Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on April 7, 2017

in Other People's Money, Reality Is Not Optional, Taxes

… is from my great colleague Walter Williams’s March 15th, 2017, syndicated column, “Liberty Is Not for Wimps“:

Unknown-1At least two-thirds of federal spending can be described as Congress’ taking the rightful property of one American and giving it to another American, to whom it does not belong.  So-called mandatory spending totaled $2.45 trillion in 2015.  Thus, two-thirds of the federal budget goes toward Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food assistance, unemployment and other programs and benefits that fall into the category of taking from some and giving to others.

DBx: Walter understands that words matter.  The words that we use affect our understanding of reality.  An act appears to our mind to be one thing when we call it “compassion”; that same act appears to our minds to be something quite different when we call it “theft.”  Walter correctly argues that if Jack takes Jill’s property without Jill’s consent, and if we call Jack’s action “theft,” then we should also call “theft” the taking by 51 Jacks of the properties of 49 Jills.  To call the latter action “compassion” – or, indeed, to call it anything other than “theft” or “stealing” – is an abuse of language.  This abuse distorts our thinking and makes us likely to become thieves or victims of thieves (or both).

Walter understands that consent can be, and very often is, implicit.  Yet Walter also understands that to say that the 49 Jills whose properties are taken by the 51 Jacks “implicitly consent” to this seizure of their properties is too easy a move by the Jacks to attempt to cloak their thievery with moral legitimacy.

Congratulations to Walter – and to Peter Berkowitz, Chris DeMuth, and Philip Hamburger – for last night being formally awarded the 2017 Bradley Prize.


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