Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Theft in America

Theft is rampant in America. With the exception of petty thieves, some con-artists and hustlers (although I think that distinction is being lost as political parties place them at the top of their lists of people who can win public office) people who steal are considered good.

A thief for the common good, the public good, the poor and least among us, the good of the environment, so-called public safety, anything too important for some individual to control and a host of other justifications is a GOOD man. How could this be?

About three weeks ago, I ordered Inherit the Wind from Netflix. It didn't come within the short turn-around time they normally provide so I told them I hadn't received it. Netflix graciously sent another copy. The day after I told them, I received Inherit the Wind in the mail. Two days later I received Inherit the Wind again.

After a day passed, I sent the first Inherit the Wind back to Netflix. I hadn't watched it, but I still had the second copy they sent. In the meantime they continued sending me movies from my queue.

Yesterday I viewed Inherit the Wind . Good movie. The movie was so good that I started thinking of the friends I would like to have see it. I thought about sending them this copy that I had. Netflix wouldn't notice, I thought, since I had already returned Inherit the Wind and they had resumed business as usual with me.

I basked in the pleasure I could cause in another. I thought of the "thank you" and good will I would receive from my friend. We could share our thoughts and feelings about the movie. What fun that would be. Further, I could advance the principle of the right to free speech and thinking that is soooo important to me. What a lovely world I would create.

Then I remembered. The movie isn't mine. I'm able to conveniently rent movies from my home and for less than Blockbusters because someone invested his money to buy these movies so I could rent them. And because he makes a profit, my tax money isn't required to make sure he has a place to sleep and some food to eat.

I proudly sent the movie back.

There are a couple points to make from this story.

1. If I thought being "good" to be what I did for others, being a thief in this case would be acceptable behavior. In fact, it might be so acceptable that I wouldn't even notice that I was stealing. If I thought creativity, production of values, an independent mind taking risks and my agreements/contracts with others important I would send the movie back. Since I possess volition, I get to decide. A man is known for his choices and we call this character.

Where in our culture does this "doing good for others" ethic come from? I'm not talking about giving someone you value a hand. I'm not talking about giving someone something in order that they give you or your product consideration. I'm talking about doing good for others as an end, a good, in itself. I'm talking about doing good for others in order to show yourself and others that you are a good person - so you think highly of yourself. If you really want to reach the apotheosis of being good, you do good for others at your own expense. You sacrifice. You sacrifice yourself.

Where is self-sacrifice good? Well, Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross for others. The poor woman of the Bible gave her last pennies for the good of others. This is the primary source of this ethic - Christianity. Because of the ethic of self-sacrifice theft is considered good and made possible. Whole states are formed and justified on this basis.

2. What if you had a thief in the house where you lived. Every time you went to use that which is yours, you couldn't be sure that it would be there. Maybe the thief would have stolen it. You had used the energy of your life earning the money to buy the things you have, but you had no guaranteed use and disposal of these things.

What would this do to your life? How would you feel? What would you decide about life? About people? What actions would you take if you lived in this condition?

Today, our culture in America condones theft bigtime. People wonder why Americans are mad as hell. Disapproval of the President and Congress is breaking records. Is it any wonder?

And it is not just theft of your money. Your children are stolen and sent to public schools where they are inculcated in the justification of theft. E.g., multiculturalism is good. Why? Because of ethnicity and skin color and because all cultures are declared equally valid and healthy. Character, an individual attribute, is not mentioned. Sacrificing your values is what is important.

Your intelligence and thinking is stolen and bent to the dictates and regulations of the government agencies. How many times have I provide parking for the handicapped when a handicapped person would never come to or have use for a particular type of business - a ballroom dance club, e.g.

Your future is stolen. Your life is stolen. All because of this single ethic - self-sacrifice.

Listen to the politicians. Who among them isn't fully righteous that they have the right to steal and keep stealing from you? Not a paragraph passes from their lips, the lips of Obama, McCain, Biden, Palin, Hillary, Bill, Bush, on and on and on, that is not based on justified theft - sacrifice. They count on your self-sacrifice otherwise none of this could, by virtue of cause and effect, be happening. Truly we have inherited the wind.

You simply wouldn't buy most of their products and program if you had a choice. If you had a choice, you could only blame yourself if you let such a critter in your house.

If theft has such a corrosive power in human relationships and society in general, then institutionalized theft is a supreme evil. We really have no choice, if we choose life, but to reduce government to its essentials and extirpate institutionalized theft.

There is no doubt in my mind that government provides something fundamentally important to human life. Protection from invaders, police to stop initiations of force and fraud and courts in which to settle disputes.

The government exists by agreement, not by force. The agreement is the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - the only agreement anyone has with the government so long as they stay within America's borders.

Like all of us, the government has to EARN its right to exist every day of its life. Theft in America is turning us into devils and ruining our lives. It must stop!


Dan said...

Steve, if you are noticed stealing even a small thing It would effect the choices of the most ethical people, who, because of their trust worthiness are the people who naturally would have the greatest opportunity to share with others of such worthiness. They probably would not share that wealth with you. You are an architect, imagine the cost of losing the possible greatest commission of your life because you stole a DVD! I know many stories where this has happened and the person who lost everything didn't even know! Why tell a thief anything? They reward good behavior and have no time to waste on those who live in a different world.

Rob Diego said...

In our society, there is one institution that is seldom questioned and that is the institution of altruism. To a great extent, we have established a moral precedence where it does not matter how much a particular goal costs; as long as it involves helping others, there is little consideration given to the cost or even to the harm that is done by redistribution. A society could literally bankrupt itself (morally and financially) by the preponderance of government programs that provide benefits to one group or another. The result is a caretaker society that runs against the entire grain of a free society. A caretaker society holds that individuals are not responsible for the results they obtain in the real world. It also holds that those people who are successful in life should be shackled, taxed and worked harder in order to pay for the benefits that will be given to those who are taxed less, are poorly educated and don’t produce as much.

If you advocate such force through income redistribution, what is the difference between you and a thief? Does not the thief think he is justified in taking someone’s money? Does not the thief think that people who have money and goods do not deserve their money and that he does? Morally, there is no difference between a thief and an advocate of income redistribution. Both forms of redistribution are a violation of the right of every citizen to the pursuit of happiness. And the damage done to the provider of the funds by forcible confiscation is equally as bad as that which accrues to him from theft. He has to work harder because his time and energy have been expropriated (it takes time and energy to make money) and his right to pursue happiness is also thwarted…while the person who receives the money will generally squander it. Why shouldn’t he squander it? He has no sense of what it takes to actually earn a living.

Of course, ours is an age of skepticism and all concepts including freedom and individual rights are under attack by people who don’t hold any principles (but claim to). The conceptual corruption created by skeptics and mystics in our society has made discussion about a proper society into a na├»ve activity. Argue that the principle of property rights should be inviolable and many will shrug as if you are stupid to think in such a pedestrian way. Social planners are busy trying to decide how best to allocate other peoples’ money for the sake of social goals. They do not care that what has been lost is the fundamental basis of a proper society; a basis that recognizes property rights as inviolable. Today, many scoff at such an idea as inalienable rights.

Yet, it is true that deciding on the proper government is not the responsibility of the average person. When the leaders and intellectuals in a society are corrupted by skepticism, one cannot blame the people for not knowing better. How could the average person know what makes up a proper society when his teachers don’t explain to him what it is. When altruism is the guiding principle and when most people in society think that altruism is the only practical way to run a government, can you blame people for voting for the most consistent and corrupt altruists? One can only hope that there are enough people left who actually hold principles and can vote out the corrupt politicians and disenfranchise the corrupt intellectuals by not buying their books. It has happened before that the people have taken things into their own hands (I’m not very positive about it happening this election cycle (2008) but I’m still hopeful).

Yet, it is the job of the intellectuals and philosophers to properly educate the people and today’s crop has failed miserably – otherwise we would not be arguing about absurd notions like income redistribution.

The one irrefutable fact regarding redistributed money is that it does not belong to the recipient nor does it belong to the government. It belongs to the person who earned it and no one has a moral right to take it from him. Money earned by an individual would not exist were it not for the choice (to work) of the person earning it. And since the person who receives the money from government as a beneficiary did not choose to make it, that fact makes the redistribution of money a crime. No point of altruism, no exploitation theory and no right can be mustered that would expose any truism that gives anyone the right to take something from one person and give it to another. One thing is certain: the best way to ensure that production stops and society descends into group warfare is to make living impossible for the talented and educated.

Progressives never say they want to stop production or punish success. But their policies are not only immoral (as is theft) but impractical. You cannot expect the victim to continue to allow theft of his property. Eventually, he will tire of working hard for others or he will realize that the entire social welfare scheme is a fraud and a lie. In other cases, he will do what is his right, and defend his property against the marauders of government.

One thing I notice about Obama’s redistribution plan is how utterly “copycat” it is. It involves sending a single check to individuals who pay no taxes. It is even called a tax cut which it is not because these people do not pay taxes. At least Bush’s welfare program involved giving an actual tax refund. Obama is taking money from people who actually work and redistributing it to people who do not pay taxes.

You have to wonder about the power of the state on this issue. Just one check will be sent? Why just a few hundred dollars? Is that all that the government can muster? Why doesn’t the state just support these people totally? After all, to give to others is good. The more money you take from the rich, the more good you do for the poor, according to the philosophy of altruism. More than this, you should not give just what you can give; you should give everything to the poor. How can Obama reconcile this moral lapse according to his own view? Because he seeks, more than anything, to establish the principle of redistribution in the minds of people, originally in just a small way, in order to ensure that people buy into the principle. If he wins the election, he will know that he has succeeded in this purpose. The rest will only be application and you can bet there will be a lot more redistribution in a host of different ways. Whether it is through volunteerism (which is a scheme for stealing the energy of people for the sake of the government – and without paying them for the labor – a form of concentration camps), higher taxes (which is overt theft of the property of the able), the Fairness Doctrine (which is a way of destroying freedom of speech and stealing from people their right to think), to Foreign Policy (which is a plan to loot the American economy for the sake of George Soros and the developing world) to providing grants to local community organizers (which is an effort to loot the treasury and give it to people who will get rich on a number of “charitable” schemes that accomplish only a redistribution of money to community organizers and fraudulent real estate developers), you can be sure that there will be no end to the looting and no end to the propaganda that promotes service to others. You can be sure that it won’t be long before we are totally bankrupt.

In another, even more cynical sense, Obama’s redistribution through tax policy is what he promises in order to get the votes from those people who will get these checks. It is a cynical political trick. Yet, I can’t help but notice the emphasis Obama places on “service.” As Ayn Rand says, “It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there's someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.”

If you advocate redistribution of income, you are not qualified to vote.

principlex said...

I want to underline Dan's point.

The practice of molding one's character according to one's highest values is moral ambitiousness. It is this practice that has one see values in other people and the opposite, the red flags of false values, in their character.

The virtue is known as PRIDE.

People who don't end up with the career they really want or the life partner they really admire are missing pride. The constant rooting out of bad values and replacing them with good ones is the avenue to the happy life.