A number of weeks ago I began to circulate a simple black and white meme. The idea behind it is obvious to someone who understands the underlying principles of freedom and tyranny; and with a high degree of certainty knows the difference between the two. I posted this meme on Facebook, after which one of my friends shared it, daring his liberal friends to debunk it. In turn, a firestorm of posts lit up his link from his liberal friends claiming that I obviously don't understand socialism. What followed was a highly successful debate for me, which is fine, but more important it helped me to understand that there are some simple words that are commonly misunderstood in our socialist "friends" minds.
Libertarians, such as I usually tend to be, have been circulating a sort of bumper-sticker slogan which seems to be gaining a lot of popularity lately. It is very encouraging to me to see this happening, and the more the idea catches on the more freedom will be returned to our society. The slogan I'm speaking of is, "taxation is theft." While I understand the reasoning behind their argument, as taxation is commonly being used today, and agree to that degree, I have to also say that they are mostly correct, but also partly wrong. Wrong enough that should they get their way the country could be, at some theoretical point in the future, in some serious trouble.
It is said in some small circles that sanity is the ability to distinguish differences and similarities. Just a brief description of this concept, by example, would be a person who couldn't tell the difference between a car and a tomato. You would say that he's insane because he's trying to eat his car and drive a tomato to work. See? So a person who could tell the difference between a car and tomato, using the car to drive to work and the tomato to make a BLT would be sane, at least on the subject of cars and tomatoes. By comparison a go kart is a similar thing to a car but it would still be pretty insane to take it on the freeway for your morning drive to work.
Do you ever wonder why the government and other large, liberal, sections of our society seem so insane? Well a big chunk of that is because they are; at least in terms of how insanity is defined above. Look at what I've said there, "sanity is the ability to distinguish differences and similarities." Your run of the mill, rank and file liberal, has no idea what the difference between taxation and charity is, so they treat them as if they are the same thing.
A slightly different class of the same kind of thing, should the Libertarians get their way, (oh please God, let this happen!!!) is that there are some cases where taxation is not exactly the same thing as theft; although taxation should always be kept at a very low minimum in a free society.
Words mean different and specific things, and because of that it's important to understand exactly what they are attempting to convey. The many different dictionaries have many different definitions for words; some of them correct and some of them, well, otherwise. Their overall goal is to define the words by how they are commonly used in a given society but what happens when they are commonly misused? Then the obvious result is that nobody knows what anybody is talking about. It's obvious to them what they are saying but why doesn't that other person get it?
Thus, when I define a word, I like to do it while including a few practical, easy to understand, examples. It's kind of like the difference between tomatoes, cars and go karts. See? It's hard to misunderstand. In the same way that Forrest Gump, while not too bright, was always the most sane character in the movie—it was because his mother always had a way of explaining things so he could understand them—it is important to define words in terms that can be explained so they are understood. In this simple way much of the societal insanities, particularly socialism, can be prevented.
My hope in these simple explanations is that the next time you see it you will recognize it for what it is and be able to come up with the correct action to combat it. So I would encourage you to look at this very closely and please bear with my indulgence in Mrs. Gump's foray into explanations—because they need to be so simple even a liberal can understand them. It's a low bar, I know, but it needs to be done if our freedom is to survive.
True principles are always simple.
Now—after my rather lengthy introduction—to the definitions of the words in the title of this article, and ultimately the point of it all.
Theft is when someone uses force, or threats of force, to take something from someone else against their will, for the use of someone other than who it's being taken from. Joe holds a gun to Bill, threatening to shoot him if he doesn't give him money. It doesn't matter if Joe is going to take the money for his own use or to buy his mother's expensive prescriptions, it is still theft. It also doesn't matter if Joe has a lot of friends who think his mother deserves to have expensive medical care, "and besides, Bill has too much money anyway." The point is that Bill has had something taken from him against his will under threat, it's still the same exact underlying principle as theft.
Taxation is when money is taken by a government for the express purpose of serving some common, broad based, necessity across a locality, state or country. It is important to distinguish a difference here that makes it very different in principle than theft. The money taken has to be spent on something that anybody in the area it is taken from, can benefit from, mostly at any time they choose. A county decides they need a road. They decide to use tax money to pay for it. Anybody in the county can use the road at any time they choose, to their own benefit. Assuming your wish to live in that county, that road is partly still yours, and the money is being taken of your own will by your choice to live there and drive on that road.
We've all heard the socialist argument that taxes are a good thing because of roads, police, fire departments and other such things. Here's what they are trying to argue. And here is also where they fail to distinguish the difference between taxation and theft. Money taken from Bill, to pay for Joe's mother's medication, is not taxation because the medication paid for by that money can't be used by everybody in the area where it is taken. Bill can never benefit directly by the money taken from him because he can't take Joe's mother's expensive medication. Only Joe's mother can take her medication. The roads can be driven on by us all. The military protects us all. The police and fire departments are supposed to do the same.
Now we come to charity. Charity is when some individual gives money of his own free will, to the benefit of another organization or individual, whether or not he receives any direct benefit from it. Maybe you like Joe's mother. I certainly think that assuming Joe's mother is a nice person and has always treated other people well—raising her son to be a thief notwithstanding—someone should be willing to contribute to her medication. At least I would hope that there would be enough people with a positive attitude towards her that they would be willing to cough up enough money to pay for her expensive illness, lacking the ability to pay for her own insurance. And given a government that is willing to stop taking excessive amounts of money from us by force, it could become likely for people to have enough money to give to charities of their choice. But I digress.
The underlying principle that distinguishes charity from theft is the willingness of the person the money is being taken from. The underlying principle that distinguishes taxation from theft is whether the people the money is being taken from is being used to benefit them directly and their willingness to pay it.
It should be very emphatically stressed that it is impossible to use taxation as charity. If you do not pay your taxes, which will end up paying for Joe's mother's expensive medication, and persist with that attitude for any length of time, nice men with guns will sooner or later show up at your door, incarcerate you, confiscate your property, seize and liquidate your assets, then use it to pay for Joe's mother's medication anyway. You might as well just let Joe hold you up at gunpoint and be done with it for all the difference it would make. I could make the argument that it might be better this way, because it would give the government less chance to take and waste their share through graft, but again I digress.
Charity, by its own definition, implies the freedom of choice to give it. Otherwise the definition is violated and it becomes theft.
So thus, I come to the point of my meme. "Socialism is the consideration that large groups of people have the right to take what they want from small groups of people." In other words, by theft and threatened use of force, they take what they want from people who are forced to pay through no individual choice of their own, for benefits they will never experience directly, to other people who have no connection to them. And very often the people in the government, who drive the idea of socialism into a society, do so with the end goal of lining their own pockets through graft, rather than using the money to benefit the entire society they are taking it from. However that is a whole different can of worms and not exactly the point of this article.
The bottom line is that socialism cannot exist without institutionalized theft.