Stone Pigs

undeniable underlying truths

Slavery Isn’t So Bad, Is It?

Posted By on May 1, 2009

Dare to learn a little bit about yourself and answer these questions honestly:

  1. Do you believe that it is moral and just for one person to be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another?
  2. If that person does not peaceably submit to being so used, do you believe that there should be the initiation of some kind of force against him?

These questions were posed recently in an essay1 by one of my favorite educators and thinkers: Walter E. Williams, Ph.D., the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University. I greatly admire Dr. Williams’ ability to break down seemingly complex political and economic issues into their very essence. These questions do a fabulous job of that.

Consider these questions with regard to slavery. Do these questions not define slavery i.e. through the threat of violence, forcing one individual to work for the benefit of another? I think we would all agree that is wrong. At the same time, our government engages in this very behavior every day on behalf of a great many people in our country. Is that right? Are you in favor of that?

Consider this. I get out of bed each day and work for the fruits of my labor. Then, under threat of violence, some of that fruit is taken from me against my will and given to others. If I refuse, my government has proven that they will subject me to public threats against my home and family (like President Obama has done indirectly with a wink and a nod recently against automotive, banking, and AIG executives), criminal prosecution (unlike some folks in his own cabinet such as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner), and incarceration and suspension of many of my rights of citizenship.

Is it right that only slightly more than half of the folks in the United States are subjected to this slavery while the other half enjoys the fruits of the slaves’ labor? Virtually all of the government’s social programs are of dubious constitutional legality, yet are wholly supported by slavery, a most immoral circumstance.

With some degree of success, I have made a lifetime of trying to make good decisions and working hard to be able to support my family without the need to burden others. I have taken responsibility for my actions and planned for future contingencies. Is it right that I should be enslaved so as to benefit others who have been poor decision makers, refused to work hard, or failed to plan ahead? I resent that a great many of the beneficiaries of my labors fit that very description.

Dr. Williams often uses the following analogy. Suppose you live on a street where one of your neighbors is an old woman who is unable to mow her grass. Consider the following ‘solutions’ to this problem in terms of morality:

a) She pays you $20 a week and you mow her lawn.

b) You volunteer with a group of your neighbors to each take turns mowing her lawn at the same time you’re mowing your own.

c) She asks her son to force you to mow her lawn and threaten to break your kneecaps if you refuse.

d) She asks her son to rob you at gunpoint and then use the money to pay one of your neighbors to mow her lawn.

e) Your government taxes you (under threat of violence if you refuse) keeps some of the money for itself, and pays one of your neighbors a small amount to mow her lawn.

Clearly, choices A and B are highly accepted as morally good answers. C and D are not. And choice E describes perfectly how government operates. But how are choices D and E any different from one another? Actually, I consider E to be much worse than D because my neighbor and I both suffer: I am taxed against my will and my neighbor is paid poorly while the tax man enriches himself at our expense. Solution E is possible because politicians know they can win favor with voters by promising to give them things that are paid for by other faceless people who are described as mean-spirited villains about who’s rights we should not care. It’s an old formula and has been used with great success throughout the history of man. Many people supported the enslavement of Africans, and were happy to live off the fruits of their labors, because they were incorrectly told Africans were beneath contempt and unworthy of their concern.

The United States was founded on the principles of individual liberty and freedom. Its foundation was to be a limited government whose powers are clearly enumerated and granted only by the people. Instead, today we have a powerful central federal government that is feared by virtually all of its citizens and has stepped well outside constitutional and moral bounds.

Give this careful consideration as you contemplate the actions of the politicians who operate in your name and promise to give you things (such as health insurance for example) for which they have no constitutional authority in the first place. Consider whether you favor solutions A or B over C, D, or E and how you might craft workable solutions for problems within this context.

Perhaps then your choices on Election Day will be more clear to you.


1 Our Problem is Immorality, Walter E. Williams, April 1, 2009.


Comments are closed.