Quote of the Day: Bastiat on Socialism

 

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” – Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

In addition to our member , Frédéric Bastiat is a well-known author here on Ricochet, also used by our Editor Jon Gabriel for a Quote of the Day. Like many, I wasn’t exposed to Bastiat until the last 25 years or so, after New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani introduced the “broken windows” theory of government, which led me to Bastiat’s “broken windows fallacy.” Like many brilliant writers such as Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman, Bastiat can explain important ideas in plain language. The quote above seems so obvious, yet many on the left they continue to argue against it, saying that the right kind of Socialism hasn’t been tried yet.

Of course, Bastiat has an answer for those who think conservatives limit progress:

“I do not dispute their right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law – by force – and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes.”

Again, Bastiat has a reasonable way to maximize freedom in a Classical Liberal society. Since World War II, the US has allowed many social combinations, such as the Beatniks, Hippies, Yuppies, Marxists, etc., and survived them all. But it is hard to expect these groups, such as the Hippies at Woodstock or the radical Marxists (i.e., Antifa) to accomplish their freedom without their expenses and risks absorbed by the society. Neither conservatives nor leftists would deny medical treatment, police services, or other general governmental operations to these unique social combinations.

Do we have an answer to Bastiat on how a society can balance freedom against society costs?

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There are 9 comments.

  1. Vectorman Thatcher
    Vectorman Post author

    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. There is only one day left on the June Signup SheetThere are also many days available on the July Signup Sheet. We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #1
    • June 23, 2019, at 1:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. EtCarter Listener

    Thanks for turning me on to @drbastiat and his philosophy. I’m listening my way through J. Greshem Machens Christianity and Liberalism and though Machen deals mostly with the scourge of evangelical theological liberals emerging in his day, when he addresses the implications and applications relating to “free”things the government asserts onto its citizens(without market choices other than public school) Machen also cites a new (to his era) law in one state forbidding teaching any language but English until the 8th grade (he laments that this is too late for a child to become really proficient in Latin, Greek <i would add Aramaic>) thus, hobbling the child’s chances to excel in a truly classical liberal education. I would add Aramaic for future translators and theologians, but not require it for future Miltons, Lewises, Durants, etc… Looking forward to reading more by Dr. Bastiat! et carter

    • #2
    • June 23, 2019, at 2:54 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Vectorman: Like many brilliant writers such as Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman, Bastiat can explain important ideas in plain language.

    Yes, a lot of these concepts are not particularly complicated but many people lack the ability to explain them simply. Terrific post, Vectorman.

    Vectorman: Do we have an answer to Bastiat on how a society can balance freedom against society costs?

    I do not know who to attribute this to but I’ve always liked the saying, “It’s not a right if somebody else has to pay for it.” Although we don’t live in this ideal system, people ought to be able to live their lives as they see fit, but they should have no claims on other people’s earnings to pay for it.

    • #3
    • June 24, 2019, at 5:25 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. JamesSalerno Coolidge

    And that’s why I love Ricochet. I’m always finding new brain-food to consume thanks to the suggestions of this excellent community.

    • #4
    • June 24, 2019, at 8:26 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Titus Techera Contributor

    Well, modern states compel private things like Enlightenment education of children. They turn the holy things like people’s dead into public health things that fall under state power. These things are necessities for people like Bastiat to go around whistling their tunes–but they are political compulsions in private life that have far more in common with socialism than with the tunes he likes about the separation of government from society. Yet there would be no modern liberty without them!

    • #5
    • June 24, 2019, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. CJ Coolidge
    CJ

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    but they are political compulsions in private life that have far more in common with socialism than with the tunes he likes about the separation of government from society

    It is true that liberal democracy, including the United States, has more in common with socialism than conservatives generally like to admit.

    Democratic government is a type of society–a secret society, as Lysander Spooner points out, whose anonymity and secrecy is necessary in order to evade responsibility for the many injuries committed by that secret society.

    • #6
    • June 24, 2019, at 12:56 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Vectorman Thatcher
    Vectorman Post author

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Well, modern states compel private things like Enlightenment education of children. They turn the holy things like people’s dead into public health things that fall under state power.

    I’m not sure what’s the issue here. Education has been compelled since 1647 in Massachusetts. In 1918, Mississippi was the last state to compel education. The United States Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, determining that “a child is not a mere creature of the state,” allowing private education. In addition to Parochial education, the massive home school movement does not compel Enlightenment education.

    As for dead people, there are movements in various states to return to more natural burial methods. The State naturally has concerns, such as determining that the person is recorded dead and as a check for foul play.

    • #7
    • June 24, 2019, at 2:25 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Titus Techera Contributor

    Modernity is built on foundations you dare not see–the state created society. Drop Bastiat’s sentimentality & read someone who actually knew anything about laws, politics, & the origins of our freedom.

    • #8
    • June 25, 2019, at 2:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. The Reticulator Member

    Vectorman: Do we have an answer to Bastiat on how a society can balance freedom against society costs?

     Not necessary for it to be the same answer or the same balance everywhere. Expecting there to be universal answers is a problem. 

    • #9
    • June 25, 2019, at 4:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes