LIBERTY SHALL BE MAINTAINED
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.