Memorial Day is considered the kickoff of summer for many even though the Summer Solstice is still a few weeks away. Therefore, get your reading glasses and arm yourself for the fight.
Let’s kick the summer off with a short work by French economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat. Somehow, I graduated from high school and earned a pair of B.A. degrees without hearing of Bastiat. Enter Neal Boortz, the Talkmaster! Somewhere around 2000 or 2001, I was listening to Boortz on WFIR-960 AM in Roanoke, Virginia and he went on a long diatribe about “The Law” and its impact on his thinking. As I find Boortz one of the most intelligent and well rounded hosts in the talk radio genre (even though he can irritate the whiz out of me on the issue of Christians and Christianity), I had to read this book. The edition I bought comes in at a whopping 75 pages, but packs a super heavyweight punch in a flyweight body.
Bastiat was a champion of liberty. His understanding of the nature of government and economics were in sync with the Founding Fathers. The concept of “plunder” is key to Bastiat’s thesis. Simply put, if it is immoral to steal from your neighbor the act does not gain legitimacy if you ask your government to steal on your behalf. “Legalized plunder” is no more moral than petty thievery. The author wrote in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the rise in socialist influence on French government. He saw the dangers and sounded the call.
Bastiat saw the United States as the most successful experiment in liberty. However, as he write in 1850, he saw two dangers to the concept:
Of course, we dealt with the scourge of slavery with the 13th Amendment. However, the plunder of the tariff became the income tax and other various revenue schemes that the federal government uses to squash liberty while feeding the government beast.
Look at the United States There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation. But, even in the United States, there are two issues, and only two, that have always endangered the public peace.
What are these two questions? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.
Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.
“The Law” is a short, but important read. You will gain an appreciation for the simplicity of basic economics. Although it may be bad for your blood pressure, you will forever look at government intrusions on your life differently.