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The argument from intimidation is healthily employed in polite company. When people learn that I oppose FDA regulation of drugs, it is asserted that I want to see people get sick and die. When people learn that I oppose much of what the EPA does, they assume that I want the rivers to boil over and the great monuments to turn into theme parks. When people learn that I am vigorously opposed to government schooling, well, you’d think I was some kind of child molester or murderer.

I was rereading some of my favorite Bastiat the other day when I stumbled upon the single quote that I now remember convinced me that I wasn’t crazy:

But, by an inference as false as it is unjust, do you know what the economists are now accused of? When we oppose subsidies, we are charged with opposing the very thing that it was proposed to subsidize and of being the enemies of all kinds of activity, because we want these activities to be voluntary and to seek their proper reward in themselves. Thus, if we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in religious matters, we are atheists. If we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in education, then we hate enlightenment. If we say that the state should not give, by taxation, an artificial value to land or to some branch of industry, then we are the enemies of property and of labor. If we think that the state should not subsidize artists, we are barbarians who judge the arts useless.

I protest with all my power against these inferences. Far from entertaining the absurd thought of abolishing religion, education, property, labor, and the arts when we ask the state to protect the free development of all these types of human activity without keeping them on the payroll at one another’s expense, we believe, on the contrary, that all these vital forces of society should develop harmoniously under the influence of liberty and that none of them should become, as we see has happened today, a source of trouble, abuses, tyranny, and disorder.
Our adversaries believe that an activity that is neither subsidized nor regulated is abolished. We believe the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in mankind. Ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.

2 Responses to “Surely You Don’t Oppose Government Courts?”

  1. Michael says:

    I guess another way of putting the arguement, from the non-Bastiat view, is that people have no demand for a good unless the government provides it. If that is true, why is the polite-society person complaining? By his/her very complaint proves that a good would be demanded, regardless of whether the government provides it or not, it’s merely a question of the efficiency of the delivery mechanism.

  2. Harry says:

    In my neck of the woods, our towns and municipalities are protected by volunteer fire companies, which at one time were supported by contributions from individuals.

    Over the years the boroughs and townships began to make contributions to this worthy cause from their general funds.

    I have been told by one volunteer fireman that many people today do not contribute to the fire company because they figure their taxes have already taken care of the fire company.

    When this subject –charitable contributions — comes up every year, our elected officials are loath to be stingy when it comes to worthy charities, especially fire and ambulance, but also for the YMCA, more baseball fields for the children, etc. And they present themselves often as if THEY are the ones bestowing the needed gifts from their own funds. The gifts are loudly proclaimed, not by the King’s herald, but in the township’s glossy newsletter and on its website.

    So it is not surprising that when the fire company’s annual appeal letter goes out, it goes in the trash along with the zero-percent credit card mail. (If everybody who could afford it, which is nearly everybody, would send the fire company $25 apiece, there might be no need for the township dig into other people’s pockets.)

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