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When Politicians Plunder, Soft Despotism & The True Purpose of the Law

Updated: May 11, 2020

This is an excerpt from Brannon’s 2009 best-selling book: Grave Influence: 21 Radicals and Their Worldviews Ruling America From the Grave (purchase book here)

There are tens of thousands of federal and state laws, many of which lead down the path of socialism and redistribution of wealth. The reason we have so many laws is that we have politicians who don’t understand the purpose of the law.

Frederic Bastiat wrote The Law, first published in 1850, when France was going through one of its many transitions in government. Bastiat proclaims the purpose of the law is to make justice reign or, more precisely, to eliminate injustice. The law is simply the organization of justice, a collection of people coming together to do as a group what they cannot do as individuals: protect our life, liberty, and property.

God is the giver of liberties, and the law its protector. If, on the other hand, government is considered the giver of liberties, the obvious peril is that what the government gives, the government can take away.

For justice to fully reign we must stop the politicians from making an unjust living for themselves or their special interests through the work of the taxpayers. We must stop politicians from plundering us, as Bastiat describes:

When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it—without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud—to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed.

Bastiat explains two reasons—greed and philanthropy—politicians use law to plunder:

You say: “There are persons who have no money,” and you turn to the law. But the law is not a breast that fills itself with milk. Nor are the lacteal veins of the law supplied with milk from a source outside the society. Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in. If every person draws from the treasury the amount that he has put in it, it is true that the law then plunders nobody. But this procedure does nothing for the persons who have no money. It does not promote equality of income. The law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons. When the law does this, it is an instrument of plunder.”

When the law is used to take from one and give to another, this is nothing less than socialism. So, these “do-gooders” use the force of law to steal from one citizen the fruit of his labor in order to give it to others.

Some may argue that if we leave people to themselves some will starve, some will not have clothes, and some will not have adequate healthcare. In reality, however, if the government would get out of the way and fulfill simply its limited purpose, prosperity would be distributed to far more people because the choice would be to either work and eat or not to work and not to eat. Socialistic laws reward laziness and irresponsibility through our growing welfare state. Bastiat upholds the rightness of keeping government out of wealth control:

Under such a regime, there would be the most prosperity—and it would be the most equally distributed. As for the sufferings that are inseparable from humanity, no one would even think of accusing the government for them. This is true because, if the force of government were limited to suppressing injustice, then government would be as innocent of these sufferings as it is now innocent of changes in the temperature.

Neither Bastiat nor I argue against generosity, compassion, and charity. Our point is that charity is not the purpose of the law is not charity. Charity is the role of individuals, non-profits, ministries, and churches. Were government to stay in its rightful place, the level of prosperity would be so great that charitable organizations would be flush with the resources needed to do necessary good works.

The true purpose of the law and civil government is to reward those who live rightly and to punish the wicked. In recent years, the purpose of the law has been turned on its head in America as those who are involved in right living are punished through a punitive tax system that rewards with a monthly welfare check, not the workers but those involved in all sorts of irresponsible, destructive, immoral, and often illegal behavior.

So what would a nation look like that rejected socialism, plunder, and big government for freedom, liberty, and the proper use of the law? Bastiat tells us:

If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable.

America is the longest standing constitutional republic in the history of the world. Unless we return to the proper, limited, and fundamental purpose of the law, though, our freedoms will not be secure much longer. Today the law is being used to infringe on our God-given rights and to establish Statism, which the American Heritage Dictionary describes as “the practice or doctrine of giving a centralized government control over economic planning and policy.”

America has embraced what Alexis de Tocqueville called “soft despotism,” which gives people the illusion that they have control over their government when in reality they have very little. Samuel Gregg explains:

Tocqueville’s vision of “soft-despotism” is thus one of the arrangements that mutually corrupt citizens and the democratic state. Citizens vote for those politicians who promise to use the state to give them whatever they want. The political-class delivers, so long as citizens do whatever it says is necessary to provide for everyone’s desires. The “softness” of this despotism consists of people’s voluntary surrender of their liberty and their tendency to look habitually to the state for their needs.

De Tocqueville described the concept this way:

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.300

Soft despotism occurs because the people have forgotten—or never were educated—about the true purpose and intent of the law. When a people have become sufficiently ignorant and selfish, they vote for politicians who promise to offer them the government trough. Politicians gladly plunder some for the benefit of their special interest groups and voting blocs, all while taking advantage of constituents’ ignorance and selfishness in order to garner still more power and control by making people more and more dependent upon them and the government.

Soft despotism is furthered through an incestuous and mutually beneficial relationship between judges and politicians to the detriment of freedom-loving people and their liberty and property. The welfare state in America has gone a long way toward encouraging people to vote themselves a raise by voting for politicians who promise the most government handouts.

Though never an economist by trade, Langdell and his legal positivism have reached deep into the pockets of most Americans. And we’re all worse off for it.

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