Not On My Dime

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The talk of
every town is Israel's war with Hezbollah. Is Israel justly defending
herself, or are her attacks on Lebanon unnecessary and out of proportion?

Proportionality
is an interesting question. Three men are at your door. They ask
for $10 from each member of your household. What for? They say it's
for the security of a country the size of Massachusetts half the
world away. You ask, "Why?"

The first man
responds, "What are you, a bigot?"

The second
says, "What are you, an ISOLATIONIST? Don't you believe in
DEMOCRACY? Do you support the TERRORISTS?"

And the third
chimes in, "Don't you want Jesus to come back?"

You politely
decline. They say they'll come back, this time with guns.

What's "proportionality"
in that case? Is it okay to shoot them right then over the $10,
or only when the robbery actually takes place? Tough questions.

And what if
they are actually from the government? They aren't criminals,
they're public servants?

Oh, well, that's
different. And really, it is. There aren't any good options
when the government steals from you. To "pay your taxes"
means to support the actions of this tiny faraway country – even
when it's in the wrong. But refusing to pay creates a heap
of trouble; shooting the tax collectors is out of the question.
Speaking out in protest has zero effect on the policy and invites
public scorn. But not speaking out implies that one doesn't
care.

Of course,
this "tiny country the size of Massachusetts" is the very
same Israel attacking Lebanon as I write. Has its response to Hezbollah's
incursions been judicious and proportional? Probably not, but I
don't know for sure and, to be honest, I don't really care. Actually,
I resent that I'm supposed to care. Yes, all human suffering is
tragic, and more so when it's caused by war. But with other wars
going on, why do we always dwell on Israel's conflicts?

We know the
answer. It's because of America's diplomatic support and $3 billion
in aid to Israel. If Israel uses too much force, her enemies justly
place part of the blame on the USA. When Americans passionately
debate the prudence and morality of Israel's behavior as if it's
the most pressing thing in the world, they do so because their government
has chosen to merge its interests with those of Israel. The issue
would decline in importance if America cut off aid to Israel and
declared neutrality And America's security and prestige would be
enhanced, too.

Now imagine
that the three men return, asking for a couple of bucks for embryonic
stem cell research. You tell them you're not interested.

The first responds,
"Are you a religious wacko who opposes science?"

The second
says, "Why do you want so many people to suffer and die?"

The third says,
"Are you an enemy of progress and civilization?"

You tell them
you already donate to other causes of greater value to you. They
say they'll be back, with the guns.

I'm not against
Israel, I just don't want my taxes to subsidize it or any other
foreign government. The last thing I'd do, however, is prevent private
individuals from raising money in support of it. Likewise, I'm not
against embryonic stem cell research, I just don't want my tax dollars
to fund it. Let it be funded privately. Just not on my dime.

I oppose government
support of these, and all "causes" because the more we
rely on government, the more we encroach on the conscience of the
dissenting individual. Why should people be forced to pay for things
and promote ideas that can easily be provided for privately? Why
should they be compelled to fund activities they believe are immoral,
unethical, or just plain stupid? The dissenting minority may be
deluded or prejudiced, but the same may be true of the majority.

That's why
the free market is the best form of "democracy" there
is. The majority can accomplish their goals by voting with their
money, time, and labor in support of their causes. But the minority
remains free to vote with their money, time and labor in
support of their causes. Through the price mechanism, the
market creates corrections for errant judgments, from which others
learn. The will of the majority (or, more often, the plurality)
prevails, but the minority still often prospers.

But when government
makes mistakes, there are no correctives, and no lessons learned.
The government's "solution" to its screw-ups is always
more government. People are forced to comply, to pay up, even when
their conscience says no. And this is when government becomes not
just a nuisance, but a great evil.

July
28, 2006

James
Leroy Wilson [send him mail]
blogs at Independent
Country
and researches and writes for DownsizeDC.org.

James
Leroy Wilson Archives

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