A State of the Union Address I Would Like to Hear

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Inspired by Marc’s post, I would like to reprint a State of the Union address—really an inauguration speech—that Frédéric Bastiat offers in his 1850 Economic Harmonies:

“You have invested me with the power of authority. I shall use it only in cases where the intervention of force is permissible. But there is only one such case, and that is for the cause of justice. I shall require every man to remain within the limits set by his rights. Every one of you may work in freedom by day and sleep in peace at night. I  take upon myself the safety of your persons and property. That is my mandate; I shall fulfill it; but I accept no other. Let there be no misunderstanding between us. Henceforth you will pay only the slight assessment indispensable for the maintenance of order and the enforcement of justice. But also, please note, each one of you is responsible to himself for his own subsistence and advancement. Turn your eyes toward me no longer. Do not ask me to give you wealth, work, credit, education, religion, morality. Do not forget that the motive power by which you advance is within yourselves; that I myself can act only through the instrumentality of force. All that I have, absolutely all, comes from you; consequently, I cannot grant the slightest advantage to one except at the expense of others. Cultivate your fields, then, manufacture and export your products, conduct your business affairs, make your credit arrangements, give and receive your services freely, educate your children, find them a calling, cultivate the arts, improve your minds, refine your sentiments, strengthen your bonds with one another, establish industrial or charitable associations, unite your efforts for your individual good as well as for the general good; follow your inclinations, fulfill your individual destinies according to your endowments, your values, your foresight. Expect from me only two things: freedom and security, and know that you cannot ask for a third without losing these two.”

[H/T Nikolai Wenzel.]

2 thoughts on “A State of the Union Address I Would Like to Hear

  1. It seems to me that asking the state for security is itself one of the fastest ways to lose freedom. (Think of the TSA, or state surveillance, or gun control.) Excepting national defense and domestic threat of punishment, there is little the state can actually do to preempt those who would harm us without restricting freedoms. Perhaps domestically, then, the two things we really need to expect from government are freedom and JUSTICE.

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