From the April 2002 Idaho Observer:
Only technology and the times have changed
The relationship between people and governments have never
changed. Those who govern do so at the expense of the
governed. Seemingly benevolent at first as the governing
gain the trust of the governed, all human governments
become increasingly oppressive until the governed are
slaves. There are laws of human nature which make this
cycle of freedom to slavery inevitable. A little 75-page
book entitled, The Law by French economist and
historian Frederick Bastiat (1848) is perhaps the most
insightful description of people and governments ever put
A fatal tendency of mankind:
...[I]f everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his
faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his
labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted
and unfailing. But there is another tendency that is common
among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper
at the expense of others. This is not rash accusation. Nor
does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The
annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: The
incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions,
universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies.
This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man
-- in that primitive, universal and insuppressible instinct
that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least
Property and plunder
Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor;
by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural
resources. This process is the origin of property.
But also it is true that a man may live and satisfy his
wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of
others. This process is the origin of plunder.
Now, since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain -- and
since labor is pain in itself -- it follows that men will
resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work.
History shows this quite clearly. And under these
conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
All the measures of the law should protect property and
punish plunder. But generally, the law is made by one man
or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without
the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force
must be entrusted to those who make the laws.
This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in
the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least
possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion
of the law. Thus, it is easy to understand how law, instead
of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of
injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by
the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest
of the people, their personal independence by slavery,
their liberty by oppression and their property by plunder.
This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the
law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.
The results of legal plunder
It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change
and a greater evil than this: The conversion of the law
into an instrument of plunder.
What are the consequences of such a perversion? It would
take volumes to describe them all. Thus we must content
ourselves with pointing out the most striking. In the first
place, it erases from everyone's conscience the distinction
between justice and injustice.
Another effect of this tragic perversion of the law is that
it gives an exaggerated importance to political passions
and conflicts and to politics in general.
The complete perversion of the law
How has this perversion of the law been accomplished? The
law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely
different causes: Stupid greed and false philanthropy.
Each of the comments reprinted above, and every other
comment in the book, is equally as applicable today as it
was in the mid 1800s. What we are experiencing now in
America has been experienced by every civilization in world
history. There is no amount of TV or alcohol or Prozac that
will make progressive plunder go away. The only thing that
will stop plunder is to make it more painful than work.
If you haven't already, The Law is required reading. It can
be found at every American Opinion Bookstore for a few
dollars. It can also be downloaded for free at the website
http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html. Even if you have
read it, read it again and then give it to your high school
students and still deceived friends and family members and
pray that they have enough insight to understand that The
Law could have been written last week.
We will leave you this month with a quote from Thomas
Jefferson that we publish almost every month in The IO. The
following quote, excerpted from a private letter the
73-year-old statesman wrote to an aspiring public servant
named Samuel Kercheval in 1816, is perhaps the most concise
overview of the relationship between people and governments
ever put to paper. It is impossible to ignore the relevance
of the following passage to our current set of
If we run into such [government] debts, as that we
must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our
necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our
amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people
of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor
sixteen hours in twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen
of these to the government for their debts and daily
expenses, and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford
us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and
potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the
mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence
by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of
And this is the tendency of all human governments. A
departure from principle in one instance becomes a
precedent for a second, that second for a third, and so on
'til the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere
automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for
sinning and suffering...
And the forehorse of this frightful team is public
debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness
and oppression. ~Thomas Jefferson