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Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Law, by Frederic Bastiat

Whenever wealth is taken from its owner without his consent, by force or by fraud, property is violated. This act is exactly what law is supposed to suppress, not facilitate. The perversion of law--that it may violate property rather than protect it--causes everyone to want to participate in the making of law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder, thereby creating a perpetual source of hatred and discord.
There are two kinds of plunder--legal and illegal, the first of which systematically threatens society, the second of which does not because the law punishes it. Sometimes, the law places judges, police, and prisons at the service of the plunderers and treats the victim--when he defends himself, his liberty, or his property--as the criminal. How is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply: see if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Even in the United States, law has become the instrument of criminal activity. This country limits the law to its proper domain more than any other nation; however, there are two issues that endanger the Peace: slavery and tariffs, the former being a violation of liberty, the latter a violation of property.

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