their benefit – if only to make them feel better and even superior … “look, we are providing for those in need”. That they are using other’s money without consent seems to be lost on them)…

“Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds Government and society. And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it [government or those socialists supporting such a government] concludes that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of education by the State— then we are against education altogether. We object to a State religion— then we would have no religion at all. We object to an equality which is brought about by the State then we are against equality, etc., etc. They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State.”

“Are political rights under discussion? Is a legislator to be chosen? Oh, then the people possess science by instinct: they are gifted with an admirable discernment; their will is always right; the general will cannot err. Suffrage cannot be too universal [I understand the socialists are now looking at 16 as the new voting age!]. Nobody is under any responsibility to society. The will and the capacity to choose well are taken for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are we not living in an age of enlightenment? What! Are the people to be forever led about by the nose? Have they not acquired their rights at the cost of effort and sacrifice? Have they not given sufficient proof of intelligence and wisdom? Are they not arrived at maturity? Are they not in a state to judge for themselves? Do they not know their own interest? Is there a man or a class who would dare to claim the right of putting himself in the place of the people, of deciding and of acting for them? No, no; the people would be free, and they shall be so. They wish to conduct their own affairs, and they shall do so.”
“And if mankind is not competent to judge for itself, why do they [Democratic Socialists] talk so much about universal suffrage [the right to vote, especially in a political election]?”

I think the last paragraph, taken as a whole, very well explains the political oxymoron of the current socialist (read – Democrat) movement – as well as all such movements prior to it. People are completely capable of taking care of themselves – that is why we need government to do it for them – provide welfare, healthcare, Section VIII housing, etc. They have the intelligence and discernment to determine the best people to run the country – but we now have approximately ½ the population that can’t (won’t?) make enough money to pay the taxes used to run it, much less take care of themselves and their family. Hmmmmm. If you are as confused as I am, I am grateful to not be alone.

“…there is not a grievance in the nation for which the Government does not voluntarily make itself responsible. Is it any wonder that every failure threatens to cause a revolution? And what is the remedy proposed? To extend indefinitely the dominion of the law, i.e., the responsibility of Government. But if the Government undertakes to raise and to regulate wages, and is not able to do it; if it undertakes to assist all those who are in want, and is not able to do it; if it undertakes to provide work for every laborer, and is not able to do it; if it undertakes to offer to all who wish to borrow, easy credit, and is not able to do it; if, in words that we regret should have escaped the pen of Mr. de Lamartine, “the State considers that its mission is to enlighten, to develop, to enlarge, to strengthen, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of the people”—if it fails in this, is it not obvious that after every disappointment, which, alas! is more than probable, there will be a no less inevitable revolution?”
“What is law? What ought it to be? What is its domain? What are its limits? Where, in fact, does the prerogative of the legislator stop? I have no hesitation in answering, Law is common force organized to prevent injustice—in short, Law is Justice. It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our persons and property, since they pre-exist, and his work is only to secure them from injury. It is not true that the mission of the law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our will, our education, our sentiments, our works, our exchanges, our gifts, our enjoyments. Its mission is to prevent the rights of one from interfering with those of another, in any one of these things.
The law, then, is solely the organization of individual rights that existed before law.
“So far from being able to oppress the people, or to plunder their property, even for a philanthropic end, its mission is to protect the people, and to secure to them the possession of their property. It must not be said, either, that it may be philanthropic, so long as it abstains from all oppression; for this is a contradiction. The law cannot avoid acting upon our persons and property; if it does not secure them, then it violates them if it touches them.”
“Depart from this point, make the law religious, fraternal, equalizing, industrial, literary, or artistic, and you will be lost in vagueness and uncertainty; you will be upon unknown ground, in a forced Utopia, or, what is worse, in the midst of a multitude of contending Utopias, each striving to gain possession of the law, and to impose it upon you; for fraternity and philanthropy have no fixed limits, as justice has. Where will you stop? Where is the law to stop? One person, Mr. de Saint Cricq, will only extend his philanthropy to some of the industrial classes, and will require the law to slight the consumers in favor of the producers. Another, like Mr. Considerant, will take up the cause of the working classes, and claim for them by means of the law, at a fixed rate, clothing, lodging, food, and everything necessary for the support of life. A third, Mr. Louis Blanc, will say, and with reason, that this would be an incomplete fraternity, and that the law ought to provide them with tools of labor and education. A fourth will observe that such an arrangement still leaves room for inequality, and that the law ought to introduce into the most remote hamlets luxury, literature, and the arts. This is the high road to communism;
in other words, legislation will be—as it now is—the battlefield for everybody’s dreams and everybody’s covetousness.” [me thinks we also are there]
“Law is justice. And it would be very strange if it could properly be anything else! Is not justice right? Are not rights equal?”

To sum it up:
“God has implanted in mankind also all that is necessary to enable it to accomplish its destinies. There is a providential social physiology, as well as a providential human physiology. The social organs are constituted so as to enable them to develop harmoniously in the grand air of liberty.”

Man I wish I were that good. And he was only 49 years old!

Maybe each and every Politian should read, and heed, his essay in its entirety. More than once.
Oh, and maybe the Constitution of the United States along with it. More than once.

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

The Law – Frederic Bastiat (A Commentary Part I)

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I’m back – we’ll see how long it lasts this time.

I am going to cheat again today by mostly quoting from Frederic Bastiat’s The Law (1850).
Needs to be said. Can’t say it better myself.
I would highly encourage all to read the entire essay. Much is said that I, by necessity of length, left out.
As well, I was forced to break this into two commentaries.
However, although it was written over 160 years ago, it is becoming significant to understand in today’s society. A society headed directly down the path he argues against.
All hiliting and italics are mine. Comments in brackets [] are also mine.

To begin with, a few definitions quite relevant and very important in the current state of politics and society.

“Man can only derive life and enjoyment from a perpetual search and appropriation; that is, from a perpetual application of his faculties to objects, or from labor. This is the origin of property.
“But also he may live and enjoy, by seizing and appropriating the productions of the faculties of his fellow men. This is the origin of plunder.”

“Now, labor being in itself a pain, and man being naturally inclined to avoid pain, it follows, and history proves it, that wherever plunder is less burdensome than labor, it prevails; and neither religion nor morality can, in this case, prevent it from prevailing. ‘It is in the nature of men to rise against the injustice of which they are the victims [even when, in much of the case today, it is perceived injustice and victimhood vice actual]. When, therefore, plunder is organized by law, for the profit of those who perpetrate it, all the plundered classes tend, either by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter in some way into the manufacturing of laws. These classes, according to the degree of enlightenment at which they have arrived, may propose to themselves two very different ends, when they thus attempt the attainment of their political rights; either they may wish to put an end to lawful plunder, or they may desire to take part in it.
Woe to the nation where this latter thought prevails amongst the masses, at the moment when they, in their turn, seize upon the legislative power!’”

Should this take place – as it has in the past and we may be very close to it again – …
“It would be impossible, therefore, to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this—the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.
“In the first place, it would efface from everybody’s conscience the distinction between justice and injustice. No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree, but the safest way to make them respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality are in contradiction to each other, the citizen finds himself in the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense, or of losing his respect for the law—two evils of equal magnitude, between which it would be difficult to choose.
“It is so much in the nature of law to support justice that in the minds of the masses they are one and the same [unfortunately of late, that nature is going by the wayside]. There is in all of us a strong disposition to regard what is lawful as legitimate, so much so that many falsely derive all justice from law [hmmmmm, the current state of affairs given the proclivity in our society to shun religion (or any moral thought)]. It is sufficient, then, for the law to order and sanction plunder, that it may appear to many consciences just and sacred.”
“Is there any need to prove that this odious perversion of law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord, that it even tends to social disorganization? Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain—which is, to secure to everyone his liberty and his property. Therefore, there is no country in the world where social order appears to rest upon a more solid basis. Nevertheless, even in the United States, there are two questions, and only two, that from the beginning have endangered political order. And what are these two questions? That of slavery and that of tariffs; that is, precisely the only two questions in which, contrary to the general spirit of this republic, law has taken the character of a plunderer.”
Keep in mind this was from 1850 – are we not destroying this virtual utopia (his concept, not mine) in exactly the way he suggests it can be? We did rid ourselves of overt slavery. And tariffs can be debated. But the slip into plunder is increasing in speed and expanse. While I confess one political party is significantly worse than the other – regardless of party, few in Congress now can see past this idea of plunder for one pet project or another (mostly unconstitutional). One term we use today for plunder is “entitlement”.
“Mr. Montalembert, adopting the thought of a famous proclamation of Mr. Carlier, said, ‘We must make war against socialism.’ And by socialism, according to the definition of Mr. Charles Dupin, he meant plunder. But what plunder did he mean? For there are two sorts: extralegal and legal plunder. As to extralegal plunder, such as theft, or swindling, which is defined, foreseen, and punished by the penal code, I do not think it can be adorned by the name of socialism.”
Not so of legal plunder…
“But how is it to be distinguished [from legitimate function of government or the law]? Very easily. See whether the law takes from some persons that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to them. See whether the law performs, for the profit of one citizen, and, to the injury of others, an act that this citizen cannot perform without committing a crime.”
Wow! Not sure you could get more specific than that. That (legal plunder) which, since this essay was written, and the US was esteemed, we have definitely committed. What government takes from us and gives to others would definitely land an individual in jail should he attempt on his own. Remember Robin Hood. May have had charity in his heart. But was still breaking the law. Yet our government gets away with it every day.
I have no doubt it would be to Bastiat’s utter dismay. Not to mention mine. And I hope yours.

So… How do we solve this travesty of “legal plunder”?
My wife told me recently that I was like Tim Allen (I presume she meant his recent character on TV) – that I come up with solutions (nobody listens of course, but I can sleep at night knowing I solved the problem). In this case, I don’t have to. Mr. Bastiat did it for me. Although it is a solution I’ve recommended several times regarding several issues. I’m certainly not as smart as he was – this was just another one of those not so obvious, obvious ones.
Mr. Bastiat’s answer?
Abolish this law without delay [or, in this case, the thousands of them at both our Federal and State levels]; it is not merely an iniquity [immorality]— it is a fertile source of iniquities, for it invites reprisals; and if you do not take care, the exceptional case will extend, multiply, and become systematic. No doubt the party benefited will exclaim loudly; he will assert his acquired rights [Rights? I think he is using this term very loosely]. He will say that the State is bound to protect and encourage his industry [personal and in general]; he will plead that it is a good thing for the State to be enriched, that it may spend the more, and thus shower down salaries upon the poor workmen. Take care not to listen to this sophistry [sham philosophy – per Plato himself – out for money and willing to say anything to win an argument. Sound familiar?], for it is just by the systematizing of these arguments that legal plunder becomes systematized.”
Will we take his advice? I believe not. We are like alcoholics or drug addicts. We must reach rock bottom first. Unfortunately, like Venezuela, this may not take as long as I was expecting.

“And this is what has taken place. The delusion of the day is to enrich all classes at the expense of each other; it is to generalize plunder under pretense of organizing it. Now, legal plunder may be exercised in an infinite multitude of ways. Hence come an infinite multitude of plans for organization; tariffs, protection, perquisites, gratuities, encouragements, progressive taxation, free public education, right to work, right to profit, right to wages, right to assistance, right to instruments of labor, gratuity of credit, etc., etc. [Wow! Did he hit it right on the head! Many of these definitely sound familiar in today’s society.] And it is all these plans, taken as a whole, with what they have in common, legal plunder, that takes the name of socialism. Now socialism, thus defined, and forming a doctrinal body, what other war would you make against it than a war of doctrine? You find this doctrine false, absurd, abominable. Refute it. This will be all the easier, the more false, absurd, and abominable it is. Above all, if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out of your legislation every particle of socialism which may have crept into it—and this will be no light work.”
“And, in all sincerity, can anything more be required at the hands of the law? Can the law, whose necessary sanction is force, be reasonably employed upon anything beyond securing to everyone his right? I defy anyone to remove it from this circle without perverting it, and consequently turning force against right.”

I leave you tonight with what Bastiat states as the purpose of law, and to the reasoning he takes it, government.
“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? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Nature, or rather God, has bestowed upon every one of us the right to defend his person, his liberty, and his property, since these are the three constituent or preserving elements of life; elements, each of which is rendered complete by the others, and that cannot be understood without them. For what are our faculties, but the extension of our personality? And what is property, but an extension of our faculties? If every man has the right of defending, even by force, his person, his liberty, and his property, a number of men have the right to combine together to extend, to organize a common force to provide regularly for this defense.”
That is the sole purpose of law. The sole purpose of government. We have of course bastardized it.
To the profit of some. To the plunder of others.

Next time: Philanthropy and fraternity and the law of plunder
>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

***The New Dark Ages Cometh

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Watched Robin Hood yesterday. The 2010 film starring Russell Crowe.  I was getting ideas for the days that come.

At the beginning of the movie the declaration read: “In times of tyranny and injustice when law oppresses the people, the outlaw takes his place in history.  England at the turn of the 12th Century was such a time.”  The United States at the beginning of the 21st is as well.  Much of the rest of the world is already there.

King John was at the end of the old Dark Ages… we are at the beginning of the new.

King John was an incompetent, lying, coward in well above his head. Ring any bells?  The United States currently has an Executive Branch that reminds me a lot of King John.  Like King John, blaming everything on its predecessor and declaring everything it does is owed them and necessary to fix the problems left by others.  The IRS, NSA, Justice Department, … – are they fixing the problems or causing them.

It is not just the current Executive Branch at the Federal level that gives me pause.  The Legislature as well is taking us down the path of tyranny.  Also cowards, but more are leading than following.  The administration as a whole is a puppet…  a puppet of the forces of the party.  Some of these forces operate within the government and sit in positions of power in the Legislature.  Others run things from the background preferring anonymity and deniability.  But culpable none-the-less – even more so since they are pulling the strings.

As well, let us not leave out the State and local governments.  Not to be outdone, many are jumping on the bandwagon of tyranny and oppression.  Even further restricting the rights of their people and/or stealing their means of support through taxation.

That said, I heard over the past week that the U.S. is becoming a single party system (don’t remember who said it).  Not one in name, but in philosophy.  In action.  The Progressive Party.  Not official.  Doesn’t need to be.  Based on “official” party ideologies alone many of these actions could not be taken.  The House and the Senate should be at odds.  But they are not.  The official parties are separate.  The House “led” by one, the Senate by the other.  The, theoretically, underlying ideologies are separate. The actions of the members are not.  Regardless of the party, they are justifying oppression in the name of progression and diversity.  Each and every action taken of late, regardless of party affiliation is socialist.  From firearms to religious freedom to taxation to illegal immigration and border security to…  I could go on and on.  A few will be discussed below.  Others at a later date.  Regardless, we are a Socialist nation.  Becoming, as they all do, more and more oppressive in the name of “protecting” the people (not to mention ensuring their feelings aren’t hurt).

Of course the protection of the people, as is necessary for tyranny to reign, comes in the form of denying them the means to protect themselves (outlawing firearms), denying them a belief in a higher being – in anything other than the secular ruler – (i.e., religious freedom), and taxing them past the limit of capacity to “provide” for the “needs” of the whole.  To name just of few of the tyrannical acts being perpetrated on the American people of late.

The old saying goes, “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” is getting closer and closer to reality.  Every new crime committed with a firearm is being used to outlaw more and more of our right and ability to protect ourselves.  On this subject, I defy anyone to provide concrete, empirical data that supports the idea that taking guns from law abiding people reduces the amount of crime perpetrated by those that use them for evil purposes.  One would think that if such proof existed it would be used to back up the actions taken to deny us guns.  However, the “arguments” used are all based on emotion and sensationalism.  Legitimate study after legitimate study, in this country and around the world, proves just the opposite.  As well, every study conducted on the subject demonstrates that when confronted with a firearm in the hands of their potential victim, the perpetrator flees.  Legitimate studies (I keep using that term to differentiate from those “studies” conducted or charted by anti-gun individuals and organizations – the typical study skewed by the questions and illegitimate statistical “analysis” of the results) have shown far more lives are saved each year in the U.S. by the use of a firearm in defense than taken by those committing crimes.  Every one!  I’m sick and tired of having to hear it.  I’m sick and tired of having to say it.  I’m sick and tired of it being ignored!

The new health care laws are pushing further and further into the area of religious belief and forcing both religious “organizations” and privately owned companies to go against their beliefs to comply with the law.  Our government is placing more and more restrictions on individuals and organizations in the name of socialism.  Not only are they severely restricting what is defined as a “religious” organization in order to force this health care plan (something, by the way, we don’t even need and does not in any way fulfill the illegitimate promises made), but are denying privately owned companies from making their own decisions based on their own moral convictions.  We cannot have individual moral convictions.  We may only believe those things that comply with the socialist ideals of Progression and Diversity.  Anything else in their minds is anarchy!  Heaven forbid we have our own beliefs.  Beliefs that have stood the test of time and more often than not have been of benefit to all.  Oh, sorry… am I allowed to say “Heaven forbid” or might I offend someone?  I’m sure in the times to come, regardless of the fact that people have a choice as to whether or not to read my prose, I will be forbidden from uttering such words.

“More taxes” is the battle cry of the weak.  The battle cry of those that have no clue of the way economics and monetary policy works.  Every time taxes are lowered to a reasonable level (yes, the government DOES need funding for legitimate purposes), the coffers of the government increase.  One would think the liberals would want lower taxes.  It would give them more money to waste.  The problem with that is they don’t want more money to waste.  In reality they are not after our money.  It is just the tool used for control.  They want to control us.  For no other reason are our bank accounts being emptied.  And when they can’t empty them anymore, they borrow from our children and our children’s children.  Those yet to be born are already being controlled.  More and more of our fellow citizens are becoming unemployed.  You would think this a bad thing.  However, to the current tyrannical regime, it is what they want.  If you are unemployed you must seek assistance from somewhere.  Since more and more of your family, friends and neighbors are unemployed or under-employed as well, where does one turn?  More and more are on welfare.  More and more are on in the food stamp program.  More and more are being dragged, sadly even willingly, under the yoke of government programs.

These are of course just a few of the issues being perpetrated upon us.  Add them to those of our own making (or at least the making of our fellow citizens). Those such as the large number of men that are too cowardly to stand up and be fathers – those that think being a man is having the ability to get a girl pregnant.  It is not.  Boys can do that.  Men are those that ensure the legitimacy of their relationship with their women and stick around to take care of her and her child.  How about – two years after the birth of an unplanned child, about one third of mothers living with the father [i.e., unmarried] have ended the relationship, compared to only 7% of married mothers.  Does this matter…  Considering the majority of those end up on welfare and in poverty I would say it does.  The median annual income for female-headed households with children under six years old is roughly one-fourth that of two-parent families.  Enough stats…  MAN UP!  btw:  Congratulations on this Father’s Day to those of you man enough to be heads of your households and provide for and lead your family.

This leads to, but is not the only contributing factor, unwed (especially teen) mothers.  Nearly 40% of all births in the United States were to unmarried women in 2007 (I’m sure there are newer statistics but that makes the point – it is getting consistently worse each year though).  Almost half (48%) of all non-marital first births are to teen parents.

There is much more contributing to our fall into darkness.  I’ve discussed apathy…  We will leave it at those for now.

Robin Hood said, “In tyranny lies only failure. Empower every man and you will gain strength.”  This line fell on the deaf ears of King John.  It would fall on the deaf ears of the powers-that-be of today as well.  They, as he, don’t understand.  They, as he, are too cowardly to share power.

Bottom line of all this:  We still have a chance but I do not see us taking it.  Soon the opportunity will have slipped away.  Nay, be given away by our inaction.  We are heading for the New Dark Ages.  You heard it here first.  I will not accept surprise when it happens.  Be prepared!

I’m not sure yet what form this New Dark Age will take.  I will contemplate this and consider enlightening you in the future (knowledge is after all, power! – well, that and good quality firearms!).  With technology in the picture and more and more being controlled by the government it will be difficult for anyone to combat.  We will not exactly be able to jump on horses, draw our swords and battle the king’s forces (although learn to ride and use a sword so far has been my advice).  In the old Dark Ages little real difference existed between the king and a pauper.  As stated by Robin in the movie, “There is no difference between a knight and any other man aside from what he wears.”  Not so much now.

Have we yet hit the last straw?  No, but we are close.  What can we do?  As stated on the hilt of the sword, “Rise and Rise Again until Lambs Become Lions”.  It will become more difficult but, for those of you that don’t mind a little blood, maybe exciting.  The question for now is, what will you do?

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…