Members of the Alexis de Tocqueville Political Society recently hosted a Saturday-afternoon seminar to discuss Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 work The Law, which examines the purpose of law in the facilitation of a free society. Senior Tutor Laurence L. Shields led the discussion, in which some 14 students worked together to discern the meaning of the text and to identify whatever truths (or errors) it may contain.
“We talked quite a bit about how Bastiat provides a negative account of what the law is — that is, what the law is not, which, in turn, helps us to realize what it actually is,” recalls Genevieve McCarthy (’15), the Tocqueville Society’s president. “His concept of the law is restricted to life, liberty, and property, much like Locke. We also talked about how that vision differs from one in which government tries to lead its citizens to greater virtue.”
Noting the courteous nature of the seminar, Miss McCarthy described the conversation as “refreshing,” adding, “We came to truths about the text in a very relaxed setting.”
The Society, which hopes to begin hosting such seminars once a semester, also holds bi-weekly lunchtime gatherings at which students discuss current events in light of the principles of political philosophy.