The Plunderers

by Michael Coughlin
Number 112 – 1st Quarter 2002

The other day there was a news broadcast in which a couple women wondered aloud why politicians were doing nothing to help solve the “crisis” in medical care facing people in the United States, particularly older Americans. One was practically crying when she talked about the choice her grandmother had to make between paying to heat her home or buying her prescription drugs. Washington needed to help her grandmother. It just wasn’t right that Americans had to make such choices and it was long past the time government should have done something to help, she argued.

I’m sure the two women walked away from the microphone feeling proud of their efforts to help solve the medical care “crisis.” They had demonstrated their concern. They were involved. They were advocates for the less fortunate in our country. They can feel proud of themselves because they care and are compassionate. And I’m convinced that many others looked at them and thought how noble these two women were, especially the one who was so troubled by the plight of her grandmother.

But as I listened, I came away with quite another picture of these two. I didn’t see compassion. I saw arrogance. I saw two women who said that they have the right to force other people to work for them.

These women, and so many others like them, hide behind “government” to steal from others. They act as though their good intentions excuse their thievery. They are part of a group of people I refer to as “plunderers.” Their noble causes serve to mask the ugly nature of their actions. But noble motives cannot justify their behavior. Noble motives don’t change the nature of plunder.

Every man and woman has sole claim to his or her life and every person has sole claim to his or her labor and the fruits of his or her labor. If people choose to give their lives and labor to help others, that is a choice they make and a choice they have every right to make. No one, however, has a right to take anything from another. No one has a claim on the life or property of anyone else. To believe otherwise is to sanction theft and slavery, that is, plunder.

Slavery isn’t a race issue. It isn’t a class issue. It is the forcible taking of the lives and property of others. It doesn’t matter who does the taking or what excuse he offers.

These women wanted the government to bare its teeth on their behalf. They wanted the tax collector and his billy club to extort money from others to hand it over to the grandmother. By hiding behind the mask of government, they can appear civilized and kind and generous while their hired politicians are taking money (taxes) from their neighbors. If they went directly to their neighbors and demanded money for their grandmother’s prescriptions, everyone would recognize that a theft had occurred. But when they hide behind the mantle of politicians and tax collectors, they can pretend to be compassionate.

I wish I had been able to ask them some questions. For example:

You look like healthy, strong young women. How much money are you earning to make sure your grandmother(s) have the care and medicine they need? Why don’t you and your family look after your own grandmother? Why do you want to make someone else do it for you?

Why should someone else have to pay for your grandmother’s prescriptions? What right do you have to take money away from others so your grandmother won’t have to dip into her own savings to pay for her medicine?

Do you or your grandmother have the right to make someone else work to support you? If you do, how and when was it that the other person became your slave?

What makes you think that calling on Washington to do something won’t make the problem worse? After all, Washington has waged a multi-trillion dollar dollar war on poverty since the 1960s and we are no closer to eliminating poverty now than we were then. Billions have been sunk into government housing programs and many of the worst crime-infested neighborhoods in our cities are in those government-sponsored housing projects. Why do you think that getting government increasingly involved in the medical industry won’t drive the cost of medical care totally out of sight and eventually lead to government-mandated-and-directed rationing? And then where will your grandmother (and the rest of us) be?

Some medical costs are high. But could it be that those costs, in part, already reflect Washington’s deep involvement in the medical care industry? Won’t getting the government even more involved raise medical costs more dramatically, just as the cost of higher education went through the roof after Washington started footing education expenses?

You pretend to be compassionate, caring people. But your selfish, greedy natures, your disdain for your neighbor and desire for his money are all too evident to a careful observer. If you really do love your grandmother, then set aside part of your life and your money to take care of her. Don’t demand that others shoulder your family responsibilities. She is your grandmother.

These women are not untypical of a certain segment of America. They think they have a claim to other people’s lives and labor. They imagine some “need” and then demand government force people to pay for it. The size of their eyes and the perception of what they can get away with are all that set limits on their demands. A century ago nobody would have pretended that medical care was a “right” enforceable against the earnings of other people. No one would have suggested his neighbor should be forced to buy medicine for him. But America has grown fat and rich during the intervening century, and the greedy have crawled out of the woodwork to demand they get a portion of other people’s pies. They don’t wear the pirate’s eye patch and wield his sword, but they are about the same business he was — living off the life and labor of others. They mask their behavior behind high sounding rhetoric. They pretend to be compassionate, but the truth is they show no compassion for those who are forced to pay for their pet projects. It is clear that our country’s great wealth is devouring any moral sense we may have had. We have taken up the religion of ease and convenience and have cast aside personal responsibility.