I Don’t Want NOTHING From HIM!
By Carl Watner, from THE VOLUNTARYIST.COM
C. V. Myers, the investment analyst, related this story about his principled mother. “She was the most uncompromising immigrant to ever hit the Atlantic shores. She loved to personify the government. She called it HE.’ She could work up a much better mad about HIM’ than she could about an IT.’ She said, Let HIM leave me alone, I’ll leave HIM alone. I don’t want nothing from HIM, and let HIM not ask anything from me.”
When it came time for her to apply for her Canadian old-age pension, she balked. After long arguments, she was finally cajoled into applying. Myers said, We told her everyone else got it. She had earned it. Why shouldn’t she have it?’ After her death, in her bookcase, we found a neat stack of old-age pension cheques – from first to last – none had been cashed! She had stuck by her uncompromising guns. I don’t want nothing from HIM, and let HIM ask nothing from me . ”
How do voluntaryists relate to this story? Why do we have the same attitude as Myers mother? In short, why is it wrong for us to use State services and/or take anything from the State? We take it as a given that any action which is wrong or immoral for on a person is just as wrong for a few or many. As explained in John Pugsley s article in Whole Ho. 28 of THE VOLUNTARYIST (The Case Against T-bills and Other Thoughts on Theft “), the State is a criminal institution and the people who comprise it are either criminals or are acting as accessories. The use of the criminal metaphor to describe the State is at least as old as St. Augustine (354-439 A.D.), who pointed out that were it not for the State’s claim to administer justice, States would be nothing but big thieves. (“Remota justitia, quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia?”).
Those who accept this starting point, and agree that theft is a coercive and thus an immoral act, would naturally have second thoughts about dealing with a thief. How far do they have to distance themselves from him in order to claim that they do not sanction his act of theft? Do they become an accessory to his crimes by trading with him? Even if a thief “gives” away some of his loot, how can a person acquire valid title to property which the thief has stolen? The thief, possessing no title, can pass none. Doing business with a thief should be avoided for this reason.
How does the State differ from a thief? It doesn’t! The State has never had an honestly earned dollar in its treasury! It does however, from time to time, offer each of us the chance to recover some of the money it has stolen from us. Take Social Security as an example. One of the conditions of “above ground” employment is contributing to FICA. If we have been forced to contribute, why shouldn’t we claim our share of the benefits when the time comes to retire?
The crux of the problem lies in the fact that there is no way of getting ones own money back. Any money taken from you has been spent long ago. As a consequence, any money you receive from the State would be money that has been stolen from someone else.
Patricia Cullinane relates that the following story helped her to get this idea across to her students.
A band of light-fingered gypsies had set up camp on the outskirts of town. One evening they confronted you with a demand for your silverware. You resist, but they threaten to slit your throat, so you tell them where your silver is hidden. They take it and return to their camp. Later the next day, after having regained your composure, you enter their campground and demand that your silver be returned. The gypsy leader looks astounded. “But, my dear sir, you seemed perfectly willing to give it up when our agents called on you. We have spent it on a good and worthy cause – we’ve fed our hungry band and given it to our elderly. At any rate, you can readily see that we no longer have your silver.”
With that he tips a melting pot so that you could see the remnants of someone’s silver – no one could tell whose. This explanation doesn’t satisfy you. So he sends his henchmen out to steal another set of silverware, which he then offers to you.
Should you accept it? Although the gypsies technically owe you silverware, they have no right to steal a second set with which to
repay you; nor do you have a right to accept it. The title to that silverware resides with the person from whom it was stolen. If you accept it, you become party to the crime. Your action, while ostensibly an effort to recover your property, has resulted in a second crime.
As this example illustrates, the State has no way of paying back your money except to give you money which has been stolen from someone else. This is the primary reason that it is wrong to accept money or other benefits from the State. Two additional reasons for refusing State handouts are “There is no such thing as a free lunch, ” and “He who pays the piper inevitably calls the tune.” While acceptance of State funds or services can appear to offer relief in the short term, the inevitable long term cost to you is that you
become more and more of a vassal of the State. In addition to the further loss of your freedoms, you pay in the “golden coin” of your self-respect and independence. These hidden costs are destructive of your character and allow the State to set the conditions for the use of that which it grants. In any proposed dealings with the State we should consider that great pair of maxims: Tinem respice’ and Principiis obsta’ – which teach us to Consider the end’ and thus Resist the beginnings.’
We can easily see that the claim, I’m only getting back part of what I put in” – doesn’t hold up. Other common justifications for accepting State funds or services are that “Everyone else is doing it”; and “If I don’t, someone else will.” These assertions hardly need answering. Suffice it to say, that the numbers involved don’t change the principles. Hitler’s henchmen used as their excuse, that if they didn’t murder, Hitler would get others to take their places. That may have been true, but the man who pulls the trigger is responsible for his act, regardless of how many replacements there might be for his position.
One other argument comes up fairly frequently. When we refuse to take State benefits, do we not strengthen the State by allowing funds to remain in its hands? In one sense, we do – because the State does maintain control over more resources than if we had taken money or services from it. However, there is another, and much more important, question to be considered, and that is what happens to my personal integrity when I receive stolen goods?
You have no control over the State, those people who work for it, or those who milk it for all it is worth. However, you do have control over your own actions, and thus you alone are responsible for what you do. This is what is meant by the maxim: “Freedom is self-control.” Each one of us decides what we do: whether we vote or not; whether we steal; whether we tell the truth or deal in lies; whether we retaliate or seek forceful restitution; whether we deal violently with our fellow man or live in harmony. Your integrity, or lack thereof, is up to you.
Though your refusal to accept State funds may seem at times to strengthen the State, your refusal to accept anything from the
State makes you a stronger person. It should be clear that acceptance of State money is not a step in the direction of either a better you or a free society. No matter how good your intentions or how badly’ you might need the money, there can never be any justification or profit in departing from principle. And while we cannot control others, the person who acts on this truth sets a powerful moral example for his fellow humans. Though it sometimes appears that all we can do is preserve our own integrity through our refusal to accept State benefits, the impact this might have on others may be greater than we think. We must stand by our principles and let the chips fall where they may, being assured that “if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself. ‘
*Original article from The Voluntaryist Issue #31, April, 1988. http://voluntaryist.com/backissues/031.pdf