In order to produce, we must direct all our faculties toward the conquest of Nature; for it is Nature that must be fought, mastered, and subjugated. That is why iron beaten into a plowshare is the emblem of production.
In order to plunder, we must direct all our faculties toward the conquest of men; for they are the ones we must fight, kill, or enslave. That is why iron beaten into a sword is the emblem of plunder.
Recently, I have had a lively exchange with commenters at Cafe Hayek, which resulted from my launching the below first comment:
In a sense, Bastiat has got it wrong. As Douglas C. North has pointed out so brilliantly: mankind tends to reduce the risks emanating from nature by increasing the risks stemming from society (or the social technologies, as I like to say, that evolve to give us greater command over nature). Hence in the 20th century Stalin posed a much bigger problem to mankind than did, say, storms.
In that sense, "the conquest of men" - the development of adequate social technologies - is far more important than the "conquest of Nature". The struggle to institute and maintain the rule of law seems to me the most important endeavour in this regard - and to return to my often repeated leitmotiv-theme in my comments here:
It is the task and uncomfortable challenge of the libertarian (and largely ignored by him nowadays) to capture and improve the political process and the state so as to make these institutional processes ever more conducive to liberty.
Ignoring the fact that liberty has always been interdigitated with the political process and the state and always will be - a strong tendency in many of my fellow-libertarians - and a convenient and one-sided emphasis - as largely practiced in this blog - on the defects of politics-and-the-state, does not help liberty, if this grotesquely truncated kind of "political economics" is already the whole story of analysis.
In fact, I increasingly come to think, the one-sided attitude of those who don't want to look at the indispensable fuzzy and open ends of the fight for liberty, is ultimately disrespectful of liberty.
All important advances of liberty have required political means as well as the use of state structures.
will remain an inevitable condition of liberty, however much one may be
dreaming of a stateless utopia of freedom.
See also my comment here: http://cafehayek.com/2013/01/quotation-of-the-day-521.html.