The Law

by Frédéric Bastiat

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The Indirect Approach to Despotism

Usually, however, these gentlemen -- the reformers, the legislators, and the writers on public affairs -- do not desire to impose direct despotism upon mankind. Oh no, they are too moderate and philanthropic for such direct action. Instead, they turn to the law for this despotism, this absolutism, this omnipotence. They desire only to make the laws.

To show the prevalence of this queer idea in France, I would need to copy not only the entire works of Mably, Raynal, Rousseau, and Fenelon -- plus long extracts from Bossuet and Montesquieu -- but also the entire proceedings of the Convention. I shall do no such thing; I merely refer the reader to them.

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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.