Frédéric Bastiat, who was born two hundred years ago, was a leader of the French laissez-faire tradition in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was influenced by Cobden’s Anti-Corn Law League and became a convinced free trader. Joseph Schumpeter described Bastiat as ‘the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived’.
In The Law, written in 1850, the year of his death, Bastiat recognises the central importance of the law and morality in a free society. He was concerned that government was using the ‘law’ to become too active a participant in the economy whilst devoting too little attention to protecting life and liberty.
This Occasional Paper, which reprints an English translation of The Law, includes a new introduction by Professor Norman Barry of the University of Buckingham which places Bastiat’s views in their historical context and explains their continuing relevance today.