In his day (1801 – 1850) and with brilliant intellectual rigor and honesty, Essays on Political Economy.fiercely fought the Socialism that had become a national plague in France. Hence we have his
In our last visit to Bastiat’s work (WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO MAKE AMERICA AMERICA AGAIN?), we considered the meaning of the idea that made America America. Here we will consider in more detail what makes Socialism organized injustice.
Socialism poses as a solution for many serious societal ills. Why doesn’t Socialism work?
You say, “There are men who have no money,” and you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury, in favour of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens and other classes have been forced to send to it. If every one draws from it only the equivalent of what he has contributed to it, your law, it is true, is no plunderer, but it does nothing for men who want money–it does not promote equality. It can only be an instrument of equalisation as far as it takes from one party to give to another, and then it is an instrument of plunder. Examine, in this light, the protection of tariffs, prizes for encouragement, right to profit, right to labour, right to assistance, right to instruction, progressive taxation, gratuitousness of credit, social workshops, and you will always find at the bottom legal plunder, organised injustice.
You say, “There are men who want knowledge,” and you apply to the law. But the law is not a torch which sheds light abroad which is peculiar to itself. It extends over a society where there are men who have knowledge, and others who have not; citizens who want to learn, and others who are disposed to teach. It can only do one of two things: either allow a free operation to this kind of transaction, i.e., let this kind of want satisfy itself freely; or else force the will of the people in the matter, and take from some of them sufficient to pay professors commissioned to instruct others gratuitously. But, in this second case, there cannot fail to be a violation of liberty and property,–legal plunder.
You say, “Here are men who are wanting in morality or religion,” and you apply to the law; but law is force, and need I say how far it is a violent and absurd enterprise to introduce force in these matters?
As the result of its systems and of its efforts, it would seem that socialism, notwithstanding all its self-complacency, can scarcely help perceiving the monster of legal plunder. But what does it do? It disguises it cleverly from others, and even from itself, under the seductive names of fraternity, solidarity, organisation, association. And because we do not ask so much at the hands of the law, because we only ask it for justice, it supposes that we reject fraternity, solidarity, organisation, and association; and they brand us with the name of individualists.
We can assure them that what we repudiate is, not natural organisation, but forced organisation.
It is not free association, but the forms of association which they would impose upon us.
It is not spontaneous fraternity, but legal fraternity.
It is not providential solidarity, but artificial solidarity, which is only an unjust displacement of responsibility. (from here)
Still, should we not have a social safety net, at least a little bit of Socialism that prevents the worst societal ills? No. As Bastiat observed: “I have no hesitation in answering, Law is common force organised to prevent injustice;–in short, Law is Justice.” That is, the Law exists solely to prevent us from infringing upon each others rights. How can we trust the people who administer the Law both to protect our rights and to step on our rights?
Nothing can be more clear and simple, more perfectly defined and bounded, or more visible to every eye; for justice is a given quantity, immutable and unchangeable, and which admits of neither increase or diminution.
Depart from this point, make the law religious, fraternal, equalising, industrial, literary, or artistic, and you will be lost in vagueness and uncertainty; you will be upon unknown ground, in a forced Utopia, or, which is worse, in the midst of a multitude of Utopias, striving to gain possession of the law, and to impose it upon you; for fraternity and philanthropy have no fixed limits, like justice. Where will you stop? Where is the law to stop? One person, as M. de Saint Cricq, will only extend his philanthropy to some of the industrial classes, and will require the law to dispose of the consumers in favour of the producers. Another, like M. Considerant, will take up the cause of the working classes, and claim for them by means of the law, at a fixed rate, clothing, lodging, food, and everything necessary for the support of life. A third, as, M. Louis Blanc, will say, and with reason, that this would be an incomplete fraternity, and that the law ought to provide them with instruments of labour and the means of instruction. A fourth will observe that such an arrangement still leaves room for inequality, and that the law ought to introduce into the most remote hamlets luxury, literature, and the arts. This is the high road to communism; in other words, legislation will be–what it now is–the battle-field for everybody’s dreams and everybody’s covetousness. (from here)
A battlefield? Does that not describe this year’s elections? A war of words verging on violence? As the cartoon above indicates, when we give the ruling classes more power than is needed just to protect our rights, they soon begin to abuse that power and demand more, often using their own failures as an excuse. It is just a matter of time before voting will not matter. What will matter is power, who controls the military and police forces.