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Theft is wrong, even if approved by popular vote

Theft is wrong, even if approved by popular vote

Wayne Hoffman
June 1, 2018
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June 1, 2018

Suppose I point a gun at my neighbor and demand $100. Am I committing a crime? Nearly everyone reading this commentary would agree that the answer is yes.

But what if I didn’t keep the stolen money? Instead, what if I were to give my neighbor’s $100 to another neighbor in need? Suppose my needy neighbor took the ill-gotten $100 and used it to purchase food, diapers, or health insurance? Was my original action still a crime? Again, virtually everyone reading this would say, good intentions aside, a crime has been committed: I should be prosecuted.

That is at the philosophical heart of why voters ought to reject Medicaid expansion, should it make the ballot this November as expected. It’s also the reason why lawmakers would be right to repeal the Medicaid expansion, to close the oft-called Medicaid gap, even if voters approve it.

Taking something by force from someone and giving it to another is not charity. It’s a criminal enterprise. It does not matter that the crime is sanctioned by the government. In the parlance of governing, we call this “legal plunder,” a term coined by the famous 19th-century economist Frédéric Bastiat. That is, it is acceptable to steal because the law allowseven requiresit. Beyond the fact that at the root of legal plunder is the socialist mentality that is destroying the fabric of our nation, it is unethical to pass a law that gives the government the power to do that which, if committed by ordinary citizens, would be illegal.  

Suppose I amend my example. Rather than me, acting alone to rob my neighbor at gunpoint, I invite the whole neighborhood to offer their input on my action. Perhaps our desire to commit robbery is ratified by a majority vote. Perhaps it is decided that every person in the neighborhood, willing or not, must give up $100 for “charitable” purposes, in this case, let’s say, to provide health insurance to those who cannot afford it.

No one in their right mind would approve, for example, of a majority vote that legalizes murder, rape, arson, or other acts of violence against others. So, why do we condone the same tactic to take money from people by use of force? Is it just because the act of benevolent violence involves money and not direct physical harm?

If that is the case, are we willing to put to a vote and condone, if passed, that all households with spare bedrooms must house the homeless? That people with more cars than they can possibly use at any one time surrender their vehicles for use by people who lack transportation? Are individuals with more than enough food and more than enough clothing subject to the confiscation of their property for the feeding and clothing of the needy?

Naturally, we’d all scoff at such a premise, yet in the case of government programs, funded by compulsory collection of tax dollars, many say it’s alright. Today, the socialists and their accomplices who authorize such actions defend the thiefnamely, a government bureaucratand applaud his courage and compassion, just as proponents of Medicaid expansion are being applauded almost weekly by Idaho’s left-leaning news media.

It’s exactly as anticipated by Bastiat, who wrote, “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

So then, what is the solution in regard to the plight of people in the so-called “Medicaid gap”? I’ll answer that question next week.

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