Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Makes Theft a Crime?

If A takes something from B, we call this theft and consider it a crime. But why is this so? What exactly makes the taking of something from another considered a crime? The socialists desire that all things be held in common for the good of all. If this is so, how can anyone be considered a criminal when he takes something, since all things should be commonly owned? Is not A part of the commons and just as entitled to the possession of whatever it is as B? This is no small matter.

Of course, there are several valid reasons why theft is a crime, and all are based upon undeniable facts of nature. For one thing, we all need resources in order to live; therefore, if we are not secure in the possession of some resources, we cannot survive. If I grab the food from your hand (and do so without committing a crime) just as you are about to eat it, eventually you will starve. Presumably I grabbed the food from your hand and not from the sky, because food is a scarce resource…it may not simply be conjured out of thin air to satisfy our hunger. Your possession of the food, in the absence of facts to the contrary, is testament to its ownership. So already we have two undeniable facts: that resources are scarce and that the ownership of resources is necessary in order that they may be useful to us. These undeniable facts stand as impassable barriers to the pipe dream of socialism; that is, the common ownership of valuable resources to be shared by all.

But how do we gain legitimate ownership of anything? There are only two ways. Number one, we find some previously hidden and/or ignored resource. Since it was unknown or ignored by all, no one else may claim its ownership. But finding something is not enough. We must go further. We must turn the resource into something useful for man by, as John Locke said, “mixing our labor” with it. That labor may be something as simple as carrying the resource from the previously hidden place to our abode or it may be much more complicated, such as extracting some mineral from the earth, refining it, transporting it, etc. But we cannot claim ownership to something simply by planting our flag and proclaiming that it is ours and ours alone, as did the conquistadors when they planted the flag upon a beach in the Americas and preposterously claimed the New World as the possession of Spain.

The second way we gain legitimate ownership of something is through exchange of resources already possessed legitimately by someone. This is the way that most resources come to us. We exchange one resource that we value less for another one that we value more. Exchange can be direct exchange, meaning barter…apples for oranges, for example. But mostly exchange is indirect exchange, meaning money exchange…buying the apples or the oranges with money (the indirect exchange medium) that we earned through previous production.

Notice that theft does not involve either direct or indirect exchange. The thief takes without exchanging anything of value. He may do this stealthily, as would a pickpocket; or he may do it threateningly, as would an armed robber or through extortion, as do gangsters in the so-called “protection racket”; or he may hire someone to steal for him, promising political and legal protection for the thief. But the key point is that there is no mutually agreed upon exchange of some previously and legitimately obtained resource. One party gets something and the other nothing (or something less than he would accept in the absence of extortion or the threat of violence).

Now, then. How are we to categorize the actions of government? Mostly as a thief, in my opinion. Let us count the ways:

1. Stealthily. Through inflation of the money supply, which rewards government and robs the entire population of its previous and legitimately earned purchasing power. Expansion of government controlled money MUST enter the economic system somewhere, unjustly rewarding those first recipients of the new money.
2. Threateningly or through extortion. Pay your (fill in the blank) tax or we will confiscate your wages, sell your house, and send you to jail. It does not matter that you do not want the service, do not need it, or can purchase it more economically elsewhere.
3. The hired gun. Special interests promise to vote for politicians who will give them special privileges at the expense of the polity in exchange for returning them (the politicians) to lucrative and powerful elective office. In this case the thief is merely the agent of a criminal conspiracy. The “real” criminals are the special interests who “hire” the thief. The thief gets a salary for his services and the “real” criminals provide him with political and legal protection. The most well known “real” thieves in America are unions, farmers, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and big businesses seeking trade protection. All seek undeserved economic advantages at the expense of everyone else not so well organized or shameless.

Of course, this is not to imply that all government taxation is theft. If government restricted itself to gathering taxes for maintenance of public safety and little else, then the entire polity will benefit from having its life, liberty, and property protected from criminals. This is the proper, legitimate role of government as envisioned by our Founding Fathers and enshrined in our majestic Constitution, the very same one that has been systematically debased practically before the ink was dry but with increasing disregard for its very words in the last one hundred years. America’s “living Constitution” provides no protection to its citizenry when it is government itself that has the power to interpret it for its own benefit, as does the Supreme Court.

But America was founded not on the Constitution but on another, more fundamental document—the Declaration of Independence. That document states very clearly that “…when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government and provide new Guards for their future Security.” We need no Supreme Court to tell us the meaning of those words. The Declaration of Independence is not a “living Declaration” that means what government says it means. The Declaration of Independence founded America, and America will remain eternal. Governments, however, are mortal.

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