Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Exactly what I was talking about

[I updated this a little with the Bastiat quoting at the end.]

The AP reports that Senator Robert Byrd may not be a shoe-in next year. I doubt Byrd has much to worry about, even if Bush did win West Virginia in 2004.

There's a simple reason Byrd gets sent back to Washington, over and over, even if West Virginia has any "rightward tilt." It's the same reason the GOP-favoring New York Post endorsed Senator Chuck Schumer last year: big-government Democrats and big-government Republicans get together and elect who will bring home the most bacon. Remember that the Post wants NYC and NY state to put up $600 million for the proposed Manhattan stadium.

West Virginians love Robert Byrd because he brings home the bacon. It doesn't matter if he "shares their values" as long as he gets them more than their share of federal tax dollars. As the Tax Foundation reported last year, in 2003 West Virginia received $1.82 for every $1 its residents paid in federal taxes. As one of the all-time kings of pork barrel spending, Byrd often solicits support from fellow senators with the promise of logrolling: he'll support their projects if they support his.

I'll always remember something one of Boss Tweed's men wrote: when you're elected, it's a mandate from the people to get money for things like railroad contracts and manufacturing jobs. He had written this in the very early 1900s, I think. I don't recall which political party he belonged to, but really, party affiliation doesn't matter anymore in the ultimate effect on the taxpayer. Oh certainly, there will be disputes over tax rates, abortion, gun control, etc., but each party can spend just as well as the other. One of the problems with the federal government's spending is that if a program is cut and saves $x, that's not treated as $x that can be returned to the taxpayers -- that's $x that can now be spent on something else. As Walter Williams wrote:
Liberals believe government should take people's earnings to give to poor people. Conservatives disagree. They think government should confiscate people's earnings and give them to farmers and insolvent banks. The compelling issue to both conservatives and liberals is not whether it is legitimate for government to confiscate one's property to give to another, the debate is over the disposition of the pillage.
Nowadays, "conservative" is so meaningless when it comes to government spending, so I have to distinguish myself as a "conservative with libertarian leanings" or as a "limited-government conservative."

I think Bastiat in The Law best defined government taking money from some to give to others: legal plunder.
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.

The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.

Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
Words were never more prophetic. Yes, those who benefit from "legal plunder" will complain when it is taken from them. They claim, after all, that they are "entitled" to this and that.

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