“Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain—and since labor is pain in itself—it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it. — Frederick Bastiat, The Law.
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (July 29, 1805 – April 16, 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies.
In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat and ambitious civil servant, made a nine-month journey throughout America. The result was Democracy in America, a monumental study of the life and institutions of the evolving nation. Tocqueville looked to the flourishing democratic system in America as a possible model for post-revolutionary France, believing that the egalitarian ideals it enshrined reflected the spirit of the age and even divine will. His insightful work has become one of the most influential political texts ever written on America and an indispensable authority on democracy.
Several things de Tocqueville stated in his Democracy in America book are more relevant today than ever:
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”
“Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
“When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint. It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. They neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.”
“Society will develop a new kind of servitude which covers the surface of society with a network of complicated rules, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate. It does not tyrannize but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Alexis de Tocqueville, like another French classical liberal (now called conservatives not to be confused with today’s progressive liberals) Frederick Bastiat saw the dangers of the nanny state and how citizens would be willing to trade freedom for government handouts. It was Bastiat who said in his 1850 book, The Law, stated:
“…But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.
This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.”
Bastiat recognized that the greatest single threat to liberty is government. Notice the clarity he employs to help us identify and understand evil government acts such as legalized plunder. Bastiat says, “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” With such an accurate description of legalized plunder, we cannot deny the conclusion that most government activities, including ours, are legalized plunder, or for the sake of modernity, legalized theft.
If Bastiat or de Tocqueville were alive today, they would be disappointed with our failure to keep the law within its proper domain. Over the course of a century and a half, we have created more than 50,000 laws. Most of them permit the state to initiate violence against those who have not initiated violence against others.
Bastiat explains the call for laws that restrict peaceable, voluntary exchange and punish the desire to be left alone by saying that socialists want to play God. Socialists look upon people as raw material to be formed into social combinations. To them— the elite—“the relationship between persons and the legislator appears to be the same as the relationship between the clay and the potter.” And for people who have this vision, Bastiat displays the only anger I find in The Law when he lashes out at do-gooders and would-be rulers of mankind, “Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.”
In essence we have created a state where there exists a permanent recipient class — a class that is dependent on government for its sustenance. This is today’s definition of equality.
Last week, Jonah Goldberg wondered why Republicans are doing so well at the local and state level but striking out at the federal level of politics. His answer to the question is simple: state and local government is about nuts and bolts; the federal government is all about religion. Goldberg stated in his Townhall column:
“Our presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, talk about their "visions" for America, as if being a president requires you to impose some quasi-religious vision on the country.
But the Democrats are simply better at talking about government in spiritual terms. Indeed, such testifying is Obama's one indisputable gift. They talk about the federal government doing things we'd want God to do if God dabbled in public policy.”
Here is reason good enough for President Jefferson to call for a "wall of separation" between church and state: to keep the vision thing a safe distance away from government and its enforcement officers. Because, as I like to say, government is force, and it is always a good idea to keep that in mind as soon as someone starts talking about "the children", “investment” or "inequality."
Yes, inequality: that's how liberals are justifying their expansion of government these days. That's what President Obama was talking about in his Osawatomie speech in December 2011,
In a recent Pew Research Organization poll the top four issues for Hispanic voters were; the economy (jobs), health care, the deficit, and foreign policy. The Democrats did a better job of convincing these voters that they would give them more than Romney — it was the traditional Democrat offerings of more stuff from government. Immigration was very low on the list and gun control was not even mentioned. (See: Another Round of Immigration Reform)
Today it is estimated that 47% of Americans are living off of some sort of federal, state, or local subsistence programs. These programs include:
- 99 weeks unemployment insurance
- Food stamps (SNAP). Ten years ago 19.5 million Americans were on food stamps, today the number exceeds 47 million which is equivalent to 15% of the population.
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC)
- Medicaid — a program that is jointly funded by the state and federal government.
- Aid to dependent children (TANF)
- Farm subsidies
- Stimulus programs, also known as corporate welfare
- Government workers and teachers pensions and health care plans creating trillions of dollars in unfunded liability for future taxpayers.
- Subsidized college loans
- School breakfast and lunch programs
This list could go on and on, but these are just a few of the more costly forms of legal plunder. Also note that not one of these programs is in the scope of the federal government as that scope is defined by the enumerated powers listed in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
In Entitlement America, the head of a household of four making minimum wage has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year According to Wyatt Emerich as shown on Zero Hedge. Click here for the chart that tells a sad tale of plunder:
Emerich analyzes disposable income and economic benefits among several key income classes and comes to the stunning (and verifiable) conclusion that "a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year." And that excludes benefits from Supplemental Security Income disability checks. America is now a country which punishes those middle-class people who not only try to work hard, but avoid scamming the system. Not surprisingly, it is not only the richest and most audacious thieves that prosper - it is also the penny scammers at the very bottom of the economic ladder that rip off the middle class each and every day, courtesy of the world's most generous entitlement system.
As Bastiat stated:
“Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.
But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder. Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain—and since labor is pain in itself—it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.”
Right now, the liberals are all agreed that "inequality" requires more government. In ten years, they will come up with something else.