The Collective Organization of the Individual Right to Lawful Defense
Bastiat’s essay begins on the premise that the law is “the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense”. He argues that the law has been perverted by greed and false philanthropy and therefore does not fulfill its purpose of protecting the rights and liberties of persons. He points out that the law has been converted into an instrument of plunder and so, the law cannot maintain justice. He describes a fatal tendency in mankind to want to prosper through the easiest means. This fatal flaw is responsible for the perversion of law.
Substantiation of these arguments is provided with several examples. In the case of universal suffrage in voting, everybody is supposed to vote, however, only a few who are considered eligible, actually get to vote. He also defines communism, socialism and protectionism as systems of plunder. Socialism is deceptive in its cloak of philanthropy. He lists tariffs, guaranteed profits, subsidies, free credit and progressive taxation as some examples of legal plunder and organized injustice.
While Bastiat’s arguments represent an astute describe of political systems and the perversion of the law even in modern times. It does reinforce clearly that the proper function of the law is to prevent injustice. Liberty as he describes it is a union of all liberties, including liberty of conscience. Liberty is also an acknowledgement of God and an acknowledgement that life is a gift from God. In liberty therefore, the principle of justice, order, stability, peace and harmony will prevail and the proper function of the law maintained.