Spending and Morality

By:  Walter E. Williams
07/09/2014
       
Spending and Morality

Spending is not our basic problem. We've become an immoral people demanding that Congress forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another.

During last year's budget negotiation meetings, President Barack Obama told House Speaker John Boehner, "We don't have a spending problem." When Boehner responded with "But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem," Obama replied, "I'm getting tired of hearing you say that." In one sense, the president is right. What's being called a spending problem is really a symptom of an unappreciated deep-seated national moral rot. Let's examine it with a few questions.

Is it moral for Congress to forcibly use one person to serve the purposes of another? I believe that most Americans would pretend that to do so is offensive. Think about it this way. Suppose I saw a homeless, hungry elderly woman huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. To help the woman, I ask somebody for a $200 donation to help her out. If the person refuses, I then use intimidation, threats and coercion to take the person's money. I then purchase food and shelter for the needy woman. My question to you: Have I committed a crime? I hope that most people would answer yes. It's theft to take the property of one person to give to another.

Now comes the hard part. Would it be theft if I managed to get three people to agree that I should take the person's money to help the woman? What if I got 100, 1 million or 300 million people to agree to take the person's $200? Would it be theft then? What if instead of personally taking the person's $200, I got together with other Americans and asked Congress to use Internal Revenue Service agents to take the person's $200? The bottom-line question is: Does an act that's clearly immoral when done privately become moral when it is done collectively and under the color of law? Put another way, does legality establish morality?

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