Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Slavery and Tariffs

In The Law, published in 1850, Frédéric Bastiat praised the United States as the nation that had most successfully developed the law as a means of protecting private property from those who would plunder it. He noted only two exceptions: slavery and tariffs.

He wrote,"But even in the United States, there are two issues—and only two—that have always endangered the public peace....What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer."

Bastiat was prescient. Those were the very issues that would drench the country in blood and nearly tear the United States apart a little more than ten years later in the Civil War.

The Civil War settled the question of slavery. The question of tariffs remains, as dangerous to the public peace as ever.

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