Frederic BastiatFrederic Bastiat, (1801-1850) [Claude Frederic Bastiat] French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before -- and immediately following -- the French Revolution of February 1848

Famous Frederic Bastiat Quote

“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.”

Frederic BastiatFrederic Bastiat
~ Frederic Bastiat

"The Law" by Frederic Bastiat, 1850

Ratings and Comments

Mike, NC
  • Reply
Mike, NC    1/19/06

A perfect description of the US Tax system.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

A perfect description of evading social responsibility by the rich for those the rich got rich on...

Logan, Memphis, TN

Social responsibility? There is no social responsibility in a Republic but to one's own self. The only time an individual in a member of a greater whole is in either pure socialism and communism or in a type of democractic socialism. We're not in a democracy - don't let the media fool anyone into thinking that a democracy is the only form of government that allows "voting" or for "the voice of the people to be heard". How can anyone not believe in legalized plunder? How can anyone not see how the government steals from one man and gives to another? Is this justice? Is this right? Do I as a person have a right to steal from a rich man and give to a poor man? If I don't, then in a Republic, I don't have the ability of delegating something I don't have to a government for them to do it for me - it's against the Rule of Law in America! People, learn your history!!

Judith Ohlmann, Midland

More of us need to wake up and think like this, and not expect to be given what's not ours. It's not the government's money, it belongs to someone who worked very hard to earn it, and that person should have the right to spend it in a manner that best benefits him, his family, and his community.

David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood

I think that those who comment here are satisfying a need of their own, but not contributing to the pool of understanding. Taxes pay for public works. No tax revenue = no armed forces, no interstate highways, no border protection, etc. Public assistance to the needy is plunder whenever the "needy" are not needy, when they are able but unwilling to work. There are those who really cannot work, and I say we have the responsibility of seeing to their basic needs. There are many examples of legal plunder, but there are also examples of what might be argued to be justifiable expenses of government. Of course, corruption exists. Social responsibility is what keeps you from being run off the road by someone with an old vehicle that still runs well. He is supposed to care that your newer car is not yet scratched. It keeps people like me from maiming those who deserve it.

Joe, Rochester, MI

Legislators make it easy to create a law and damn near impossible to abolish it. Judges seem to ignore laws at their convenience.

Johnson, Gainesville, FL

Public Assistance to the "needy" is plunder regarless of whether or not they truly are needy. It is plunder whether or not we have a responsiblity to see to the needy's basic needs. It is plunder because the government is using the police force to take money from those who spent blood, sweat and tears getting it, and giving that money to the needy who did nothing more than vote the right person into office. Or, in other words, it is plunder because the governmnet is taking money from those who need it and earned it, and giving it to those who also need it but didn't earn it. If the government passed a law giving the needy the right to collect money from the rich by threat of force, i.e., by theft, I don't think many people would have trouble identifying that as plunder. So why can't they see plunder when the government hires an IRS agent to do the stealing, and charges the taxpayers the agent's wages to boot?

Dick Balser, Everett, WA

This quote speaks well in the plunder of our mobile homes to feed the greed for redevelopment of a senior park where senior owners lease their land, but then public funds must be granted to assist the aged inhabitants in relocations, thus two plunders


Here is the question those of you who support government controlled charity, should really be asking yourself. By what moral or ethical right does any one have in initiating force to deprive another of their rights to life, liberty or property? By any standard of analysis, support of any form of government controlled charity, means that you want to use government force to make people pay for what you think is important, not what they may feel is important. This is what I feel that Frederic Bastiat was driving at.

Michael Gilroy, Nashville

Evading Social Responsibility? One's first social responsibility is to take care of one's self so that they are not a burden to society, and then to respect other people and their property. Only by going down the spiral of evading personal responsibility do we get to what the Anonymous poster referred to. Funny how people that fail to take care of themselves as part of their social responsibility are audacious enough to claim that the failure of others to give unearned money to them is irresponsible. This is the same rationale that robbers and burglars use when they take your things. "I need it more than you do." Please note that most people that support enabling welfare programs do not give to charity. They EVADE social responsibility by NOT giving their own time and community. Instead, they throw someone money at the symptoms of poverty with someone else's money. ONE CANNOT BE COMPASSIONATE BY SPENDING SOMEONE ELSE'S MONEY. Once our constitution was ignored, the legal plunder was free to be divided amongst everyone including the latest group of welfare mothers... the board members of several banks. It is an enabling device... merely because they will not split up mortgage bundles and evaluate them individually at their reappraised value. I'm for the notion that our tax and investment system should encourage charity and things that promote the GENERAL welfare... things that can be used by all but not a select few based upon arbitrary notions of "fairness" or "need". I wish someone would explain why someone who will not work and/or save money is not EVADING THEIR RESPONSIBILITY.

  • 1
  • Reply
    Anonymous    4/29/09

    First of all (once again), a republic IS a kind of democracy. Also, consider the following: a person who will not work or save money might not be intentionally evading their responsibilities... these actions are evidence that they were not taught properly by their UNDERFUNDED schools about money management. They, in turn, will pass their ignorance onto their children, creating an unending cycle of poverty. If we want to stop this cycle, we have to pay taxes to support public education; I fail to see how anyone, even the taxpayers, can possibly not benefit from that. I also fail to see how it's MORAL that some people are obscenely rich while millions are on the brink of starvation-people publicize suffering, but clearly don't care enough to take significant action against it. Perhaps if you don't like the idea of "government-sponsored charity," you would be willing to support the revival of FDR's public works programs. That way, everyone gets immediate satisfaction, which seems to be the only thing people these days care about.

    • Reply
      Anonymous    7/20/09

      Life is hard. Its harder when you're stupid and lazy. There are VERY rare cases that people legitimately need the government to take care of them. If they refuse to avail themselves of the resources which are already offered to them so that they can care for themselves they are stupid, lazy or both. Until these people are forced to live with the consequences of their actions we will be forced to keep paying for them.

      Ed, Rapid City

      Everyone seems hooked upon the idea that those who are in poverty are lazy, stupid, whatever...I think the more interesting assumption is the one that people who have money, "blood, sweat and tears getting it." That assumption is so inane as to be laughable. Did G.W. Bush work hard, or was his wealth inherited? How many thousands of examples do you want? Why are the children of the poor (who have not yet had their chance to be either industrious or lazy) deserve any less than the children of the wealthy (who have similarly not made their choice). If you honestly think that those born into poverty have equal opportunity compared to those born into wealth then I honestly don't know what to say. The falsehood of that equality is born out EVERY day in this country. Children of the poor are condemned to poor nutrition, poor schools and limited opportunities. Children of the rich are absolutely not subject to the same hardships. You argue for the poor to take individual responsibility and I agree. But to fail to acknowledge the inherent advantages of middle class and wealth is childish. Have your children gone to sleep hungry? Do they have to drop out of school to work menial jobs just to survive? Why not? Were they born better than the children of the poor? Set aside your grandstanding regarding adults and explain how, in the absence of government assistance, the children of the poor will have any legitimate equality of opportunity.

      Mike, Norwalk

      That I could rate this innumerable times with unlimited stars. Ed, my young children at times had to go to bed hungry. At times they were not clothed the best nor did they have a bed to sleep in. I did not rely on stolen booty from the government nor government schools that proselytized socialism. My children started college at age 14 with no loans, grants or help from their parents (now holding multiple degrees). Your assumptions are so inane as to be laughable. It is through my religious endeavors that charity is given freely and directly to those that need it (not fat cat socialist bureaucrats in government that only exacerbate the problem).

      jim k, Austin, Tx

      The liberal mind is a thing to behold. They seem to believe that the rich got that way stealing from the poor. This , of course, is nonsense.

      Mary - MI
      • 2
      • Reply
      Mary - MI    2/6/14

      This is one of my ultimate all-time favorite quotes of Frederic Bastiat in his book 'The Law.'

      "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."
      -- James Madison

      "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." -- James Madison
      (1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President

      E Archer, NYC

      Bastiat's 'The Law' is one of my absolute favorites -- I wish I had discovered him in school; alas, his work was never a part of any curriculum I took. Trusting government schools for an education only guarantees ignorance of the 'man behind the curtain.'

      What the 'progressives' fail to comprehend is that the system of plunder is more than just taxing the rich and giving to the poor -- the system of plunder actually is the CAUSE of massive poverty and unemployment. Individual charity would be enough to handle the small percentage of folks who fall upon bad times or are disabled. But the millions of unemployed and in poverty today are a result of the SYSTEM of plunder. I am talking about the funny money system of debt currency we have today that spurned the first Great Depression. We are in the midst of the 2nd Great Depression, and it is far from over. We went from the richest and most productive nation on Earth to the biggest consumer and debtor nation on Earth -- and there is no way to get out using the same system -- it is the cause of perpetual debt, and as long as we use it for the 'solution' we are only piling more debt upon future generations.

      THAT is why we have so many in need, and THAT is the way the system has been designed. Just look at the end product: everyone in debt, every nation in debt, all paying 'tribute' to the central bankers forever. This is the karma of a people who will not take responsibility for themselves, forever to be obedient indentured servants. Either we let this system crash -- and there will be casualties as this is a real war -- or we let them laden us with more chains.

      L. Hanson, Edmonton, Canada

      Don't you all realize that Bastait wrote this "tongue-in-cheek. Like Swift's "A Modest Proposal". So, all this time and space you have expended is for naught. Grow up; those that "have" are responsable for those that "have not". For when you see these wreched creatures say to yourself; "There but for the grace of god go I." And stop and help if you are able.

      Mike, Norwalk

      Archer, thank you, said exceedingly well ! ! !

      E Archer, NYC

      Hanson, what are you talking about? Read 'The Law' -- the entire book expands on the premise of 'no legal plunder.' I guess you have to be delusional to refute the logic of Bastiat's essay. Tongue-in-cheek my a$$.

      Mike, Norwalk

      L Hanson, WHAT ? ? ? Archer addressed well the tongue-in-cheek. The other stupid WRONG you stated is the poor parroting of a social contract. The relaying of your religion's (church / state) moral responsibilities is an exercise in Grand Larceny, enslaving a once free people and the lack of charity's beauty.

      watchman 13, USA

      I do not need the government to tell me to take care of my neighbor, as a doctor does not need the mandates of a bullshit law that goes way out of bounds to enslave the upright in heart. Which has gone on, for to long, as it is !!!
      If and it is the results of righteousness, peace and quite, then there is not much right going on !!! Peter, genders unto socialism, Paul preaches Liberty and Freedom. Things that are different are not the same !!!

      Mike, Norwalk

      Here in this blog, I have on multiple occasions legally and otherwise defined what religion is and how it greatly differs from a secular body politic. Most simple, by extremely terse understanding — moral, virtuous, charitable, etc. beliefs and the "should be" thereof placed into action is religion. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, financing the indigent, housing the homeless, taking care of the ill or otherwise incapable, religious sacraments such as marriage and human sacrifice to the gods of pleasure and life style, etc., etc., etc. are all tenants of religion. Secular administration of "the laws of nature and of nature's God" (natural law of absolutes — gravity, larceny, etc.) is categorically separate from, and does not include religion. The blending of religion and the secular body politic is by legal definition and any other measure a theocracy. Forced charity, virtue and morality in a theocracy (being diametrically opposed to a de jure law / justice jurisprudence) is a heinous form of tyranny while displaying a gross despotism of associated chattel.

      Bastiat’s here referenced “law” is a type of umbrella overview – a theocracy’s catchall nomenclature for canon dictates (codes, ordinances, regulation, rules, statutes, etc.). The definition of action (criminal plunder – inclusive of plunder - larceny/slavery on a grand scale) by current theocracies is extremely accurate.


      Get a Quote-a-Day!

      Liberty Quotes sent to your mail box daily.