Legal plunder

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Legal plunder,[1] is the act of appropriating, under the laws, the property of others.[2] This was coined by Frédéric Bastiat, most famously in his 1850 book The Law. It has since become a concept in libertarian thought[3][4], and has been used similarly by others, including Daniel Lord Smail.[5]

Today it is the appropriation of the assets of another person by power groups through rules of public law that violate the principle of equality and the Constitution.

Throughout history there are many examples of legal plunder as the political and economic regimes that have followed: partial legal plunder are the result of tyranny and protectionism or universal legal plunder the result of socialism or communism.[6]

In the thought of Frédéric Bastiat[edit]

Frédéric Bastiat thought that the law can only implement the individual rights: personality, liberty, and property.[7]

So, if the law goes against the person, liberty, property, it becomes perverse as it goes against the rights that should be protected.[8]

For him The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense.

So he prefers a government that intervenes as little as possible in the sphere of people, liberty, and property.

Every citizen is therefore responsible for his fortune or his failures.

Naboth was stoned so that the king could take his vineyard as a vegetable garden.

Frédéric Bastiat to defend his idea of what should be the purpose of the law, has set a specific definition of "legal plunder".

First he defines "extra-legal plunder" "such as theft, or swindling, which is defined, foreseen, and punished by the penal code.[9]

In that case, "magistracy, police, gendarmerie, prisons, dungeons, and scaffolds" are the instrument of the State used against the plunderer and to defend the plundered party.

Legal plunder is when the law "takes from some persons that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to them."

Examples of legal plunder include protectionist tariffs, redistributive taxation, crony capitalism, welfare, etc., which Bastiat terms (only two years after the publication of the Communist Manifesto, and before it was a firm political science term of art), "socialism:"

Now, legal plunder may be exercised in an infinite multitude of ways. Hence come an infinite multitude of plans for organization; tariffs, protection, perquisites, gratuities, encouragements, progressive taxation, free public education, right to work, right to profit, right to wages, right to assistance, right to instruments of labor, gratuity of credit, etc., etc. And it is all these plans, taken as a whole, with what they have in common, legal plunder, that takes the name of socialism.

Now socialism, thus defined, and forming a doctrinal body, what other war would you make against it than a war of doctrine? You find this doctrine false, absurd, abominable. Refute it. This will be all the easier, the more false, absurd, and abominable it is. Above all, if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out of your legislation every particle of socialism which may have crept into it—and this will be no light work. [10]

In that case, "magistracy, police, gendarmerie, prisons, dungeons, and scaffolds" are the instrument of the State to defend the plunderer and treat the plundered party that tries to defend his property as a criminal.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Hart. "Frédéric Bastiat on Legal Plunder". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  2. ^ David Hart. "Frédéric Bastiat on Legal Plunder". Retrieved 2014-04-30. the State (which he often wrote as THE STATE) is a vast machine that is purposely designed to take the property of some people without their consent and to transfer it to other people.
  3. ^ Legal Plunder
  4. ^ Legal Plunder
  5. ^ Legal Plunder: Households and Debt Collection in Late Medieval Europe
  6. ^ Frédéric Bastiat. "The law" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-29. p. 15 - Partial plunder. This is the system that prevailed so long as the elective privilege was partial; a system that is resorted to, to avoid the invasion of socialism. Universal plunder. We have been threatened by this system when the elective privilege has become universal; the masses having conceived the idea of making law, on the principle of legislators who had preceded them.
  7. ^ Frédéric Bastiat. "The law" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-29. p. 2 - If every man has the right of defending, even by force, his person, his liberty, and his property, a number of men have the right to combine together to extend, to organize a common force to provide regularly for this defense
  8. ^ Frédéric Bastiat. "The law" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-29. p. 3 - For who will dare to say that force has been given to us, not to defend our rights, but to annihilate the equal rights of our brethren? And if this be not true of every individual force, acting independently, how can it be true of the collective force, which is only the organized union of isolated forces?
  9. ^ Frédéric Bastiat. "The law" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-29. p. 13 - As to extralegal plunder, such as theft, or swindling, which is defined, foreseen, and punished by the penal code, I do not think it can be adorned by the name of socialism. It is not this that systematically threatens the foundations of society.
  10. ^ Frédéric Bastiat. "The law" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-07-09. p. 14-15


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