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Justice Versus Restrictions On Trade


Come with me into one of those wooden cabins that cling to the French side of the Pyrenees [in 1846].

We discover that the father of the family has not been able to earn much in that mountainous section of the country. His poorly-clothed chil­dren shiver in the icy blast. The fire is out and the table bare.

On the other side of the mountain in Spain, there are wool, firewood, and corn. But the poor father is for­bidden to use them because they are grown in another country!

By law, the foreign pine may not warm his cabin; his children may not taste the Spanish corn; the wool of Navarre may not warm their cold bodies.

We are told that national interest (general utility) demands this. If this is so, then it must be admitted that national interest is in conflict with justice.

The government has absolute con­trol over the lives of consumers and uses these consumers in the name of national industry. This is an en­croachment upon their liberty. The law forbids the people to exchange their goods and services for the goods and services of their neighbors on the other side of the frontier. Since the willing exchange of goods and services is not immoral, then the law commits an act of injustice.

The writers of the "protectionist school" claim that this is necessary to protect national industry and pub­lic prosperity. Thus the advocates of tariffs and other restrictions against trade are faced with this sad con­clusion: Justice and the public in­terest are incompatible.

Translated by Dean Russell from Selected Works of Frederic Bastiat, Volume 1. Paris: Guillaumin, 1863. Pp. 87-88.


April 1958

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April 2014

Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
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