By Frédéric Bastiat
I must have been forty years old before reading Frederic Bastiat’s classic
The Law. An anonymous person, to whom I shall eternally be in debt, mailed me an unsolicited copy. After reading the book I was convinced that a liberal-arts education without an encounter with Bastiat is incomplete. Reading Bastiat made me keenly aware of all the time wasted, along with the frustrations of going down one blind alley after another, organizing my philosophy of life.
The Law did not produce a philosophical conversion for me as much as it created order in my thinking about liberty and just human conduct. [From the Introduction by Walter E. Williams.]
Dean Russell, trans.
First Pub. Date
Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, Inc.
First published in French. 2nd edition. Introduction by Walter E. Williams, Foreword by Sheldon Richman, and "The Book and Author" by Bertrand de Jouvenel.
Translation and editorial content: Copyright ©: 1998 The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc. (FEE). All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. The Library of Economics and Liberty is grateful to FEE for permission to produce this book in electronic form.Picture of Frédéric Bastiat courtesy of The Warren J. Samuels Portrait Collection at Duke University.
by Bertrand de Jouvenel
The Book and Author
When a reviewer wishes to give special recognition to a book, he predicts that it will still be read “a hundred years from now.”
The Law, first published as a pamphlet in June, 1850, is already more than a hundred years old. And because its truths are eternal, it will still be read when another century has passed.
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before—and immediately following—the Revolution of February 1848. This was a period when France was rapidly turning to complete socialism. As a Deputy to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Bastiat was studying and explaining each socialist fallacy as it appeared. And he explained how socialism must inevitably degenerate into communism. But most of his countrymen chose to ignore his logic.
The Law is here presented again because the same situation exists in America today as in the France of 1848. The same socialist-communist ideas and plans that were then adopted in France are now sweeping America. The explanations and arguments then advanced by Mr. Bastiat are—word for word—equally valid today. His ideas deserve a serious hearing.