"A Fatal Tendency of Mankind. Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing. But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man -- in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain."
by:
Frederic Bastiat
(1801-1850) French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before -- and immediately following -- the French Revolution of February 1848
Source:
"The Law" by Frederic Bastiat (1848)
http://liberty-tree.ca/research/TheLaw
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Reader comments about this quote:
What is wrong with you? You responders that always have something to say? It's all very nice to examine and re-examine your Declaration and Amendments. But Frederic Bastait deeply influenced the fathers of your Constitution. It's sad and tragic that you don't recognize this as the beginnings of the American Revolution. These were stirrings that began the French and Indian Wars. These same Generals later died at the battle of the Plains of Abraham; Wolf and Montcolm were both deeply involved in that conflict. You should not cut your history off at your borders and you should remember those that helped form your country - especially at the time when it was at its weakest.
 -- Laurence, Alberta, CANADA     
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    Laurence, thanks - good point. Great observation by Bastiat! ! !
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Worst quote ever! He starts by caliming that he is for "Social Progress"? What does he mean by that? Then he attacks mans getting his desires by the "least pain possible", what is wrong with that? I think Bastiat writes a little like Mike, and that is what is wrong with them both.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    The quote from Bastiat best remembered: "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for thmselves in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." ISN'T THAT A GEM?
     -- Dave Wilber, St. Louis     
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    What is wrong with that? ya gotta be kidding, Waffler! Do you get your desires with the least pain possible? THAT IS BY STEALING!!! Point a gun at someone and take what you desire? Have you ever been in jail?
     -- Dave Wilber, St. Louis     
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    Excellent quote as always from Bastiat. Social progress is only progress when it occurs naturally. When it is implemented by social engineers in the guise of government...its socialism. And socialism is a cancer.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Waffler, thank you very much, I take that as high praise in deed. That I were worthy of such praise would be phenomenal but, thank you anyway.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    So Dave you think jail is fun, I think that is a very painful way to get your desire, funny I cannot understand exactly how it is that you think. J Carlton said nothing to answer the question that Bastiat begs: What the hell is Social Progress?
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    True, but there is even a greater evil - when the majority abuse the minority
     -- RBESRQ     
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    Waffler, I would say that social progress is the result of efforts by people to achieve excellence in their personal and business lives. That approach can not help but improve the general condition of all. But Government intervention / bureaucracy is the antithesis to this concept, as it slows down real progress through a system of compliance and theft.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    J how does excellence in my business and personal life have anything to do with my neighbor or anyone else. Social progress generally has something to do with people during things together, socially that is. If I keep just to my own business how is that being social.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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     -- jim k, Austin      
    The common faith with which the USA was founded. Born out of the protestant reformation. Germany it seems was a flash point of debate. Divisions within the Christian secs, Romes quest to suppress the very truth of Liberty and Freedom. Seeing slavery dominated the landscape for so many years, it was inevitable through Divine Providence that those " far off " would receive the whole truth. The isles, promised the favor of grace, translations of sacred text into English afforded the knowledge suppressed to grow. The path is not hard to trace. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. ( Gen 9:27 ) From sea to shining sea comes to mind. Origins of peoples, historical facts as to hindsight bear out not only the truth, but presence of the Creator and self declaration. " We hold these truths to be self evident." Progress through Liberty creates the strongest resolve of any people. Personal responsibility is well rewarded in a community of freed individuals. A more perfect union !
     -- Ronw13, Oregon     
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    There are those wishing to end this presumptive nature of man...and fate willing, we shall have our day.....
     -- Robert, Somewhere in the USA     
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    Bastiat does it again! Right on. Waffler, there is no social progress if it is at the expense of others under threat. I think 'progress' is natural -- we produce, we grow, we build, we harvest -- if allowed to do so, progress is guaranteed. Politically though, the word 'progressive' means 'controlled' -- the 'progress' is the gradual transfer of personal responsibility to the state so that state bureaucrats can 'engineer' society to best serve, well, them and their patrons. Progressive liberalism is but the progressive growth of the power of the state -- period. It is the ultimate embracing of the Fatal Tendency, because these social engineers need to be paid (and paid well) and they do not know how to provide for themselves. So get with the program, everyone, it's for the good of all. ;-)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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