Willy Sutton’s Law – Frederic Bastiat’s Observations

Willie Sutton (1901-1980)

Was a notorious bank robber in our nation’s history. When asked why he continued to rob banks, he replied,

“That’s where they keep the money.”

So Sutton’s Law is formulated thusly — wherever wealth is accumulated someone will try to steal it.”

Question: Who is the biggest thief in the world? If you answered the Internal Revenue Service, you are correct! Most people have this feeling but lack the ability to explain that it is indeed theft. I explain it in this way. Let’s go to a shopping mall or some such place where there are lots of people to witness that I pull out a gun and place it against your head and direct you to “give me the contents of your wallet or I will blow your brains out.” I can predict with certainty that those that saw the act will describe it as theft — and call for my punishment. But–if you allow me to gather that same crowd about an hour before you show up — and let me talk to them about how we are going to divide the contents of your wallet and distribute among them — now they will call the act “democracy in action.”


Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)

Bastiat was a french economist & statesman who wrote an essay entitled The Law in 1850 observed:

“The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of evils it is supposed to punish! If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.”

This is the definition of “legal plunder“. Bastiat goes on to write;

“But how is legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply: See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons 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.”