Two hundred years ago this summer, a small town on the southern Atlantic coast of France witnessed the birth of one of the most influential economic and moral thinkers of the modern age. Despite a difficult childhood and premature death, Frédéric Bastiat would nonetheless contribute countless writings dedicated to the subject of freedom and limited state power, an important issue within the political debate that gripped post–Revolutionary France throughout his life.
While his political and economic analyses are insightful, I consider Bastiat’s love for God, who blessed humankind with reason and an internal sense of morality, among his most important philosophical contributions. In a public letter addressed to his compatriots a year before his death in 1851, Bastiat wrote:
“Love is the whole of the law—that maxim of the Apostle is as true for our times as ever, be it in politics or in morality.”
In the words of a true champion of freedom, this is a wonderful reminder that liberty and free-market principles are not ends in themselves. As believers, we embrace these ideas because we realize, through reason and historical example, that the market provides the means by which humans exercise their God-given creativity—for the good of themselves and their neighbor.
These words bring to mind not only the ultimate purpose for our work on behalf of true liberty, but also the manner in which we must defend it. While believers must be uncompromising in our pursuit of truth, we must also respect the dignity of every person, created in the image of God, whether or not they agree with our views.
As men and women around the world celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Bastiat, the Acton Institute is committed to continuing its work on behalf of freedom and virtue—honoring this man and his life by empowering humanity to grow in its God-given gifts in a spirit of love and grace.
Fr. Robert A. Sirico
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