“Briefly, the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area…While other individuals or institutions obtain their income by production of goods and services and by the peaceful and voluntary sale of these goods and services to others, the State obtains its revenue by the use of compulsion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet.”
- Murray N. Rothbard, Anatomy of the State
There are three basic ways of attaining wealth: production, trade or predation.
Now, ask yourself, which one of these three ways does the government attain its wealth?
Much noise has been made about Alabama’s political corruption. And rightfully so. I suspect if our oh-so-charming representatives in Montgomery didn’t have any corrupt interests to service, they would have little to nothing to do.
If only it were so.
But the sordid reality of Alabama politics aside, here’s another dirty little secret about government in general — legitimate and lawful state power can itself be corrupting and potentially destructive to a free and flourishing society.
Why? Because the government's lawful and legitimate powers are always an exception to moral rules the rest of us are called to follow.
Consider the Golden Rule. Jesus wasn’t playing when he says in the Gospel of Matthew, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Sums up the Law and the Prophets, indeed. China’s Confucius even had a version of this rule. Greece’s Epicurus had his own version too. I’ve always preferred Hillel the Elder’s formulation, especially the esteemed rabbi’s emphasis on the negative, “Do not do unto others that which you hate done unto yourself.”
Yet, the government remains the one institution that is allowed an exception to the Golden Rule. The government is allowed to do “that which you hate.”
Government, so the theory goes, must be allowed to transcend the rules itself to uphold the rules for everyone else. A paradox, yes. But it’s not hypocrisy, only hierarchy. Authority qua authority does have its unique privileges and prerogatives, after all. But don’t worry, the liberal political theorists tell us we can keep this powerful exception to the rules limited, checked, neutral, and balanced.
Nevertheless, even the justest and well-run governments sustain themselves by predatory actions that would never be allowed to any other institution or individual. Government is literally the systematization of legitimate predation over a given territory. I suppose it’s good to be the King — or, here in the Heart of Dixie, the Alabama Legislature.
But do Alabama’s legislators and lobbyists have it too good? Has the self-serving business as usual on Goat Hill turned them blind to the struggles of the people? Have their ABC-supplied liquor cabinets turned them deaf, dumb, or indifferent to the predatory nature of the institution they run? Has Alabama’s government accrued too many predatory privileges in the name of its authority to serve the people?
Again, even the use of legitimate government power can be corrupting — and such power can become downright destructive in a familiar, friendly, and subtle way when the government's exception to the rules becomes an every day, well-worn tool to manage society and enrich connected interests. If you want to trick good people into doing wicked things with a yawn and a shrug, have them serve an ever-expanding government.
All that said, when Alabamians go to the grocery store and are compelled to pay 4% extra by the Alabama Legislature after already paying an inflated 10%, 20%, 30% or more for basic necessities (40% year-over-year for eggs!) just remember this is no accident.
Four percent extra to the government when you buy foodstuffs is no natural law or heavenly command set in stone. It’s a man-made system of well-intentioned predation put in place for your own good and your children’s future. Pay 4% extra or else your children’s ‘free’ education may be worse than last place.
Inflation itself is also no accident. Inflation is no natural disaster. Inflation is a policy choice, just another part of an even larger global system of predation managed out of Washington D.C. — again, all designed to help you. Your money must lose value as your basic necessities become more expensive, all for the good of the nation and the wider world. The experts paid by the government printing press have declared this to be so.
Hey, Alabama legislators! Hey, Governor! I’m not asking for much. You can keep most of your predations intact for now. Some I even personally quite like and think we should keep. Despite my disposition, I’m a practical and reasonable man. But, for the love of all that’s holy, repeal the predatory grocery tax already!
And I’m not the only one asking for this. Activists and think tanks on both sides of the aisle want this done. Alabamians from all walks of life want this done. What’s the holdup?
I suspect there is one group that plays and pays both sides of the aisle that is hesitant on this grocery tax repeal — the AEA — as they understandably don’t want to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in grocery tax revenue flowing into their failed government-run education system. It truly is remarkable to see how such an utterly failed education system can be such a stunningly successful political nest egg for generations of mediocre politicians.
That said, you may suspect I don’t want to hear about “replacing revenue.”
Excuse me, pardon me, but preying upon Alabama taxpayers at the grocery store (especially in the midst of a man-made inflationary recession) seems like a gangsterish way of providing the taxpayers’ children an education.
It’s almost as though this system is designed to hold the taxpayers of Alabama hostage to themselves while the tax takers of Alabama (and there are many who make a comfortable living by taking in this state) skim money off the top — all while providing lackluster results with the money they have already lawfully and legitimately stolen.
In fact, it would do the people of Alabama a great service if the Legislature, the Governor, and the failed education racket (including their entire team of upper-middle-class lobbyists) found a way to become more efficient and effective in their systems of predation.
The people of Alabama are counting on you.
Remember, we’re all you got.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and currently, the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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