The coercive power of government is clear, and there should be no doubt as to whether we live in a “nanny” or “police” State. The question is where do we get our distinctions? Perhaps a quick review of Frederic Bastiat’s, The Law, juxtaposed with Karl Marx’ Communist Manifesto, is in order. Most people are aware of the Prussian born Marx, but not many know or have even heard of Bastiat. As taken from the Mises website: CLAUDE FREDERIC BASTIAT was a French economist, legislator, and writer who championed private property, free markets, and limited government. Perhaps the main underlying theme of Bastiat’s writings was that the free market was inherently a source of “economic harmony” among individuals, as long as government was restricted to the function of protecting the lives, liberties, and property of citizens from theft or aggression. To Bastiat, governmental coercion was only legitimate if it served “to guarantee security of person, liberty, and property rights, to cause justice to reign over all.”
The following is a brief compare and contrast of the two. I am not claiming to be an expert on either but when I read both of these theses I was hooked. Even on a superficial level I agree with Bastiat as under no circumstance does his method require a tyrant and always works against any that try. It is also bottom up control, the firmest foundation to form a government on. The basic premise of our Constitution is echoed in “The Law” with special emphasis on the Bill of Rights, often forgotten.
The men would both agree that laws are the tools with which society is framed. Regardless of what the laws are, their roles are, in one form or another, played out to shape society into either one of pure liberty or pure control. Bastiat states, ’Dictatorship’ need not involve an actual dictator. All that was needed was ‘the laws,’ enacted by a Congress, or a Parliament, that would achieve the same effect: forced conformity.” Bastiat actually spoke to the point that the laws that should be enacted do not “plunder” the citizens that live under them. Diametrically opposing this view is Marx. In his purview the State is to own all the capital, that no private property or “plundering” exists because the government “represents” the working and regulates every level to keep the peace. Marx’s 10 planks of Communism are the basis for which his ideal government is to be formed. Whether a government is a representative form of government or an oligarchy, one thing is for certain; both men see the role of laws as the means to shaping society.
“It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws.” This statement made by Bastiat, sums up why the notion of justice’ is needed in society. The human condition seems to be centered on the idea throughout all of history. To Bastiat, justice exists when the individual can act on his own accord without the intervention or “plundering” of government. Justice equals liberty. As Bastiat put it this way, “Nothing therefore, can be more evident that this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense; it is the substitution of collective for individual forces, for the purpose of acting in the sphere in which they have a right to act, of doing what they have a right to do, to secure persons, liberties, and properties, and to maintain each in its right, so as to cause justice to reign over all.” Or basically put, government is there to provide security to the individual in order for the individual to act out his own desires insofar as that the individual doesn’t violate the liberties of others. Marx, on the other hand, doesn’t recognize the individual, only the State. His understanding is that if you remove property from the individual and put it in the hands of the State, the source of conflict, private property, is eradicated and therefore all are equal. He says it directly, “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” To Bastiat, justice is defined by protecting individual property, and to Marx it is the exact opposite.
It is imperative to use the proper lens when reviewing any new laws passed in this country. If you wish to protect private property, then you must oppose any law that stems from the point of view of plundering. However, there is and always will be a need for the State. This is where our Constitution comes in. It sits as the barrier between utter licentiousness and the burdensome hand of government coercion. Taxes must be paid to support the protection of the land and its citizens, but they should not favor any class. The Fair Tax or a flat tax would work well in this case. Private property must stay safeguarded from the intrusion of governments and their agencies. The way to protect these rights is to understand where the government develops its ideologies. Rest assured you will find insight into these ideologies starting with these two men, Federic Bastiat and Karl Marx.