Ballot Box Robbery

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Walter Williams does a good job of arguing that government welfare is immoral in a recent column (HT: HBL):

Suppose I saw an elderly woman painfully huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. She's hungry and in need of shelter and medical attention. To help the woman, I walk up to you using intimidation and threats and demand that you give me $200. Having taken your money, I then purchase food, shelter and medical assistance for the woman. Would I be guilty of a crime? A moral person would answer in the affirmative. I've committed theft by taking the property of one person to give to another.

... Would it still be theft if I were able to get three people to agree that I should take your money? What if I got 100 people to agree -- 100,000 or 200 million people? What if instead of personally taking your money to assist the woman, I got together with other Americans and asked Congress to use Internal Revenue Service agents to take your money? In other words, does an act that's clearly immoral and illegal when done privately become moral when it is done legally and collectively? Put another way, does legality establish morality? Before you answer, keep in mind that slavery was legal; apartheid was legal; the Nazi's Nuremberg Laws were legal...
Williams then demonstrates that far too many people in America are failing to see or consider this issue and ends with a timely and apt warning.

-- CAV


Steve D. said...

‘Would it still be theft if I were able to get three people to agree that I should take your money?’
To complete the analogy he could ask: What if one on those people was himself?
The answer doesn't change, but it deals with an objection I hear a lot from statists. (The, I’m paying taxes, too, meme) His is argument is correct. I’ve used it before, but unfortunately it does not convince many people. Something about the fact that most people worship the state, I believe.
The state (or government) is, or at least should be an afterthought. Its only productive function is to provide the conditions necessary for my productivity (i.e. protecting my rights and everyone else’s). In a proper society most people might go their whole lives without ever having to deal with it – other than voting, writing to the patent office or perhaps chatting with a board cop on patrol.
from a lot of welfare statists.

Gus Van Horn said...

To the person who says "I'm paying taxes, too," you need only point out that, absent the government, nobody is going to keep him from paying as much as he wants.

Steve D. said...

My second sentence in the previous comment should have been written. ‘What if I also contribute some of my own money, and only rob you for half of what the poor person needs, does that make it moral?’
Anyway, the other argument I get a lot is the appeal to my self-interest. It goes something like this: it’s in everyone’s self-interest to live in a society where people don’t starve in the streets, but have access to a decent education, etc. Interestingly, this is the opposite of the attempt many conservatives use to justify capitalism based on altruism. They are trying to defend the welfare state or even socialism by appealing to my selfishness. Hmm…Should I be insulted or flattered?
So, following Walter’s argument one might ask: what if I broke into your house, stole your money and used it to buy something for you that I knew you needed but you didn’t?
I think the answer to both questions is rather obvious.

Gus Van Horn said...

To your last question, I'd have to ask, "Do you really know I need it?"

Now, we move from discussing this on a moral level (about theft) to an epistemological one (about central planning).