The Politics of Plunder

And is not this the point that we have now reached? What is the cry going up everywhere, from all ranks and classes? All for one!

When we say the word “one” we think of ourselves, and what we demand is to receive an unearned share in the fruits of the labor of all. In other words, we are creating an organized system of plunder.

Unquestionably, simple out-and-out plunder is so clearly unjust as to be repugnant to us; but thanks to the motto, ‘all for one,’ we can allay our qualms of conscience.

We impose on others the duty of working for us. Then, we arrogate to ourselves the right to enjoy the fruits of other men’s labor. We call upon the state, the law, to enforce our so-called right, and we end in the fantastic situation of robbing one another in the name of brotherhood.

We live at other men’s expense, and then call ourselves heroically self-sacrificing for so doing. Oh, the unaccountable folly of the human mind! Oh, the deviousness of greed! It is not enough that each of us tries to increase our share at the expense of others; it is not enough that we want to profit from labor that we have not performed.

We even convince ourselves that in the process we are sublime examples of self-sacrifice; we almost go so far as to call our unselfishness Christlike. We have become so blind that we do not see that the sacrifices that cause us to weep with admiration as we contemplate ourselves are not made by us at all, but are exacted by us of others.

— Frederic Bastiat, quoted in his biography ‘A Man Alone’ by George C. Roche

Bastiat nailed the hypocritical psychology of the conspicuously compassionate. I don’t know that most Americans are really this corrupt, but their leaders are. These include nearly all of our politicians as well as people who pose as moral leaders.

And because most Americans endorse this form of leader, people, at a minimum, must be considered our corrupt leaders’ enablers. We don’t have to listen to them, and we don’t have to keep voting for them; yet most of us do, and Bastiat (writing about France, not America) identified the nature of the error.

Bastiat did not challenge the ethics of self-sacrifice. To my knowledge, he endorsed Christianity and the ethical system which holds up self-sacrifice as the ideal. It’s regrettable Bastiat didn’t go further, but a century later Ayn Rand took care of that problem for him, by challenging the whole ethical code that props up the ridiculous fallacy of state intervention in the economy.

It’s a very unpopular view, with conservatives most of all, but the hard truth is: An ethics which holds up self-sacrifice and turn-the-other cheek as the ideal inevitably leads to things like Obamacare and fighting on the side of Islamic terrorists in Syria. Even if a majority of Americans end up turning against Obama, he’ll be right to claim that he was only giving us what a majority of us claimed we wanted.


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