Frédéric Bastiat Quotes You Can Legally Plunder

Before you read Frédéric Bastiat quotes, you might wonder: Who is Frédéric Bastiat?

Before the Austrian School arose to extol the virtues of the free market, there was Claude-Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1850). The prominent French economist and member of the Optimist School advocated for laissez-faire economics, developed the opportunity cost theory of microeconomics, and wrote Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas (That which is seen, and that which is not seen), in which he introduced the parable of the broken window.

This parable (which Henry Hazlitt also spends good time illustrating in the second chapter of Economics in One Lesson) explains how destruction and reconstruction do not provide a net benefit to society. In short, suppose that a shopkeeper’s window is smashed by a vandal. People might suppose this ultimately helps the economy, as they will see the replacement the shopkeeper must buy from the glazier. But what they will not see is the shopkeeper’s new suit, as it will never come into existence once the shopkeeper can no longer afford to pay the tailor. Whereas a window would have existed in either event, it is only thanks to the vandal that the suit can not come into creation as well.

Apply this logic on a larger scale, and it does a good deal to chip away at the hawkish argument that war is good for the economy. 

Broken windows aside, Bastiat is best known for writing The Law. In it Bastiat states that man’s right to “defend his person, his liberty, and his property” comes not from the state, but from God. He continues to argue that the law becomes perverted whenever it violates this natural right, which essentially amounts to plundering by the government. (Language which Ayn Rand would borrow in Atlas Shrugged.) 

In The Law Bastiat also explains that a government which concerns itself with philanthropy rather than justice can grow endlessly, as philanthropy, unlike justice, has no limits. Remember this whenever a politician claims they need more power because they want to help people – it is within the scope of possibility that the politician merely wants more power.

Best Frédéric Bastiat Quotes

Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Each of us has natural right, from God, to defend his person, his liberty, and his property."
“Each of us has a natural right, from God, to defend his person, his liberty, and his property.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will."
“When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "The state is the great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else."
“The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone."
“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Slavery, protection, and monopoly find defenders, not only in those..."
“Slavery, protection, and monopoly find defenders, not only in those who profit by them, but in those who suffer by them.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "There are two principles between which there can be no compromise..."
“There are two principles between which there can be no compromise – liberty and coercion.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "The most urgent necessity is, not that the state should teach, but that it should allow education..."
“The most urgent necessity is, not that the State should teach, but that it should allow education. All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create..."
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "The mission of laws is not to press persons and plunder them of their property, even thought..."
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws..."
“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Life, faculties, production-in other words, individuality, liberty, property-this is man."
“Life, faculties, production-in other words, individuality, liberty, property-this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity..."
“Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "The politician attempts to remedy the evil by increasing the very thing that caused..."
“The politician attempts to remedy the evil by increasing the very thing that caused the evil in the first place: legal plunder.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite..."
“Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "This line of reasoning brings us to a challenging questions: if people are as incapable, as immoral..."
“This line of reasoning brings us to a challenging question: If people are as incapable, as immoral, and as ignorant as the politicians indicate, then why is the right of these same people to vote defended with such passionate insistence?”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative..."
“When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Legal plunder has two roots: one of them, as I have sai before, is in human greed;"
“Legal plunder has two roots: One of them, as I have said before, is in human greed; the other is in false philanthropy.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose - that it may violate..."
“As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose – that it may violate property instead of protecting it – then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our persons and property."
“It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our persons and property. The existence of persons and property preceded the existence of the legislator, and his function is only to guarantee their safety.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad..."
“There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "The purpose of the socialists is to suppress liberty of association precisely..."
“The purpose of the socialists is to suppress liberty of association precisely in order to force people to associate together in true liberty.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "But what do the socialists do? They cleverly disguise this legal plunder from others - and even from themselves..."
“But what do the socialists do? They cleverly disguise this legal plunder from others – and even from themselves – under the seductive names of fraternity, unity, organization, and association. Because we ask so little from the law – only justice – the socialists thereby assume that we reject fraternity, unity, organization, and association.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society..."
“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "You compare the nation to parched piece of land and the tax to a life-giving rain. So be it."
“You compare the nation to a parched piece of land and the tax to a life-giving rain. So be it. But you should also ask yourself where this rain comes from, and whether it is not precisely the tax that draws the moisture from the soil and dries it up. You should also ask yourself further whether the soil receives more of this precious water from the rain than it loses by the evaporation?”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises..."
“When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit..."
“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
Frederic Bastiat Quotes - "One of the strangest phenomena of our time..."
“One of the strangest phenomena of our time, and one that will probably be a matter of astonishment to our descendants, is the doctrine which is founded upon this triple hypothesis: the radical passiveness of mankind, – the omnipotence of the law, – the infallibility of the legislator: this is the sacred symbol of the party that proclaims itself exclusively democratic.”

We skipped over Economic Sophisms to make room for all the Frédéric Bastiat quotes. This is too bad, because it means we also skipped over Bastiat’s candlemakers’ petition – a satirical parable about candlemakers lobbying the government to blot out the sun. It is satirical because only a cartoonishly evil villain would actually propose such a thing, such as Mr. Burns or Bill Gates.