On Tuesday Governor Jon Corzine delivered a somber State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature. Interrupted several times by polite applause, Governor Corzine outlined his vision for New Jersey: “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.” Clearly, the governor did not use those exact words, but that is the essence of his “vision” for the people of New Jersey. If those words sound familiar, they should be: They are the foundation of Karl Marx’s vision for a collectivist society.
Governor Corzine is not alone in embracing the collectivist principles of Karl Marx. Individuals across the political spectrum embrace (unknowingly?) the values and principles of Marxism, a phenomenon that was predicted by six-time Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas: “The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But, under the name of ‘liberalism’, they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.” Thus, since the ascendancy of FDR to the presidency in 1933, America has been transformed from a relatively free society to a (fascist) collectivized economy, a process that was accelerated under George Bush and will take another great leap under the Obama administration.
America is on track to fulfill Norman Thomas’s prediction, because well meaning individual like Jon Corzine and thousands of others in public life, have not questioned the morality-and economic impact–of redistributing income. They assume, as Corzine articulated in his Tuesday address when he said that we “affirm a basic truth: We are our brother’s keeper — we are our sister’s keeper.” Even if that statement is a “basic truth,” it does not follow that the government should tax its citizens to give benefits to other citizens. The nonprofit sector-voluntary action–was created by compassionate individuals to provide for the needs of the less fortunate in our communities. Unfortunately, many nonprofits today depend on government largesse for some or most of their funding.
Frederic Bastiat identified the policies that Corzine and other “do-gooders” deeply believe in when he wrote The Law more than 150 years ago. Bastiat was concerned about the rise of collectivism in his native France-and throughout Europe–and wrote his short treatise, a brilliant defense of individual liberty and limited government. Bastiat argued that “legal plunder” is a perversion of the law–that the law must only be used to defend individuals from theft, robbery and fraud.
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law – which may be an isolated case – is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system. (Emphasis added.)
America has created that system Bastiat warned about. It is called the welfare state-and it is financially bankrupt as well as morally indefensible. Despite the good intentions of all the public officials, academics, business executives, pundits and others who believe that the best way to help their fellow human beings is using the coercive powers of the state, they have to ask themselves, why is this process just?
Using coercion to do “good” is an oxymoron. Bastiat identified government benefits in general as “phony philanthropy.” Corzine asserted in his address that he supports unequivocally both phony philanthropy and legal plunder. He said: “…we must responsibly share our economic bounty” and “that health care is a right.” Goods and services are not rights. They are goals we all seek to obtain. And obtaining goods and services in the marketplace peacefully is the basis of a just society.
Corzine also supports the progressive income tax, which punishes people for being successful. There is no greater perversion of the law than the income tax, except for preemptive war. The Founding Fathers vision of taxation was clear: keep it low, simple and indirect. That’s why the U.S. Constitution and many state constitutions have had to be amended to allow governments to tax income directly. Even the New York Times opposed the 16th Amendment to the constitution. Early lawmakers and editorial writers saw the unfairness and immorality of an income tax, especially a progressive one.
Governor Corzine ended his State of the State address with a call to pursue the “common good” and for an “intellectually honest” discussion about how to resolve the state’s budget shortfall and weak economy. First, legal plunder can never be the foundation of the common good. And second, if the governor wants to have an intellectually honest discussion about how to revive New Jersey’s sagging economy and budget imbalances, he must discard the failed economic policies that Bastiat identified in The Law and do some soul searching about how what is in his heart and can be translated into the common good and better economic times using free enterprise and limited government principles.