- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009


Most of our nation’s great problems, including our economic problems, have as their root decaying moral values. Whether we have the stomach to own up to it or not, we have become an immoral people left with little more than the pretense of morality. You say, “That’s a pretty heavy charge, Mr. Williams. You had better be prepared to back it up with evidence!” I’ll try with a few questions for you to answer.

Do you believe it is moral and just for one person to be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another? And, if that person does not peaceably submit to being so used, do you believe some kind of force should be used against him? Neither question is complex and can be answered with either a yes or no. For me the answer is no to both questions, but I bet that your average college professor, politician or minister would not give a simple yes or no response. They would be evasive and probably say that it all depends.

In thinking about questions of morality, my initial premise is that I am my private property and you are your private property. That’s simple. What’s complex is what percentage of me belongs to someone else. If we accept the idea of self-ownership, then certain acts are readily revealed as moral or immoral. Acts such as rape and murder are immoral because they violate one’s private property rights. Theft of the physical things that we own, such as cars, jewelry and money, also violates our ownership rights.

The reason your college professor, politician or minister cannot give a simple yes or no answer as to whether one person should be used to serve the purposes of another is that they are sly enough to know either answer would be troublesome for their agenda. A “yes” answer would put them firmly in the position of supporting some of mankind’s most horrible injustices, such as slavery. After all, what is slavery but the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another? A “no” answer would put them on the spot as well because that would mean they would have to come out against taking the earnings of one American to give to another in the forms of farm and business handouts, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and thousands of similar programs that account for more than two-thirds of the federal budget.

There is neither moral justification nor constitutional authority for what amounts to legalized theft. This is not an argument against paying taxes. We all have a moral obligation to pay our share of the federal government’s constitutionally mandated and enumerated functions.

Unfortunately, there is no way out of our immoral quagmire. Now that the U.S. Congress has established the principle that one American has a right to live at the expense of another American, it no longer pays to be moral. People who choose to be moral and refuse congressional handouts will find themselves losers. They’ll pay higher and higher taxes to support increasing numbers of those paying lower and lower taxes.

As of now, nearly 50 percent of income earners have no federal income tax liability so what do they care about rising income taxes? In other words, once legalized theft begins, it becomes too costly to remain moral and self-sufficient. You might as well join in the looting, including the current looting in the name of stimulating the economy.

I am all too afraid that a historian, 100 years from now, will footnote America as a historical curiosity where people once enjoyed private property rights and limited government but that it all returned to mankind’s normal state of affairs arbitrary abuse and control by the powerful elite.

Walter E. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist and an economics professor at George Mason University.

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