The 28 Principles of Liberty- Principle #7
"The Proper role of Government is to Protect Equal Rights, Not Provide Equal Things."
During the days of the Founders in Europe, it was popular for people to proclaim that the role of government was to take from the 'haves' and give to the 'have nots' so that all might be truly 'equal'. However, the founders knew that this proposition contained a major fallacy.
People cannot delegate to government the power to do anything that they could not do themselves. We have the right to protect our life and property, therefore, we have the ability to delegate our protection to government through a police force, which would protect the lives and property of all the people.
Let's suppose that there is a kind-hearted man that saw that one neighbor had two cars, while another neighbor had none. What would happen if the kind man went to the neighbor with two cars, took one, and then generously gave it to the neighbor that had none? He would be arrested for theft of course! No matter how genuinely he cared about his neighbor with none, he has no right to steal from the neighbor with abundance and give it to another. The neighbor with abundance still has the right to their property. Of course, the prosperous neighbor could choose to donate the care to the neighbor in need, but it would be his decision, and not that of the kind hearted neighbor who wanted to rob from the rich to give to the poor.
Governments can sometimes commit 'legal' crimes. Let's say that the kind-hearted man asks the mayor and city council to give one of the cars from the prosperous neighbor to the man with none, does that make it anymore right? Of course not! And it is worse, because now, not only did the man lose his property, but now he also lost his right to appeal because the government did it. The Founders warned that anytime a government is allowed to start taking the possessions of others to start equalizing the distribution of goods, then the government thereafter will have been given the power to take away the right to enjoy life, liberty and property from ANY of the people.
Those who receive from this idea generally think that this is a just system. But what happens when government starts taking also from those that are poor? Then they will claim their right to their property, but the government will then say,"Now we decide who has rights in things." When the government was given the power to rob from the rich and give to the poor it immediately nullifies the principle of guaranteed equal rights, it opens the floodgates for government to meddle with everyone's rights.
When Communists seized power in Hungary, the peasants were delighted at first when the government seized the large farms from their owners, and then gave it to the peasants. But then later, the government seized 3/4 of the peasant land to create government communal farms, of course the peasants screamed about their property rights, but it was too late. If they continued to protest, they lost their liberty and in several instances their lives.
The Founders made sure that we could protect our freedom to prosper by protecting the rights of ALL people. There was no penalty for getting rich. The people would not be locked into the poverty level as they had in other nations. There would be some that would have more than others, but the entire nation could prosper. It was believed that man had an instinct to succeed and by having the freedom to prosper, the whole people would prosper together. People were encouraged to store up and save for a time when things were not prosperous, or to help their neighbors when they hit on rough times. Hard work, thrift and frugality were the key words for the American Ethic.
The Founders made these European theories unconstitutional. America became the most prosperous and most educated nation in the world, and consequently, the most generous. Samuel Adams said, "The utopian schemes of leveling (redistribution of wealth), and a community of goods (central ownership of all the means of production and distribution), are as visionary and impractical as those which vest all property in the Crown. (These ideas) are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government, unconstitutional."
Yet, there are still those who insist that compassion for the poor requires the Federal Government becoming involved and taking from the 'haves' and giving to the 'have nots'. Benjamin Franklin had been one of the 'have nots' and having experienced these welfare programs of 'counter-productive compassion', he wrote an entire essay on the subject. He called the programs a great evil in not only the way in which it operates, but also because it encourages idleness.
Franklin wrote: "To relieve the misfortune of our fellow creatures is concurring with the deity; it is godlike; but, if we provide encouragement for laziness, and supports for folly, may we not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature, which perhaps has appointed want and misery as the proper punishments for, and caution against, as well as necessary consequences of, Idleness and extravagance? Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect, lest we do more harm then good."
The Founders all had deep feelings about helping the poor and less fortunate, but they had guidelines, a calculated compassion:
1. Do not help the needy completely, simply help them help themselves.
2. Give the poor the satisfaction of earned achievement instead of rewarding without achievement.
3. Allow the poor to climb the 'appreciation ladder', from tents to cabins, cabins to cottages, cottages to comfortable homes.
4. Where emergency help is provided, do not prolong it to where it becomes habitual.
5. Strictly enforce fixed responsibility. First the individual is responsible for himself, the second level is the family, then the church, next the community, finally the country and in a disaster or emergency, the state. Under no circumstances is the Federal Government to become involved in welfare. The Founders felt that this would corrupt the government and the poor. There is NO constitutional authority for the federal government to participate in charity or welfare.
The Founders did this to protect the people from abuse by an overly-aggressive government.
Which brings us to the next principle.
The 28 Principles of Liberty are adapted from W. Cleon Skousen's Book "The 5000 year Leap". Charity Angel's official site is www.CharityAngel.com These articles in their entirety can be found at www.28principlesofliberty.blogspot.com