“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” – Frédéric Bastiat
This review focuses on our favorite of the Tuttle Twins series, The Law, based on Frédéric Bastiat’s work by the same name from 1850. The other titles in the series are also recommended, but are not as closely aligned with the NAP. For example, another book in the series, the “Golden Rule” makes the case for us to “Do unto others…” While the golden rule is easier to explain to children than the NAP (at first), and has a nice ring to it, it only works for societies that are already peaceful. “Treating people the way you want to be treated”, doesn’t help us in the face of aggression. Being a subjective standard, it is also non-philosophical (imagine a sociopath treating people the way he wants to be treated). The NAP, which tells us that “it’s wrong to use aggression, to initiate force”, is more direct and based on objective definitions.
The book opens with the young Tuttle Twins searching for a lesson on Wisdom. To be frank, if perhaps a bit pedantic, this style of presenting a concept is begging the question. Any other children’s book could open the same way, with two kids asking their neighbor what wisdom is, and maybe he hands them the “Satanists Guide to WMD’s”. It’s presenting the conclusion, “wisdom”, first, and providing the premises after. We try to be more rigorous with our arguments, and discouraging leading conversations with “Wise people know the Truth is the NAP!”
In our goal of teaching children about, and treating children within, the parameters of the NAP, we are always looking for ways to simplify the concepts. Our primary axiom is “I own myself, my actions, and their effects”. This is easy to demonstrate and argue. The Tuttle twins, on the other hand, learn from their wise neighbor that we all have ‘rights’ which come from ‘God’. It’s not an answer our children are satisfied with, and The NAP does not rely on either concept. Again, the NAP holds that our ‘rights’ are born out of self-ownership. But if you teach that rights come from God, the fact that we arrive at the same conclusion (thou shall not initiate force) is the important part. The two ideologies peacefully coexist.
Soon the children learn that our rights should be defended from ‘bad guys’, even if those bad guys are in authority. “Stealing is always wrong”, and “true laws”, being universal, would forbid everyone from doing it. This is where we really connect with the book, as NAP parents. It’s such an important lesson that we teach our children: “You shouldn’t steal from your brother, as I shouldn’t steal from you, as Daddy shouldn’t steal from Mommy…”, and we can extrapolate this principle beyond the family without end. If children don’t learn this at home, you can bet they won’t learn it elsewhere.
Later the kids approach the concept that we shouldn’t be forced to share. This is in full alignment with our approach and the NAP. It comes into play for us when the neighbor kid complains, “Hey your daughter won’t share her toys!”, and we respond “Ok. She doesn’t have to.” (Of course we deliver the message more gently than that). We see it as no different from a grown neighbor stopping by and saying “Hey your husband didn’t share his lawnmower with me!”. The response would be “And?”. The principle is universal. Kids that are forced to share have that essential right or boundary of personal property eroded. The result is usually resentment, anger, and revenge, which often leads to anti-social and criminal habits as adults.
The message in this book, and from Bastiat, is clearly political, or legal, in nature. He is warning us about governments and unjust laws that violate the NAP. It’s obvious for anyone studying the NAP that it’s heralded by people who seek liberty from their governments. This political message is outside the scope of NAP parenting as we teach it. We’re making it a point “not to go there”, as the principle is too important (and under-valued) within the family for us to engage in a distracting discussion about its political merit. In short, I can break bread with my statist neighbors, but not with the ones who hit their kids. And you can vote for Bernie and still be an NAP parent!
But the solution offered by Boyack to any of us dealing with aggressive authorities is another we can certainly agree on: to fight back with ideas. Overall, the lessons found in this book are helpful and presented in a fun way and interesting way. Children and grownups everywhere would be wise to grab both a copy of The Law by Bastiat and by Connor Boyack.