Let’s allow Claude Frederic Bastiat to speak first.
When someone says, “There ought to be a law”:
All you have to do, is to see whether the law takes from some what belongs to them in order to give it to others to whom it does not belong. We must see whether the law performs, for the profit of one citizen and to the detriment of others, an act which that citizen could not perform himself without being guilty of a crime. Repeal such a law without delay.
… [I]f you don’t take care, what begins by being an exception tends to become general, to multiply itself, and to develop into a veritable system.
On “free lunches” and public “welfare” schemes:
Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone.
The State is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.
If philanthropy is not voluntary, it destroys liberty and justice. The law can give nothing that has not first been taken from its owner.
On which came first:
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.
On who really benefits from governmental redistributionism:
Often the masses are plundered and do not know it.
This echoes a recent news story:
Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim—when he defends himself—as a criminal.
On what laws are for:
… If you exceed this proper limit—if you attempt to make the law religious, fraternal, equalizing, philanthropic, industrial, or artistic—you will then be lost in uncharted territory, in vagueness and uncertainty, in a forced utopia or, even worse, in a multitude of utopias, each striving to seize the law and impose it on you.
The current generation of legislators should understand this:
The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable.
On elitists and elitist thinking:
They would be the shepherds over us, their sheep. Certainly such an arrangement presupposes that they are naturally superior to the rest of us. And certainly we are fully justified in demanding from the legislators and organizers proof of this natural superiority. [Sorry, Frederic, but none such will ever be forthcoming. — Ed.]
On the “proper functions” of the law and how they are short-circuited by the lawmakers themselves:
What, then, is the law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
… [S]ince 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 individual groups.
… 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 defense.
On where laws originate:
Life, faculties, production—in other words, individuality, liberty, property—this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation and are superior to it.
Next up, Edmund Burke.
The difference between a guaranteed opportunity and a guaranteed income:
Effort makes a difference:
Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do little.
Power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:
Power gradually extirpates for the mind every humane and gentle virtue.
Slippery slopes are as fatal to freedom as violent revolutions:
The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.
The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
Evil must be resisted:
When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
… which leads us to Burke’s most famous aphorism:
Bonus: While not very original, this person’s observations should never be far from our thinking:
The best way to understand this whole issue is to look at what the government does: it takes money from some people, keeps a bunch of it, and gives the rest to other people. — Dave Barry
But more than money is involved in this “transaction” — freedom itself is also at stake.