The Newnan Times-Herald

Opinion

Wisdom from a Frenchman


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Sep. 12, 2019 - 10:27 AM

Wisdom from a Frenchman

The Newnan Times-Herald

All too often, people wait for wisdom to arrive from God-knows-where when all the time it was already available. They just don’t read it or listen to it.

Millions of Americans look to politicians for plans, answers, orders and prescriptions as if running for high office qualifies you as an oracle. What a joke. Politics is the last place from which I would expect wisdom to flow. Comedian Groucho Marx advised, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Now there’s wisdom for you.

If torture builds character, then any sensible citizen who watched the recent presidential “debates” is an angel. 

Apparently no problem, real or imagined, can’t be made worse by simply bankrupting the country, ballooning the bureaucracy, ripping off the rich, and tossing billions of other people’s dollars onto the greedy, cheering mobs below. 

Said mobs are then expected to vote for the thieves who threw it at them. This shameful spectacle, reminiscent of the “bread and circuses” in the last days of ancient Rome, is huckstered as what a successful, free society should look like. We should be ashamed to be bribed by it.

For wisdom in an unwise world, I recommend a Frenchman named Frederic Bastiat. He lived 170 years ago, served in the parliament, and wrote prodigiously about common sense. 

His slim classic titled, “The Law,” has sold millions worldwide. It’s one of the clearest expositions of politics and economics ever written. Here’s a sample of Bastiat’s wisdom. It won’t cost you a single tax dollar.

“The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else. Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone.

If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?

From whence does the State draw those resources to dispense by way of benefits to individuals? Is it not from the individuals themselves? How, then, can these resources be increased by passing through the hands of a parasitic and voracious intermediary? 

When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.

It is impossible to introduce a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder. When plunder becomes a way of life in a society, over the course of time men create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

Leave people alone. God has given organs to this frail creature; let them develop and grow strong by exercise, use, experience, and liberty.”

Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education. He writes about exceptional people, including many from his book, “Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction.” He can be reached at lreed@fee.org .