If you haven’t yet read "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat, I recommend you do so. It won’t take you long – its only 76 pages. The brevity of this work is perfectly appropriate as the proper role of government, and the law it enforces, is quite minimal.
In his weekly column out today, Sheldon Richman reminds us of Bastiat’s seminal work – describing it aptly as "the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery that issues forth from across the political spectrum" during this election season.
Richman cites some of his favorite passages:
"What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense…. If every person has the right to defend — even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right."
"When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it — without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud — to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed.
I say that this act is exactly what the law is supposed to suppress, always and everywhere. When the law itself commits this act that it is supposed to suppress, I say that plunder is still committed, and I add that from the point of view of society and welfare, this aggression against rights is even worse."