Liberty vs. Leviathan

Chronicling Liberty's battle against Leviathan

Bastiat explains the town hall

Frédéric Bastiat‘s classic The Law is a must read for any lover of liberty. Written in 1850 on the eve of his death he gently yet firmly exposes the injustice of the legal plunder that is the trademark of socialism.

For this post we’ll look at just one of his thoughts and see a very clear example of his observations of the political class playing out in the headlines of the day.

In the latter part of the essay, Bastiat examines the philosophy and philosophical roots of the French socialists. At one point he offers some summary and implications of what he’s discussed thus far. It is here that we join Bastiat as he summarizes the thinking of the socialists:

The strange phenomenon of our times—one which will probably astound our descendants—is the doctrine based on this triple hypothesis: the total inertness of mankind, the omnipotence of the law, and the infallibility of the legislator. These three ideas form the sacred symbol of those who proclaim themselves totally democratic.

The advocates of this doctrine also profess to be social. So far as they are democratic, they place unlimited faith in mankind. But so far as they are social, they regard mankind as little better than mud. Let us examine this contrast in greater detail.

What is the attitude of the democrat when political rights are under discussion? How does he regard the people when a legislator is to be chosen? Ah, then it is claimed that the people have an instinctive wisdom; they are gifted with the finest perception; their will is always right; the general will cannot err; voting cannot be too universal.

When it is time to vote, apparently the voter is not to be asked for any guarantee of his wisdom. His will and capacity to choose wisely are taken for granted. Can the people be mistaken?…

Recall that after an election, any election but especially the most recent, the winners are praising to the heavens the wisdom of the voters and claiming a mandate from the people. But this wisdom is shortlived and the love affair with the voter soon ends.

Bastiat continues…

But when the legislator is finally elected—ah! then indeed does the tone of his speech undergo a radical change. The people are returned to passiveness, inertness, and unconsciousness; the legislator enters into omnipotence. Now it is for him to initiate, to direct, to propel, and to organize. Mankind has only to submit; the hour of despotism has struck. We now observe this fatal idea: The people who, during the election, were so wise, so moral, and so perfect, now have no tendencies whatever; or if they have any, they are tendencies that lead downward into degradation.

If there’s any doubt that this is so, just observe the attitude of some Congressmen from the Detroit area.

Exhibit A – John Dingell (ht Karen De Coster)

Notice his use of the term “my people”, and his declaration that he does what’s best for the country. What about representing his constituents and protecting their interests against the leviathan of the federal government?  What about his oath to defend the Constitution?  The lady wanting to know if the money for this program will come out of her paycheck is getting to the point. Notice too his dismissive attitude towards the vast majority of people who were against the bill. He characterized them as infiltrators and trouble makers.

On a local radio show (8/7/09 5:00 – 6:00 PM but unfortunately not archived) one caller reported that the crowd was upset because they weren’t allowed to ask questions. She stated that AARP representatives collected questions on paper and then selected which questions to read. The caller doubted if constituents’ questions were read because they mostly sounded like the points on a handout that Dingell’s people had given to attendees.

Dingell has been in Congress since 1955 when he took over the spot upon his father’s death who had been in the seat since 1933.

Here’s a patriot’s coverage from the outside:

Exhibit B – Gary Peters

Peters is a new rep for his district. He won’t hold public meetings so constituents were left to picketing and protesting outside his local office.

Bastiat’s final exhortation still rings true today.  Let the lords hear it…

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies. He has provided a social form as well as a human form. And these social organs of persons are so constituted that they will develop themselves harmoniously in the clean air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! A way with their rings, chains, hooks, and pincers! Away with their artificial systems! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their government schools, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations!

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 and His works.

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4 Responses

  1. Greg says:

    An excellent application of Bastiat’s clear thinking. I reread The Law every few months, and gain new insight each time.

    I am starting to wonder, with (some) people becoming more active against the tyrannies of the state, which way will this all go? Right wing, Republican victory? Or REAL FREEDOM?! Only time will tell.

  2. Rowman says:

    I wonder too. I wish I were optimistic.

  3. FreeMarketChristian says:

    I would add that Republicans are far from right wing. Unfortunately they are only a “little less evil”(socialist liberal) than the Dems.

  4. Greg says:

    FreeMarketChristian – I’ll grant you that they are no longer truly right wing.

    Less evil? Hmm, thinking on that one …

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