Should We Trade Freedom for Other People’s Money?

by Burt on April 2, 2012

Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education, has recently highlighted a profound quote from economist Thomas Sowell:

“A recent poll showed that nearly half the American public believes that the government should redistribute wealth. That so many people are so willing to blithely put such an enormous, dangerous and arbitrary power in the hands of politicians—risking their own freedom, in hopes of getting what someone else has—is a painful sign of how far many citizens and voters fall short of what is needed to preserve a democratic republic.”

The tenth commandment tells us not to covet, and Sowell, in his statement, warns us what to expect if we allow politicians to take from some in the hopes they will give it to us. First, we all lose our freedom to spend our money as we choose. And second, we trust politicians to spend our money wisely, when in fact they almost always spend it politically.

Here is the reality of politicians redistributing tax dollars. When FDR helped create the WPA in 1935 with $4.8 billion in federal funds, V. G. Coplen, the Democratic county chairman of Indiana, stated the larger goal clearly: “What I think will help is to change the WPA management from top to bottom. Put men in there who are . . . in favor of using these Democratic projects to make votes for the Democratic Party.”

When Woodrow Wilson signed the first tax bill after the 16th amendment became law, he advocated a progressive tax. By the end of his presidency, most American voters paid no income tax, but the richest Americans had a top income tax rate of 77%. That strategy may have won Wilson most of the votes, but it stifled investment; after enduring both this tax and World War I, U.S unemployment skyrocketed to 12% in the year Wilson left office.

In other words, the mass of voters did indeed gain temporarily when President Wilson let them off the hook and taxed the rich instead. But when the rich then took their cash into hiding, the economic slump led to massive unemployment, much higher than we have even today.

Many Americans gladly pay taxes to build roads and “improve the infrastructure,” but did they notice that Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, with his seniority, diverted a huge portion of the road building to West Virginia? President Obama told Americans they needed to subsidize solar panels, but Solyndra, which received more than $500 million in tax dollars, went broke—after contributing some of these tax dollars to the Democratic party.

When we redistribute our money for an iPhone, we get something we want and we give the cash to a company that earned it. But when politicians spend our money for a road or a solar panels, they are trying to gain votes and are giving our money to companies that can use it for political purposes. As Thomas Sowell says, it is a bad risk to trade freedom for the hope that politicians will give us someone else’s money.

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Burt and Anita taped an interview with Glenn Beck on February 14th for Glenn’s GBTV online. To watch the interview on YouTube, click on this link:

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