Life, Liberty, and Property
Wha ?? Don’t you mean “the Pursuit of Happiness?”
Well, no. What was originally written by John Locke in the seventeenth century and served as the basis of the well-known phrase in our Declaration of Independence, was that governments were instituted to secure people’s life, liberty, and property. Three legs of a very stable stool. Liberty preserves both life and property. Property preserves both life and liberty. Life creates both liberty and property.
By equating income taxes to slavery libertarians swerve into this concept. Suppose a person were to spend his time working not for wages, but tilling the land for food to eat. Is some of the food he harvests the governor’s? Is all of it? To the extent that it is, that person is a slave to the governor – he’s working for the governor. If all the food is the governor’s, he is 100% enslaved. If only a part of the food is the governor’s, he’s only partly enslaved. We see the slavery clearly, when it’s put in terms of food and not wages.
If that farmer exchanges his food for money, is some of that money now the governor’s because it has been converted to money? Why would it be different? You see, what people do with their lives is convert their time into property. It might be subsistence farming as we just described or it might be wages in exchange for cleverness. Maybe it’s cleverness in entertainment or cleverness in accounting or cleverness in growing more food than you can eat yourself. Truly, it doesn’t matter – what you’re doing is converting your life into property.
In Godly, Christian societies, the civil government makes no claim on your time. Chattel slavery is not allowed. That is the liberty leg of the stool mentioned earlier. We are free to pursue our happiest path of productiveness (turning our lives into property) and free to enjoy the fruits of that pursuit. Life, Liberty, and Property. (Let’s not forget that we’re also free to give thanks to our Creator for all of it.)
In our American culture in 2020, the combined burden of unavoidable taxes is about 30%, meaning we are slaves to the civil government for 105 days out of 365. With the encroachment of police-state tactics in the era of COVID-19 (some of which might be repealed when the crisis ends), our liberties are further eroded. At this writing, millions of Americans don’t have the liberty of pursuing productive lives. Under lock-down, the government is forcing us to eat the seed-corn. Neither do millions have the freedom to worship God – He has been deemed non-essential by the governor.
The major point to be made here is that forbidding of liberty of activity (economic, social, and religious) for the saving of some lives is being done at the cost of other lives. Bastiat’s fallacy of the broken window is in play. The costs of what won’t happen because of the activity not undertaken is ignored by our plantation masters. If we question the policy we’re painted as heartless by them and those who won’t look at the tradeoffs. Not just heartless – evil. No consideration is given to the guy who says, “My job feeds my family. That’s essential!”
We’re presented with a false dichotomy. The lockdown of society is not costless in terms of human life as our rulers would have us believe. Yes, it may be hard to measure at this point, but it will be measureable. The coming human misery and death for hundreds of thousands if not millions is now assured in order that tens of thousands might be spared of death by virus.
In much the same way as the plantation masters take wages of some to give them to others, the lives of many are now being ruined to spare the lives of others. This is not biblical, but they don’t care. They hate God.
We can worship the one true God and follow His precepts or we can worship and idolize the state, never finding a reason to say, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
If not now, when?
~John Bingaman, April 2020