… is from page 308 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague Jim Buchanan’s 1977 paper “Political Equality and Private Property,” as this paper is reprinted in Moral Science and Moral Order (2001), Vol. 17 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan:
If governmental transfer policy is acknowledged to be responsive to the demands of citizens who exercise their “public property rights” in the voting booth, there is nothing that will restrict this response to only those demands that are ethically motivated by some abstract norms.
DBx: If all American adults whose annual incomes are below, say, $35,000 were given permission to shoplift at their discretion, any supposition that they would exercise this permission in ways that achieve some academic philosopher’s notion of “social justice” would be ridiculous. And this supposition would not become one whit less ridiculous if the state announced to those who are given this permission that they should exercise their right to shoplift not to promote their own narrow self-interests but, instead, to achieve some glorious social outcome. (To be clear: the same is true for any group, no matter how large or small, given such permission.)
Very few people – save, perhaps, for a few philosophy, history, and disgruntled-studies professors at elite universities – would disagree with the above paragraph or with the quotation before it from Buchanan.
Why, then, the general disregard of the same reality when the means of acquiring other-people’s income and wealth is the voting booth?