Some years ago, I was asked to speak to a Christian homeschooling conference — my wife and I have homeschooled our six children — and during the question-and-answer session after the speech, I faced a question for which I was unprepared.
“How has your Christian faith influenced your political beliefs?”
This stunned me into silence for a second. Then I answered: “Well, I guess it comes down to that part about ‘Thou shalt not steal.’”
From there I proceeded to discuss the basic immorality of the welfare state, how it is wrong for government to take money that one man has worked for and give it to someone who hasn’t earned it.
Whereas transactions in a market economy are voluntary and peaceful, the actions of government are essentially coercive, backed with the threat of violence to those who disobey. What government does, it does “at the point of the bayonet,” so to speak. Therefore, the fearsome power of government ought to be constrained to limited and specific purposes — defending the life, liberty and property of citizens.
When government begins to meddle in the economy, picking winners and losers, using appropriations and fiscal policy to transfer money from one group of citizens to another, it divides society into two classes, taxpayers and tax consumers, punishing the former in order to reward the latter.
Such a policy is not merely misguided, it is immoral — indeed, it is sinful, as I told the Christian homeschoolers — and by displaying the spectacle of government engaging daily in legalized theft, the welfare state tends to corrupt the morals of its citizens.
THAT LONG-AGO SPEECH came to mind yesterday as the Senate prepared to vote on the mortgage bailout plan. Why, after all, are so many Americans so fiercely opposed to this plan, even though bailout proponents warn that the alternative is a complete meltdown of the economy?
The president has told us that “the government’s top economic experts” believe the bailout is necessary to avert an economic collapse. The plan is supported by leaders of both parties in Congress, and endorsed by both John McCain and Barack Obama. One eminent pundit has denounced bailout opponents as “nihilists.”
Yet I cannot escape the conclusion that the bailout is wrong. Not just wrong as a matter of politics or policy, but wrong as a matter of morality. And I suspect that the same moral instinct fuels the fervor of many citizens who have been burning up the Capitol Hill switchboard with calls demanding that lawmakers vote against this bill.
Ordinary Americans cannot ignore the “still small voice” telling them that what is being proposed is nothing less than government-sponsored grand theft, and that in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” this crime is to be carried out in their name.
The fact that similarly massive expropriations — from farm subsidies to Medicare Part D — have been official federal policy for decades does not deter these opponents of the welfare state from rising up to shout “no!” when, as on this occasion, the proposition of a new swindle puts the fundamental issue into stark relief.
SOME SUPPORTERS of the bailout have said that it is “irresponsible” to oppose the plan, since failure to pass it would lead to a financial panic, a deep recession and economic hardship for millions. Supporters insinuate that opponents are ignorant of these potential consequences, having been whipped into a know-nothing frenzy by demagogues. If ordinary Americans were properly informed, say the bailout proponents, they would support the plan.
Those who suppose that ignorance motivates widespread resistance to the bailout may be underestimating the common sense of common people. Isn’t it possible that grassroots opposition is both fully informed and completely sincere? Has it never occurred to bailout proponents that many of their fellow citizens would perhaps prefer an honest recession to a false prosperity?
Although much opposition seems to be driven by class-warfare resentment of a “bailout for billionaires,” at least this brings into focus the underlying redistributionist principle. If it is right to give “disability” payments to winos and Social Security checks to affluent retirees, why is it wrong to give $700 billion to Wall Street financiers in their moment of need? Perhaps someone should put that question to left-wing bailout opponents like Michael Moore and Dennis Kucinich.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?