The State Give and Take

Passing a neighboring mobile home park, I see my friend Marcia on her front porch. Her little dog Beau starts barking when he hears me. Beau contentedly sits on my lap while we visit on the porch. Marcia has two teenaged girls and a 62-year-old husband. Girls are in school, husband works, and Marcia is stay-at-home mom with a couple entrepreneurial ventures. They own a newer mobile home worth about $300K.

Simply curious, I ask, “What’s your health insurance situation?” “None, we stay healthy. If we need a doctor, we go to the Med Center” I was a bit shocked and asked what would happen if someone had an accident or got really sick. She acknowledged that possibility and said they’d probably go bankrupt. I said it’s one thing to have no assets and no insurance, but if you have assets, you are exposed to collections.

Moreover, I said, society at large is made responsible if they are unable to provide for themselves. I said I don’t agree that should be the case, but it is.

I asked how she would feel if her neighbors were reckless and irresponsible, got sick or injured as a result, and then demanded that she cover their expenses? I said this is exactly what is happening when people don’t buy insurance or otherwise cover their misfortunes: The state demands that someone else pay, including future generations. Mind you this is a friendly conversation between friends.

Marcia said she never thought of it that way. She asked what could she do anyway?

True enough, there isn’t anything we can do about the policies, but to every extent possible, it would be wise to protect your assets. Her husband gets $800 in Social Security and $500 for a teenage child because he is an “elderly father.” I said, I don’t blame anyone for taking advantage of such benefits, but they also require others to pay for them. It’s a wholly unfair, redistributive scheme, popular with beneficiaries, but burdensome for everyone else.

How should it be, then, in my libertarian fantasyland? Very simple. We each fully pay our own way through this life. We practice thrift, industry, savings, and investment. We insure ourselves against misfortune. If for any reason we fail, we are then at the mercy of our family, friends, and society at large. Not because they are forced to help us, but because they desire to help us, voluntarily giving and nothing more. If that fails, we will be forced to admit our concern is false and hypocritical, and that we only care about others to the point we can force someone else to care for them.

I can hear the disparaging remarks now, but remember, before you insist that welfare, education, and the like should be society’s problem, you are allowing the state to forcefully take away your and other people’s property, a violation of the very protections we rightfully expect the law and the state to provide. Remember, too, the state will keep a large portion of this plunder for itself, and inevitably everyone will be taking far more money out than anyone can ever replace.

The French philosopher Frederic Bastiat said, “The state is the great fiction by which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”

He also said, “How can we identify and stop plunder? 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. 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.”


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