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The Law by Frederic Bastiat

About a year ago I became acquainted with the writings of the economist Walter E. Williams. After reading his foreword to this book, I understand — as Williams says himself — how important Bastiat’s writings are. As Williams says:

Reading Bastiat made me keenly aware of all the time wasted, along with the frustrations of going down one blind alley after another, organizing my philosophy of life. The Law did not produce a philosophical conversion for me as much as it created order in my thinking about liberty and just human conduct.

And then this:

…Bastiat’s greatest contribution is that he took the discourse out of the ivory tower and made ideas on liberty so clear that even the unlettered can understand them and statists cannot obfuscate them. Clarity is crucial to persuading our fellowman of the moral superiority of personal liberty.

I am tempted to repeat in full Dr. Williams’s foreword, but you would do well to read it yourself.

The Law is a book about liberty and justice. One of the most important things I learned from reading this book is that the proper function of the law is not to create justice, but to prevent injustice. This makes the laws we should have quite simple. Instead of deciding how much to take from us in the form of taxes (plunder) and how to distribute it, laws should protect us from plunder.

This book may be found in its entirety at several places online. One, which includes Walter Williams’s excellent foreword, is at http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/basEss0a.html.

I wish to thank my friend John Todd, who sent this book to me.

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