It’s official: Democrat compassion and legalized plunder are synonymous.
In Tuesday’s House of Representatives debate, Rep. Chris van Hollen (D-MD) said that Congress had a responsibility to extend unemployment benefits to those who are “unemployed through no fault of their own.” Minority leader Nancy Pelosi used the same rhetoric in a floor speech a week ago, saying that the Senate’s two-month payroll tax and unemployment benefits band-aid “would secure a critical lifeline for those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.” The Democratic Party’s website crows, “Democrats have provided relief for hardworking Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.”
In a recent Michigan state legislature debate about insurance reform, a Democrat state rep discussed “those, who through no fault of their own, will lose insurance coverage…” Democrats in Washoe County, Nevada, ruing the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the DREAM Act, said of illegal aliens who were brought here as children, “These are young men and women who, through no fault of their own, came to this country and consider this country their own.”
It’s an interesting rhetorical device, one that allows Democrats everywhere to sing from the same sheet of guilt-inducing music. But, at the risk of sounding like Rick Perry’s “have no heart” believers in liberty, limited government, and the power of incentives, why should the question of fault be an important factor in how the federal government treats adult Americans?
Charity is only charity if given willingly. Money taken by threat of force, whether by a mugger or by government, is theft. As for the latter, Frédéric Bastiat properly termed it “legalized plunder.”
In his seminal work The Law, published in 1850 just before Bastiat’s death, the French economist elaborates on the proper role of government and its “almost universal perversion.” Speaking of men’s need to work to satisfy his wants and needs:
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain — and since labor is pain in itself — it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.
It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.
…[T]he law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.
The inclination to feel sorry for, and want to help, someone who has lost his job is understandable. But when government subsidizes unemployment for two years, it discourages people from finding new jobs. It’s not just common sense; the data show it.
So the key question for policy makers should not be one of fault. It should be one of economics, and perhaps of law and justice. When I say “law and justice,” I do not mean to imply that they are the same. Bastiat addressed this directly:
It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.
What are the consequences of such a perversion? It would require volumes to describe them all. Thus we must content ourselves with pointing out the most striking.
In the first place, it erases from everyone’s conscience the distinction between justice and injustice.
No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them.
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?
H/T to National Review Online