Bastiat on The State

I ran across one of my favorite quotes the other day on the internet. The quote is from the 19th century French journalist, economist, and social critic Frederic Bastiat and his seminal work The Law, first published in 1850.

bastiat finer clay quote

I think this quote is great because it speaks to the insane blind trust given to the state and their representatives; a kind of blind trust that would never be afforded to the free market. As a thought experiment, imagine if Walmart was running the public school system into the ground instead of the government. Parents and communities would be storming the corporate office en masse demanding changes to the system. When was the last demonstration to fix government schools that didn’t include higher taxes and more centralized control? This is because the state gets the benefit of the doubt in virtually all cases due to their “good tendencies”. The problem is that the “good tendencies” of these politicians and their agents, like public teacher’s unions, are illusory. Public schools don’t exist to teach critical thinking and life skills. They exist to teach kids what to think and how to become good little citizens that don’t question the motives of their government overlords.

Finer clay? I don’t think so.


The Wrong Enemy and the Right Enemy

If you listen to the progressive left for any length of time, you will no doubt hear a lot of bashing of wealthy people in society. Whether it’s Bernie Sanders hypocritically tweeting about the number of yachts owned by rich people,  or Elizabeth Warren’s incessant attacks on the “1 percent” (who, ironically, is a one percenter, as well),  it’s clear that the left see rich people as the cause of most problems in society.

There are certainly rich people that are part of the problem. The issue here is that Sanders, Warren, and many of their followers are largely missing the point. Many societal problems aren’t created because of “the rich”, they’re created because of a rent-seeking mentality. Politicians, crony corporations, and politically connected interest groups are using the state apparatus to enrich themselves and their cronies at the expense of the taxpayers. This behavior would be impossible without the state.

French journalist and social critic Frederic Bastiat summarized the problem in his masterful book The Law, written in 1850,

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 it.

Not only do Sanders and Warren mischaracterize the problem, they offer all of the wrong solutions. We don’t need a bigger and more intrusive government intervening in our personal and economic lives. That’s just adding to the problem. The goal should be to eliminate the state and it’s monopoly on violent and coercive wealth redistribution and focus on voluntary interactions, self-ownership and strong private property rights.

Image result for know the right enemy meme