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Natural Law and Frederic Bastiat

QUESTION: Natural Law and Frederic Bastiat


Frederic Bastiat (1801—1850) wrote a great deal about God-given gifts such as life, liberty, and property. He grounded his intellectual and moral arguments in the concept of Natural Law. In his book, The Law, Bastiat wrote the following:

Natural Law -- Life is a Gift from God
‘We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life -- physical, intellectual, and moral life.

“But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.

“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.

“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, The Law, 1850, pp 1-2

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