Advise me, but do not force your opinion on me.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Harmonies

After noting that responsibility can lead to three types of sanctions, namely natural sanctions, religious sanctions and legal sanctions, Frédéric Bastiat explores the latter and its implications.

Unless there is a judicial error, the legal sanction always comes on top of a natural sanction. Indeed, mistakes are leading naturally to a sanction, albeit not always an immediate one, because this is the way for us to assess that a mistake has been committed (an action that would not have unfortunate consequences could not be called a mistake). There exists however cases for which a legal sanction is desirable for society because the consequences of an action may happen to be very remote of even more harmful to third parties than to the one who committed the disruptive action. The question is thus to know in which cases the legislator should plan for sanctions, without falling in the partisan trap of dictatorship of the majority, whereby two parts of the population have different views on a subject matter and one imposes its own view to the other through legislation.

In order to illustrate cases where legislation would not be legitimate, Frédéric Bastiat speculates on a legislation that would prohibit idleness. He concludes that the fact that such a legislation does not exist is perfectly justified and desirable, even if idleness is a mistake from which its author will suffer and that we could advise him not to fall into even without prohibiting it.

Other quotes from Responsibility:
Perfection – Free will – Human Action – Legislation

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