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Jewish World Review May 14, 1999 /28 Iyar, 5759

Walter Williams

Walter Williams
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General principles

(JWR) ---- (
ESTABLISHING GENERAL PRINCIPLES saves a lot of guesswork and confusion. In math, for example, we know if the length of one of the legs of a right triangle is 2 inches and the other is 2 inches, the hypotenuse (the longest side) is 2.8 inches.

What if the legs were 5 inches and 12 inches, what's the hypotenuse? Fortunately, we don't have to figure out the hypotenuse for every right triangle in the universe. There's a general principle or theorem given to us by Pythagoras that's applicable to any right triangle: "The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the legs."

Is there a general principle for moral conduct amongst people, or is everything situational? Fortunately, there is a general principle. Our Founders inherited that principle from philosophers such as John Locke and it's: each person owns himself.

They captured the meaning of that principle simply and eloquently in our Declaration of Independence with the words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Some might find the idea of self-ownership offensive and instead believe that we belong to the government, and the president and Congress are our overseers. That being the case, what follows is wrong and irrelevant.

Let's apply the principle of self-ownership to the national debate on how to fix Social Security. Both Republican and Democrat plans to fix Social Security are misguided and evil. This is easily seen if we take self-ownership seriously and ask a question or two.

What is the moral basis for Congress to force any person to set aside a specific portion of his earnings for retirement, whether it's Social Security or in a private account? You say, "Williams, retirement is important!" But, so is housing, clothing and food. Should Congress force Americans to set aside a certain portion of their earnings for housing, clothing and food?

You say: "Williams, your idea of self-ownership can only go so far. Many people are too short-sighted. If they're not forced to put aside money for retirement, they'll spend now and later be a burden on the rest of us."

Having to care for short-sighted people is a problem, but not one caused by self-ownership. It's a problem caused by socialism. There is absolutely no moral basis for government to take one person's earnings to give to another for any reason, including his short-sightedness.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against people liking socialism. After all, self-ownership implies that you have the right to be a socialist. My problem is that socialists use government intimidation, threats and coercion to force me to be a part of their agenda. If they went off and did their socialistic thing, and left me alone, I'd have no problem.

Based upon my unalienable right of self-ownership, I make the following declaration: I, Walter E. Williams, am an emancipated adult fully capable of tending to my own retirement needs. Should I fail to do so, I shall make no claim, in any form, on any American to tend to my needs. Therefore, I demand that the U.S. Congress return all monies previously confiscated and release me from any association with Social Security.

How much respect do you think such a liberty-oriented declaration would win among the American people and Congress? I might be wrong, but I think there's only one congressman who'd vote in support of it -- Ron Paul, R-Texas. That's a sad commentary for a people who boast of their love of liberty.


05/06/99: Confronting unpleasantries
04/29/99: Permissiveness costs
04/23/99: South Africa: after apartheid
04/19/99: A time for truth
04/12/99: Population and poverty
03/31/99: Moral hazards
03/24/99: Right to be left alone?
03/17/99: Why Congress can't be trusted
03/10/99: Racial profiling
03/03/99: Equality before the law
02/24/99: Population control nonsense
02/17/99: Congressional contempt
02/11/99:Blooming fur tyrants
02/05/99:More money, better education?
01/27/99:Absurdity, brazenness and hypocrisy reigns
01/20/99:Economics 101
01/13/99:A wrongful celebration
01/06/99: Economics of predation
12/30/98: Things I wonder about
12/23/98: Unseen crime costs
12/21/98: How to become rich
12/09/98: Advancing national decadence
12/02/98: The Civil War wasn't about slavery
11/24/98:What's happened to us?
11/20/98:Tragedy in black neighborhoods
11/11/98:Family debasement
I11/04/98: Is it them or us?
10/28/98: Where are the poor?
10/21/98: The budget surplus hoax
10/15/98: Where union power lies
10/08/98: Race and sex in the military
9/29/98: Can Clinton run the economy?
9/25/98: Liberals and the constitution
9/17/98: Clinton and future presidents
9/11/98: Donate or sell organs
9/03/98: Common Sense vs. Experts
8/26/98: Mother Nature's unfairness
8/24/98: The pretense of superiority
8/13/98: Yours or mine?
8/05/98: I do my job well, so that means I can....
7/29/98: Education production

©1999, Creators Syndicate