Un­der­stand­ing Lib­erty

Serve Daily - - NEWS - By Josh Daniels

Of Snares and Safety Nets

“Those that much covet are with gain so fond, For what they have not, that which they pos­sess They scat­ter and un­loose it from their bond, And so, by hop­ing more, they have but less; Or, gain­ing more, the profit of ex­cess Is but to sur­feit, and such griefs sus­tain, That they prove bank­rupt in this poor-rich gain.” —Wil­liam Shake­speare, The Rape of Lu­crece

Two Thou­sand Four­teen marks the 50th year of the so-called “War on Poverty.” First de­clared by Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son, the “war” has been a patch­work of so­cial pro­grams aimed at erad­i­cat­ing poverty in Amer­ica. How­ever, in a re­port pub­lished by the US House Bud­get Com­mit­tee, 50 years of gov­ern­ment pro­grams have not worked. In­stead of build­ing a safety net, th­ese pro­grams have cre­ated a snare that sanc­tions some­thing more akin to cove­tous­ness.

In Shake­speare’s poem “The Rape of Lu­crece,” the vil­lain Tar­quin, con­sumed with lust, cov­ets Lu­crece, the wife of his mil­i­tary col­league. In the end, Tar­quin gives in to his lust lead­ing to the ul­ti­mate sui­cide of his vic­tim. While Tar­quin thought he gained some­thing by his treach­er­ous con­quest, the re­al­ity is that he failed to grat­ify his de­sire and in­stead lived in guilt and shame. The les­son here is that cove­tous­ness leads us to de­sire what is un­earned and that wrong­ful pos­ses­sion of the ob­jects of our de­sire will leave us empty and scarred. So it is with the en­ti­tle­ment cul­ture in Amer­ica.

Many have suc­cumbed to that siren song of re­dis­tri­bu­tion that prom­ises to van­quish poverty and need with the sword of gov­ern­ment co­er­cion. The col­lec­tive voices of the so­cial en­gi­neers de­mand trib­ute for their pa­tron con­stituen­cies un­der the banner of so­cial jus­tice and on the quest to weave a myth­i­cal safety net. Un­for­tu­nately, once in­dulged we of­ten learn that the de­sires of re­dis­tri­bu­tion are never sat­is­fied. This in turn leads to calls for more re­dis­tri­bu­tion and with it a com­pan­ion con­tempt for those in need as those whose prop­erty rights are vi­o­lated be­come dis­il­lu­sioned and angry. Mean­while, the very ob­jects of th­ese pro­grams, those most in need, are en­snared in a cy­cle of de­pen­dence that robs them of dig­nity and self-re­spect leav­ing them empty and help­less in the long run.

Bib­li­cal law is clear on the topic of prop­erty rights: “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not covet.” Th­ese sim­ple edicts place a re­spon­si­bil­ity on men to know what be­longs to whom and that th­ese in­vi­o­late prop­erty rights place all forms of co­er­cive plun­der un­der moral in­junc­tion. As this edict is ig­nored by col­lec­tive con­sent we see that slowly our rights and lib­er­ties have been re­placed with IOU’s and com­pul­sory par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pro­grams of the state. This re­ver­sal of af­fairs has placed the peo­ple un­der the rule of the state rather than the state an­swer­ing to the peo­ple. In­cre­men­tally, the peo­ple have given up their free­dom in ex­change for the se­cu­rity of gov­ern­ment pro­grams. Like the Rape of Lu­crece, this ex­change will leave both par­ties bank­rupt in the end.

We can no longer af­ford the in­creas­ing debts and crush­ing taxes that force our pos­ter­ity into un­der­writ­ing our pol­icy of state-sanc­tioned cove­tous­ness. It is not char­i­ta­ble to those in need, not fair to those who pay, and not prac­ti­cal as a mat­ter of pol­icy. It is plun­der. Like a man who steals the wife of another while the hus­band is away, so are the pol­i­cy­mak­ers who with the sword of gov­ern­ment power rob the cit­i­zens for that after which they lust. Un­der the guise of so­cial progress to fight poverty, the peo­ple have not built an ef­fec­tive safety net but a snare.

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