Politics as Theft, or Politics as Justice?

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The polite (economists’) term for theft is wealth redistribution. Economists (apart from the Rothbard school) leave out the adjectives: coercive, aggressive, violent, forceful, involuntary. Much of U.S. politics is coercive wealth redistribution. Much of politics is theft. As such, it is not above being called criminal.

In the past two years, theft through politics for bailouts has risen to a minimum of $13 trillion in the U.S. This does not include the Obama spending bill ($700 billion). By comparison, the largest estimate of private crime I have found is $1.7 trillion annually (double earlier estimates.)

The bailouts are forcible wealth transfers (or guarantees of such) from taxpayers, current and future, to various financial institutions and to various classes of investors. Rather than these persons bearing their own losses, the government and Federal Reserve are shifting their losses to taxpayers.

When it comes to politics as theft, the range of it is extensive, covering nearly all political actions. Taking from the young to support the old is theft. Forcing a man to sell his stock of face masks at reduced prices during an epidemic is theft. Price controls on bread are theft. Being forced to pay taxes to provide health care for others is theft. Inflation is theft.

If one argues against bailouts, one cannot turn around and argue for Social Security without avoiding the fact that both are thefts. If one does, one can only argue that the bailout theft is bad and the Social Security theft is good.

Such arguments about which theft the society will undertake are arguments about who will whip whom and how many lashes will be doled out. These arguments are embroidered in our society by complex voting procedures. They are part of the mechanisms of the politics. The politics itself remains the politics of theft.

Every society has governance in various forms. Persons wish to maintain their lives and property and do with them what they will. This leads to conflicts. A social group has to solve the problems of property: what it is, who lawfully owns it, what the ownership rights are, and what the rights of the property-owner are in exchange and transfer. A social group has to solve the problems of behavior that damages others or torts. It has to solve the problem of obligations or contracting and enforcement of obligations or contracts. These problems may be grouped together and called social or political or governmental.

Politics as theft solves these problems using force. The alternative to politics as theft is politics as justice.

Politics is an aggregate term. There are many acts of politics. Some involve theft. Others involve justice. There is no bright line that we cross that tells us we have changed from one regime to the other.

Our society is rife with politics as theft. When the ways of theft are learned, the ways of justice are forgotten. They atrophy or are put aside, until the day they are brushed off and brought back.

Politics as violence is habitual. It is built into the structure of the entire system. It is built into the ways of thinking about and approaching any and all problems. The use of force comes without thought. It is what lies at hand. It is the habitual tool.

Politics as justice is alive. It never dies. But it slumbers in hibernation, ready to be awakened. We have put it to sleep.

Politics as theft is politics as injustice. When many of us give no thought to politics as justice, or when we have a difficult time imagining what the politics of justice looks like, or when we can imagine no other politics but the politics of theft, we are confirming the dominance of the politics of injustice.

When schools teach injustice and theft as justice, when pulpits advocate injustice as justice, and when the media trumpet the injustices of government power, politics as theft and as injustice is in full force. It has a thorough hold on our society. "None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity." (Isaiah 59:4.)

"Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 45:9.)

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.

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