|Dumb Voter No More . com
|What Really Goes On In Washington
|Philosophy of Liberty
|Where We Went Wrong
|What We Need To Do
|Democracy vs Freedom
|The Moral Foundation of a Free Society
|FOUNDATION of a FREE SOCIETY
|Good Govt Protects Individual Rights
|Property and Government
|Freedom, Individual Rights, Capitalism
|Bankruptcy of a Mixed Economy
|FREEDOM and GOVERNMENT
|Land of Liberty - Society and Government
|Rewards of Economic Freedom
|Separation of Economics and State
|Flat Tax vs Sales Tax
|Library of Liberty
|Common Sense Laws
|What's Wrong With Conservatives
|FREE MARKETS and LIBERTY
|The Law and Plunder
|Politicians, Plunder, Wasteful Spending
|Constitution and Progressives
|Learning From Walter Williams
|POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY -ayn rand
|Principles of a Free Society vs The Road to Socialism
|Government, Capitalism, Welfare
|Income Inequality - World Poverty
|Free People Are Not Equal and Equal People Are Not Free
|Bloody Politics - Why Socialism Failed
|Vision of a Free Society
|Government Spending - Global Capitalism
|Collectivism vs Individualism
|Taxes Can Destroy
|Capitalism and Selfishness
|The Basic Issue--Mixed Economy--Seven Principles
|Life , Liberty , Property
|Politicians and the Economy
|Rights and Limited Government
|Good Sites to Visit
|Vices and Crimes - A Better Philosophy
|Constitutional Primer #7 - Property Rights
|Right to Own Guns
|Majority Limited and Pursuit of Happiness
|POLITICS and FREEDOM
|The American Revolution - Classical Liberalism
|Politics and Plunder - Welfare and Charity
|What Is Money - Seperating Money and State
|Separating School and State
|POLITICS - PART 2
|Taxes and Property
|The Anatomy of the State
|American Government Idea's
|ABORTION , Questions and Answers
|Learn Economics Here
|Three Youngsters Drown
|INCOME for LIFE
|OUR LORD'S PROPHECY PREDICTED AND FULFILLED
|JESUS CAME BACK
|FUTURISM, FIGURATIVE PRETERISM and LITERAL PRETERISM by W. Hibbard
|WERE THE APOSTLES FALSE PROPHETS? by M. Fenemore
|GUESTBOOK & LINKS
A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support
George Bernard Shaw
"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of
freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot
give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea
that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea
that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that, my dear friend, is about the
end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it." -- Dr. Adrian P. Rogers (September 12, 1931 - November
15, 2005) of Love Worth Finding Ministries, Pastor Emeritus of Bellevue Baptist Church.
James Madison, the father of our Constitution, said, in a January 1794 speech in the House of Representatives,
"The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like state governments,
whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.
The Supreme Soviet's Anatoly Sobchak once remarked, "Our people cannot endure seeing someone else earn more than they do….
They are so jealous of other people that they want others to be worse off, if need be, to keep things equal." Sobchak described
this attitude as one of the chief obstacles to economic reform. Television personality Dmitri Zakharov put it this way: "In
the West, if an American sees someone on TV with a shiny new car, he will think, 'Oh, maybe I can get that someday for myself.'
But if a Russian sees that, he will think, 'This bastard with his car. I would like to kill him for living better than I do.'"
That is what Marxism-Leninism did to these people.
Overlooked Perils of Interventionism
That system, the polar opposite of the free market, encouraged greed in the ruling class and apathy, envy, and alienation
among everyone else. Scarcely anyone defends it any longer. At the same time, we are urged not to let the socialist debacle
sour us on the state itself, which we are told is an indispensable instrument in the pursuit of "social justice." But the
less predatory state that such critics have in mind carries its own moral and cultural perils, only a few of which we can
Economists speak of the disutility of labor. Albert Jay Nock referred to the human inclination to seek after wealth with
the least possible exertion. In a formulation familiar to libertarians, Franz Oppenheimer described two ways of acquiring
wealth: the economic means and the political means. The economic means involves the production of a good or service that is
then sold to willing buyers seeking to improve their own well-being. Both parties benefit. The political means, on the other
hand, involves the use of force to enrich one party or group at the expense of another — either to acquire someone else's
wealth directly or to give oneself an unfair advantage over his competitors through the use or threat of coercion. That is
a much easier way of enriching oneself; and since people tend to prefer an easier over a more difficult path to wealth, a
society that hopes to foster both justice and prosperity needs to discourage wealth acquisition via the political means and
encourage it through the economic means.
But the state, wrote Oppenheimer, was the organization of the political means of wealth acquisition. It was through this
channel that people could find paths to their own economic well-being that involved the use of force — carried out on
their behalf by the state — rather than their own honest work. For that reason, the baser aspects of human nature can
find in the state an irresistible attraction. It is easier to become dependent on welfare than to work; it is easier to accept
farm subsidies and thereby to increase food prices than it is to compete honorably and freely; and it is easier to file an
antitrust complaint against a competitor than to outcompete him honestly in the marketplace. By making these and countless
other predatory options possible, the state fosters unattractive moral attributes and appeals to the worst features of human
In short order, society degenerates into a condition of low-intensity civil war, with each pressure group anxious to secure
legislation aimed at enriching itself at the expense of the rest of society. The Hobbesian war of all against all that allegedly
characterizes life under the pre-political state of nature creeps into political life itself, as even those who were initially
reluctant to seek political favors pursue them with vigor, if only to break even (that is, vis-à-vis groups who are less scrupulous
about using the state to secure their ends). All of this looting under cover of law is what Frédéric Bastiat memorably called
|"The state fosters unattractive moral attributes and appeals to the worst features
of human nature." |
The same phenomena are observable around the world, when misguided development aid programs have strengthened the interventionist
state in less-developed nations. Ben Powell makes the important point, echoing Peter Bauer, that the fashionable proposals
we hear about nowadays that seek to direct foreign aid to responsible, relatively non-predatory regimes miss the point: these
aid programs are inherently bad, no matter how selectively the funds are allocated. Not only do they tend to enlarge the public
sector of the recipient country, but competition for a share of the grant money also diverts private resources away from the
satisfaction of genuine wants and into the wasteful, anti-social expenditure of time and resources for the purpose of winning
Some Virtues of the Market
If the state is the organization of the political means of wealth acquisition, then the market is the embodiment of the
economic means. The market all but compels people to be other-regarding, but not by means of intimidation, threats, and propaganda,
as in socialist and statist systems. It employs the perfectly normal, morally acceptable desire to improve one's material
conditions and station in life, both of which can grow under capitalism only by directing one's efforts to the production
of a good or service that improves the well-being of his fellow man. This is why the title of Frédéric Bastiat's book Economic
Harmonies is such a beautiful encapsulation of the classical liberal message. (The American Anti-Imperialist League's
George McNeill made essentially the same observation, if perhaps more vividly, in the late 1890s: "Wealth is not so rapidly
gained by killing Filipinos as by making shoes.") Thomas Woods www.mises.org
Sacrifice--Sacrifice--Sacrifice. Everyone believes it is the moral thing to do. And no philosopher has been willing to
challenge this idea.
Except Ayn Rand. Quote:
[T]here is one word--a single word--which can blast the morality of altruism out of existence and which it cannot withstand--the
word: ‘Why?' Why must man live for the sake of others? Why must he be a sacrificial animal? Why
is that the good? There is no earthly reason for it--and, ladies and gentlemen, in the whole history of philosophy no earthly
reason has ever been given. [Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 61–62]
On examination, this is true. No reason has ever been given as to why people should sacrifice for others. Of course, alleged
reasons have been given, but not legitimate ones. Let's consider the alleged reasons--of which there are approximately
six--each of which involves a logical fallacy.
1. "You should sacrifice because God says so." This is not a reason--certainly not an earthly one. At best it is an appeal
to authority--that is: to the "authorities" who claim to speak for God. (More fundamentally, it is an arbitrary claim, since
there is no evidence for the existence of God. But for our purposes here, suffice it to say that it is an appeal to authority.)
Just because some preacher or some book makes a claim does not mean that the claim is true. Among other things, the Bible
claims that a bush spoke.
2. "You should sacrifice because Society says so." This is not a reason, either. It is an appeal to the masses. Matters
of truth and morality are not determined by what society or a group of people say. American society used to say that slavery
should be legal; some societies still do. That did not, and does not, make it so.
3. "You should sacrifice because other people need the benefits of your sacrifice." That is an appeal to pity. Even if
one person's sacrifice could produce benefits for another person (which it cannot--a subject for another post), it would not
follow that this is a reason to sacrifice. If it were a reason to sacrifice, then anyone could walk up to anyone else at any
time and demand anything: his money, his time, his effort, his property, his wife, or his life. Everyone has needs. I need
a bigger house. Should other people give me one? Does my need constitute a moral claim on their time, their money, their effort?
4. "You should sacrifice because if you don't, you will be beaten, or fined, or thrown in jail, or in some other way physically
assaulted." The threat of force is not a reason; it is the opposite of a reason. If the force-wielders could offer a reason
for why you should sacrifice, then they wouldn't have to use force; they could use persuasion instead of coercion.
5. "You should sacrifice because, well, when you grow up you'll see that you should." This is not a reason, but a personal
attack and an insult. It says, in effect, "You're immature" or "You're stupid"--as if demanding a reason in support of a moral
conviction could indicate a lack of maturity or intelligence.
6. "You should sacrifice because only an evil person would challenge this established fact." This kind of claim assumes
that you regard others' opinions of you as more important than your own judgment of truth. It is also an example of what Ayn
Rand called "the argument from intimidation": the attempt to substitute psychological pressure for rational argument. Like
the personal attack, it is an attempt to avoid having to present a rational case for a position for which no rational case
can be made.
That's it. Such are the "reasons" offered in support of the claim that you should sacrifice for others. Don't take my word
for it: Try to think of another reason. Ask around. Ask a priest or rabbi. Ask a philosophy professor. Email this post to
your friends, and see if they can think of another reason. You will find that all the "reasons" offered are variants of these--each
of which, so far from being a "reason," is a textbook logical fallacy. Most even have fancy Latin names.
This article is an adapted excerpt from my lecture "Ayn Rand's Morality of Selfishness," a ninety-minute introduction
to the Objectivist ethics.
If stopping the selling of favors in Washington is the goal, why does no one demand that we simply enforce the laws that
make such action illegal? After all, we combat police corruption by prosecuting officers who take kickbacks to overlook crimes.
We combat judicial corruption by prosecuting judges who accept bribes in exchange for making unjust rulings. Why not similarly
go after Congressmen who trade legislative decisions for campaign contributions?
Because the depressing fact is that most of the dispensing of favors, and punishments, is done *within* the law. Unlike
the police or judges, Congressmen (and many other government officials) have legally acquired arbitrary power. They routinely
make decisions that are governed, not by objective fact or principle, but by subjective preference.
Suppose that Congress is considering "The Pristine Nature Act," which would close vast tracts of private land to logging
and commercial development. A few timber companies argue that such restrictions on their property would be unfair and hurt
their profits. The local homeowners association supports the bill, because it would allow residents to maintain their traditional,
bucolic lifestyle. And environmentalists clamor that the trees must be protected from mankind.
What basis should a Congressman use in making his decision? The common answer is that he should do whatever furthers the
"public interest." But which parties count as the "public" and so gain the privilege of having their interests advanced? The
timber companies? The neighboring residents? The environmentalists? The trees? The people who would have lived in the houses
that would have been built with the timber that would have been harvested? Each is as plausible as the other.
In cases like this, which are endless, the non-objective standard of the "public interest" justifies any decision. Which
really means: there is no guiding principle, there is only expediency. A Congressmen simply latches on to whatever arguments
he finds convenient. The presence or absence of campaign contributions from an affected party is thus as "convincing" a factor
as anything else. In fact, this is the essence of lobbying- -donating money to an official so that the giver can be granted
the magical title of "the public."
This kind of arbitrary power--not money--is the fundamental source of influence-peddling in Washington. And a true opponent
of government corruption would seek to restore the system that was created precisely to eliminate such power: the American
system of individual rights. He would advocate the principle that the rights of the individual, including property rights
and freedom of speech, are inalienable, and that no invocation of the "public interest" can justify their abrogation. He would
realize that the indefinable rule of the "public interest" is what gives government officials unlimited power. He would see
that only a severely limited government--limited by the standard of individual rights--has no arbitrary powers to exercise,
and to sell.
The proposed campaign-finance reforms, however, target not this power but its principal victims--the people who pay "protection
money" to government officials.
Productive businesses today have a gun permanently pointed at their heads--by Washington. They live in constant fear that
Congress will pass legislation, in the name of the "public interest," that can cripple or destroy them. In self-defense, to
retain some vestige of control over their fate, they make political contributions to keep the government at bay. They don't
want special favors--they simply want *not* to be regulated, *not* to have their property confiscated, *not* to be denied
permission to exist. By permitting restricting on their contributions, the Supreme Court in effect declares: "You, the victim
of arbitrary force, will now have virtually *no* say over your future. You, who want to reduce the power of the state and
to fight the cause of government corruption, are to be silenced--in the name of fighting government corruption." This is unjust
True, there are those who make contributions, not to keep what they have earned, but to receive unearned benefits. But
here too the solution is to stop the *source* of those favors, by reducing the government's capacity to do whatever it wishes
in the name of the "public interest."
The way to end government corruption is not by further penalizing its victims, but by removing from officials the arbitrary
power that they regularly offer up for sale to the highest bidder.
In February 1887, President Grover Cleveland, upon vetoing a bill appropriating money to aid drought-stricken farmers in
Texas, said, "I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and the
duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related
to the public service or benefit."
President Cleveland added, "The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow
citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation
of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the
indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood."
President Cleveland vetoed hundreds of congressional spending measures during his two-term presidency, often saying, "I
can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution." But Cleveland wasn't the only president who failed to
see charity as a function of the federal government. In 1854, after vetoing a popular appropriation to assist the mentally
ill, President Franklin Pierce said, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity." To approve such
spending, argued Pierce, "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory
upon which the Union of these States is founded."
In 1796, Rep. William Giles of Virginia condemned a relief measure for fire victims, saying that Congress didn't have a
right to "attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require." A couple of
years earlier, James Madison, the father of our constitution, irate over a $15,000 congressional appropriation to assist some
French refugees, said, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress
of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
Here's my question: Were the nation's founders, and some of their successors, callous and indifferent to human tragedy?
Or, were they stupid and couldn't find the passages in the Constitution that authorized spending "on the objects of benevolence"?
Some people might say, "Aha! They forgot about the Constitution's general welfare clause!" Here's what James Madison said:
"With respect to the two words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected
with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which
there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
Thomas Jefferson explained, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically
In 1828, South Carolina Sen. William Drayton said, "If Congress can determine what constitutes the general welfare and
can appropriate money for its advancement, where is the limitation to carrying into execution whatever can be effected by
money?" .. Walter Williams
Scroll down to read next article ...
I must have been forty years old before reading Frederic Bastiat's classic The Law. An anonymous person, to whom
I shall eternally be in debt, mailed me an unsolicited copy. After reading the book I was convinced that a liberal-arts education
without an encounter with Bastiat is incomplete. Reading Bastiat made me keenly aware of all the time wasted, along with the
frustrations of going down one blind alley after another, organizing my philosophy of life. The Law did not produce
a philosophical conversion for me as much as it created order in my thinking about liberty and just human conduct.
Many philosophers have made important contributions to the discourse on liberty, Bastiat among them. But Bastiat's greatest
contribution is that he took the discourse out of the ivory tower and made ideas on liberty so clear that even the unlettered
can understand them and statists cannot obfuscate them. Clarity is crucial to persuading our fellowman of the moral superiority
of personal liberty.
Like others, Bastiat recognized the greatest single threat to liberty is government. Notice the clarity he employs to help
us identify and understand evil government acts such as legalized plunder. Bastiat says, “See if the law takes from
some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to 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.” With such an accurate
description of legalized plunder, we cannot deny the conclusion that most government activities, including ours, are legalized
plunder, or for the sake of modernity, legalized theft.
Frederic Bastiat could have easily been a fellow traveler of the signers of our Declaration of Independence. The signers'
vision of liberty and the proper role of government was captured in the immortal words: “We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights, that
among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among
Men....” Bastiat echoes the identical vision, saying, “Life, faculties, production—in other words individuality,
liberty, property—that is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede
all human legislation, and are superior to it.” Bastiat gave the same rationale for government as did our Founders,
saying, “Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it is the fact that life,
liberty and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” No finer statements of natural
or God-given rights have been made than those found in our Declaration of Independence and The Law.
Bastiat pinned his hopes for liberty on the United States saying, “... look at the United States. There is no country
in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As
a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation.”
Writing in 1850, Bastiat noted two areas where the United States fell short: “Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty.
The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.”
If Bastiat were alive today, he would be disappointed with our failure to keep the law within its proper domain. Over the
course of a century and a half, we have created more than 50,000 laws. Most of them permit the state to initiate violence
against those who have not initiated violence against others. These laws range from anti-smoking laws for private establishments
and Social Security “contributions” to licensure laws and minimum wage laws. In each case, the person who resolutely
demands and defends his God-given right to be left alone can ultimately suffer death at the hands of our government.
Bastiat explains the call for laws that restrict peaceable, voluntary exchange and punish the desire to be left alone by
saying that socialists want to play God. Socialists look upon people as raw material to be formed into social combinations.
To them— the elite—“the relationship between persons and the legislator appears to be the same as the relationship
between the clay and the potter.” And for people who have this vision, Bastiat displays the only anger I find in The
Law when he lashes out at do-gooders and would-be rulers of mankind, “Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think
that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don't you reform yourselves?
That task would be sufficient enough.”
Bastiat was an optimist who thought that eloquent arguments in defense of liberty might save the day; but history is not
on his side. Mankind's history is one of systematic, arbitrary abuse and control by the elite acting privately, through the
church, but mostly through government. It is a tragic history where hundreds of millions of unfortunate souls have been slaughtered,
mostly by their own government. A historian writing 200 or 300 years from now might view the liberties that existed for a
tiny portion of mankind's population, mostly in the western world, for only a tiny portion of its history, the last century
or two, as a historical curiosity that defies explanation. That historian might also observe that the curiosity was only a
temporary phenomenon and mankind reverted back to the traditional state of affairs—arbitrary control and abuse.
Hopefully, history will prove that pessimistic assessment false. The worldwide collapse of the respectability of the ideas
of socialism and communism suggests that there is a glimmer of hope. Another hopeful sign is the technological innovations
that make it more difficult for government to gain information on and control its citizens. Innovations such as information
access, communication and electronic monetary transactions will make government attempts at control more costly and less probable.
These technological innovations will increasingly make it possible for world citizens to communicate and exchange with one
another without government knowledge, sanction or permission.
Collapse of communism, technological innovations, accompanied by robust free-market organizations promoting Bastiat's ideas,
are the most optimistic things I can say about the future of liberty in the United States. Americans share an awesome burden
and moral responsibility. If liberty dies in the United States, it is destined to die everywhere. A greater familiarity with
Bastiat's clear ideas about liberty would be an important step in rekindling respect and love, and allowing the resuscitation
of the spirit of liberty among our fellow Americans.
How Poor Are America's Poor?
For most Americans, the word "poverty" suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family
with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. For example, the "Poverty Pulse" poll taken by the Catholic Campaign
for Human Development in 2002 asked the general public the question: "How would you describe being poor in the U.S.?" The
overwhelming majority of responses focused on homelessness, hunger or not being able to eat properly, and not being able to
meet basic needs.
But if poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the 37
million people identified as being "in poverty" by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor. While material hardship
does exist in the United States, it is quite restricted in scope and severity. The average "poor" person, as defined by the
government, has a living standard far higher that the public imagines.
The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:
- Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons
classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
- Eighty five percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 35 years ago, only 36 percent
of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
- The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna,
Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not
to those classified as poor.)
- Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.
- Ninety-eight percent of poor households have a color television; two thirds own two or more color televisions
- Sixty four percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
- Nearly all have a VCR and a DVD player;
- Forty seven percent have a personal computer,
- Eighty two percent own microwave ovens,
- Sixty percent have a stereo,
- and a quarter have an automatic dishwasher.
Federal welfare assistance to Americans has become such an ingrained part of our lives that most Americans hardly give
it a second thought. While “waste, fraud, and abuse” have become a standard part of the welfare-state lexicon,
the answer for many is simply, “The system needs reform.”
Yet when recommended reforms are instituted, “waste, fraud, and abuse” inevitably rear their ugly heads again,
which then generates the call for new reforms, perpetuating an endless cycle of problems and reforms.
All this fiddling avoids the central issue: Why not separate charity and the state, in the same manner our ancestors separated
church and state? Why not get government totally out of the charity business? I’m suggesting that we do much more than
simply repeal all welfare-state programs. I’m suggesting that we go further and elevate our vision to the same level
as that of our American ancestors when they separated church and state. I’m suggesting the following amendment to the
Constitution: “The federal government shall not provide any subsidy, grant, welfare, aid, loan, or other special privilege
(The amendment could, at the same time, bar the states from engaging in the same activity, pursuant to the principles of
the Fourteenth Amendment, but for purposes of this discussion, the amendment will be limited only to the federal government.)
After all, think about what our ancestors bequeathed to us by providing similar language in the Constitution regarding
religion. They could have provided for a system in which the federal government subsidized and regulated churches and other
religious activity. If they had, today we would have the same cries of “waste, fraud, and abuse” that we hear
about welfare-state programs and the same calls for “reform.”
Instead, the Founding Fathers raised their vision to a higher level and asked a much more fundamental question: Why not
get the federal government totally out of the religion business? No subsidies and no regulations. And, thus, no “waste,
fraud, and abuse” and no perpetual calls for “reforming” the system.
“But who will build the churches if the federal government doesn’t help out?”
“Where will the poor go to church, since they don’t have the money to build churches?”
“Who will protect us from unscrupulous church ministers?”
“Who will keep the churches operating?”
“What if rich people don’t give money to the churches?”
“What if everyone rejects God and religion?”
To our ancestors, what mattered above all else was freedom, even if the results of that freedom were not what everyone
hoped for and anticipated. In other words, even if the result of a constitutional prohibition against federal assistance and
regulation of religion was that no churches were built, or the poor had no churches to attend, or that rich people refused
to donate to the churches, or that there were unscrupulous ministers, or that everyone rejected God and religion, those were
consequences with which they could live. Even if every one of those consequences materialized, our ancestors would not have
reversed their position against federal involvement in religious activity.
Of course, as history has shown, their decision to separate church and state not only produced religious freedom —
that is, freedom from the federal government — it also produced a wondrous outcome in which there are hundreds of thousands
of churches and countless religious activities for both rich and poor alike, all voluntarily funded and self-regulated. And
those who don’t believe in God or who reject religious activity are free to follow their convictions as well.
Why not have the same vision with respect to charity?
After all, what meaning does charity have when it is engaged in by government? Charity connotes a willing heart of one
person that reaches out to help another person. Yet government is based on force, and how can force be reconciled with any
meaningful concept of charity?
Think of the process involved in government-provided welfare. The government requires everyone to send it a certain percentage
of his income in order to provide the financial means for it to give welfare assistance to others. This requirement is not
voluntary. Despite what any tax protester may tell you, if you don’t pay your taxes you are subjecting yourself to the
distinct possibility of being hounded by the IRS and by federal prosecutors.
I repeat: the payment of your income taxes is not voluntary. In other words, it’s not like making donations to your
church. If you stop donating to your church, the minister is not going to put a freeze on your bank account, garnish your
wages, or put a lien on your home. The IRS, once it catches up with you, will do all those things. And it will enforce those
levies and liens, even to the point of a foreclosure sale of your home. And if you resist with force (e.g., guns) the marshal’s
enforcement of the foreclosure sale, which requires you to vacate your home and deliver possession to the new owner, you will
be shot dead.
“But if people have democratically voted to impose such taxes on everyone so that the government can provide welfare
for people, doesn’t that mean we’re free?”
Well, consider this: If people had democratically voted to impose taxes on everyone so that the government could provide
financial assistance to churches, would that mean that we’re free? Of course not. Freedom pertains to individuals and
it entails the right of people to decide what to do with their own money. If a bunch of us get together and vote to donate
your money to our church, how does that make you free? The same principle of individual freedom with respect to the funding
of churches applies to the funding of charity. Why shouldn’t each person have the right to decide that matter for himself
with his own money? Isn’t that what genuine freedom is all about?
Proponents of the welfare state sometimes suggest that when federal officials dole out money to people, it reflects the
goodness and compassion of the American people. But how can that be? When your employer withholds part of your income to send
it to the IRS, does it reflect compassion for others either by you or your employer? Or does it instead reflect fear of IRS
retaliation for nonpayment of taxes?
And when a federal bureaucrat sends money to someone in need, how does that make you a compassionate and caring person?
It doesn’t. And it also doesn’t mean that the bureaucrat is a good and caring person, because he’s not donating
his own money but instead doling out the money that the IRS has forcibly exacted from American taxpayers.
In fact, while proponents of the welfare state imply that their system is founded on moral principles, the situation is
actually the opposite. The welfare-state system constitutes a grave violation of the principles of morality, not to mention
the principles of freedom and free will.
Think of it this way: Suppose I hold a gun to someone’s head and force him to take $5,000 out his bank account at
an ATM. I then go into the poorest part of Washington, D.C., and I give every cent of what I took from him to poor people.
Would anyone say that I had performed a moral or compassionate act? No. Everyone would clearly see that I had conducted
myself in an immoral manner. If I want to help the poor, then I should do it with my own money or with money that people have
voluntarily donated to me for that purpose. To use money that I have forced other people to give me doesn’t make me
a caring and compassionate person and, for that matter, it doesn’t make the person from whom I’ve forcibly taken
the money a caring and compassionate person, even though his money was given to the poor. It simply makes me a thief and him
a victim of theft.
While everyone can clearly see the moral implications of that scenario, for some reason people’s reasoning becomes
cloudy when government enters the picture. If government does the same thing, the feeling is that what would ordinarily be
considered an immoral act is somehow converted into a moral act. Or the feeling is that if a majority of the people vote in
favor of the action, somehow it becomes moral.
Isn’t that what the entire concept of the welfare state is based on: a perversion of moral values as well as a denial
of the freedom of the individual to decide what to do with his own money? What would be wrong with a system in which people
keep their own earnings and decide for themselves which charities, if any, they wish to donate to or which people they wish
“What if no one donates to charity?”
“What if children turn their backs on their parents?”
“What if everyone hates the poor?”
“What if people refuse to help those in need?”
But aren’t those the same types of questions that would be asked in response to freedom of religion, that is, the
separation of church and state? Sure, it’s theoretically possible that everyone will refuse to help others, but how
likely is that? Anyway, if that really were the case, how likely is it that all those selfish people would democratically
approve of a welfare state in which the federal bureaucrats have the power to take their money and give it to others?
What we need more than ever in this country at this point in our history is a rebirth of liberty. That entails Americans’
igniting a spark for individual freedom within themselves. It also entails the necessity of their gaining a sense of confidence
and trust, not only in themselves but also in others and in freedom itself. Just as Americans don’t fear religious freedom
and the potential adverse consequences that come with such freedom, they need to lose similar fears regarding charitable freedom.
Once that day comes, Americans will be prepared to do with charity what our ancestors did with religion — separate charity
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.
This article originally appeared in the December 2005 edition of Freedom Daily. Subscribe to the print or email version of Freedom Daily.
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