29. What Is “The Law?”

What are individual rights, and where do they come from? Should the government help people, or should we?

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Here is the transcription of our conversation: 

 

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: I wanted to talk to you today about my favorite Tuttle Twins book, which happens to be about one of my other favorite books, The Law. I think it was actually the first Tuttle Twins book, wasn’t it?

Connor: Yeah, this was the first one. So on the last episode, we talked with Elijah who’s doing the illustrations, and when I reached out to Elijah about this idea both he and I were talking about, you know, Hey, should we do this kid’s book? That’d be kind of interesting. We both had young kids and we had a discussion about what we should do for the book. And, and we wanted to do a children’s book based on like an original book. That was kind of our idea rather than a totally new story. We wanted to find another book that we really liked and then, you know, kind of turn it into a children’s version. And it was a pretty easy decision after that because for both Elijah and I, The Law by Frédéric Bastiat was a very important essay. Sounds like it

Brittany: Same Here. Yeah

Connor: For you as well. Ands o what this is, there’s, Frédéric Bastiat kind of a, an economist, I guess you can call him. He was in the assembly as well in the country of France, and this was in the mid 18 hundreds. So this is several decades after the American Revolution and these kind of classical liberal ideas about life, liberty, and property. And so in France, there was a whole lot of socialism, and all the kids who read our books understand what socialism is. It’s basically when you’re forcing some people to pay for things that benefit other people, you’re redistributing wealth, you’re taking, you know, from some and giving to others. And in France, there was a whole lot of that at the time that was happening. And so Bastiat would write these kind of speeches and essays. And at the time there was no internet, of course. And so pamphlets were a really big thing and newspaper articles and so forth. So he would write a lot. He had a column in kinda the local newspaper where he would write. And he was, he was very kind of sick. He didn’t live to be very old. And just before he died he, in fact, I think it was like the year before he died.

Brittany: Yeah. Very shortly before he died, I believe.

Connor: Yeah, he wrote the law. It’s not long. You can find it online if you’re, especially if you’re like a teenager or a tween or something, you can handle it. Certainly the adult, the adults as well. And he has, I think you’d agree with me, Brittany, just a very eloquent way of writing. He’s good with words. He’s good at, persuading you, at giving you,

Brittany: He’s also a little sassy. He’s a little sassy about it. Yeah. And I,

Connor: Like that he’s a little kinda, Yeah, he’s like witty and sarcastic, right?

Brittany: Yeah Absolutely. And I think that that gets the point across, right, because we can listen to politicians or whoever, philosophers talk about an idea all day long, but Bastiat kind of does it in a way. Just to give you an example, in one line he calls his, opposition, the people he’s writing against miserable creatures. And I keep thinking how great it would be if you heard people say things like that today,

Connor: You miserable creature

Brittany: Yep.

Connor: What are the, Maybe let’s review, what are some of the things that you learned, Britney, from the The Law? What stands out for you or, or what were some of your takeaways in reading Bastiat’s book?

Brittany: Yeah. Well, one thing I like about the book in general, So we’ve talked a lot about rights and what rights are and, and how we get them. And I think we’ve kind of come to the conclusion on previous episodes that you don’t have to do anything to get rights. Rights are things you’re born with. Well, one way that I like that Bastiat really lays this out, but I actually think The Tuttle Twins to a better job in The Law, where they kind of just, I think the book even says it just like this. Having rights means that there are some things that you can do that nobody is allow, excuse me, nobody else is allowed to stop you from doing so. We’ve, we’ve talked about free speech before. You’re allowed to say what you want and nobody’s allowed to stop you. So the law kind of lays that out. It lets you know that, that not only is that, is that something we have, but that the only reasons government exists in the beginning was because they were supposed to protect those rights from being, you know, aggressed upon or infringed upon by others.

Connor: Yeah. And, one thing that I liked that he talked about is how, you know if certain things are wrong for people to do, Then just because they organize together as a government doesn’t mean that, you know, that wrong thing suddenly becomes okay. If it’s wrong to steal from other people. Well then when you get together in a group of people, stealing doesn’t become okay. Right? you know, or even like killing someone, if you are part of a government and you declare war, does that mean it’s suddenly Okay, cuz it’s a government doing it. These are very interesting questions to try and understand what government is doing. That’s right. What government is doing. That’s wrong, Brittany. One of the, the more, I don’t, what’s a good way to explain this? One of the more controversial things that’s in The Tuttle Twins book, and certainly in Bastiat although in different words, is this idea that there can be bad people in the government. Now, that’s not something that, you know, when we went to school, when we were younger, you and I weren’t privileged enough to be homeschooled, right? And so we went to school and in school they certainly didn’t teach us this. So when we talk about it in the book, what does that mean? That there can be bad people in the government?

Brittany: Yeah. So a lot of times I think you kind of just hit the nail on the head when you said, Why is it okay? You know, stealing is wrong no matter who does it, whether it’s the government or not. So let’s think about government in general. If you’re allowed to steal from someone, if you’re a government, not a person, let’s use taxation as an example, right? So I can’t come to your house and take money from you, but the government can kind of go to your paycheck, right? And take money from you and give it to somebody else. So you have this kind of buffer, this thing that allows them to do things that nobody else is allowed to do. Well, if that’s instituted, wouldn’t you think that bad people would be almost attracted to these positions of power? What do you think? Cause you could probably get away with doing that, right? It would be kind of a cover for you to do bad things.

Connor: Yeah. That’s interesting. And it’s not always, we, should be careful maybe in how you and I talk about this, and we try to in the book as well. It’s not always that these people are, are like actually evil and they’re like Adolph Hitler and, you know, stuff like that. So, they can still be good people who are, you know, loving to their husband or wife and their kids and they’re nice people. Maybe they go to your same church or they live down the street. These are mostly for, for the most part, nice, well-intentioned people. But yeah, there are when the government controls a lot of people, you definitely get people who want to work for the government or get elected, right? And be in charge of the government. These people have personalities where they like bossing people around.

They like making decisions and telling other people what to do. And, and that’s what’s bad, right? It’s not that those people are necessarily evil or they’re monsters and, you know, things like that. But, yeah, when the government does more and more things and has more and more power, you’re right, it does attract a certain type of people who likes that. Whereas you or I might be like, Ugh, I don’t wanna tell other people what to do with their lives. Just as I don’t want people telling me. But there are some people who kind of like that type of thing and, and like to be in that position of power.

Brittany: But you bring up something interesting though. We talked about how these things would be wrong either way, and that’s why our government was actually set up originally. I’m not saying it’s like this now, but that if we can’t do something, the government shouldn’t be allowed to do it either. And that’s what the book The Law talks about. And this goes back to theft, right? If we can’t steal, if I can’t go to your house and steal, the government shouldn’t be allowed to go to your house and steal either.

Connor: Now, you, mentioned steal, and Bastiat used a word that we made sure to use in our book, which is the, P word Plunder. And, so in The Tuttle Twins’ version of the book, it illustrates a pirate just to kind of make the point a little bit more. He has a sword that he’s holding out and the laws like at the tip of the, he’s like, you know, spearing the law and kind of cutting it in half. And this goes back to our past episode with Elijah, where he really tries to find creative ways to illustrate plunder. I never would’ve thought about literally putting a pirate into the book and showing that that’s what it is. Explain to us a little bit, Britney, what did, what did boss yet mean when he talked about Plunder? Why did he choose that word?

Brittany: Because if you think about pirates kind of are, bullies. I always think of it this way, and maybe I’m wrong, but I always think of legal plunder as a group of bullies, right? Who kind of overpower you into doing something who we talked about the non-aggression principle kind of break that non-aggression principle to take things from you. And I know that now that’s kind of put a visual around where every time I think of governments asking for more money, I always think of a group of pirates, right? Trying to, trying to steal my money from me. I don’t know, maybe you think differently, but that’s what I always get from it.

Connor: I think it’s how a lot of us feel too, right? Especially when the government is taking our money for things that it shouldn’t even be doing in the first place.

Brittany: In the first place.

Connor: You know, it’s like the, your local city might own a golf course and not a lot of people are going to the golf course, so they have to raise taxes so that they can, you know, pay for mowing all those lawns and pay for the workers. And then you think, Well, wait a minute, if I don’t even like golf and the government shouldn’t even have a golf course at all, you should leave it to the free market. Why am I being taxed for this?

Brittany: This happens with stadiums all the time with sports stadiums where a lot of taxpayers are asked to pay for, you know, soccer stadiums or football stadiums. But think about, like you just said, What if I don’t watch football? Do you know? Or what if I don’t watch soccer? So, yeah, we shouldn’t have had to be paying for these things that they shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

Connor: I really love that we did this first book based on book. He’s written a number of other things and some really funny you know, the broken window fallacy. You know, and he talks in a lot of his writings about that which is seen and that which is unseen. In other words, the importance of understanding that your actions or the government’s actions can have effects that are not necessarily seen. They’re unintended or sometimes they’re intended, but they’re not very visible, right? So it’s like in The Tuttle Twins In the Road to Surfdom, when the government wanted to do central planning and they wanted to put the roadright downthrough La Playa to get to surf them, that had a bunch of effects. It had a bunch of consequences that the central planners didn’t know.

And so Bastiat talked a lot about that because he saw it in France in the 18 hundreds. And it’s not just that these ideas are unique to, you know, America in the 21st century and France in the 19th century. It’s that this is inherent to just how people are right throughout time, whatever country you’re in, when some people boss other people around, they don’t have all the knowledge to make decisions for other people. And so they might say, Hey, I want you to do this thing, or I want you, I’m gonna take your money, or I want you to go do that. But they don’t know what the other consequences of those actions will be. And so Bastiat, like you pointed out in this kind of sassy way, he has a really good ability to kind of show how silly these arguments are that socialists make.

And, he has this one quote, Britney, I’m gonna butcher it, but it’s. I love when he explains that, you know, the socialists complain against us when we say that we don’t want the government to you know, pay for churches. And then they say, Oh, you hate religion. And, you know, then they complain against us when we say we don’t want government schools. And then the socialists say, Oh, you hate education. You know, And then, he says, it’s as if, you know if we were to criticize the government for being involved in farming, right? That the socialists would say that we don’t want people to eat. Yep. like, he’s like, come on, Like, let’s be real about these arguments. But he, shows, I think in his witty way why the arguments of, his opponents, What, was the term that you used earlier? The

Brittany: Oh, you miserable creatures. That one?

Connor: The miserable creatures, right? Do you know, why, their arguments are so poor? So I, think he’s done a heroic job and I’m just so glad that he was the, the first book that we turned into a Tuttle Twins book.

Brittany: I think the time period is really interesting too, because some people don’t know that there were two revolutions that kind of came back at, or, you know, back to back. And that was the American Revolution, which is how we became a country. But there was also the French Revolution, which was kind of like you said, we’re socialist more a, it was against rich people, the aristocracy, but that one was not as great as ours. And what I mean by that is, I mean, people were taking to the streets and, there was mindless killing and there was no real direction. And Bastiat was seeing this happen, but he was also seeing what happened with the American Revolution. And he saw how the Americans were able to do a lot of things, right? And as you and I have talked about, we haven’t always lived up to those things, but in the beginning, and especially during this time, America was leading the way on a lot of these really great ideas, like the Bill of Rights things we’ve talked about before a constitution a republic even. But Bastiat was seeing these things not happen at home. He was seeing kind of chaos happen at France. So I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition, a comparison of the two different kinds of revolutions

Connor: That’s super interesting. And, it’s really cool to see when you read The Law, when you read his book, you definitely see a lot of things in there that it sounds like Thomas Jefferson saying, for example, right? You see a lot of things that you’re like, Man, this sounds like the Founding Fathers could have said it. And you know, even going back decades before to someone named John Locke, right? An Englishman, whom the Founding Fathers relied upon for a lot of their leaders, And so he talked a lot about Life, Liberty, and Property and how that’s what good government is. So it’s, it’s really inspiring to go back in time and see people who were, who were thinkers, right? Bastiat was a thinker. He was spending a lot of time just trying to learn and observe and understand.

He wasn’t just going about his daily life and, whatever, not really thinking. He was spending a lot of time really trying to understand these principles. And then when he put, you know, I guess not pen to paper, what did he do? He probably paper, paper right back in the day. He did it in a way that makes it super easy to understand. So definitely for the older folks listening, not so much the younger kids probably until they’re a bit older, but, just go online. Search the Law by Bastiat. You can find copies on Amazon if you wanna buy a hard copy. You can find it for free online. It’s really enjoyable to read. In fact, I do believe in the back of our book we have a link that will take you to a site where you can get it.

Oh, and what am I saying? You can even go on TuttleTwins. Com if you didn’t buy it when you bought your books, and if you go to TuttleTwins.com/products, we have a copy of The Lawbook that where you can buy for a dollar. So check it out and get educated. Make sure guys that you are subscribed. Head to TuttleTwins.com/podcast to find the show notes. Well, in fact, make it even easier. And the link to some of those resources on the show notes page for today. So you can go check out what those are, make sure you’re subscribed, and make sure you’re sharing with friends. Let’s spread the word a little bit more and help educate even more families. And until then, Brittany, I’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you next time

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