Jewish World Review Feb. 3, 2003 / 1 Adar I 5763

Thomas Sowell

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A cold shower

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Sometimes a phrase betrays a whole mindset. Someone quoted in the New York Times recently referred to the Bush tax cut as one in which "most of the benefits would be showered on the richest taxpayers."

Keeping money that you yourself earned is called having benefits "showered" on you! By this reasoning, anyone who has the power to take something from you and doesn't take it all is "showering" benefits on you. Anyone who has a gun and doesn't use it to kill you is showering life itself on you.

Big spenders and big taxers never want to face the fact that wealth is not created by government, but by the people that the government taxes. Moreover, these are seldom simply people who "happen to have money."

Most people who have money usually got it by providing other people with something they wanted badly enough to pay for it. This is never called "public service" by the politically correct. Selling people what they want, in order to get what you want, is called "greed."

It's public service when you decide what other people "really" need and impose it at the taxpayers' expense. It's public service when you create hoops for other people to jump through -- rules to follow, forms to fill out, lives to be lived as you prescribe -- all for their own good.

Given this mindset, you can see why letting people keep more of the money they earned is considered to be indulging them with benefits that the government "showers" on them. It is like subsidizing sin.

Anyone who has read "The Federalist Papers" -- or who has read between the lines in the Constitution -- knows that the people who founded this country had a great fear of government's power over individuals. They knew that there are always busybodies who cannot be happy unless they are telling other people what to do and forcing them to do it.

Property rights were put into the Constitution to keep politicians on a short leash, instead of letting them roam at will over the land and treat the wealth created by others as something for them to dispense as largess and use to buy votes.

People had the right to bear arms, so that they could defend themselves, instead of letting their safety and the safety of their families be yet another playground for bright ideas about crime and criminals, such as unsubstantiated theories about "root causes" and pious hopes about "rehabilitation" of criminals and "prevention" of crime.

It is not just a question about the rightness or wrongness of particular notions in isolation, but the unending proliferation of these notions. Every little wonderful bright idea has its rationale. It will make us safer, or smarter, or more sensitive. Above all, it will make us more like the anointed who have thought up these grandiose ideas.

If they think it is more important to look out for caribou than to look out for people, then you must be a slob if you think people are more important than caribou.

When you add up all the requirements, restrictions, re-education, and re-diculous ideas dreamed by all the 57 varieties of busybodies, you end up hemmed in like a rat backed into a corner.

Literally from the moment you wake up in the morning and take a shower (with a government-prescribed rate of water flow) to the time you flush the toilet (also with a government-prescribed water flow rate) for the last time before going to bed, your life has been laid out for you.

Incidentally, the government also subsidizes water for farmers from federal irrigation projects, so that farms end up wasting far more water growing things like rice in the California desert, when the same rice can be grown in parts of the country where ample water is provided free of charge from the clouds.

But consistency is not the bottom line. The bottom line is having you and the farmers both being directed by the anointed.

To people with this mindset, the government all but owns us.

It is no more than a logical corollary that they own our money. Therefore it is just an irresponsible indulgence when tax cuts "shower" us with the money we earned.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Controversial Essays." (Sales help fund JWR.)

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