Book Discussion: The Law

Book Discussion on “The Law” by Fredric Bastiat by Madhu Sivaraman (Director Research and Projects) Centre for Public Policy Research conducted at Circuit House, Panampilly Nagar, Kochi.
‘The Law’ is a book authored by the French political philosopher and economist Frederic Bastiat in 1850. The book investigatIMG_0003es what happens in a society when the law becomes a tool of enslavement and control when used by those in power. The book highlights the origin, evolution and purpose of law while simultaneously sharing the classical liberal view that law should aim to ensure that justice is served among yet not be a means of curtailing individual liberty. Bastiat argues that since individuals are not allowed to force individuals to behave in certain ways, groups of individuals such as organisations, government or corporations also should not be allowed by law to force individuals to act in certain ways.
Another concept detailed is ‘legalized plunder’, a means by which those in power use law as a weapon of force. One of the most accepted forms being taxation. Bastiat further explains that plunder has been prevalent throughout history and that those who have initially been the victims try and gain power not to put an end to it, but so that they can use the law to take the property of others. Ultimately, the book discusses the perverse view of humanity that governments are only capable of providing certain services and the view that individuals lack compassion, concern and ability to help those in need.
A discussion followed Sivaraman’s presentation and views were exchanged on the practicality of implementing Bastiat’s vision of less government. There were voices from the audience who agreed that there not be excessive state intervention, but a moderate approach taken to ensure minimum wages and welfare mandated to citizens. Further discussions centred around governments becoming more intelligent regulators whereby a situation can be created where everyone can compete together without discrimination. It was expressed that India move to greater deregulation yet ensuring primacy of the rule of law.

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