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News Link • Government

Bastiat on the Nature of Government (and Why America's Was the Exception)

•, Gary M. Galles

America's governance problems are a common topic among Americans. But each Fourth of July brings that subject to the fore. Unfortunately, however, much of the discussion and many asserted "solutions" derive from a mistaken approach to government. That is why Independence Day is an excellent time to carefully consider Frédéric Bastiat's 1848 essay, "Government," one of the most insightful critiques ever given for understanding the problems that beset governance.

"I should be glad...if you had really discovered a beneficent and inexhaustible being, calling itself the Government...which can provide for all our wants...correct all our errors, repair all our faults, and exempt us henceforth from the necessity for foresight, prudence, judgment, sagacity, experience, order, economy, temperance, and activity."

"Nothing could be more convenient than that we should all…have within our reach an inexhaustible source of wealth and enlightenment—a universal physician, an unlimited treasure, and an infallible counselor, such as you describe Government to be."

"Man...recoils from trouble...yet he is condemned by nature to the suffering of privation, if he does not take the trouble to work...What means can he adopt to avoid both? enjoy the labor of others. [But]...our disposition to defend our property prevents direct and open plunder from being easy."

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