Frédéric Bastiat

Frédéric Bastiat was an political and economic philosopher in the 1800s. He is well known for his book The Law, which explains what the law is, where it derives it's power, and what it means to society.

His test to see if a tax was plunder was to take away the words that name it and test the actions that create them. "See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime."

The Supreme court has noted several times that the power of the government is derived from the consent of the goverened. It is created by the will of the people, and can not legitimately govern people who do not consent to it's authority. What this means is that any group of people can create a government, but that government can only legitimately govern those who consent to it's law.

More importantly, when creating a government, no person can give to that government any right which they do not already have. I can't join with my friends to form a government which creates a law to take your property, because I, nor do my friends, have any claim to your property.

If I can not take your property, even if I use it to your benefit, then I can not create a government to create the same. An example might be that I do not have the right to come to your home, and take any percent of your money without your consent. It doesn't matter if I fill in a pothole in front of your house, or offer you protection from your neighbor. If you do not want those services, I can not force you to buy them.

The Law is available as a free downloadable PDF and audiobook at the Mises Institute.