H&R Block – Subversive Libertarian Propagandists?

I love tax season, and not just because of the dancing sign-wavers wearing Statue of Liberty costumes on the street corners.  Tax season is almost certainly the easiest time of the year to be a libertarian, as for a few short months, the general public suddenly remembers that the government has been stealing from them.  Those who attempt to do their own taxes become aware of exactly how much money has been taken from their paychecks.  People are often surprised, and not typically because the amount is just so small!  Despite the American tax system being intentionally designed in such a way as to minimize the likelihood that the average citizen will ever think about it, this is the time of year when some people actually do.

It’s also the time of year that we see commercials for tax services, specifically for H&R Block.  In recent years, they’ve adopted a somewhat interesting advertising strategy based on the premise that without the help of a professional, you are likely to pay more in taxes than legally required.  Their most recent commercial claims that the government overcharged Americans a combined total of $1 billion last year.  I’m not sure how they arrived at that figure exactly, but it’s kind of staggering to think about.

As far as I know, H&R Block primarily markets itself to middle-income families and working professionals (the truly wealthy who need expert tax advice are likely depending on personal tax attorneys and accountants).  The implication of this ad is that the government has overcharged you.  They have “your” money, and H&R Block can help you get it back.  While it doesn’t go as far as to suggest that taxation in general is illegitimate, it certainly is openly suggesting that everyone would benefit by paying as little in taxes as possible, taking advantage of every possible deduction, subtraction, and loophole.  There is no inkling of Joe Biden’s notion that paying taxes is “patriotic,” nor the slightest insinuation that any individual taxpayer might not be paying their “fair share.”

I consider this to be a somewhat subversive message, because it certainly runs contrary to what we’re often told by the political class – that taxes are a virtue, that true patriots love paying them, and that most people, especially the wealthy, absolutely wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more than is absolutely necessary.  If any of that nonsense were true, H&R Block wouldn’t exist.  They certainly wouldn’t base their marketing strategy around the premise of “Paying as little in taxes as you possibly can is such a great thing, you should pay us to help you do it.”

It’s also the kind of commercial that just might get people thinking.  It might get someone to consider some questions, questions which may lead to more general contemplation about the government and the income tax system as a whole.  Questions such as:  “Why is the tax code so complex?” or “Why is it okay for someone to commit an error on their taxes in the government’s favor, but if you commit an error in your favor, you are heavily penalized or possibly even jailed?”  Thinking about these issues is a small first step down the rabbit-hole of rejecting government authority entirely.

The ultimate irony in all of this is that, if you’re opposed to the income tax entirely, H&R Block is far from your ally.  They themselves depend on the tax code being insanely complicated in order to generate potential customers.  Any political proposition to “Put the IRS out of business,” would almost certainly put H&R Block out of business as well.  They’re walking a very thin line here.  They want Americans to possess a strong desire to obtain the highest possible tax refund, but at the same time, they certainly don’t want Americans to despise the tax system to the extent that they might actually vote for any meaningful reform.  In a free market, H&R Block simply wouldn’t exist.  They have a very bizarre love/hate relationship with the IRS in the sense that they are adversaries, but only a little bit.  They’re like football players on opposing teams who shake hands and go out for a beer after the game.

The fact of the matter is that even if you believe taxation is a moral good, $1 billion in “unclaimed deductions,” (or whatever you want to call it) means that the government is stealing from the public at large.  This is money that the government took out of your paycheck that you do not actually owe.  In any other context, this would be a criminal offense.  The notion that the onus is on you to correct them is absurd.  If a business was found to be intentionally and repeatedly overcharging its customers and leaving it up to them to request refunds, the government would absolutely fine the owners and threaten them with length jail time.  The public at large would be outraged at such a dishonest practice.  And yet, when the government does it to us, we just sort of collectively shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, that’s just the way it is.”

But it doesn’t have to be.  We don’t have to live under such a ridiculous and tyrannical system.  Of course, to avoid this problem, we have a couple different options.  One is to go to H&R Block and pay them a bunch of money, hoping that they might be able to find a couple poorly-worded grey areas in the tax code that you can take advantage of in order to save a few hundred bucks.  Or, we can change our worldview entirely, and promote a society founded on voluntary cooperation, at which point all the government bureaucrats, IRS agents, and the H&R Block code-talkers will have to get jobs that are actually productive to society.  Forget getting our “billion back.”  I think we should aim a little higher.  In 2012, the federal government alone took in over $2.4 trillion in tax dollars.  Let’s get our $2.4 trillion back, America!

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The Unintended Consequences of “Helping” The Troops

This looks about right

Payday Lending and Overdraft Protection | The Volokh Conspiracy

Back in 2007, the U.S. military was facing a problem.  Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines were (and still are) awful with money.  They were racking up massive debts, and scrambling to attempt to get their heads back above water.  Bad credit became the #1 reason for security clearance denials.  In order to attempt to dig themselves out, many servicemembers resorted to the ever-vilified payday loan.  Members of the military are great targets for these loans, as they get reliable and predictable paychecks, and are pretty easy to pursue, locate, and collect from in case of default.  The payday loan office became one of the staple businesses you’d see outside every military base (along with liquor stores, tattoo parlors, pawn shops, and strip clubs).

Of course, payday loans are notorious for having ridiculously high interest-rates, when measured on an annual percentage basis.  Which makes sense, given that they’re typically targeted at people with bad credit.  The higher the credit risk, the higher the interest rate.  But simple logic has never really been the strong point of the top military brass.  They were outraged that their soldiers were being “victimized” by these “predatory” lenders.  Something had to be done!

How did they decide to solve this problem?  The same way the government always solves problems.  By declaring certain voluntary transactions to be illegal.  They passed the Military Lending Act, which in essence, made it illegal to offer a payday loan to someone in the military (in reality, it capped the interest rate you could charge on loans to servicemembers, but capped it at a rate significantly lower than most payday loans typically charged).  Problem solved, right?

Of course not.  Prohibition never works.  Like every other ban on voluntary economic transactions, it did more harm than good.  As I’ve discussed before, you cannot possibly improve someone’s conditions by making a list of their various options, and taking away the option they actually chose.  What was supposed to be a victory for the troops against the evil lenders who wanted to exploit them has simply caused servicemembers in financial distress to be forced into even worse options to obtain short-term cash.

Now that the payday loan office is unavailable to them (for their own good, of course), many have resorted to simply overdrafting their checking accounts.  What do you know – it turns out the fees associated with that are pretty high – possibly even higher than the interest on a payday loan.  This one is going to be a lot tougher to solve.  Then again, when all the government has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

You see, overdraft fees are another common enemy of the anti-banking agitators.  Calls for them to be capped (not just for the military, but for everyone) are rather common.  Would this solve the problem?  Of course not.  It would just eliminate one more viable option (as well as causing banks to increase other fees to compensate, and/or eliminating a useful program that many people use responsibly for emergencies only).

If we were taking odds on how Congress and the DoD will respond to this phenomenon, the smart money would be on yet more restrictions and regulations on voluntary economic activity.  Economic knowledge is severely lacking in the government in general, and in the military specifically.  It’s an autocratic culture that presumes any problem can be solved by barking orders at people.  But these problems won’t go away with more bans.  People who need short-term cash, military or civilian, will find a way to get it.  Making it harder will only serve to force them into even worse situations than before.  As always, the best way to help those in need is to give them more, not fewer options.

P.S.  A ban on payday loans specific to military personnel is in fact legally enforced segregation.  Consider what the response might be if a business, even a commonly hated and vilified business, decided on its own accord, that it would refuse to serve any customers who happened to be in the military.  Even if they justified it in the name of patriotism and protection, the negative PR would be tremendous.  Imagine a smoke shop refusing to sell cigarettes to military personnel (because it’s bad for their health, and our soldiers deserve to be protected).  The public outrage over this “discrimination” would be off the charts.  The business would likely be sued and forced to reverse such a policy.  But when it’s the government forcing businesses to discriminate (as was done in the Jim Crow south), people just seem to shrug it off.

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The Chris Christie Scandal Isn’t Really About Chris Christie


Pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain.


Glenn reacts to NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s bridge scandal

On his radio show on Thursday morning, Glenn Beck devoted the entire first hour to savagely ripping apart Chris Christie over the scandal regarding his staff intentionally creating traffic issues in order to punish a political rival.  While much of the criticism from Glenn and his co-hosts Pat and Stu was technically correct (I’m sure Christie is indeed a scumbag, a progressive, and someone that any sane person should never consider voting for), they (and everyone else in the mainstream media) have missed the point entirely.  Everyone is focusing entirely on what this scandal means or implies about Chris Christie.  The working assumption seems to be that Christie is just abnormally evil.  That this is a fluke occurrence due to a personal flaw in one specific politician.

Of course, those of us who think critically about government power in general understand that this isn’t about a personal flaw at all.  This scandal is a mere symptom, and the disease is government power in general, not Chris Christie specifically.  While the media focuses entirely on whether or not Chris Christie personally knew his staffers were intentionally messing up traffic, they fail to ask one simple, obvious question that should serve as the elephant in the room for any sane public policy discussion.

“Why do we live under a system where low-level partisan political appointees and faceless bureaucrats have the power to instantly and unilaterally make decisions that can absolutely wreck the lives and economic activity of hundreds of thousands of people?”

No, instead of that, MSNBC and Glenn Beck will both vigorously debate whether Chris Christie should be allowed to appoint his friends into positions of power where they can ruin people’s lives for the purposes of exacting revenge on their political enemies.  Neither will bother to point out that perhaps nobody should be allowed to do this.  Perhaps low-level bureaucrats shouldn’t be given the power to shut-down our major cities on a whim.  Perhaps the solution to this isn’t “replace Chris Christie with someone better,” but rather “Remove the entire mechanism that is subject for easy abuse.”

Of course, they could never advocate that – because all government consists of such mechanisms that are subject to easy abuse.  All the way from the President of the United States down to the desk clerk at your local DMV, the entire system is built around the notion that it’s perfectly reasonable to give power to people with zero accountability and absolutely no economic incentive to behave in a fair or rational manner.  We can’t possibly start suggesting that perhaps a governor’s political aides shouldn’t be able to shut down traffic whenever they please!  That might lead people to actually think about these issues!  It might even lead some of them to the conclusion that we shouldn’t give any politicians any power whatsoever!

It’s not at all surprising to see these questions ignored by CNN.  But for someone who calls himself a libertarian (sometimes), it’s a little jarring that the issue is never even broached.  I don’t mean to pick on Beck here.  He’s no worse than any other media outlet in this regard.  But he’s done some good work on some other issues in the past, so my standards for him are a little bit higher.

There’s a reason that these sorts of “political corruption” scandals usually go completely ignored by libertarian-leaning outlets.  Libertarians inherently understand that “politician abuses power” is a “dog bites man” story.  It is common, predictable, expected, and virtually certain to happen, due to the nature of government itself.  So long as we allow people to rule over others, corruption will never go away.  It won’t go away when New Jersey replaces Chris Christie with a Democrat.  It won’t go away if we replace Obama with Ted Cruz.  It will only go away when a large enough portion of the population decides to start ignoring the wannabe dictators who presume to bark orders at us and establish a society based on peaceful cooperation and voluntary exchange.

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The Inevitable Obamacare Statistics Game

I’m very very late on this one.  The idea for this originally came to me a few weeks ago back when Obamacare was still dominating the headlines and many of its supporters and architects were rushing to defend it with the logic of:  “Sure, some people are losing their insurance [despite the fact that Obama said they wouldn’t], but many more people who didn’t have insurance before will now have it thanks to the wonder of Obamacare.”

I’d just like to make an official prediction here.  This will in fact be true.  Well no, not really true as in that it will reflect reality, but it will be true in the sense that the government will produce statistics that will say it is true.

Recall back during the days of the stimulus how much constant bickering back and forth there was over the “job statistics.”  Seemingly every day, the administration would trot out new numbers of “jobs created or saved because of the stimulus” and conservative commentators would tear them apart.  Regardless of which side you took on that, you have to admit that coming up with a figure for jobs “saved” is pretty much guaranteed to be a difficult exercise filled with plenty of subjective judgment calls.

The inevitable Obamacare statistics game will play out in a similar fashion.  Within the next few months, you can bet that they’ll start trotting out the statistics of how many previously uninsured individuals now have insurance, all because of Obamacare.  This is going to be a big number.  It has to be, or they won’t ever release it or publicize it.  Not only does it have to be big, but it has to be bigger than the number of people who lost coverage.

Specifically, I think we’re going to see them actually start to count everyone who just recently lost their insurance because of Obamacare as uninsured, and when these millions of people finally obtain their insurance through the government’s crappy website, they will then be included in the category of “people who didn’t have insurance, but now do, thanks to Obamacare.”  This is obviously misleading and dishonest, but seems to be just technically true enough that Politifact will rate it as absolute truth and smear any conservative who dares to disagree.  In other words, they’ll get away with it.

Just remember when it happens that you heard it first, right here on Dude Where’s My Freedom!

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Denver Post inexplicably removes word ‘socialist’ from story about CO shooter – Glenn Beck

Denver Post inexplicably removes word ‘socialist’ from story about CO shooter – Glenn Beck.

I don’t normally pay much attention to school shootings.  They just aren’t stories that interest me very much, and I feel like most of the perpetrators are merely seeking attention and that the obsessive media coverage they tend to get ends up giving them exactly what they want.  Personally, I think we should treat mass shootings the same way sporting events treat streakers, by ignoring them, thus minimizing the perceived benefit they get from the action they take.

On the other hand, this story seems pretty damn interesting.  This particular shooting has quite a bit of facts that just don’t fit in with the narrative the media trots out in the usual aftermath of these things.

As a strong supporter of individual rights, I’m not at all in favor of judging people based on their political affiliations.  Please do not mistake this for a suggestion that somehow, the actions of this one kid can be used to judge all socialists.  There are crazy, violent people in every group all across the spectrum.  It’s not the fact that this kid was a socialist that interests me, so much as it is the fact that the media went out of their way to attempt to hide that fact.  The editing on this quote, done AFTER the fact, is pretty damn obvious and transparent.  There’s really only one reason you would bother to do that…

When called on it, their response was even more hilarious.  This particular editor from the Denver Post offers up a standard defense straight out of any political discussion on any comments section of any article whenever someone attempts to call someone else a socialist:  “You don’t even know what it means.”  That’s right, rather than explain how being a socialist isn’t relevant to the story, or explaining why the alleged gunman was NOT in fact a socialist, the editor simply declares that anyone who would label him as such “probably” doesn’t know what it means.  As if it’s just so difficult to understand.  Surely they’d do the same thing if a classmate called him a republican, a tea party member, or a libertarian, right?


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Some Children Left Behind… Maybe

If standardized testing doesn’t tell us something meaningful, why does the AP bother to report on its results?

Diligent Asian students dominate global exam.

I’d just like to bring this to everyone’s attention, as it directly relates to my previous piece on standardized testing.  This article is a great example of the sort of thing I was talking about, in which standardized test scores are treated as an objective and factual measurement of the quality of education students are receiving internationally.

Fortunately, this article is an example of good journalism in that it also tells the other side of the story.  It quotes numerous Chinese sources expressing concern that test scores aren’t the only way to measure the quality of an education.  Of course, this fact will be lost on the politicians.  You can bet that the next time Barack Obama (or some Republican running for office, this isn’t party-specific) wants to improve his poll numbers with housewives, he will cite how we’re “falling behind China in math and science” and this standardized test will be the “proof” he relies on to make such a statement.

Meanwhile, his friends in the teachers unions will be in violent opposition to any and all proposals to judge teachers or schools based on test scores.  We’ll be told that these scores fail to account for a large number of other important factors and are an awful way to measure student performance and the quality of education received.

Remember:  You can’t have it both ways.  Either standardized testing tells us something useful about the quality of education students are receiving, or it doesn’t.  You cannot point to poor standardized test scores as a justification for throwing more money at an awful public school system, but at the same time reject standardized test scores as a valid criteria upon which to make judgments regarding school or teacher performance.

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Article Roundup – 11/29/13

White House urging allies not to drive traffic to HealthCare.gov | Fox News.

This one really strikes a nerve for me.  One of my biggest “pet peeves” (more like majorly infuriating preoccupations) is how government agencies (and government-protected monopolies, such as public utilities) actively encourage their supposed “customers” to use less of their services.  You literally never see this in the private sector.  Can you imagine Wal-Mart asking people not to show up on Black Friday, because the store cannot handle the capacity of potential shoppers?  Can you imagine Sony leaning on the press, asking them to encourage people not to purchase a Playstation 4, because they cannot meet demand?  Can you imagine the CEO of Amazon delivering a press release suggesting customers attempt to shop at 2 AM, in order to avoid any potential outages?  None of those things would ever happen, but they are regular and common occurrences when the government is involved and competition is forbidden.


Catastrophic Plans | Laissez-Faire Bookstore.

Speaking of Obamacare, this is an excellent editorial by Jeffrey Tucker discussing how the system is inherently flawed, never could possibly have worked, and is doomed for failure.  It’s an excellent basic summary of all the economic fallacies in play here, but ends with an optimistic point that the completely obvious failure of government might lead to individuals opting out of the system entirely, and coming to the realization that free markets handle everything better than government coercion possibly can.


Working on the Holidays.

Bob Murphy has some excellent insight regarding the “controversy” over some big box stores being open on Thanksgiving.  I provide a brief little anecdote from my personal life in the comments.  The short version is:  As a single guy who isn’t particularly emotionally invested in holidays, I wish I had a job that was important enough that I had to work holidays!  This is a fake controversy spun up by the usual leftist agitators who look for any excuse to attack and demean successful businesses.


Chevron’s landmark lawsuit exposes ‘greenmail’ | New York Post.

I’ll be very interested to see where this goes.  We’ve reached the point where agitating and attempting to extort major corporations has become a huge business in and of itself.  We’ve seen how agitators extorted banks to provide sub-prime lending to unqualified candidates while shouting “RACISM!” which helped fuel the collapse of the housing market.  Now, we’re seeing how the environmentalist crusaders may be simply making things up out of whole cloth, and wrapping it in a clever presentation that the ignorant masses are all too happy to believe.  If true, these allegations are pretty sickening, and I would hope that the environmentalist left would denounce anyone on their own side caught engaging in such blatant fraud, but don’t hold your breath on that.

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The Tom Woods Show – A Must Listen

The Tom Woods Show.

Hopefully, most of you are familiar with Tom Woods, author, speaker, radio host, and all-around great guy.  About a month ago, Tom started a regular daily podcast, which airs Monday-Friday at noon EST, and is then available for download shortly thereafter.

This podcast is absolutely wonderful.  I’ve listened to every episode and have yet to be disappointed.  Tom is well connected and is friends with some of the best and brightest libertarians in the world.  Guests have included the likes of Ron Paul, Bob Murphy, Walter Block, and Glenn “Kane” Jacobs.  He has covered some of the most critical and common topics that come up in political debates, bringing in experts in a wide variety of areas to help educate listeners in the best ways to approach common objections to libertarian arguments.

While the guests are great, Tom shines even more when he’s left to his own devices to just talk for 30 minutes on any given topic.  For my money, he’s quite simply the best speaker the liberty movement has to offer, period.  He’s witty, engaging, intelligent, funny, and charismatic.

If you’re waiting for me to qualify this with a “but,” then don’t bother.  There aren’t really any flaws with this program to speak of.  Like everything else Tom Woods attaches his name to, it is completely solid all-around.  If you’re the least bit interested in libertarianism, freedom, Austrian economics, and any of the issues we commonly discuss here, the Tom Woods Show is an absolute must-listen.  Make time to take 30 minutes out of your day to listen to this podcast.  You absolutely will not regret it!


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FDA Steps Aside To Allow Lifesaving Vaccine… For The Well Connected


Causing death and misery since 1906


Correction: Princeton University-Meningitis story – The Washington Post.

Make no mistake about it; the primary purpose of the FDA is to stop you from getting access to medicine that might save your life.  Of course, a defender of leviathan would point out that what the FDA intends to do is to stop you from getting access to medicine that might kill you, but the latter is impossible without the former.  While the FDA requires pharmaceutical companies to go through a multi-year approval process costing tens of millions of dollars, people continue to die from conditions that the drug they’re prevented from buying could have cured.  People suffer pain that could be alleviated.  The bureaucrats don’t care.  The government never cares about you.

Unless you’re really well connected.  Say, for example, you’re Princeton University and you have an outbreak of bacterial meningitis on your campus.  Lives are at risk, here!  And not just any lives, but the lives of rich people’s children!  Our future overlords are in peril!  Something must be done!  But wait… the only available treatment is a vaccine from Europe that hasn’t been approved by the FDA.  Oh well, I guess that’s that.  We all know the FDA approval process is there for a good reason – to protect us.  Surely they wouldn’t just randomly choose to ignore it simply because a highly public, visible, and well-connected group is at risk of a deadly infection…

Silly me, of course that’s exactly what they would do.  It’s what government always does:  Grant special favors to a protected class.  The simple fact of the matter is that if you or I wanted the protection this drug offers from bacterial meningitis, we would be told “tough luck.”  The experts have deemed it not sufficient for public purchase, so we aren’t allowed to have it.  You know, for our own good.  But for some reason, this logic and reasoning doesn’t apply to the students at Princeton.  They are enlightened.  Surely they are capable of weighing the risks and making an informed decision for themselves.  (Note:  As far as I can tell, no Princeton student will be forced to get this vaccine, they will literally be able to choose for themselves.)  We don’t have to apply the normal rules to them.  The FDA has been standing in the way of progress and condemning individuals to suffering and death for over a century, but they’re happy to “allow” this vaccine to be distributed by Princeton.  The tone of this article is incredibly revealing.  It’s as if medicine only exists because the government “allows” it to.  As if we should be thankful.  As if the FDA is the reason this vaccine can be provided, and they are the ones heroically saving the lives of those poor, defenseless students at Princeton.

What a joke.  The reason this vaccine can be provided is because a private company wanted to make a lot of money, and they sacrificed a great deal of labor and capital into developing a product they intended to sell.  The FDA does nothing but obstruct and get in the way of this process.  They provide numerous roadblocks designed to slow it down and increase its cost, both of which are ultimately paid for in human lives (from those who couldn’t get access to the drug in time to save their lives) and higher prices (the companies don’t just eat the increased costs of development, they pass it on to you and me, once the drug is finally approved).  Rather than celebrate the kind generosity of the FDA for granting a special favor to a privileged class, we should remind ourselves that it is a parasite, literally sucking the life out of our society in the name of economic control.  It is the villain, not the hero, of this story.

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The Military Has No Business Engaging In “Humanitarian Operations”




I’ve mentioned before that I firmly believe the best way for libertarians to win over statists is to fearlessly tackle the “hard” issues, rather than easy ones.  Railing against drones and the NSA is like shooting fish in a barrel – it’s easy to get people to concede that a Presidential “kill list” and government agents snooping on grandma’s e-mails are probably not the greatest things in the world.  On the Internet, where the audience is younger and comprised mainly of socialists, liberals, and libertarians, tirades against wasteful spending by the military-industrial complex are a dime a dozen.  Other than a small minority of neocons, almost everyone agrees that the military spends entirely too much money and that our nation would greatly benefit from a dramatic change in the size and scope of its armed forces.

But there’s one area of military spending that everyone seems to absolutely love – humanitarian aid missions.  Every time something goes wrong in some backwater, third-world country, you can bet that United States Sailors and Marines will be on-scene within hours, handing out free goodies and assisting in relief efforts.  These missions are almost universally applauded and supported, and the increasingly unpopular DoD is on to this.  In public relations, the military seems to be focusing more on its humanitarian missions and less on its core function (you know – killing people with flying death robots).  Think of the recruiting ads you see on TV.  These days, you’re much more likely to see images of soldiers handing out boxes of food to poor children than you are to see them kicking in doors, shooting militants, or dropping bombs on terrorist camps.  This change in messaging is entirely understandable – combat operations are generally horrible and often politically controversial, but who could possibly oppose humanitarian operations?

You guessed it – I do.  The reasoning is pretty simple, and you can probably guess that too:  The government has no business spending American tax dollars on goodies for foreigners.  This should be fairly obvious.  In and of itself, it’s not that controversial of an opinion.

But people tend to get a little emotional and have their judgment clouded by shocking images of devastation on television.  They see the victims and think, “My God, someone needs to help these people.”  How fortunate that the U.S. Navy is ready to do so!  Then, they see the images of the ships pulling in with the giant red crosses painted on them.  They see Sailors in spiffy looking uniforms handing out drinking water and wrapping bandages on injured children.  They engage their sense of belonging and identity as part of a collective “America” and begin to feel better about the situation, perhaps even feeling as if they themselves played a role in the relief effort.  People say things like, “It’s really great that we are helping these people.”

Of course, utilizing the collective “we” in that situation is probably more accurate than they may realize, because the money that pays for all of these humanitarian efforts has been stolen.  It was obtained through taxation, a forceful, involuntary transfer of property.  Regardless of whether you approve of the money being spent that way or not, it was stolen all the same.  The money that pays for the flying death robots is the same money that pays for medicine for children.  Anyone who supports humanitarian operations should ask themselves one simple question:  “Would I be willing to hold a gun to my neighbor’s head and steal from him in order to supply drinking water to foreign disaster victims?”  That is what taxes are.  If you wouldn’t personally steal from your neighbor to provide water to Filipino flood victims, then you shouldn’t allow the government to do it on your behalf.  It is equally wrong.

Aside from the occasional sociopath, compassion and empathy are universal human characteristics.  When confronted with suffering, we all desire to help.  When faced with others in pain, we desire to ease their pain.  But it’s important to never lose sight of the tradeoffs, the true costs, of helping.  It is morally wrong to steal, regardless of whether or not you will then use the stolen money to ease pain and suffering.  Anyone who truly desires to help victims of natural disasters should do so voluntarily, through charitable organizations.  Donate privately.  Spending your own money to ease the suffering of others can be a noble and righteous accomplishment.  Stealing from others to do it is sickening and perverse.

According to USA Today, aid for the victims of the recent typhoon in The Philippines is going to cost over $20 million.  You can bet that the Pentagon will celebrate this figure.  The mainstream media will tout it, and the establishment will point to it as evidence of the kindness and virtue of the American people and the United States government.  This will probably work.  The average person will probably agree that this is a great thing that “we” should all be proud of.  But stealing is not a noble and virtuous act.  There is nothing to be proud of here.  Taking money from others against their will is wrong.  In all circumstances.  I encourage everyone to help spread this unpopular message.  Do what you can to try and get people to really think about it.  Challenge them to consider whether theft suddenly becomes acceptable if the profits are used to help the less fortunate.  This is a very critical issue with very wide-ranging implications.  Get someone to concede that military humanitarian operations aren’t justified, and virtually the entire justification for having a government at all disappears.  Almost everything government does is based on the premise that stealing is in fact okay, so long as the stolen money is used for supposedly noble purposes.  It is only by challenging and defeating this idea that we can truly challenge the power structure that seeks to restrict freedom and dominate our lives.

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