The Law

by Frédéric Bastiat

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Philanthropic Tyranny

While society is struggling toward liberty, these famous men who put themselves at its head are filled with the spirit of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They think only of subjecting mankind to the philanthropic tyranny of their own social inventions. Like Rousseau, they desire to force mankind docilely to bear this yoke of the public welfare that they have dreamed up in their own imaginations.

This was especially true in 1789. No sooner was the old regime destroyed than society was subjected to still other artificial arrangements, always starting from the same point: the omnipotence of the law.

Listen to the ideas of a few of the writers and politicians during that period:

SAINT-JUST: "The legislator commands the future. It is for him to will the good of mankind. It is for him to make men what he wills them to be."

ROBESPIERRE: "The function of government is to direct the physical and moral powers of the nation toward the end for which the commonwealth has come into being."

BILLAUD-VARENNES: "A people who are to be returned to liberty must be formed anew. A strong force and vigorous action are necessary to destroy old prejudices, to change old customs, to correct depraved affections, to restrict superfluous wants, and to destroy ingrained vices.... Citizens, the inexible austerity of Lycurgus created the firm foundation of the Spartan republic. The weak and trusting character of Solon plunged Athens into slavery. This parallel embraces the whole science of government."

LE PELLETIER: "Considering the extent of human degradation, I am convinced that it is necessary to effect a total regeneration and, if I may so express myself, of creating a new people."

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