…is from pages 5-6 of Frederic Bastiat’s 1850 essay The Law (Mises Inst. Edition):
But [man] may live and enjoy, by seizing and appropriating the productions of the faculties of his fellow men. This is the origin of plunder.
Now, labor being in itself a pain, and man being naturally included to avoid pain, it follows, and history proves it, that wherever plunder is less burdensome than labor, it prevails; and neither religion nor morality can, in this case, prevent it from prevailing.
When does plunder cease, then? When it becomes more burdensome and more dangerous than labor.
As with anything, people will choose the least-costly option for their actions, in this case in the trade off between labor and plunder (Bastiat uses the phrase “plunder” here meaning the legal appropriation of one’s property by the state to transfer to another person). As the cost of labor rises (or the cost of plunder drops), the attractiveness of plunder increases. Things like occupational licenses, tariffs, and even progressive taxation all increase the costs of labor, and thus make plunder more attractive, which in turn leads to more lobbying and resources spent to get a share of the plunder.
Respect for the law cannot long be preserved when the law becomes a tool for plunder rather than preventing it.