Red State Booknotes: The Law (Part III)

This is my final entry for The Law by Frederick Bastait. As I said last time, I have really enjoyed this book. It was a very quick read, and really made me think. Is there anything more one could ask from a book? There are two points I want to focus on this week from the reading.

Law and Charity are not the same.

“The mission of the law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even though the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit. Its mission is to protect persons and property.”

Putting it another way: charity at the point of a gun is thievery. When the government gives out charity (whether to individuals or other nations) it does so with tax money. Tax money starts out as the personal property of an individual. When the government sends this money out as a welfare check, humanitarian aid to a foreign nation, or even as part of a “cash for clunkers” program, the money it gives away it must first take from someone. Whether these are “noble” or “good” programs is beside the point. Being philanthropic with taxpayer money isn’t why government was created.  Tax money should only be used for those things that are more valuable to a person than the money they pay in taxes. I agree with buying a new tank because my freedom is more important to me than the value of the tax money the government collects to help pay for the tank. Most sane adults would agree with that statement. However, how many people would agree that they should be taxed so their neighbor can trade in his perfectly working “clunker” for a new car? Or so that their neighbor can stay out of work for almost two years?  Where does the government stop when it acts with a “philanthropic spirit”? It’s good to give money at church, should the government cut a check to each church in the nation? The government is there to protect us from the thing we can’t protect ourselves from, and to protect our property.

Try Liberty.

I liked the last section of the book, and thought it would be excellent advice for today’s Statist, whether they have a (D) or an (R) after their name:

“God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies…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 and His works.”

I would add that liberty works.  Liberty allows people to try different solutions to a problem.  Individuals are free to decide for themselves which solution works best.  I believe in my heart that people want to succeed or fail on their own, and the government simply needs to get out of their way.

For Next Week

For next week I plan to read the first two chapters of The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek.   Have a good week!