But when I think about it more seriously, I realize it’s not just stupid people who I want to escape. I want to escape from very bright people who insist that it’s their moral right to force me to obey their will.
There are some quite brilliant people — at least as measured by IQ — who have fallen for the civic religion that tells them it’s their moral right to make my decisions and take my money to use as they please. Most galling, perhaps, is their sanctimonious belief that I’m being “greedy” if I don’t want to obey them.
I watched an online discussion play out of Facebook Monday between siblings over the issue. One woman posted this graphic from the Bastiat Institute, which I had also posted Monday. It points out something that I’ve talked about before. If someone else claims a right to what you produce, you are a slave to that person or group to that extent.
After the woman posted the graphic, her two sisters disagreed with her, each for a different reason. It ended up mostly as a dialogue between the original poster and one of her sisters, who is a progressive left Democrat. They’re all three exceptionally intelligent women. But the leftist misses the moral point about the theft of property entirely. I think this part of the exchange was when I most wanted to bang my head against a wall:
You also miss the fact that many people don’t believe taxes are theft in the first place. It’s only “theft” if you happen to feel very strongly about wanting all your money for yourself, rather than viewing money as a necessary evil for keeping things running. The former viewpoint is also known as “greed,” the latter viewpoint means I’m less attached to having “my” green stuff and willing to let some of it float out there in the service of the greater good. You might be surprised how many people would pay taxes without a gun to their head.
This paragraph encapsulates so much of what the progressive left mindset is all about, so let’s look at it piece by piece.
She says that many people don’t believe taxes are theft. She’s right. Many people have been brainwashed into believing they have a moral obligation to obey people who give them orders. If those people would like to voluntarily pay the people who call themselves “government,” I have no objection. But how will they react when I opt out? And if this woman doesn’t believe it’s theft to take what belongs to someone else, would she mind if I come to her home and take what I please from her?
She next says that the only people who call taxation theft are those who don’t want to hand over their money. Well, duh. I feel the same way whenever my money is transferred to someone else. If I want the transaction to occur, it’s not theft. If I don’t want the transfer to occur, it is theft. That’s the very definition of theft. It’s the coercion involved that makes it theft.
Next, she pulls out the biggest weapon in the progressive arsenal. She says that anyone who wants to make his own decisions about his money — who doesn’t want it stolen — is greedy. So if a mugger holds a gun to you and demands your money, you’re greedy if you don’t happily hand it over. Right?
These people don’t understand what money is. They believe that money is some zero-sum game with a static supply of value. Instead, money is merely an abstract representation of little bits and pieces of your life that you’ve given to someone else in exchange for agreed-upon value. If someone pays me $500 for something, I’ve given something of value to someone else, either in the form of my time or my ideas or effort. (Usually a combination.) So when someone takes your money against your will, he’s taking bits and pieces of your life. He’s enslaving you.
This person argued that a moral person wants to give up his money in order to help others. I happen to know that the woman who posted the graphic is insanely generous with her money and effort, pouring untold dollars and untold hours into ministry efforts to improve other people’s lives. So it’s not that she objected to giving her money. She wasn’t trying to keep her money for herself. She wants it to be acknowledged that she has the right to decide for herself whether to give money and who to give the money to.
I ran across a quote from libertarian and comedian Penn Jillette Tuesday that makes this point very well:
It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.
If you want to be compassionate, give your money to help people. Get involved with ministries or non-profits that are in keeping with your beliefs. Do whatever you want to with your own money. You can even try to sell other people on the idea of voluntarily giving to the causes you believe in.
What you can’t morally do is demand that others make the same choices with their money that you do — and then use the power of a gun to take it from them if they decline to obey you.