March 8, 2011
On Materialism

Bastiat’s central focus is property rights. The father of Libertarianism put property ownership and protection front and center in his philosophy:

The mission of the law is…to protect persons and property.

The law cannot avoid having an effect upon persons and property; and if the law acts in any manner except to protect them, its actions then necessarily violate the liberty of persons and their right to own property.

Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.

Jesus, on the other hand, de-emphasized accumulation of property and spoke out against the tragedy that befalls those who focus their lives on material pursuits:

A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.  He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?  Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Clearly, these two philosophers had different views on materialism and property.

March 3, 2011
On Taxes

Frederic Bastiat:

With this in mind, examine the protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, relief and welfare schemes, public education, progressive taxation, free credit, and public works. You will find that they are always based on legal plunder, organized injustice.

Please understand that I do not dispute their right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law — by force — and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes.

Jesus taught:

Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

In truth, Christ’s and the Herodian’s words here are about not only taxation but issues of national sovereignty, but in those words Christ explicitly legitimizes the concept of governmental taxation, even taxation to a conquering regime whose oppressive weight must surely have been heavier than that of our modern democracies and their social safety nets.

March 3, 2011
On Plunder

Frederic Bastiat wrote:

But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.

No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack.

The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder.

Jesus taught:

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

The wheat field was not sown by the hands of the disciples. The corn was not the fruit of their labor. In Bastiat’s view, they plundered the property of another, and Jesus condoned it (note that Jewish law at the time, dating back many centuries, specifically allowed the poor to collect food from the crops of others, and mandated that property owners leave some amount of crop for this purpose). In Bastiat’s view, Jesus and Jewish custom were promoting the evils of socialism.

February 1, 2010
On Redistribution of Wealth

Frederic Bastiat:

Now, since under this definition socialism is a body of doctrine, what attack can be made against it other than a war of doctrine? If you find this socialistic doctrine to be false, absurd, and evil, then refute it. And the more false, the more absurd, and the more evil it is, the easier it will be to refute. Above all, if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out every particle of socialism that may have crept into your legislation. This will be no light task.

Jesus’ followers organized a society without rich or poor, where all property was held in common:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

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