Famed economist and columnist Walter Williams says America has embraced the government thievery of personal property to benefit others and he says the politicians are only doing what the voters want them to do.
Williams is a distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University. He is a syndicated columnist and has substituted for talk show host Rush Limbaugh. His new book, a collection of his conservative-to-libertarian columns is entitled “American Contempt for Liberty.”
The title may sound a bit harsh, but Williams insists that’s exactly what’s happening in this country.
“The average American thinks that it is indeed moral for the Congress to forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another American. It will forcefully use one American to use farmers to serve farmers in term of farm subsidies or bank bailouts or welfare or food stamps,” said Williams.
“I think that the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another is immoral. As a matter of fact, that’s the working definition of slavery,” he said.
Williams is quick to point out that he has not problem helping his neighbor in need. It’s how that help is structured that he rejects out of hand.
“I believe that helping one’s fellow man in need by reaching into one’s own pockets is praiseworthy and laudable. Helping one’s fellow man by reaching in someone else’s pockets is worthy of condemnation. For the Christians among us, when God gave Moses the commandment “thou shall not steal” he did not mean that thou shall not steal unless you got a majority vote in Congress,” said Williams.
To see how far and how quickly the American system has drifted from its constitutional moorings, Williams cites an impassioned speech that James Madison delivered on the House floor just a few years after the Constitution was ratified.
“In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 to help some French refugees. James Madison stood on the floor of the House and he said, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article in the Constitution that authorizes Congress to spend the money of their constituents for the purposes of benevolence,'” said Williams, who says our government is now drowning in forced charity.
“If you look at the federal budget today, two-thirds or three-quarters is for the purpose of benevolence, or it can be described as the government taking the property of one American and giving it to another to whom it does not belong,” he said. “If a politician is running for office today, making the same statement that James Madison made, the American people would run him out of town on a rail because they’d have contempt for that sentiment.”
Williams says both parties engage in this “contempt for liberty” on a regular basis.
“Conservatives and Republicans believe in taking your money and my money and giving it to farmers and banks. Liberals and Democrats believe in taking your money and my money and giving it to poor people and cities. They both agree on taking our money, but they disagree on what to use it for,” said Williams.
As frustrated as Williams is by the redistribution of property, he does not blame the politicians. He blames the people who hired them.
“We can’t worry about politicians because politicians do what the American people want. If the American people want us to have a constitutional form of government then politicians will do the same thing. We have to somehow get our fellow American to believe in the moral superiority of personal liberty,” said Williams.
Williams says if he ran for U.S. Senate in Virginia, followed Madison’s lead in vowing not to bring money back to the commonwealth for roads, education or health care, he would get crushed at the ballot box because everyone’s incentive is to get in on the government thievery.
“The tragedy for our nation is that the people of Virginia would be acting exactly right by not electing me to the office in terms of their self-interest. If I don’t bring back billions of dollars to the citizens of Virginia, that doesn’t mean the citizens of Virginia will pay a lower federal income tax. All that is means is that North Carolina will get it instead,” said Williams.
“Once legalized theft begins, it pays for everybody to participate,” he said.
The problem with the government trying to meet everyone’s wish list is that it spends more and more and falls further into debt. Williams says that lack of liberty and discipline will eventually harm the very people the government tries to help.
“To maintain today’s level of benefits in Social Security in the 2030’s, the Social Security taxes alone will have to be 31 percent. I don’t believe that people in the labor force in 2030 are going to tax themselves 31 percent plus the federal income tax to take care of some old people,” said Williams.
His optimism for the future remains quite low, due in large part to the state of higher education today. Williams maintains that half of college students don’t belong there because over half of them require remedial work on campus that should have been done in high school.
Williams says the lack of understanding students have about the American founding is especially frightening.
“They don’t know anything about the founding of our country. There have been survey questions asking college seniors, ‘Where does the statement ‘From each according to their abilities and to each according to their needs’ come from?’ Some will say say that it’s in the Bill of Rights as opposed to the Communist Manifesto,” said Williams.
Williams says the future of America really comes down to one choice. And right now, he says we’re getting it wrong as a nation.
“Are we headed towards personal liberty or are we headed toward more government in our lives. I think it would have to unambiguously be the latter,” said Williams.