The Law

by Frédéric Bastiat

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Socialists Want Equality of Wealth

Next let us examine Condillac on this subject of the legislators and mankind:

"My Lord, assume the character of Lycurgus or of Solon. And before you finish reading this essay, amuse yourself by giving laws to some savages in America or Africa. Confine these nomads to fixed dwellings; teach them to tend flocks.... Attempt to develop the social consciousness that nature has planted in them.... Force them to begin to practice the duties of humanity.... Use punishment to cause sensual pleasures to become distasteful to them. Then you will see that every point of your legislation will cause these savages to lose a vice and gain a virtue.

All people have had laws. But few people have been happy. Why is this so? Because the legislators themselves have almost always been ignorant of the purpose of society, which is the uniting of families by a common interest.

Impartiality in law consists of two things: the establishing of equality in wealth and equality in dignity among the citizens.... As the laws establish greater equality, they become proportionately more precious to every citizen.... When all men are equal in wealth and dignity -- and when the laws leave no hope of disturbing this equality -- how can men then be agitated by greed, ambition, dissipation, idleness, sloth, envy, hatred, or jealousy?

What you have learned about the republic of Sparta should enlighten you on this question. No other state has ever had laws more in accord with the order of nature; of equality."

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It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.