For too long, many who believe in individual freedom have been intimidated about asserting the morality of one simple truth: Nobody has the right to forcibly take things from another person — even if the majority decide it’s a good idea.
For centuries, slavery has existed in this world. Ever since one man discovered the ability to force other men and women to do his will, people have been enslaving each other. It wasn’t an issue that affected just one race or nationality or religion. At one time or another, people of every group have tried to enslave people who they deemed unworthy of being free.
For most of human history, nobody much questioned this barbaric practice. Even in the Bible, it was routinely accepted as the natural course of life. The practice wasn’t condemned or praised. It was merely a natural fact of nature, as far as anyone seemed to understand.
It wasn’t really until the 19th century that things started changing. Until that time, a few slaves had escaped, of course. Brief (and largely unsuccessful) slave rebellions weren’t terribly uncommon. What happened to change everything, so much that there are remarkably few people today who would defend the practice?
It’s simple. Someone decided to make it a moral issue — and press the moral point again and again until the public accepted that it was immoral and unacceptable for one person to own another. As a result, slavery began to disappear from more advanced nations.
People tend to accept something as legitimate and acceptable if they’ve always known it to exist. Take a look at this 1837 anti-abolitionist poster trying to rally people in a southern U.S. town to turn out at a Presbyterian church to oppose an abolitionist. The abolitionists asserted the moral rights of slaves, and this caused unthinking people to react in outrage — because it was a foreign idea that owning people was immoral.
The people who lived in past centuries mostly accepted slavery as a normal part of life. In the same way, almost everyone living today accepts the idea that it’s perfectly normal and moral for the majority of people to decide what to take from everyone else and spend as they please. This is called theft. It’s immoral. Period.
Those of us who believe in freedom have made the choice to compromise with evil. We’ve argued with the oppressors about how much theft is acceptable. We haven’t been faithful to the truth as we’ve known it. We’ve allowed ourselves to be intimidated by the looters who falsely claimed moral high ground for their theft.
It’s time for this moral abdication to end.
It’s time for us to clearly assert that it’s immoral and unacceptable to take one penny away from any person against his will. We need to make the intellectual case, but we also have to make the moral case. We have made serious mistakes and agreed to things we shouldn’t have agreed to. Admitting that we’ve been wrong and turning around — no matter what the cost — is a difficult thing. But persisting in an error is foolish. As Confucius said, “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.” Just because we have willingly acquiesced to the theft in the past doesn’t mean we have to continue in the error.
Closer to our own century, Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds….” To stick to what we have — and what we’ve done — merely because we once agreed to the mistake is foolish. And doing so assures that future generations will live with the legacy of the mistake we made. It’s time to correct the problem before things get even worse.
The progressives of the Christian left have attempted to stake out the moral high ground by claiming that Jesus’ command to His disciples to feed the poor and hungry makes it a moral imperative to use the coercive power of the state to fulfill His command — and we’ve let them get away with it. Take a look at the billboard on the right and see an example of this dishonest approach. However, you won’t find any place in the Gospels in which Jesus suggested to His followers that they steal from other people to fulfill that mandate. Don’t let someone else’s interpretation of your duties — whether your morals are based on Christianity or anything else — be driven by what other people tell you is true. Think for yourself. Correct your mistakes.
Stealing is a moral issue. Just because a majority organizes itself into a group called “government” doesn’t make the theft any less immoral. In the same way, calling a majority a government doesn’t make the murders it commits any less depraved. It’s time to call the coercive state to account for its immorality — and insist that we be left alone. It’s immoral for us to steal from others, but it’s also immoral for the majority to steal from us.