Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 19, 2014

in Other People's Money

… is from page 136 of philosopher Jan Narveson’s 2008 book, You and the State:

A perception very widely held about government is that it is a creative agency that provides all sorts of things for us, the people.  We no doubt believe this for two reasons.  One is that the state appears to do so.  Certainly it busies itself with all sorts of projects.  The other is that it keeps telling us so.  But the perception is misleading.  Perhaps we should instead compare it with the member of the Mafia who brings home a nice new car for his wife.  The fact that he bought it with money recently robbed from a bank is not mentioned.  Similarly, the fact that all these things the State does are done with money taken, without asking, from the people who created the services now curtailed peremptorily by the government should, surely, matter.  Normal people do things by working or selling things or at least investing in enterprises.  Not, however, the state.  It spends its days fleecing its subjects.

(Apologies, of course, are due to those many mafiosi who earn their livings honestly: by supplying morally unobjectionable goods and services to willing buyers.  As Narveson suggests, politicians are never so ethically upright: most of the ‘services’ they supply are morally objectionable – for example, restricting immigration, subsidizing corporations, and pricing many low-skilled workers out of the job market.  And nearly all of the state’s activities are funded, not by voluntary payments as in markets, but by forced extractions as in robberies.)

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