In The Law, Bastiat states that "each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property". The State is a "substitution of a common force for individual forces" to defend this right. The law becomes perverted when it punishes one's right to self-defense in favor of another's acquired right to plunder.
The first ten chapters were all that appeared in the lifetime of the gifted author, or that had the benefit of his finishing touch. It was Bastiat’s intention, had he lived, to recast the work, and to give it a wider and more comprehensive scope; embracing in his design not only the principles of Political Economy, but their applications to Social Philosophy. Prior to his departure for Italy, on what he foresaw might be his last journey, he had communicated to his friends MM. de Fontenay and Paillottet a list of the new chapters in the order in which they will be found in the subjoined Notice of his Life.1 To the same friends, in his last moments, he entrusted the manuscripts intended for the continuation of the work. The duty thus committed to them they discharged very judiciously, by arranging the new portions in the order pointed out, without altering the text, and, except in a very few instances, without additions of their own, contenting themselves with adding some explanatory notes, consisting chiefly of references to the author’s other works.
Some of the chapters thus added are unfortunately mere fragments, but most of the others indicate very clearly Bastiat’s opinions on the subjects to which they relate, and several of them display a breadth, a vigour, and an originality worthy of the best days of their lamented author.
Many of the questions purely economical which are discussed in the posthumous portions of the work,—such, for instance, as those of Wages, Population, and the relations of Labour and Capital, etc.,—are still deeply engaging public attention in England, as well as on the other side of the Channel; and on subjects of such vast practical importance it is surely desirable that the opinions of so profound and fearless a thinker as Bastiat should be as widely disseminated as possible.