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Life, Liberty and Property explained

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Life, Liberty and Property... that sounds somewhat familiar doesnt it?

1. Introduction
It was 1848 that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote “The Communist Manifesto”. The book that fired up a French political libertarian and economist who was literally dying of tuberculosis. This Frenchman was triggered to defend the concept that property rights and individual freedoms flowed from natural law and wrote in 1850 a classic and powerful refutation of this communist manifesto. The name of this author is Claude Frederic Bastiat and the name of his book is “The Law”. And from that book here you can read some excerpts which explain his work and the meaning of Life, Liberty and Property. Sadly, he died at age 49 on December 24 1850, but he left the world with a masterpiece that would even influence the electioncycle in the United States of America in 2012!

2. Life is a gift from God
We hold from God the gift, which includes all others. This gift is life, physical, intellectual and moral life. But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this. He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.
Life, faculties, production (in other words, individuality, liberty, property), this is man. And in spite of cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation and are superior to it.
Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

3. What is law?
What then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Each of us has a natural right (from God) to defend his person, his liberty and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?
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. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission then that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force (for the same reason) cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty or property of individuals or groups.

4. The complete perversion of the law.
But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: it has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful dense.

5. Thirst for more?
How has this perversion of the law been accomplished? And what have been the results? The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes: stupid greed and false philanthropy.

If there is thirst for more, I can make a part two of this and go into the perversion of the law and plunder (depending on the views and/or comments).
If the above has triggered your curiosity, I advise you to buy a copy of “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat.
You can also download a PDF from Mises by clicking here for free.

Wikipedia on Frederic Bastiat
Wikipedia on The Law

Note: I wrote this blog to promote the work of Bastiat. In my eyes this is one of the foundational works that this liberty movement is based upon.
Tags: liberty


  1. TheAquaBuddha's Avatar
    Bastiat was great at pointing out how any sort of collectivism always necessarily comes from the individual. Also his satirical takes on French government intrusion into business make him one of the greatest pamphleteers of the 19th century.
  2. bolil's Avatar
    You just sold me a book.