In the 1990s I owned a used book store. My store was located in what I would describe as a marginal neighborhood. 10 years prior, the area had been a popular place to live, with beautiful homes, a large park, and many shiny new apartment and condominium buildings. Shortly thereafter, many of the apartments came under the umbrella of government subsidy. The public mass transit system provided cheap transportation into and out of the neighborhood. Subsequently, this area in North East Dallas began its descent into darkness, and became the highest crime area in the city. Today, ten years later, a drive through parts of this same area seems like a visit to a third world country.
About once a month, someone would wander into my store asking to check out a book. Evidently they could not read my abundant signage advertising half-priced books, and were under the impression the operation was a publicly funded library with free books. If you can imagine, here I was struggling to make a living in an extremely modest business, with people wandering in from the government subsidized housing across the street asking for free books. At first I was baffled by this, and exasperated by the level of ignorance, but eventually concluded they were a natural product of a world in which government provides everything, including free food, education, housing and transportation.
I suppose if this phenomenon were limited to these marginal neighborhoods, I could simply move away, and act as if it didn't exist. Unfortunately, the truth is, I believe this mentality now runs through the entire fabric of our country. It seems that daily our government takes on an ever greater role as confiscator of property in the form of taxation to redistribute to its many programs, and we all become more dependent. Political economist Frederick Bastiat described our situation in his famous pamphlet The Law. He detailed how government, initially instituted to protect property rights, and to protect us from being plundered by outsiders and one another, has become an instrument of legal plunder. Through taxation and redistribution of wealth in government programs, it has legalized and legitimized plunder.
The election rhetoric this season further proves the premise, as Barack Obama has promised that if elected, he will increase taxes on the wealthy. I will leave aside discussion of the very questionable definition of wealthy, to focus on the greater moral issue. Regardless of who the victims are, Mr Obama's tax increase will provide more plunder for everyone else, and it is sad that so many find this acceptable. It shows how deeply the culture of universal plunder is ingrained in us. When a candidate can openly advocate taking the property of one segment, and get the applause, support and votes of another segment in doing so, it shows just how far off track we are from where the founding fathers left us.
Anyway to get back to my story: One day in the middle of the afternoon my book store was robbed. The young man who took my money did so with a gun pointed at my head. I did not panic or resist with the cold metal of the handgun touching my temple. Instead I cooperated, gave him the profits of my store, and in the process likely saved my life and the lives of two others present. That same day the perpetrator had plundered the property of a convenience store and violently raped an 80 year old woman. I expect he felt entitled to all he could plunder from others in this life. I imagine he had all sorts of justifications and rationalizations in mind for his actions. Fortunately, the law did not agree with his conclusions about plunder, and this loser went to prison.