Legalized Theft

 

The prosperity of everyone in a culture is dependent on their ability to keep what they earn. Every drop that they can’t keep, reduces incentive to excel in some way; and that is more destructive to the common good than anything else.

During the farm crisis of the eighties I had an acquaintance whose business failed because of the sour economy.

(The primary reason for that farm crisis was our boycott of trade with the Soviets. The Soviet Union meddled in the affairs of Afghanistan, so the United States blocked farmers from selling to their Soviet customers to punish them for, ironically, doing the same thing our government continues to do today. Their socialist system couldn’t support such excess. There are lessons here that are relevant to us today.)

My acquaintance easily qualified for bankruptcy “protection,” but he is not a thief so anything he could spare with years of hard work and a frugal lifestyle went toward paying those to which he owed money. I have great admiration for this man for recognizing and acting as if morality was more important than legality.

With this being an election year it becomes increasingly evident that earning has become an anachronism and wealth acquired through legal theft is broadly accepted.

There is a lot of talk about welfare cheats or illegal immigrants getting benefits only citizens are entitled to steal, but the really big lapses in moral behavior get lost in the stack of stuff. I’ll cite two examples.

Back to the Volkswagen emissions scandal we go again because I owned four of them back when we drove with the windows down and could fix them ourselves. Within a year of their election each Bush president had their illegal EPA cut nitrogen oxide emissions standards in half. The Bushes are an oil family and good friends with the Saudis. Diesel engines are a third more efficient than gasoline engines but they emit more nitrogen oxides. Today’s diesel emissions standards for new cars are 90% lower than the average car on the road, making them nearly impossible to achieve. In other words, the oil industry has legislated $20 billion dollars out of the pockets of consumers and into their own. I ask, who is the villain that affects United States consumers the most? The propaganda demonizing VW is sophisticated and funded with great incentive. The EPA is a tool of theft and should be eliminated.

Another alarmingly accepted legal practice is bankruptcy and the legal structure of corporations shielding decision makers from accountability. Unlike the simplistic views of leftists like Bernie Sanders, I don’t blame the corporations for their shenanigans as much as I blame the legal structure that enables them. My old friend was one individual, not an army of executives and lawyers beholden to stockholders. Individuals abide by moral standards while groups dilute or ignore them as the ends justifying the means.

A letter in The Wall Street Journal from a retired pilot, pointed out some facts regarding the bankruptcy of Delta Airlines that should have us rise from our complacent bottoms.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is a federal agency that is supposed to furnish (the actual language is vague enough that you need to look it up yourself if interested) a safety net for employees expecting a pension. Delta pilots will receive 16% of their expected pensions from taxpayers. Delta will pay nothing.

Since bankruptcy, Delta purchased Northwest Airlines for $2.6 billion, offered Japan Airlines $1 billion in financial aid, updated its fleet of jets, and expanded its employee base. But their retired employees and creditors get stiffed.

All government agencies that either stifle efficiency or reward failure should be eliminated, not reformed; eliminated. If their function was replaced by private insurance paid for by potential beneficiaries in the sectors covered, the costs would be reflected in prices. Competition with no subsidies would produce the best value for consumers. Legal contracts, without the theft of bankruptcy would reduce uncertainty and promote more prudent investment. Whatever innovation lost by increased accountability (no bankruptcy protection), would be outweighed by more solid financial decisionmaking.

Law that protects individuals from the aggression of others is all that is needed for a civil and prosperous society. Laws that pretend to plan, regulate, or incentivize will always be used by the well-connected to perpetrate the aggression that the law was originally intended to address.

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