Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Column on Governments "Giving Back"

[Always proof my columns if you plan to use them, please!]

When Governments "Give Back"

Tibor R. Machan

In a recent column I characterized those who want government to provide
them with even emergency support as looters of a kind. There are those,
however, who have been looted by government so much that when they accept
what the government ?gives back? they cannot reasonably be considered
looters. They are, after all, simply taking advantage of getting back
some of what was taken from them without their consent.

Matters can get complicated here, of course. What about when government
extorts from you and you do, in fact, take advantage of much of what the
government provides? Most of us use roads, the mail, the police now and
then, sometimes social security money and even unemployment compensation.
And we indirectly benefit from all kinds of special interest provisions,
such as subsidies to industries in which we may be employed. At what point
is one taking more than he or she was forced to pay for? And does it even
matter that one makes use of some of what governments offer?after all, one
wasn?t consulted, one?s consent wasn?t sought. (If someone sends you an
unsolicited package with stuff you can make use of, may the sender then
come around, after you have used up the stuff, to collect funds for it?
No, not really.)

I personally have draw salaries from several state colleges and
universities that were supported by taxes extorted from people who had no
choice but to pay (or to go to jail). All the while, of course, I was also
forced to part with my money each April 15th and throughout the year when
funds where withheld by my employers (who, quite unjustly, were forced to
be the collector of the extorted monies). I never asked for a raise but I
did accept the checks. Was I looting or was I getting back what was taken
from me and friends of mine who actually urged me to take even more so
what was robbed from them would go to something of which they approved,
namely, my work?

The principle is this: You should never initiate or support any policy
that involves confiscation from others. If, however, government has
usurped the
market in providing employment or insurance, you may accept a job or
provided you also work to end this policy ASAP. And if you are mainly the
victim of
extortion, then when there?s a chance of recovering some of the loot
taken, you should not hesitate to have some of your wealth restored to
you. If, however, you are not mainly a victim of government?s extortion,
then to demand and receive government support amounts to the sort of
legalized looting I wrote about in my previous column.

Both are, of course, rough principles. Indeed, one of
the tragedies of wealth redistribution at the point of a gun is that
justice is virtually killed off in the process. (This was the point of one
of my earliest papers, ?Justice and the Welfare State,? published back in
1969, in The Personalist, a now defunct philosophy journal edited by
Professor John Hospers at the University of Southern California School of
Philosophy.) The welfare state completely destroys the connection between
acting and the resulting consequences since it places the government in
between nearly all of people?s productive efforts and what will result from
them. The causal relationship is thus severed. People receive support
though they weren?t selected for this by those who produced the support
they receive. People get protection from competition by the government so
where they end up economically has no relationship to whether they have
satisfied demands in the free market place. It is all a big mess.

Nonetheless it is clear enough when some claim that
they are entitled to be taken care of by uncooperative others and receive
the extorted funds taken from these others. That is an unmistakable
of official, legal looting, far more insidious than the looting that goes
on in broad
daylight. Such people are responsible for the perpetuation of public
that destroy justice in society. And they do this, in part, by distorting
a sensible
idea of justice by redefining it, substituting for it the notion of
"distributive justice,"
one that assumes that some are authorized to take from certain people and
hand the loot to others.

This idea of justice is perverse because it removes
from our midst the
most important element of justice, namely, freedom of choice. Without
freedom of
choice, the quality of a person?s conduct is impossible to ascertain. If
you put a gun
to another?s head and order him to kill, who is responsible for the
killing? But if you have a
very long daisy chain of this, with elements of coercion spread out nearly
imperceptively, the
answer becomes very difficult to find. Who is doing what?s right? Who

The only sure thing is that those who promote the
system of such coercion are clearly doing things wrong, supporting
policies that are uncivilized by encouraging as a rule not peaceful,
voluntary human intercourse but layers and layers of interference,
intervention, meddling, regimentation, compulsion, forced labor, and
expropriation. Whoever champions such a world is doing something immoral.

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