Saturday, March 5, 2011

Principles are Timeless

Although the political issue involved was decided many months ago, I think the principle involved is always relevant.  I sent the following letter to the editor of my local paper.  It wasn't printed.  I assume because it was too long.  I offer it here for your consideration.

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There are so many fallacies and errors in your editorial (Jobless, not the richest, deserve a helping hand; Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010, Page 10A), that it’s hard to know where to start.

Your most glaring error is the idea that unemployment relief produces more economic activity than lower taxes. A minute’s thought reveals the absurdity of this logic. If extending unemployment benefits is better for the economy, then we should believe that extending them indefinitely is our best economic policy and that creating more unemployment will accelerate economic recovery.

Your underlying error is only looking at the immediate and obvious effects of what you advocate. There is no argument that if unemployment benefits are extended, the unemployed will have money to spend on valuable and necessary goods and services they need today. But what is the source of this money and what will be the consequences of the taxes that must be collected (whether through direct taxation, borrowing, or inflation of the money supply) to provide this relief?

Government can only give to one person what it takes from someone else. Taxes cost the taxpayers, and lower taxes save the taxpayers money. To phrase it differently, extending the Bush-era tax cuts will not cost the government money, it will save the taxpayers “an estimated $700 billion over 10 years, 57 times what the defeated unemployment extension would cost.” This is wealth that will either be spent by those taxpayers to buy goods and services or saved (invested) to create additional capital for economic activity. The difference between “saving” the taxpayer and “costing” the government is that in one case free individuals pursuing their own happiness decide how the money will be spent, and in the other, politicians seeking their own advantage will decide how it is spent.

The most repulsive assertion in your editorial is the idea that extending the tax cut is a “giveaway” to rich Americans. This is based on the un-American beliefs that what people earn from their labor belongs to the government and that those empowered by the rest of us to administer the government have the superior virtue necessary to determine how best to spend that wealth and who deserves to have how much.

The plain fact is that our government, like all governments in all places and all times, is run by politicians. Most politicians can’t spell virtue, and few of them possess any. We are all recipients (myself included) of some subsidy, program, tariff, or entitlement promised to us by the politicians in Washington. Every benefit, though, has to be paid by someone. You cannot “tax the rich” to create prosperity and security. If it were possible to do so, then we should speed up the process. Why wait for wealth and comfort if it’s just a matter of taxing the rich – tax them even more.

Your biggest oversight is not pinpointing the cause of this unemployment. Of course the unemployed aren’t to blame for being unemployed, but why are they unemployed? Is there a shortage of work to be done? Of course not. Is there a shortage of money with which to pay people? That can’t be the explanation because the Federal Reserve printed piles of money the last two years.

It’s sad that you give a pass to the self-serving politicians that caused all this heartache. Your job should be to expose the deception of politicians playing Robin Hood (and worse still, stealing from the poor to give to the rich.) You should be exposing the consequences of all of this political meddling and favoritism. Instead of advancing truthful economic solutions, though, like sound money, fiscal responsibility, and constitutional fidelity, you cheer on the same old us vs. them measures that will only aggravate our economic problems and enrich the politicians.

I realize that many will write me off as heartless. Honest men, though, must respect principles. All of the “benefits” we get from our government have to be examined in light of one simple moral question: is it moral to take one man’s property by force and give it to another man because he has less? The correct answer to this question is “no.” Let’s suppose, though, that the answer were “yes.” If it were true that taking property from one man by force and giving it to another who has less is moral, then it must also be true that taking more property from more people by force and giving it more widely to those who have less is also moral. The logical conclusion of this line of reasoning is that the most moral action is to take everything by force from those who have more and give it to those who have less until everyone has exactly the same amount. The only way to do this, of course, would be to give unspeakable power to the people charged with overseeing this redistribution. The result of such a policy is, and has been when tried, the end of progress and freedom.

If you were honest, you would argue openly that unemployment benefits should be given instead of tax breaks because you believe that the “rich” are not entitled to their riches, and that you believe that your choices, or rather the choices made by the government on “our” behalf, are morally superior to those made by the “rich.” This is a vain and dangerous thought that is inconsistent with government in a free society. There is no one pure enough of heart to resist the temptations inherent in redistributing wealth by force.

Stealing from one man to solve another man’s tragedy under the guise of altruism is simply fraud. The fact that it’s done by the government makes it political fraud. The only moral course of action is to not allow anyone to steal from anyone else – not even our government.

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