There is an inherent injustice in the government’s broad authority to tax and spend, which permits politicians to redistribute private property at will. In many cases, such arbitrary power amounts to theft masqueraded as law, and it defies the very essence of our being as Americans.
We are a people who once valued certain “self-evident” truths based on the idea that government is formed by consent to secure our natural rights. Samuel Adams explained that “the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defense of those very rights: the principal of which  are life, liberty, and property.” This primary purpose of government was unmistakable to our political pioneers. James Madison declared, “It is sufficiently obvious, that persons now and property are the two great subjects on which governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which government was instituted.”
Any popular government committed to liberty must preserve the people’s property, for if it does not, then society is ruled by force, not reason. And just as individuals cannot steal without consequence, neither can government—elected representatives have no special authority to violate the immutable Laws of Nature and arbitrarily infringe upon the people’s right to property.
Indeed, government must raise money through taxation to function. But to stay true to its purpose to protect private property, government must always ensure that its use of the people’s money serves its limited public functions and does not exclusively benefit select groups or individuals. James Madison said that government, being “instituted to protect property of every sort,” could not achieve this aim “where the property, which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.”
Early Supreme Court decisions reflected this principled understanding of the role of government in the United States. In Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorrance (1795), the Court reasoned, “No man would become a member of a community in which he could not enjoy the fruits of his honest labor and industry. The preservation of property, then, is a primary object of the social compact . . . .” The Court went on to defend property rights as a tenet of constitutional law, arguing that the arbitrary seizure of private property “is inconsistent with the principles of reason, justice and moral rectitude; it is incompatible with the comfort, peace and happiness of mankind; it is contrary to the principles of social alliance in every free government; and lastly, it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.”
In 1874, the Court invalidated government wealth-redistribution schemes in defense of property rights. And it actually identified such programs as theft, not law, for they served individual or corporate interests rather than public purposes—they favored a chosen few at the expense of the many. The Court wrote in Loan Association v. Topeka (1874), “To lay with one hand the power of the government on the property of the citizen, and with the other to bestow it upon favored individuals . . . is none the less a robbery because it is done under the forms of law and is called taxation.”
Clearly, the Court understood that there were intrinsic limits on governmental power in the United States—or in any nation committed to liberty. Government had to respect the people’s natural rights at all times for freedom to endure, as the Court explained in Topeka:
It must be conceded that there are such rights in every free government beyond the control of the state. A government which recognized no such rights, which held the lives, the liberty, and the property of its citizens subject at all times to the absolute disposition and unlimited control of even the most democratic depository of power, is after all but a despotism. It is true it is a despotism of the many, of the majority, if you choose to call it so, but it is nonetheless a despotism.
Some may consider it hyperbole or alarmist to classify the U.S. government as despotic today, but in principle this is the kind of government we have. By its absolute control over tax rates, the federal government decides how much of our own money we are permitted to keep. And by its arbitrary discretion over spending, government determines who benefits from the taxes it collects.
In fact, a vast majority of the federal government’s spending today undermines the very purpose for which it was formed. In 2012, the federal government spent $2.3 trillion on “payments for individuals” to support various social welfare programs, and it dispersed $100 billion to private businesses as corporate welfare.
Doling out money to private citizens and organizations is hardly consistent with the object of American government to preserve private property. But the federal government has effectively become a tool for politicians to redistribute national wealth. By our failure to uphold the Constitution and secure our inalienable rights, politicians today are free to steal private property under the guise of law.
Natural law is derived from the God’s law, and it’s God’s law – or more precisely, God’s love – which shows that people have equal value, that we derive the true principle of property rights, which is that law-abiding, hard-working people deserve just compensation for their labors, which would give them the financial security which “property” gave to the fortunate, well-born Founders.
The “people” the founders were referring to when they talked about property rights were just white male property owners like themselves. It’s thanks to the Left and their unions and wage laws and college loans and Medicare and workplace safety regulations and home loans and the like, not to mention civil rights for women African-Americans, all of which your side tried to prevent and your leaders oppose today, that the working and lower middle class from which the Schilling Show appears to draw the majority of its audience has historically been able to amass property. James Madison didn’t give it to them. Maybe the audience should give it back to the Koch brothers, who are going to get it anyhow, if you have your way.
The welfare state may be out of control, but it is the government that has historically prevented “theft” by putting an end to economic exploitation. It is the Left that has fought for an end to theft by giving rights to women and slaves and powerless workers. The Right has stood for the thieves.
The unregulated capitalism you advocate would have the advantage of taking money out of the hands of unelected bureaucrats, that’s true. But unfortunately it would place most of it back in the hands of unelected rich people who, because they’re selfish like the rest of us, would just look out for themselves. It would widen the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, hastening the day when few people, and certainly not the working and lower middle class people who call into the Schilling Show, would own property. By the way, the Koch’s, who are big financial supporters of the Tea Party, get tons of corporate welfare. I wonder if Rob will talking about this any time soon!
The other obvious fallacy in your argument is that elected politician are “free” to do what they want. They’re accountable to the voters, and most voters aren’t libertarians.
Brian’s right that Obama gives out lots of corporate welfare. Rob again dodges the fact that the welfare state was born because individual charity was not meeting many needs, and many people were living in poverty.
Yes, the welfare state has created greater greater dependency, that’s absolutely true (this is how honest people argue Rob. They, “good point, but . . . ). That’s an ironic punishment on us all, especially the Christian Right, for not loving our neighbors as ourselves in the first place and taking care of the needs the welfare state was born to meet. Arrogant members of the Christian Right call the show and say they don’t feel obligated to give back because they don’t take anything, ignoring the fact that every thing they have comes from God. True Christianity is giving because we know how much we’ve been given.
i am tired, i am christian. I was taught not bragg about the good things I do for other people. Because it is between God, individual and me. I do what I do not for the Glory but do it because that is what I was taught. There is allot of Christian in greater C’ville area who do this. We do it because know is right and our reward comes not on this earth. i do what I can as other Christian do. but as a human being we get tired of being ragged on all time.
government give out handout or whatever you want to call them because it became an expectation. I know of small Churchs in Charlottesville, who out reach program are going to be smaller due to rain water fee. Our we required to love our neighbor or does it mean to Love the neighbor who is in our sphere of influnce? Read First Corinthians Chapter 13 please. Goodnight, my feet hurt.
area, you’re right, most Christians don’t brag about their good deeds, but a lot of the ones who do have been very fortunate, and when they boast they just produce the same lack of gratitude the caller today complained about. Think about it. If you did poorly in school and did drugs and got into trouble because you grew up in a bad home in a bad neighborhood, would you be grateful to someone who grew up in a good home in a good neighborhood but complained about having to pay taxes to help you pay the rent, and boasted they’d never needed help paying theirs? Did God give him good influences because he deserved it, and give you bad ones because you deserved them?
People who take credit for the gifts they’ve been given by God and complain about people who didn’t get the same gifts don’t deserve gratitude. They have their reward already, from themselves.
Oh, and a little civil rights history reminder to Brian and Rob, who like to claim the mantle of civil rights for conservatives because a Republican freed the slaves . . . a 150 years ago: as Johnson predicted, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “delivered the South to the Republican Party.” In other words, the Dixiecrats who opposed civil rights for African-Americans became Republicans. Racist Southerners became Republicans. I’m not calling you racists, but your argument is disingenuous: when it comes to economics, conservatives have usually taken the side of the powerful majority against the relatively powerless minority.
i grew up poor, i did poorly in school, i got in trouble in school. Until a very kind man took me under his wing while my father was away in Viet Nam. He showed me better way.No it is not GOD fault I grew up poor,did poorly in school,got into trouble. it is not GOD fault that I lived in a poor neighborhood. it was not GOD fault that my family was reminded by school system that we were poor.In General society and government created this mess, not GOD. there is no longer a simple fix for this mess we are all in. As this very kind man told me one day, we are not supposed to be jealous of family that does well, we are not supposed to be jealous because of being born poor. We are not to expect the rich family to give up their money. A question he taught me to seek the answer for.”Can a man change his destiny or does a man do what he can do until his destiny is reveal to him?” In seeking answer I learned as a Christian in today world we are expected to prove we are a Christian (which Devil tried to get Christ to do), instead we deomstrate it by picking and choosing what we can do within our sphere of influnces as Christ did. As for me as a conservative I have taken no one side except Christ. Well time to get ready for the day, eat breakfast and yard work to be done and strawberries to be given away….
No one here is blaming God, area. But some people take credit for what God gave them, blame others for not overcoming handicaps they haven’t had to overcome, and publicly boast of being charitable. Did Jesus say “love your grateful neighbor”? Did he say “practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them”?
I just read the following this morning for bible study:
His peace can lie dormant in our hearts, or it can flourish like kudzu on a hot summer day — Be a peacemaker. Yes, you can with the argument(which I am guilty of this week). But you may lose the relationship (which I am guilty of doing this week). Why not bless with peace rather than curse with contention? When you bless others, you too enjoy the blessings of God. Maybe this is what happen this week with individual who called Rob show. Maybe this is what is going on in our nation. Let see who can win argument in process of we end up losing relationship. Yes we all may be guilty of this!
That was a great post, area. You’re right.
Is it "self-evident" that "government must raise money through taxation to function"? Is there no other option? Self-evident is like a parent saying, "Because I said so!" "…We hold these truths to be self-evident…" because it's not obvious at all with much contrary evidence…but we will act as if it's self-evident. How can all men be created equal and everyone's a unique individual? Equal means the same value, not identically the same. For the tree of liberty to blossom and grow again, we need to explain in the modern language what liberty means today. Sadly the column has to go all the way back to 1874 for a government opinion where the "Court invalidated government wealth-redistribution schemes in defense of property rights." Since then there have been many courts to rule just the opposite. Property doesn't have rights; people do.
Saying we have rights is like saying we have history. If we truly had history, people would relate bits and pieces related to current events. You don't have history if you no one knows any of it. If we truly had property rights, those rights would have names so they can be talked about. We'll get those rights back as soon as we figure out what they are. They're so self-evident as to be widely unknown. I think it was the 1800 Supreme Court which named eminent domain as the Constitution's "despotic power." Of course redistribution of wealth is Unconstitutional but somehow legal. Another paradox.
“the redistribution of wealth”
For the re-distribution of wealth to be unjust, the distribution has to have been just in the first place. Can someone explain why it is just for rich people to pay low wages that further enrich them and keep people who can’t find better paying jobs poor? Can someone explain why someone who isn’t very smart, strong, or clever deserves to struggle financially while someone who is doesn’t? Can someone explain why if David Koch deserves his wealth, someone who has worked as hard as David Koch doesn’t deserve the same amount?
Conservatism can argue that the redistribution of wealth depresses the economy, inhibiting the growth of the wealth of the nation overall. It can argue that it inculcates laziness and other bad traits in the poor. Etc. But it can’t demonstrate what the Tea Party believes, that all the well-to-do deserve their wealth, and all the poor deserve their poverty. And if it can’t demonstrate that, it can argue that redistribution is unwise, but it can’t demonstrate that redistribution by democratic means is unjust.
»….“the redistribution of wealth”
For the re-distribution of wealth to be unjust, the distribution has to have been just in the first place.«
Maybe not having property is natural to you?
What? Could it be because your nature, inclination and tendency just always see that and therefore gets compelled naturally to claim and confront this as so? Though you do your best Ken to “judge not,” you do the very thing contrary and come across inconsistent, by being your own God in asserting what is and can be seemingly [not necessarily universally] fair and balanced. Emphasis on considering what “balance” appears standard solely to you, as universal and not necessarily actual or practical. So much so, you fight your own good fight to the virtual point of sounding like a stereotypical romanticist wanting what government you deign to be – one following its heart and ignoring its head. Why should that prevent good men, women and all else sentient from denying one another from either acknowledging and/or striving for access to opportunity? It’s not 100% destination but sometimes rather a good part of the journey that makes for the true venture and itinerary.
»……..that all the well-to-do deserve their wealth, and all the poor deserve their poverty. And if it can’t demonstrate that, it can argue that redistribution is unwise, but it can’t demonstrate that redistribution by democratic means is unjust.«
So you say. Don’t despots even say and when something isn’t what they want, it devolves into “do as I say and not as I do? History is littered with those left to their own vice and not those that avoided giving in and giving over to such. I find it unbelievable what you are for, when it too approaches the lack of sense and desensitized moral you pepper half your same sentences with.
You certainly offer and leave ample examples representing this. Here’s a sampling of bits in prior retorts you’ve generously supplied …….
»”people” the founders were referring to«
»just white male property owners”
»Left that has fought for an end to theft by giving rights«
»The Right has stood for the thieves«
»unelected rich people who, because they’re selfish«
»gap between the very rich and everyone else«
»certainly not the working and lower middle class«
(and the end and following one is just so weird)
»….elected politician are “free” to do what they want. They’re accountable to the voters, and most voters aren’t libertarians.”
Yes, each of us are aware of how much (or not) is in our own momentary corporeal possession. However, I don’t exactly see your espousing and loathing getting you through the eye of the same needle either Ken.
Spade, if you can, just answer my questions and respond to what I’ve said instead of making a lot of wild assumptions about me and changing the subject to “despots” and “vice” and “romanticists.”
Every thinking person has to decide what’s fair and balanced, using the brains God gave him. You guys think your judgments are self-evident because they’re rooted in scripture, but many other students of scripture think it really contradicts your judgments. Contrary to what you imply, liberals as well as conservatives want to increase opportunity and increase it for everyone. Contrary to what you say I believe, I believe that property ownership is indeed good and natural.
(and the end and following one is just so weird)
»….elected politician are “free” to do what they want. They’re accountable to the voters, and most voters aren’t libertarians.”
I didn’t write that. This is what I wrote: “The other obvious fallacy in your argument is that elected politician are ‘free’ to do what they want. They’re accountable to the voters, and most voters aren’t libertarians.”
Please don’t misquote me.
»a lot of wild assumptions about me and changing the subject to “despots” and “vice” and “romanticists.”«
Call it assumptions or whatever way you see fit to yourself. I call it commentary and that happened then to be my opinion. I simply find it underwhelming that got to you, along with what else seems endless around here.
»I didn’t write that. This is what I wrote: “The other obvious fallacy in your argument is that elected politician are ‘free’ to do what they want. They’re accountable to the voters, and most voters aren’t libertarians.”«
You say misquote….. I say (sorry – originally didn’t read as a fallacy there, must’ve been a) misprint.