The Law

by Frédéric Bastiat

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Two Kinds of Plunder

Mr. de Montalembert [politician and writer] adopting the thought contained in a famous proclamation by Mr. Carlier, has said: "We must make war against socialism." According to the definition of socialism advanced by Mr. Charles Dupin, he meant: "We must make war against plunder."

But of what plunder was he speaking? For there are two kinds of plunder: legal and illegal.

I do not think that illegal plunder, such as theft or swindling -- which the penal code defines, anticipates, and punishes -- can be called socialism. It is not this kind of plunder that systematically threatens the foundations of society. Anyway, the war against this kind of plunder has not waited for the command of these gentlemen. The war against illegal plunder has been fought since the beginning of the world. Long before the Revolution of February 1848 -- long before the appearance even of socialism itself -- France had provided police, judges, gendarmes, prisons, dungeons, and scaffolds for the purpose of fighting illegal plunder. The law itself conducts this war, and it is my wish and opinion that the law should always maintain this attitude toward plunder.

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