When government seizes money
The toxic algae that has shut down shellfishing operations from Maine to Massachusetts has left Connecticut's crop untouched and business booming. The red tide taints shellfish like clams and mussels, making them unsafe for consumption by people or animals. Since May, Maine and Massachusetts have asked for federal disaster relief for the shellfishing industry. But the outbreak has had little effect on the seafood supply from Long Island Sound and has opened up some sales in the Boston area, Connecticut fishermen say."Federal disaster relief" means cash payouts to the fishermen. Cash payouts so they can earn a living and not work. What would Bastiat say? This isn't just the consumption spending transfer he described in "What Is Seen" -- in The Law, he described the crime of redistributing property:
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.If you can't find the job you want, or new work in something you've always done, you have two choices, and two only: change jobs, or move. It's flatly immoral to think of using government's power to make the rest of society to bail you out.
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.
"But it's only a few pennies per American," the protectionists will argue. Yes, but those few pennies will add up; it's quite irrelevant that the cost is borne by many, because the requisite "equal and opposite reaction" must be considered as a whole. Bastiat reminds us in "What Is Seen" that if government gives taxpayers' money to someone, that's a transfer of spending, at best. But in this case, society actually loses the money, because the fisherman is producing little or nothing. People would literally labor only to have that money confiscated by government, meanwhile receiving no goods or services at all in return. Government has given the money to someone else to spend.
Protectionists could argue that at least the money is being spent, generating economic activity. Bastiat's "broken windows" tore down that fallacy: his whole point was that the original (legitimate) holders of the money were already going to spend it. So if people know that they can labor more only to have government take more, as it is with a progressive tax system, why would most of them want to work harder in the first place? They wouldn't, and thus the economy could never reach its full potential.