"[There is a] strong correlation between market freedom and lower government corruption -- not terribly surprising, since the effect of increasing regulatory power is to shift 'cheating' from the private to the public sphere." ~ Julian Sanchez
What's Mine Is Yours--If You Say So
Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
Reading the newspaper this morning, I got the impression that the purpose of the paper is to obscure, rather than present, the news. The front page headline, for instance, was a piece about a local hockey player, and his rise to fame. Succeeding pages concerned local school board problems, and other such trivia. Not until page seven was there any information that might be considered newsworthy, namely NSA activities, and on the next page, reports from Crimea.
What caught my interest, and was, for me, the most interesting bit of news--though far from page one--was the story headlined “Ultra-Orthodox in Israel can be drafted.” It seems that from the very origins of Israel, seminary students could, in the words of the paper, “evade army service.” (Shouldn’t the word be “avoid”?) At that time, only a few hundred young men were involved; now it’s thousands. The Rulers don’t like that, and using their self-bestowed power, have ruled that “ultra-orthodox” young men can be drafted. The point of interest, for me, was the clear and undeniable proof provided by this example that the persons, as well as the property, of individuals are not under their control, but the control of the rulers, to whatever extent they desire.
It reminded me of the story I read years ago: Two men were walking down the street. One had a gold coin in his pocket, the other a flask of whiskey. One was a criminal--the one with the gold coin--the other was not. At a different time, the same two men were walking down the street, one with a gold coin in his pocket, and the other with a flask of whiskey. One was a criminal--the one with the whiskey--and the other was not. The “law” is whatever the strangers say it is, at any given time. But what do the written wishes of the strangers in power have to do with the two men?
Suppose you are seated at one end of a table, and government is seated at the other. Between you lies your wallet, the deed to your home, title to your car, and all other assets you own.
“Does anyone challenge that these are mine--undoubtedly, certainly, absolutely, and genuinely, mine? I own them, do I not?”
“My claim upon these assets is by virtue of ownership. Mr. Gov, you desire these assets as well, and claim a greater right to them than I have. What is the basis of your claim?”
“Our claim is based upon the law. The statutes say that--”
“Never mind the statutes. You, or someone under you, writes the statutes. They are merely the formal, written declaration of your wants, are they not?”
“The statutes are the written will of the legislature, by definition.”
“Exactly. So when you say that your claim upon my wealth is by virtue of statute, you’re simply saying that you’re entitled to my property because you want it, and have written down that desire.”
“That’s a gross oversimplification.”
“It’s the unvarnished truth, which may be why you disfavor it. But tell me: what do the written desires of your legislators have to do with me?”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Your legislators can want anything, and duly inscribe it in the law books. So what? What’s it to me?”
“This is Wonderland, and you’re a resident of Wonderland, so our statutes apply to you.”
“Prove it. What does my physical location have to do with it?”
“It’s obvious. By statute, residents of Wonderland are subject to the laws of Wonderland. That goes without saying.”
“I see. The statutes of Wonderland apply to me, because the statutes of Wonderland apply to me. You don’t see the absurdity of that?”
“It’s basic law. If you live in Wonderland, you are under the authority of Wonderland.”
“So you claim. What is your proof? Do you have a contract which I signed, subjecting myself to you? Do you have witnesses who can testify that they saw and heard me accepting your jurisdiction?”
“Of course not. We have, as I’ve said, the law, which says you are subject to us because the law says so.”
Now, dear reader, how will this end? On one side, we have the owner of the property, whose ownership is unquestioned and unquestionable. On the other hand, we have Mr. Gov, who claims a greater right to the property because he’s written down that he is entitled to it, and that by some ineffable power this transfers ownership of the property from its owner, to Mr. Gov.
It seems open and shut, doesn’t it? The rights of the owner to his property, vs. the assumptions, claims and demands of a stranger. You’d be a fool not to bet on the owner!