We have rights, as individuals, to give as much of our own money as we please to charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of public money.

—David Crockett. Quoted in “Not Yours to Give,” by Edward S. Ellis, 1884.

Charity reflects an individual’s personal choice about how to spend his time or money. Once charity is forced (taxed) or labor is forced (conscripted), it is no longer charity. It then becomes an infringement of rights, as the government is effectively saying:

  • How dare you spend your surplus income taking your son to a ballgame! That money is better spent saving endangered frog wetlands. You are so morally depraved you do not realize endangered frogs are more important than your son, so we are going to force you to hand over that money by threatening you with jail if you refuse.
  • How dare you spend your surplus income by saving for your daughter to go to college! It is not up to you to decide who goes to college. We are going to give free education to underprivileged minority children, but since your daughter belongs to no such group, she can become a waitress. Surely if you were enlightened you would freely give your money so the underprivileged can be educated and not obscenely spend your money on your own daughter!
  • How dare you spend your surplus income paying a dentist to straighten your son’s teeth! What gives you the right to play God? Universal healthcare means your son must line up with everyone else. He can have his cavities filled but nothing more. We need the money that you were going to spend on his braces so homeless people can have the ‘right’ to receive free dental care.
  • How dare you spend money on your garden! That money belongs to people who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Your house is beautiful enough, you selfish person. Through our subsidies to “community organizers,” we are going to “beautify neighborhoods” and “enfranchise inner-city communities.” Your money will be paid to the disaffected and disadvantaged so they can paint murals on inner-city walls in rent-controlled areas.
  • How dare you spend your surplus income taking your wife to dinner! That money is better spent bringing electricity to Sub-Saharan Africa. If you were enlightened you would know that. We have no choice but to use the law to force you to spend money on electrifying Africa because, in your selfishness, all you think about is your own wife.
  • How dare you go to the movies every Sunday! You wastrel, you obviously have too much spare cash. We are going to tax you until you can only afford to go once a month. The arts suffer because of philistines like you. Your money will be used to pay unemployed ballerinas to dance at bus stops.
  • How dare you spend $15,000 remodelling your house so your mother can move in! She can go live in a public nursing home like everyone else. We will use the $15,000 we tax from you to pay for ‘universal aged care.’ She may be left in her own filth for days on end, but why should your mother live in better conditions than anyone else? Everyone must be equal for the sake of ‘social justice.’

These arguments all deny the right to property and assume that the majority have the right, by mere force of numbers, to take that which does not belong to them to spend on their priorities. People are not beasts of burden who can be harnessed and made to work for the collective—the Soviet experiment has proven that. Thomas Jefferson explained:

If we are made in some degree for others, yet in a greater are we made for ourselves. It were contrary to feeling and indeed ridiculous to suppose a man had less right in himself than one of his neighbors or all of them put together. This would be slavery and not that liberty which the bill of rights has made inviolable and for the preservation of which our government has been charged. Nothing could so completely divest us of that liberty as the establishment of the opinion that the state has a perpetual right to the services of all its members. (Letter to James Monroe, Monticello, May 20, 1782.)

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove