Let's start with "what's mine is mine". This is assuming all questions of ownership have been answered, and contractually I've acquired property as property is defined by law, including laws concerning usage. Does anyone have the right to take what's mine if I've maintained my responsibility of ownership, which is that my ownership and usage violates no one else's rights? I know from a private moral standpoint, aside from legal matters, that I have no right to take what belongs to others. It would be wrong.
Once the legal questions of ownership are answered, ownership speaks for itself -- what's mine is mine. No one has a right to take what's mine, and I have no right to take what's not mine.
We can not exercise our freedom if we have no right to use our property as we see fit, so property rights are the foundation of other rights. Here, I'm concerned particularly with money as property -- the wages I earn from my labor, leaving aside for the moment inheritance, although any inheritance I receive is mine as well, or should be mine.
Ownership of property is another subject that requires a book to address all it's various aspects, but here I'm talking about the basic principle of what's mine is mine, and I will relate it to political power which takes what's mine against my will. This has been argued many times, but it should never be dropped and with government spending way beyond its means, the subject is vitally important -- they're spending our money and placing us, and the next generation in deep debt -- it's becoming a matter of national interest related to the survival of our country.
We all understand that if we're to have government protection through police forces and a military, and we're to have courts to settle disputes, then all this must be paid for, so a minimal tax is necessary for the basic functioning of a government that provides services equally to all citiizens. How we're taxed is another matter (the income tax should be abandoned) and whether there's an alternative to taxes in order to pay for government services, such as lotteries, is another matter -- here, we'll accept the fact that government services need to be paid for and taxes will be raised to accomplish this. To maintain a government limited to policing, military protection of the borders and provision of a court system would require much less than the huge amount seized by the government each year to partially pay for all it spends on all it now manages and controls.
It requires a lot of mental energy and imagination to envision a government limited to police, military and courts, given the many areas of concern now under government control, but circumstances might force us to expend this energy and imagination because government might be headed for collapse. It's unimaginable under the present conditions that privatization could happen because the government is too deep in the private sector, but this can be reversed.
At least, we might be forced to begin thinking in terms of direction -- do we continue to allow government to take more and more control, or do we begin considering everything that can be privatized and left to the free market? Should we allow government to seize more and more of our property, what's ours, in order to spend it on what they see fit, or do we limit government and spend our money on what we see fit? Is it a matter of whether we would spend our money more wisely than government, or is it a principle of what's ours is ours and no one, including the government (as "one"), has a right to seize it?
Even if many in society have no problem with taxes and see them as necessary for government to provide all the services it provides, there are many who believe otherwise, so are their rights being violated? If we take the position that the majority decides through representation, then we accept that the rights of the minority are not important, which opens a large can of worms. In essence, the government is saying that your labor, represented by the wages you receive, is to be used to support government control of the private sector and you have no right to the wages you receive -- the government decides how much it will seize. This is justified by the fact of representation -- the majority can decide to do with your wages what they determine is best.
If the majority, either through apathy, dependence or ideology, decides that the government has the right to take more and more of our property to expand more and more of its powers, is this right?
These are tough questions but I believe we're at a point where they have to be answered -- government is going further and further in debt and trying to control more and more those things which aren't amenable to control, such as the market. A combination of financial disaster, social confusion and paralysis from uncertainty regarding rapid changes is having deleterious effects. Our mixed economy has become so mixed it seems we're at the crossroads of going all-out statism and nationalization of industry or limiting government to it's orginal responsibilities and allowing the private sector to deal with the rest. The quibbles between the two parties are now insignificant, our dilemma has grown to a choice between all-out statism or libertarianism as generated by the principles of our Founders.
And the dilemma is centered on property rights -- either what's ours is ours or what's ours belongs to the government. Will we handle our problems and our property in the private sector in freedom and community, or will we turn our freedom, problems and property over to government? Freedom has been handed down through generations and each generation gives up some of that freedom at the expense of the next generation -- when will it all be given up? At some point we have to stand up and say -- No more!
More and more, I see the need for a Constitutional Convention -- it's becoming time to regroup and have the Big Conversation. This is not anti-government -- I envision a limited government that sticks to its knitting which is limited, strengthened in areas where it should be strong and shackled in areas where it has no business. How someone upholding libertarianism can think a limited government can work when he/she thinks government now is failing and incompetent depends on the word "limited". Later this week I'll write about what I see as a good, limited government.