Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 563, March 28, 2010

"The Joy of Stealing"

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The Joy of Stealing
by Rob Sandwell

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Recently, someone I know had a windfall in their life.

They had been spending a vast amount of money on medicines necessary for the treatment of a debilitating, though not generally life threatening, disorder. It was a crippling burden for them, on the order of close to a thousand dollars a month in medication, and there were many times that they were forced to make a decision between paying for their medications and paying their bills.

Of course, these kinds of problems are not uncommon. I have elderly relatives who have had to make the very same calculations, and we've all heard the scare stories about grandmothers being forced to eat cat food because they can't afford real food after buying their necessary medications.

So, this person I know had great news! The government was going to subsidize her medical bills, and she could now get her medications for a fraction of the cost before!

When I heard this, my initial reaction was pity. I felt so sad for this poor girl that she had no concept that the money being used to fund her life was being robbed from the lives of others. Not only was she profiting from evil, she was reveling in it.

This is something I used to struggle with. As a small government libertarian, I used to despise people who profited off the state. There greed was only going to lead to an increase in taxation, and the largess they enjoyed was being stolen from the productivity of others.

But over time, as I gave up on the idea of minarchistic philosophy, I changed that view. I recognize now that the money these people are receiving is of course stolen, but they are not the villains. Because of their indoctrination in statist philosophy, they can't even recognize the inherent evil in the violent seizure and distribution of private assets, much less act against their own immediate self interest by refusing to accept state subsidies. They have been indoctrinated their entire lives to see this as a virtuous endeavor. In their minds, they are not evil, in fact, they are acting in the only possible manner which can be viewed as morally good.

Of course, statism does convey a small amount of social stigma towards those who receive state payments. This is simply a governing mechanism built into the system to help to curtail people getting on the dole too quickly. It isn't that the state doesn't want absolute dependence upon it. It's just that that dependence has to occur at a rate at which its costs can be absorbed by the remaining productive citizenry. This is exactly the same reason I was against those who received state payments when I was a minarchist. I was under the propagandistic spell of statism. I was acting in the best interests of the state by continuing to advocate against welfare, while simultaneously supporting a system which was only that.

What I now realize is that all of us, from the poorest single mother wholly subsidized by state welfare to the wealthiest most successful captains of industry, are victims.

No one profits from statism.

Not the poor single mothers. Not the orphans. Not the old people. Not the sick. Not the immigrants.

Not the rich. Not the war mongers. Not the Haliburtons. Not the mercenaries. Not the Bushes or the Obamas.

No one.

They may think they do. They may in contrast to other people within the same statist context. But compared to a world absent statism, we are all immeasurably worse off than we would be otherwise.

George Bush is a victim. Barack Obama is a victim. So are you. So am I.

Does that make them less morally culpable for their actions? Of course not. Once you pick up a gun and point it at someone else, the responsibility to know exactly what the consequences of your actions are rests solely upon you.

But the single mother, or the girl who got her medications subsidized, did not pick up a gun. Yes, someone else did on their behalf. And yes, they may even have actively lobbied for that to occur. But they exist in a world where the only virtue they understand is violence. Where they have spent their entire lives being told that it is the only good thing. They are losing a game they not only don't realize they are playing, but don't even know exists.

So I no longer advocate that people avoid state welfare. In fact, I encourage them to take everything they can. They did not poison the well. They are victims of that same theft. We understand that the same taxation which harms the productive harms the non productive as well. The same state which is subsidizing that girl's medication is the state which set up a system which drives medical costs to a point where people are forced to make decisions between medication and food. It's not like the money could ever be returned to the people from whom it was stolen in the first place. There isn't a big room somewhere with stacks of money individually marked "Rob" and "Thomas" from where the money could be seized and returned to its original owners, and it's not like it won't be used if she doesn't take it.

Like every other problem the state pretends to solve, they created the problem in the first place. I may feel pity for that poor girl for not realizing the reality of the situation she is in, but I will not condemn her for taking from the state. That money represents jobs, opportunities, inventions, industries, dreams, and lives which have been stolen from all of us. And no matter how much of it we try to take in return, none of those things are ever coming back.

So take the money. Survive a little longer at the expense of the state. And recognize that the more people who live off the state, the more bloated it must become. And the closer it moves towards insustainability. There will come a time when it can no longer continue. And that will be our opportunity.

Perhaps if we all followed her example, we would have brought the whole damned thing down by now.

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