Bastiat was a French classical liberal theorist, political economist and member of the French assembly. He
was the author of many works about economics and political economy. He developed the concept of "opportunity
cost." (1801 - 1850) Here are 31 of our favorite quotes.
1. Government is the great fiction, through which
everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else.
2. 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?
3. 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.
4. When goods do not cross borders, soldiers
5.The worst thing that can happen to a good cause
is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.
6. 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.
7. Each of us has a natural right, from God, to
defend his person, his liberty, and his property.
8. Why don't you reform yourselves? That
task would be sufficient enough.
9. Is it not true that the legislator has
absolute power over out persons and property? The existence of persons and property preceded the existence of
the legislator, and his function is only to guarantee their safety.
10. As long as it is admitted that the law may be
diverted from its true purpose--that it may violate property instead of protecting it--then everyone will want to
participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder.
11. Life is a gift from God. We hold from
God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life--physical, intellectual, and moral life.
12. Everyone wants to live at the expense of the
state. They forget the state lives at the expense of everyone.
13. Often the masses are plundered and do not
14. They will come to learn in the end, at their
expense, that it is better to endure competition for rich customers than to be invested with monopoly over
15. People are beginning to realize that the apparatus of government is costly. But what
they do not know is but that the burden falls inevitably on them.
16. Law cannot organize labor and industry without organizing injustice.
17. The plans differ; the planners are all alike...
18. It is easier to show the disorder that must accompany reform than the order that should
19. 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 state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to
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
20. The sort of dependence that results from exchange, ie., from commercial transactions, is a
reciprocal dependence. We cannot be dependent upon a foreigner without his being dependent on us.
Now what constitutes the very essence of society. To sever natural interrelations is not to make
oneself independent, but to isolate oneself completely.
21. ...the statement, "The purpose of the law is to cause justice to reign," is not a rigorously
accurate statement. It ought to be stated that the purpose of the law is to prevent injustice from
reigning. It is injustice, instead of justice, that has an existence of its own. Justice is
achieved only when injustice is absent.
22. Taxes must, in the end, fall upon the consumer.
23. Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Sometimes the law places the
whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the
victim--when he defends himself--as a criminal.
24. It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this:
the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.
25. When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they
create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies
26. The state tends to expand in proportion to its means of existence and to live beyond its
means, and these are, in the last analysis, nothing but the substance of the people. Woe to the people
that cannot limit the sphere of action of the state! Freedom, private enterprise, wealth, happiness,
independence, personal dignity, all vanish.
27. They would be the shepherds over us, their sheep. Certainly such an arrangement
presupposes that they are naturally superior to the rest of us. And certainly we are fully justified in
demanding from the legislators and organizers proof of this natural superiority.
28. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of
either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.
29. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also
legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are "just"
because the law makes them so.
30. And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon
society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for
liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God.
31. It is not considered sufficient that the law should be just; it must be
philanthropic. Nor is it sufficient that the law should guarantee to every citizen the free and
inoffensive use of his faculties for physical, intellectual, and moral self-improvement. Instead, it is
demanded that the law should directly extend welfare, education, and morality through the nation.
This is the seductive lure of socialism. And I repeat it again: These two uses of the law
are in direct contradiction to each other. We must choose between them. A citizen cannot at the same
time be free and not free.
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