Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Economists, the Socialists, and Legal Plunder - Collected Works of Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843-1850
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The Economists, the Socialists, and Legal Plunder - Frédéric Bastiat, Collected Works of Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843-1850 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843-1850, Jacques de Guenin, General Editor. Translated from the French by Jane Willems and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Pascal Salin. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation Editor Dennis O’Keeffe. Academic Editor, David M. Hart (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012).
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The Economists, the Socialists, and Legal Plunder
According to Bastiat and the liberal, free-trade political economists of his time, there was only one school of economics, that of Les Économistes.25 On the other hand, there were many schools of socialism, all of which opposed the ideas of Les Économistes. The reason for this difference is straightforward in Bastiat’s view: true economists are concerned with principles, and if people agree on principles they cannot express conflicting or incoherent statements. On the contrary, socialists want to rebuild human nature and each school has its own recipe for changing society. Bastiat expresses this view clearly in “Justice and Fraternity” (1848): “I believe that what radically divides us is this: political economy reaches the conclusion that only universal justice should be demanded of the law. Socialism, in its various branches and through applications whose number is of course unlimited, demands in addition that the law should put into practice the dogma of fraternity.”26
For Bastiat, the approaches of the political economists and the socialists are incompatible with each other because socialism necessarily impinges upon individual rights whenever one wants to redistribute wealth by using constraint. The main criterion for evaluating human actions is to ask whether an act is made freely or whether it is obtained by violence. According to Bastiat, legal violence is the most dangerous of human actions because it is wielded without any risk to the politicians and their supporters; moreover, it is even considered virtuous because politicians use it in the name of brotherhood and solidarity. Bastiat’s consistency in opposing all forms of coercion, whether legal or not, separates him from most of his contemporaries.
[25. ]See the entry for “Les Économistes” in the Glossary of Subjects and Terms.
[26. ]“Justice and Fraternity,” pp. 60–61.