This is my first entry for the new Red State Booknotes version 3.0. It’s hard to pick a point in the first twenty pages of The Law to discuss for this post. I am so amazed at this book that I would like to just reprint the twenty pages and be done with it. However, if I must pick, there is one point towards the end of the reading I want to look at.
The Law Must Be Philanthropic.
This is from the last section of the reading for this week and is an attack on Socialism. We see the theme below time after time in today’s world. Mr. Bastiat writes:
It is not considered sufficient that the law should be just; it must be philanthropic. Nor is it sufficient that the law should guarantee to every citizen the free and inoffensive use of his faculties for physical, intellectual, and moral self-improvement. Instead, it is demanded that the law should directly extend welfare, education, and morality throughout the nation.
When it comes to our federal government, I am a minimalist. I think the federal government should only do, and should only tax to accomplish, the bare minimum set out in the Constitution, and required by our consent to be governed. That means protecting individual rights and protecting our borders. Everything else is extra. Everything extra should be eliminated during a financial crisis. An example of this would be all foreign aid. Let’s put aside the argument of whether foreign aid actually works or not. In order to protect our borders, our citizens, and to guarantee equal rights, our government does not have to provide any foreign aid. However we do it because either its “the right thing to do” or because we want nations around the world to like us. How does taking plunder from our citizens in the form of taxes to give to foreign nations help our country? How does it help our citizens, some of whom may be struggling in this economy, to have a portion of their pay check taken from them and sent to a foreign government?
Another example would be unemployment benefits that last almost two years. I could understand some small federally guaranteed benefits (say 16 weeks at most?). But why do we tax in order to provide unemployment benefits for two years? It may seem philanthropic to “help” someone for this time but guaranteeing and individual a pay check for two years means you provide them an economic incentive to reject work they may otherwise take. You provide them the means to leach at working citizens, without providing them any real motive to get off unemployment.
On a side note…
For next week, I plan to cover through What is Liberty? I will have my diary posted on Sunday this time. Should we continue to post assuming anyone reading this has read the reading? Or should we start explaining the section a little more with the hopes of getting more readers?