The Law by Frederic Bastiat – Defense of Life, Liberty, and Property: A Collective Action Based Upon Individual Rights


  • “Each of us has a natural right –from God –to defend his person, his liberty, and his property.”
  • “If every person has the right to defend –even by force –his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right –its reason for existing, its lawfulness –is based on individual right.”
  • “Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force –for the same reason –cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”
  • “The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.”

My Thoughts

Bastiat’s concise writing makes saying anything about it seem redundant. He has covered all the angles, and thought through his writing with an extraordinary degree of precision and logic. It makes me wonder how anybody could read “The Law” with its simple logic and not come away from it convinced that the law should be limited to three purposes: protect life, protect liberty, and protect property. 

Life, liberty, and property are all gifts of God, and people have the right (though not necessarily the obligation) to protect them using force if necessary. These claims are backed up by scripture. 

“If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed.” – Exodus 22:2-3

“By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives — to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions…” – Esther 8:11-12

I do not find any specific Biblical reference for the use of force to protect liberty. However, a simple reading of the scriptures shows us that freedom is something that is important to God. He is the God who set his people free from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 20:2). He is the God who set his people free from bondage to sin(Galatians 5:1). Jesus died so that we might be free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2). Christ’s death and resurrection was even meant to free creation from bondage and corruption (Romans 8:21). Jesus came to proclaim freedom to the captives (Luke 4:18). Though there is no scriptures that I could specifically find that say, “Defend your liberty with violence if necessary,” it’s quite clear that the LORD was willing to kill (in the case of the Egyptians) and die (in the case of Christ) to defend and protect liberty. In fact, the New Covenant in Christ is one of freedom (Galatians 5:1).

Any so-called truth that doesn’t conform to God’s word is not a truth, but a falsehood. Bastiat’s reasoning so far passes the Bible test, so we can continue with our analysis.

Bastiat’s argument is, since we individually have the right to protect our life, liberty, and property, then we have the ability to collectively protect the same. Since collective force is permitted due to the individual right, and to explicitly protect and defend the individual right, then the law (collective force) is no longer lawful if it is used to violate an individual’s life, liberty, or property. 

If this is the case, and I believe it is, then the vast majority of our so-called law is illegitimate. The volumes of law that emminate from Washington DC, our state, and local governments does nothing to protect life, liberty, or property. In fact, most of it costs people their lives, robs them of their God-given liberty, and steals their property. 

How does a Christian react interact with illegitimate authority? I see some exegesis of Romans 12 and 1 Peter 2 in my near future…