Reading challenge update: 11/35.
“How did politicians ever come to believe this weird idea that the law could be made to produce what it does not contain - the wealth, science, and religion that, in a positive sense, constitute prosperity?”
Today I finished re-reading possibly one of the greatest books ever - “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat. This is one of the books that has made a huge impact in my life, and it even holds a lot of meaning within my family. The first time I read this book, it was all new concepts to me so it changed my worldview. As my ideas have developed, this second time I viewed it in a different way. I think re-reading this book was definitely beneficial as I've needed to refresh my mind on these principles.
The book mainly concerns two topics: the nature of mankind, and the law. I'll briefly cover the main points of both of these.
“Life, faculties, production - in other words, individuality, liberty, property - this is man.”
Regarding the nature of mankind, it's made clear that life makes it evident that things like individuality, property, and creation are key aspects of who we are. But, it's also important to also remember that things like plunder are within our nature as well. We have a “fatal tendency” as Bastiat puts it. Now, we can either gain property by the act of our own labor, or we can seize the products and labor of others. The first is the origin of property, the second is the origin of plunder.
“Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain - and since labor is pain itself - it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.”
Plunder stops when we find it riskier or more painful than labor. That brings us to the second point: the law.
What is law?
“The law perverted! The law — and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation — the law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law become the tool of every kind of avarice, instead of being its check! The law guilty of that very iniquity which it was its mission to punish! Truly, this is a serious fact, if it exists, and one to which I feel bound to call the attention of my fellow citizens.”
If mankind has a fatal tendency, then it only makes sense that the law does as well. The law, as Bastiat explains, has defeated its own purpose. We do not gain our human nature from the law. By human nature I mean production, individuality, freedom, property, etc. Those things don’t come as a result of the law, but the law comes as a result of these things.
But, don’t take my word for it. Go read it for yourself in "The Law".