Page:Essays on Political Economy (Bastiat).djvu/188

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180
THE LAW.

political rights, their first thought is, not to abolish plunder (this would suppose them to possess enlightenment, which they cannot have), but to organise against the other classes, and to their own detriment, a system of reprisals,—as if it was necessary, before the reign of justice arrives, that all should undergo a cruel retribution,—some for their iniquity and some for their ignorance.

It would be impossible, therefore, to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this—the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.

What would be the consequences of such a perversion? It would require volumes to describe them all. We must content ourselves with pointing out the most striking.

In the first place, it would efface from everybody's conscience the distinction between justice and injustice.

No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree, but the safest way to make them respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality are in contradiction to each other, the citizen finds himself in the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense, or of losing his respect for the law—two evils of equal magnitude, between which it would be difficult to choose.

It is so much in the nature of law to support justice, that in the minds of the masses they are one and the same. There is in all of us a strong disposition to regard what is lawful as legitimate,