Since Rousseau was convinced that the social state was a human invention, he had to place law and the legislator on a high pedestal.
Section 1 of 6
Frédéric Bastiat wrote this pamphlet “Property and Law” right after being elected on 23 April 1948 as a Representative to the Constitutional Assembly. Over the coming days, I shall choose six quotes out of each of the six sections in which this pamphlet can be divided.
Before going into the details explaining his position towards property and the corresponding legislation, Frédéric Bastiat clearly state his opposition to the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau concerning the role of the Law (a word that is despised by Donald Boudreaux who prefers to use the word “legislation”, arguing that the word “law” should be kept for natural laws like the Law of universal gravity for instance). This question of anteriority between the legislation or the rights and duties of citizens is a major one and still relevant nowadays. The approach of Rousseau is indeed deeply anti-liberal and autocratic to the extent that, once the question of knowing who is in a position to take decisions, the role of the legislator would be to design society according to his own beliefs and his own (good) intentions – to impose his own views. This centralising approach can be immensely damaging, as witnessed all along the 20th century.
Once elected to the assembly and being a champion of liberty, Frédéric Bastiat announces that his intention is to secure the rights but not to invent them and impose them to the people. In some ways, he was adopting the idea from Adam Ferguson that would be repeated by Friedrich von Hayek that society “is the result of human action but not the execution of any human design”.