“Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame and danger that their acts would otherwise involve… But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to the other persons to whom it doesn’t belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish that law without delay - No legal plunder; this is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony and logic.”
― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law
This forums subsection "Our Orwellian World" may or may not be the best place to put this, however with the 'classic' manipulation of law, it seems so.
This thread relates to how we envision, enact, pervert and generally live with (and without) and follow law.
This is not the study of the subsets of law, for that you can read this (and a lot more), it is having a look at a couple of people’s thinking on what laws mean and how our very laws can be used for good and ill.
St. Thomas Aquinas in one area of law put it this way:
Law is an ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the one who is in charge of the community.
The "common good" seems reasonable as a cornerstone of law, however those two words can be used to plunder in its name.
At the end of this, I'll add a little on how to think of 'Regulations,' another form of law - tricky often, and also in cases does form the "common good" and can also work against it the form of bad regulations, for instance, regulations that result in oppressive orders such as we see today with Covid.
Of regulations, in the U.S. alone as of 1995, regulatory agencies have enacted 88,899 regulations that grew from a base, in 1995 numbers, of 4,713 regulations. These have resulted in an additional 4,312 laws.
Again using the U.S. on the subject of criminal laws, this article states:
The most recent attempt at an official estimate from the Justice Department, completed more than 35 years ago, found that the federal government had defined more than 3,000 crimes in statute, a number that may well have doubled since then. Thousands more acts are criminal under federal regulations.
Just to diverge for a few sentences, upon reading more on St. Paul and his letters (see Laura’s new book and this thread), one can see how divine laws were weaved into the Torah's 'guild,' as St Paul hints, as childminder laws. These are not the laws of an adult.
The thread link above spells out this thinking in Paul’s Necessary Sin (Timothy Ashworth), wherein chapter 3 looks to Freedom of Obedience:
The conclusion of the last chapter was that ‘the mediation of law is no longer required in those who have come to faith’.
Developed next to:
Paul describes what it means to live by faith. It reveals how Paul seeks to maintain that, while the life of faith is a way of freedom and does not involve the obligation which is present in the obedience to the law, it still involves a direction for living.
This is just a snip that Ashworth developed from Paul’s Greek translations, compared to that of others translations. So, suggest, if not already, have a read of the whole of his work.
To continue, the following highlights law categories, and there are a great many who write about each and how to think of them. This is a random version with some highlighting added. Citation on the link:
“the historical laws of Scripture given to us through God’s self-revelation. Divine law is divided into the Old Law and the New Law, which correspond to the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (q91, a5). The Old Law, revealed by God to Moses, “is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten Commandments” (CCC 1962). It has an extrinsic focus — motivated by fear — and promises earthly rewards (such as social peace). It expresses immediate conclusions of the natural moral law.”
“is “the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law” (ST I-II, Q. 91, A. 2.). “The highest norm of human life is the divine law — eternal, objective, and universal — whereby God governs us according to His wisdom and love. God makes Man a sharer in His law so Man can recognize the unchanging truth” (DH 3) The natural law “hinges upon the desire for God and submission to Him, as well as upon the sense that the other is one’s equal” (CCC 1955).
It is “natural” as it consists of Reason given to us by the “higher reason” of the divine Lawgiver. They are natural as they are objective principles which originate in human nature (GS 16; DH 14). The natural law is universal because it encompasses every person, of every epoch (cf. CCC 1956): “it is immutable and permanent throughout history; the rules that express it remain substantially valid” (CCC 1958).
Every man is bound to live by his rational nature, guided by reason. The natural law expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties (CCC 1956, 1978). The first principle of the natural law is “good is to be done and pursued, and evil avoided” (q94, a2, p. 47; CCC 1954). All other precepts of natural law rest upon this. The Church, through its Magisterium, is the authentic interpreter of the natural law (cf. CCC 2036). Since mankind is subject to sin, grace and Revelation are necessary for moral truths to be known “by everyone with facility, with certainty and no error.”
is the interpretation of natural law in different contexts (ST II.I.95–97). Natural law is a foundation for moral and civil law. Government laws are dictates of practical reason from the precepts of Natural Law.
Law is not about individual morality. Individual vices should be legislated against when they threaten harm to others. Rulers of the State should take the general moral precepts of nature and specify them into State laws, e.g., the repugnance of murder is legislated into punishments.
Hierarchy of Law
For Aquinas, human laws are derived from natural law which is a participation in the eternal law. Therefore, eternal law is at the top, followed by natural law, and then human law. Divine law is the revealed law of God to man, while natural law is the imprint of eternal law on the hearts of men.
That is it in brief, with further context and interpretation notwithstanding.
One important word that comes up (and more so with the following historical author to keep in mind), encompasses person and property, such as in the above wherein "it encompasses every person, of every epoch" until the meaning in law, in this current epoch, was changed to include non-human.
There are therefore two kinds of legal entities: human and non-human. In law, a human person is called a natural person (sometimes also a physical person), and a non-human person is called a juridical person (sometimes also a juridic, juristic, artificial, legal, or fictitious person, Latin: persona ficta).
Juridical persons are entities such as corporations, firms (in some jurisdictions), and many government agencies. They are treated in law as if they were persons.
Nothing new here, it originated in ancient Rome and the cement started to dry (and continued in case law) around the law of "person" since (see Louisville, C. & C.R. Co. v. Letson, 2 How. 497, 558, 11 L.Ed. 353 (1844)), so it makes all the difference when looking at law and plunder, and it is a serious malfeasance in law that stands uncorrected.
Looking at this through the eyes, words and thoughts of FRÉDÉRIC BASTIAT is the next part, deals with the thread title The Law, the same name as his essay written in 1850.
Here is Bastiat’s background:
Claude-Frédéric Bastiat (/bɑːstiˈɑː/; French: [klod fʁedeʁik bastja]; 30 June 1801 – 24 December 1850) was a French economist, writer and a prominent member of the French Liberal School.
A member of the French National Assembly, Bastiat developed the economic concept of opportunity cost and introduced the parable of the broken window. He was described as “the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived” by economic theorist Joseph Schumpeter.
As an advocate of classical economics and the economics of Adam Smith, his views favored a free market and influenced the Austrian School. He is best known for his book The Law where he argued that law must protect rights such as private property, not "plunder" others' property.
BiographyBastiat was born on 29 June 1801 in Bayonne, Aquitaine, a port town in the south of France on the Bay of Biscay. His father, Pierre Bastiat, was a prominent businessman in the town. His mother died in 1808 when Frédéric was seven years old. His father moved inland to the town of Mugron, with Frédéric following soon afterward. The Bastiat estate in Mugron had been acquired during the French Revolution and had previously belonged to the Marquis of Poyanne. Pierre Bastiat died in 1810, leaving Frédéric an orphan. He was fostered by his paternal grandfather and his unmarried aunt Justine Bastiat. He attended a school in Bayonne, but his aunt thought poorly of it and so enrolled him in the school Saint-Sever. At age 17, he left school at Sorèze to work for his uncle in his family's export business. It was the same firm where his father had been a partner.
Bastiat began to develop an intellectual interest as he no longer wished to work with his uncle and desired to go to Paris for formal studies. This hope was not realized as his grandfather was in poor health and wished to go to the Mugron estate. Bastiat accompanied him and cared for him. The next year when Bastiat was 24, his grandfather died, leaving him the family estate, thereby providing him with the means to further his theoretical inquiries. Bastiat developed intellectual interests in several areas including philosophy, history, politics, religion, travel, poetry, political economy and biography. After the middle-class Revolution of 1830, Bastiat became politically active and was elected justice of the peace of Mugron in 1831 and to the Council General (county-level assembly) of Landes in 1832. Bastiat was elected to the national legislative assembly after the French Revolution of 1848.
His public career as an economist began only in 1844, when his first article was published in the Journal des économistes during October of that year and it was ended by his untimely death in 1850. Bastiat contracted tuberculosis, probably during his tours throughout France to promote his ideas and that illness eventually prevented him from making further speeches (particularly at the legislative assembly to which he was elected in 1848 and 1849) and ended his life. In The Law, he wrote: "Until the day of my death, I shall proclaim this principle with all the force of my lungs (which alas! is all too inadequate)".
This last line is understood by translators to be a reference to the effects of his tuberculosis. During the autumn of 1850, he was sent to Italy by his doctors and he first traveled to Pisa, then to Rome. On 24 December 1850, Bastiat called those with him to approach his bed and murmured twice the words "the truth" before he died at the age of 49.
WorksBastiat was the author of many works on economics and political economy, generally characterized by their clear organization, forceful argumentation and acerbic wit. Economist Murray Rothbard wrote that "Bastiat was indeed a lucid and superb writer, whose brilliant and witty essays and fables to this day are remarkable and devastating demolitions of protectionism and of all forms of government subsidy and control. He was a truly scintillating advocate of an unrestricted free market". However, Bastiat himself declared that subsidy should be available, albeit limited under extraordinary circumstances, saying the following:
"Under extraordinary circumstances, for urgent cases, the State should set aside some resources to assist certain unfortunate people, to help them adjust to changing conditions".
Among his better known works is Economic Sophisms, a series of essays (originally published in the Journal des économistes) which contain a defence of free trade. Bastiat wrote the work while living in England to advise the shapers of the French Republic on perils to avoid. Economic Sophisms was translated and adapted for an American readership in 1867 by the economist and historian of money Alexander del Mar, writing under the pseudonym Emile Walter.
More can be read here.
The Parable of the Broken Window was first mentioned above and is included below (deals with economics accounting and bears also on laws):
“The parable seeks to show how opportunity costs, as well as the law of unintended consequences, affect economic activity in ways that are unseen or ignored. The belief that destruction is good for for the economy is consequently known as the broken window fallacy or glazier's fallacy.”
There is a tie, I think, with how we like to use the term GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in economics, which in my thinking takes up the same “fallacy” based on destruction/ills (social destruction, medical, environmental, criminal etc.) as in many cases, it is deemed as a positive economic health measure (feel good index). This needs to be thought about in the context of the broken window parable.
Here is how Bastiat describes this parable in his writing:
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation – "It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?"
Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.
Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier's trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, "Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen."
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.
As an economist, some have said that Bastiac did not cut the mustard (his detractors), however here is a counter to their opinions by Mark Thorton titled FRÉDÉRIC BASTIAT’S VIEWS ON THE NATURE OF MONEY. Here is a snip by both the author and Bastiat:
Bastiat begins his detailed analysis of the nature of money with a stunning statement when he calls “drafts on the Bank of Exchange” a “deceitful substitute” for money. This clearly implies that banknotes and deposit accounts are fraudulent when they do not represent commodity money in the same way warehouse receipts represent the titles to nonmonetary commodities. Bastiat therefore begins his dialogue by labeling fractional reserve banking practices as a fraud on the general public.
Bastiat goes on to explain that the confusion of money and riches or wealth is the “cause of errors and calamities without number” (p. 176). Money is genuinely beneficial—indeed, it plays a critical role as the medium of exchange—but people confuse money with wealth. This is not a problem for the deluded individual who readily ignores this mistaken belief every time he gets hungry or thirsty and converts money into goods. However, when this mistaken belief becomes acceptable public policy all manner of destruction can be unleashed:
Because, when a man, instead of acting for himself, decides for others, personal interest, that ever watchful and sensible sentinel, is no longer present to cry out, “Stop! the responsibility is misplaced.” It is Peter who is deceived, and John suffers; the false system of the legislator necessarily becomes the rule of action of whole populations. (p. 179)
Continued on the next post that directly reflects Bastiac's essay The Law...