Friday, February 01, 2008

Elections Equal Theft Facilitation

Tibor R. Machan

Unless elections are confined to selecting administrators of a legal system, they are mostly about mutual theft facilitation. You elect someone to office so he or she will garner the resources of others and transfer them to you or your favorites in the community. And since there is never enough to go around and there is always more and more that people want, the process amounts to a mad dash to be first in line at the government’s treasury. And while there is never enough to go around, there is always the ploy of borrowing against the wealth of future generations, who aren’t around to protest much, needless to note. No taxation without representation in your dreams!

A clear case in point is my neighbor down the street. She works in one the local community district, I am told. For the last few weeks there has appeared on her fence facing out toward the street a sign endorsing a referendum that supports, you guessed right, added funds for community colleges. No other measure is given support on this neighbor’s fence but this one that serves a special interest, certainly not the public interest that defenders of the welfare state constantly invoke when they condemn those who are skeptical about their type of government.

This sign, that I see every time I leave my home or come back to it, is at least implicitly honest. My neighbor makes no bones about wanting the political process to advance her agenda. As to others, never mind that. “Let them take care of theirs, I’ll look out for mine” seems to be the operative motto here.

The underlying hope would seem to be that enough people will be fooled into thinking that supporting her agenda is a matter of the public interest, so she will come out on top and her institution will get the support, not others that are also using the political process to seek it.

In a recent letter responding to one of my columns I was chided for failing to consider the public interest, for being too much of an individualist instead of a citizens promoting the public good. This because I advocate that government ought to focus primarily if not exclusively on protecting the rights of individuals and not on handing out so called entitlements to members of various groups.

But what too many folks today consider the public interest really isn’t at all to the benefit of the public but mostly to special groups or even specific individuals. This war of innumerable groups of people against all the others¾one reminiscent of the war of all against all discussed by the English philosophy Thomas Hobbes as part of the state of nature (the state prior to the establishment of civil society)¾is the norm for contemporary politics. So when Barack Obama recently spoke in Kansas, he said outright that he will do right by the citizens of Kansas¾at the expense, of course, of all the rest of the citizens of America. Just like my neighbor hopes from her local government, Senator Obama was promising to deliver the bacon to those whose votes he was seeking at others’ expense.

The public interest my foot! The welfare state, which pretends to take care of all, is but a mad dash to promise and seem eager to deliver to everyone benefits for which others are going to pay. It is plainly fraudulent¾it cannot be done. But sadly millions of people, when elections roll around and when Congress and various state assemblies are in session, get their hopes up that they will be the winners in the effort to get others to pay for what they want.

Of course, the result is the tragedy of the commons: resources are depleted good and hard and the country goes into greater and greater debt and various groups of people are angry at the rest who prevented them from getting what they believe they are entitled to.

The idea of a free society is that one must rely on one’s works and good fortune and, now and then, on the kindness of friends and neighbors, in order to get on with one’s life, not on theft-facilitators. The idea of our society, in contrast, is for everyone to try, each election, to rip off everyone else.

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