What is The Great Fiction?

In 1848, Frederic Bastiat, the great French classical liberal economist, published a pamphlet entitled L’État, which translates into English as “The State” or, more simply, “Government.” In L’État, Bastiat stated his desire for someone to “offer a prize for a good, simple, and intelligent definition of the word ‘Government.'”

Bastiat then submitted his entry for the prize, penning one of the most recognizable lines in libertarian literature: “Government is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”

In his pamphlet, Bastiat was pondering the problems facing 19th century France, but his definition of government is just as true in our time and place as it was in his. All throughout American society people are constantly asking the government to give them something at someone else’s expense. The requests Americans make of the state – that it provide them with prosperity or equality, or that it mold society to their preferences – can only be attained by attacking the lives, liberty and property of others.

The primary beneficiary of behavior is the state, not the factions of citizens battling for control of it. In attempting to lasso the state and harness its powers, the people have only succeeded in tying a noose around their own necks, and each appeal to the state only serves to tighten the knot.

This site explores the ultimate solution to this predicament: liberty. For people to be free, they must realize that the state cannot give without taking – and that it will always be the great fiction.

About the Writer

Ben Lewis is a writer whose works have appeared at the Tenth Amendment Center, Reformed Libertarian, Patriot Post and Voices of Liberty. He writes from a libertarian perspective on a variety of topics, including history, economics, politics and culture.

You can contact him by clicking here.

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