In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
“In the beginning, all the world was America.” — John Locke“The Garden of Eden was a perfect place,” my friend Manuel explained. “Man had free will. He could live in harmony with nature and God — and everything would be fine. But if he defied God, the stain of original sin would be on his […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
Here’s a fun fact: Although we all hate the U.S. dollar, as it continues to hemorrhage wealth, its foothold as the world’s reserve currency isn’t going to disappear overnight.A Russian gas deal with China won’t change that — as we’ll highlight below.But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into a story that’s right […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
“As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
In September 2009, when President Obama made a primetime speech pitching his not-yet-passed health care overhaul, he made the following promise: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.” To prove his seriousness, he further promised that “there will be a provision […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.” — Emperor Palpatine, The Return of the JediJon Stewart made great comedic hay during the Bush Administration out of the enormity of Dick Cheney’s “Sith Lord” malevolence. Events in Iraq in the past week have made especially palpable Cheney’s Palpatine-like quality.As Iraq unravels, you may suspect that Cheney might now […]
Entrepreneurs are high-tailing it out of the United States, and it’s the politicians’ faultThe U.S. government is driving some of its most productive citizens abroad. The only beneficiaries are countries such as Singapore and Switzerland, which offer sanctuary to Americans fleeing avaricious Uncle Sam.Three years ago Eduardo Saverin, one of Facebook’s founders, joined 1,780 other […]
Politicians love raising the minimum wage because they don’t have to ask voters to pay more in taxes. They just dump the costs onto shop owners. But they don’t act like politicians and go into debt to pretend like they have all the money in the world. They face real world situations. And sometimes that means replacing workers with more affordable options...
A cushy job in Hawaii that pays six figures. A beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend. Job security and professional experience that gives you plenty of future opportunities. Would you throw that all away to do what you think is right? Last year, one government contractor did just that. And now you see the world the government tried to hide from you.
As the world gets more digital, people forget about the benefits of transacting in cash. And government officials know that.
Regulation is supposed to keep you safe and make the economy function smoothly. At least that’s what they tell you in the news. But there’s another cost to regulation. One that you won’t hear about unless you have to deal with directly. And for the people in the economy who do, they’re the ones who have to pay the final cost.
The experts will tell you the recession is over, but they’re only torturing the data to hide the truth. The economy never recovered from the downturn it experienced. But the downturn happened in 2000, not 2008. The country’s been in the middle of a 14 year recession and hardly anyone knows the truth.
All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...
Edward Snowden’s one year visa in Russia expires at the end of next month. With only a few weeks left before he finds himself without a safe country to live in, he sat down to give an exclusive interview. Here are the most important things he wants you to remember from his recent sacrifice.
It seems that the president is frustrated with Congress. What kind of legislature is this, he asks, that fails to immediately enact the will of the executive? The executive has been using a slightly different approach these days: He uses an executive order. Forget all that stuff you have read in the civics texts about checks and balances and the branches of government. The executive order bypasses them all.
The White House even has a name for this: “We Can’t Wait.” There is even an official .gov website. Hey, if you are going to shred the Constitution and pass laws like a dictator, the best approach is to do it out in the open. “If Congress refuses to act,” he says, “I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them.”
To be fair, he is hardly the first. The president before him did it, and the president before that and so on back to World War I and before. Every new guy cites the precedent of the old guy, as if that alone provides justification. Defying the Constitution has a long tradition, don’t you know.
But you know what this tells me? What this country needs is a good theory of law. We even lack the language to talk about what is happening to us. One party denounces the other but only in ways that exempt itself from criticism. As a result, the “man on the street” is not even prepared to talk about fundamental questions.
Example: Where did law come from, and what should it do? Sure, people get annoyed at the police, irritated by the TSA or startled to read about periodic injustices of public policy. One party gets annoyed when the other party’s president enacts laws without regard to any constitutional conventions.
But what is the law, and what should it be? These are the bigger questions that are not part of public consciousness.
The same was true in the time of Frédéric Bastiat (1801–50). At the very end of his life, he wrote an impassioned plea on the topic. He tried to get people to think hard about what was happening and how law had become an instrument of plunder, rather than a protector of property.
It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person.
This is from Bastiat’s The Law, one of the great political essays to emerge from the whole Continental world of the 19th century. it vanished into obscurity in France, was resurrected in late 19th century English, and then disappeared again, only to reappear in the United States in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of the Foundation of Economic Education.
This essay asks fundamental questions that most people go through life never having thought about. This book is part of Laissez Faire Books’ set of new works that seeks to find what is essential in the literature and distribute it in new ways. (It also has the coolest cover ever for this book.)
The problem is that most people accept the law as a given, a fundamental fact. As a member of society, you obey or face the consequences. It is not safe to question why. This is because the enforcement arm of the law is the state, that peculiar agency with a unique power in society to use legal force against life and property. The state says what the law is — however this decision was made — and that settles it.
Bastiat could not accept this. He wanted to know what the law is, apart from what the state says it is. He saw that the purpose of law is, most fundamentally, to protect private property and life against invasion, or at least to ensure that justice is done in cases in which such invasions do take place. This is hardly a unique idea; it is a summary of what philosophers, jurists and theologians have thought in most times and places.
Then he takes that next step, the one that opens the reader’s eyes as nothing else. He subjects the state itself to the test of whether it, the state itself, complies with that idea of law.
He takes notice, even from the first paragraph, that the state itself turns out to be a lawbreaker in the name of law keeping. It does the very thing that law is supposed to prevent. Instead of protecting private property, it invades it. Instead of protecting life, it destroys it. Instead of guarding liberty, it violates it. And as the state advances and grows, it does this ever more, until it becomes a threat to the well-being of society itself.
Even more tellingly, Bastiat observes that when you subject the state to the same standards that the law uses to judge relations between individuals, the state fails. He concludes that when this is the case, the law has been perverted in the hands of the governing elites. It is employed to do the very thing that the law is designed to prevent. The enforcer turns out to be the main violator of its own standards.
The passion, the fire, the relentless logic have the power to shake up most any reader. Nothing is the same. This is why this monograph is rightly famous. It is capable of shaking up whole systems of government and whole societies. What a beautiful illustration of the power of the pen.
But take notice of Bastiat’s rhetorical approach here. His conclusion is at the beginning. Why? He did not have that much time (he died not long after writing The Law). He knew that the reader didn’t, either. He wanted to raise consciousness and persuade in the most-effective way. Even from a stylistic point of view, there is much to learn from his approach.
Laissez Faire Books is honored to give new life to this remarkable document in this edition, which revives the translation by Dean Russell. It also includes an introduction by Bill Bonner, who gets my vote for the most-underrated voice in defense of old-style liberalism in the world today. He explains how Bastiat’s essay opened his eyes to see the world in a new way.
It is a habit of every generation to underestimate the importance and power of ideas. Yet the whole world that we live in is built by them. Nothing outside pure nature exists in this world that did not begin as an idea held by human beings. This is why a book like this is so powerful and important. It helps you see injustices that surround us, which we are otherwise inclined to ignore. And seeing is the first step to changing.
That’s why it continues to be printed and circulated and why every living soul should read it. If we are to see a renewed appreciation of the idea of liberty in our lifetimes, this monograph written so long ago in a country so far away will deserve a great deal of the credit.