This video explores Frederic Bastiat's concept of Legal Plunder. Is it ever OK for government to steal your stuff and give it to someone else? Or is government just a glorified organized crime syndicate ala Tony Soprano? Does it really make sense for citizens to plunder each other like competing bands of vikings?
This video was produced by The Foundation for a Free Society. Find out more at http://www.f4fs.org
(see video at the end of transcript)
And now the philosophy of liberty. PLUNDER.
Imagine you you're sitting on your couch watching the big game when a band of vikings breaks in and steals your flat screen tv. What would you do? Since the government's job is to protect property rights you would probably call the police. With any luck you'd get your TV back, the vikings will be brough to justice, and life would go back to uh, normal...
Until... three months later the vikings escaped from prison. And guess what: they still want your TV. Only this time they hire the mafia to get it for them. Is there really any difference? Hardly, you don't have your flat screen and the vikings are still responsible even if they didn't physically steal it. With any luck you will eventually get your TV back. The vikings and the mafia will be brought to justice and life would go back to...okay there's probably no such thing as normal after that.
So what if the mafia decided to donate the flat screen to a family less fortunate than yours? Does this act of charity make the theft of your personal property any better? Absolutely not. Anytime anyone steals your property for any reason, with or without the help of a mafia, it's a criminal act of aggression. So what do vikings and mafia have to do with Frederic Bastiat? Not much, but Bastiat once said: "Government is a great fiction where everybody seeks to liveat the expense of everybody else." Bastiat observed that instead of hiring the mafia, contemporary vikings lobby congress to get what they want. Acts of aggression that are criminal when commitetted by you or I, suddenly become legal through the magic of legislation. In this way individuals or groups of people are able to steal life liberty and property of others with the protection and assistance of the government. It's what Bastiat called legal plunder.
What does legal plunder look like? Sometimes legal plunder is easy to see: when banks or businesses get billions of dollars in bailouts, that is legal plunder. When legislation forces you to buy insurance for yourself or others, that is legal plunder. Other times legal plunder is harder to spot and may even appear to benefit society, like federal farm subsidies, or social security. But anytime wealth is forcefully transfered from one person to another, it isn't charity. It's just another form of legal plunder. Legal plunder doesn't only apply to money. Government coercion that steals someone's life or freedom is another form of plunder. Like when your children are forced to attend government schools, or fight in foreign wars, or compete in reality television shows... Ok, so we made that one up but you get the idea.
Bastiat concluded that: "when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." In other words, legal plunder transforms citizens into competing bands of vikings, while transforming the government into a powerful mafia, carrying out acts of organized crime against the natural rights our founding fathers established it to protect. In this vicious cycle it's just a matter of time before the neighbour we plundered uses the government to plunder us. So the next time you see the helpful hand of government at work, ask yourself this: who is being plundered to make this possible? Don't be surprised if that answer is: YOU.