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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
10 Feb 2016
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Concealing Evil


Evil acts are given an aura of moral legitimacy by noble-sounding socialistic expressions, such as spreading the wealth, income redistribution, caring for the less fortunate, and the will of the majority. Let's have a thought experiment to consider just how much Americans sanction evil.

Imagine there are several elderly widows in your neighborhood. They have neither the strength to mow their lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks nor the financial means to hire someone to help them. Here's a question that I'm almost afraid to ask: Would you support a government mandate that forces you or one of your neighbors to mow these elderly widows' lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks? Moreover, if the person so ordered failed to obey the government mandate, would you approve of some sort of sanction, such as fines, property confiscation or imprisonment? I'm hoping, and I believe, that most of my fellow Americans would condemn such a mandate. They'd agree that it would be a form of slavery — namely, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

Would there be the same condemnation if, instead of forcing you or your neighbor to actually perform weekly household tasks for the elderly widows, the government forced you or your neighbor to give one of the widows $50 of your weekly earnings? That way, she could hire someone to mow her lawn or clean her windows. Would such a mandate differ from one under which you are forced to actually perform the household task? I'd answer that there is little difference between the two mandates except the mechanism for the servitude. In either case, one person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another.

I'm guessing that most Americans would want to help these elderly ladies in need but they'd find anything that openly smacks of servitude or slavery deeply offensive. They might have a clearer conscience if all the neighbors were forced (taxed) to put money into a government pot.

A government agency would then send the widows $50 to hire someone to mow their lawns and perform other household tasks. This collective mechanism makes the particular victim invisible, but it doesn't change the fact that a person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of others. Putting the money into a government pot simply conceals an act that would otherwise be deemed morally depraved.

This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, confiscation and intimidation, to accomplish what are often seen as noble goals — namely, helping one's fellow man. Helping one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets to do so is laudable and praiseworthy. Helping one's fellow man through coercion and reaching into another's pockets is evil and worthy of condemnation. Tragically, most teachings, from the church on down, support government use of one person to serve the purposes of another; the advocates cringe from calling it such and prefer to call it charity or duty.

Some might argue that we are a democracy, in which the majority rules. But does a majority consensus make moral acts that would otherwise be deemed immoral? In other words, if the neighbors got a majority vote to force one of their number — under pain of punishment — to perform household tasks for the elderly widows, would that make it moral?

The bottom line is that we've betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." Tragically, today's Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



10 Comments | Post Comment
I appreciated this thought so much, " Helping one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets to do so is laudable and praiseworthy. Helping one's fellow man through coercion and reaching into another's pockets is evil and worthy of condemnation." We are not free if forced to perform any act against our will. Some will, of course, rage and claim republicans want to kill, kill, kill (W I L L I A M, perhaps) but that is mere caricature of what a conservative believes, a caricature drawn by a mind already closed. Get people jobs and a chance to improve themselves by themselves and they will rise to the occasion almost every time. Throwing benefits at some people only encourages indolence and dependence, not a trait to be desired in a healthy society. Those truly unable to care for themselves would of course be helped, that would not go against the will of virtually every citizens. If you are immature, intellectually lazy, or really do not trust your fellow citizens, you may disagree with the last posit. If you just jump up and down and call republicans "Killers" you are a reactionary who probably hates Mr. Williams because he is black.

If you post more than three hundred words, you are a self-indulgent boor unable to reach a clear conclusion. Every word becomes proof of your hate for Mr. Williams, a hate based solely on his race. Learned that at MSNBC.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Tom
Mon Feb 17, 2014 8:46 AM
Funny, this little widow morality play does not include taking $50 from each person and giving it to a manufacturer of windows because he is a "job creator" who might, if enough folks are forced to give him $50, think about creating some jobs. Or, perhaps he will ship the work to China because that's all part of "the magic of the market place."
Comment: #2
Posted by: Mark
Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:34 AM
Mark, you are so correct, a true conservative would never take from one to give to another. We don't seem to have any statesman of this sort anymore. Your argument clearly shows the hypocrisy of many on the right. This is also true of the left, Solyndra and ABC Batteries are two examples of the left indulging in choosing favorites. Sucks to be in the middle these days. A free market is predicated on no favors to any one person or corporation. Anything else is crony capitalism, and that sure isn't working for us.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Tom
Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:10 AM
Sir;...To attempt to define evil is an attempt to lighten our fear of it, to bring it to heel, to manage it...If we may define evil as ignorance you might be a master of it, as ignorance is your stock and trade... I have read that child psychologists begin by learning what is wrong with their parents only to find what is wrong with their parent's parents... As the twig is bent, so the tree grows, meaning the evil we allow, feeling we have no cure, or that no cure is needed in the end is suffered by all without recourse...
Such is the filthy, low, demeaning, destroying evil of capitalism... No one can say it is not our evil just as in Roman days no one could say that paganism, even the practice of human sacrifice by otherwise civilized and intelligent people was not their evil because all were a party to it... Everyone accepted that the multitude of Gods was real and required devotion...
I have fought capitalism all of my adult life, and I always deliberately made a profit for every one of my employers as the price of my survival; but it is no less a survival plagued with many aches and pain, and one bought with terrible risk to life and limb... I have seen it destroy people, destroy relationships, kill people, drag this country into stupid war in defense of theories and principals; and yet you define evil as people in the commonwealth wanting the commonwealth to serve their interests, or be returned to them...
Why should anyone ever allow the commonwealth into the hands of few individuals without some prospect of gain for themselves... We think what is good for business is good for all... Where is the proof??? When the price of education is so great as to make the educated slaves as the price of education, where is the benefit to society???... When the value of any invention and thought can only be considered in economic terms, of profitability, and labor savings; then what is the general benefit of invention to mankind???
I could roll your definition of evil up so tight it would not prick you... It is as pointless and meaningless as all such self serving notions are... You use words to rob meaning from words, to make intelligence and action impossible, to confuse the situation and the minds of people blessed with a vote without the intelligence to use it for themselves... How do you define democracy??? As majority rule??? This has never been the case, since rule of any sort, especially as with our sort which gives the rich such a free and large part of government will soon result in the ruin and deprivation of the whole population...
Look a Feudal History where the rich gained control of government by the force they derived from the invention of a single article useful only in warfare: The Stirrup... Within a few generations, the foot soldier, the common military man who was the winner of battles became a peasant while those rich enough for the implements of mass destruction took wealth, land, and government as their own... That is how fast democracy can die where the people cannot defend themselves, and our democracy is our destruction by halves... Why are we divided??? If only a majority is required to take the whole government; then why bring the rest along???... Forget the fact that they minority have rights, that they hold the title to the commonwealth more justly than the rich; and with majority rule, define them as evil, and take all they own including their lives...
That is what happens to the evil; is it not???
The death of half the population, and then another half, and then another half until our power to resist the rich is negated- is your aim... We do not tolorate the evil... Look at what happened to the Christian Martyrs when the Romans could define them as evil... Look at what happened to Jesus when the Priests could define him as evil... Look at what happend to the Baptists Martyrs when it was possible for the Catholics to define them as evil... The winning of wars rest on the power of definitions... First you define your enemy as some object, an evil object, a dog, a jap, a commie, a gook, a slant, a democrat; and then you make him an object: A Dead Body... That is your invitation to hate... That is your definition... And the fact that you are probably a very nice man in public does not conceal your inner malignancy... Where is the appeal to reason, for equity, for truth???... Your sloppy thinking betrays your failing intelligence...If your appeal were not aimed clearly at the thoughtless, the unlearned, the irrational, there would be no chance of its acceptence, and in a true democracy you would be laughed out of town...
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:20 PM
Re: Tom;...Our Constitution favoring the opinion of the time, widely held though contradicted by Jefferson, that life, liberty, and property were rights -gave a great advantage to anyone with property from the beginning of this country, and that advantage has resulted in a small percentage of the people owning the vast majority of the wealth and property... If you accept that our nation was hardly secure, and needed industry and trade to supply the needs of defense, then the advantage given to business and wealth made sense...
The wealthy long ago took advantage of their original position, and have worked taxes and political power to funnel wealth to themselves, and to remove wealth from this people... The idea that we could be sitting on so much wealth and have debt held over the heads of every one of us, and used as an excuse to enforce a policy of poverty on us, to excuse keeping us uneducated and without health care, working for pennies when we could have so much more, enduring all mannor of anxiety about our future, living hand to mouth, or begging in the land of plenty- was never intended by the founding fathers; but is an inevitable result of the inequality of political power granted to those with property... We are seeing the end of a situation that was unjust to begin with though with a specific and even a good object that was never corrected as a true government acting as a dynamic will of the people would have, and long ago...
People talk about the value of individualism... The poor are nameless and faceless... Only the rich and the famous get to be some one... I wish everyone were some one... I want people to stand up and say: look at the many sacrifices made for this nation, and yet we have been slowly and certainly deprived of it, even the piece of mind of calling this place home, and thinking of our countrymen as friends... We are led in hatred of our fellow Americans on this single issue: That to demand the support of the commonwealth though it has been robbed from us, though our right, makes us hated by the rich and all those on the verge of poverty standing in defense of their wealth barely owned...I want Americans to stand up and say they are worth more individually than so much green paper decorated with dead presidents...What the vanishing middle class defends when it defends the wealth of the wealthy is the right to be cast into poverty without even a tatter of a safety net to snag on the way to destitution...

Wealth is just an idea having no more value than the value people give to it... Before I let one child starve in defense of countless printed numbers having no natural meaning, I would give my soul to the devil, and throw away my life... Life is the true reality and people, even starving babies are more real and more valueable than the largest pile of loot... Since it is people who decide meaning; what will wealth mean when only a fraction have it all, and the poor are starving for the want of it??? For a form of relationship like money, or property to have meaning, everyone has to share it... The rich are not just robbing meaning from people's lives while they make them struggle to survive, but making their own money meaningless, and they are teaching the people that all meaning is based upon the lives we share...
Forget the Nonsense of Mr. Williams... To correct a great wrong that is destroying this country and our strength is not an evil, but is a necessary self expression... If we will live we must be prepared to slaughter a few fatted calves to feed a multitude of hungry, but I would do nothing for the poor that they can do better themselves... If the job is left to the poor it will be a blood bath, with many many injured... If the intelligent stand for justice and make right the wrongs of the past, we may all survive in comfort and peace...
Comment: #5
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Feb 17, 2014 8:20 PM
Sir;... Mr. Williams... You can certainly see why so many zealots were willing to sacrifice their lives and the lives of their fellow Americans in defense of chattel slavery... Their argument was based upon the same simple minded sense of right and wrong, and the notion that once wealth is owned it no longer is burdened with social responsibility... Let me ask whose lives were on the line in defense of your perverse definition of property in all of our wars??? Look at just the Civil War... Those with the money used it to exempt themselves from service... Even then; the fools who started the war for their precious property would not support it with taxation... As usual; the rich expect those who bear the burdens and danger of battle to pay their own way while they avoid any contribution to the effort...
You should consider sir; that it is not economist, and not even lexiconographers who define our words... Primarily definitions are left to the philosophers who know what they are doing, and the people, the common people who know what works... The philosophers are not always right, and the people are not always wrong; and you can let some Nietzsche complain about slave morality till the cows sing, but ultimately it is the people who suffer the evil who define what is good... The only problem is that poor people will keep the peace in spite of injustice until they are reduced to powerlessness to change their condition, or even to defend themselves...
New and vibrant societies could never take over failed and dying societies without the basic morality of the people holding them defensless...People like you, trying to define the good of the people as evil are freeing the people from any sense of morality as it is today: The greatest protection the rich have against bloody murder...When the people see themselves ruined by law, will law be any impediment to them making themselves whole??? All that the rich do to destroy the meaning of this people puts them in great jeapardy, but as so many rulers in times past, they are blind to all but wealth, and cannot see it...
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Feb 17, 2014 8:42 PM
Great article! Williams continues to be a champion for morality, logic, and respect for private property. I hope I get to meet him one day.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Deft
Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:35 PM
Re: Deft... I am sure you two will share the same address some day, South of the border...
I wish the right would tell me why taxes settled upon democratically, at least to the extent that a majority rule the day, are theft in the eyes of gods; but to take from working people by fraud and deception, to play them one against the other, to use law to drive down their wages, and threaten to drop them on the support of a desparate few still able to carry- is not a wrong... Deprived of justice this people has been deprived of property; and the fact that this is legal today means nothing because if the working people see themselves destroyed by the law they will make the law anew...
That moment in time where one law is trashed and another is made, is a moment of terror and violence... Look at the facts... Property has rights no majority can challenge; but if the people choose to see that right as a privilage enjoyed only by a few- to the injury of all the rest, then property rights could be so much history faster than it can be written... There was never a moment when property rights were justified, but to those who wrote the constitution, those with the wealth could be taxed... The argument for closing the commons, that the rich could use America more efficiently than the poor was tried again on us...
The immoral power of the rich over this country and our affairs has burdened this people with taxes that benefit only the rich, and relieve them of obligations... Enough of your appeals to morality... Taxes are not theft, but a price of international survival, and if the rich cannot steal enough from us to pay their taxes, they should just quit stealing, quit running us into the grave, and quit starting wars they won't fight or pay for in the hopes of spoils to steal...
This is our land... Our will is the law here... There is no reason we should have the founding fathers pee in our ears for old times sake, and not get nothing outa it......If the rich plead the poverty we the people in fact, must suffer, they write our pain into their own comedy... There is nothing funny about the way people are hurting, and the fact that the rich with their crocodile tears are mocking us while they waste our wealth- is obscene... Who are these rich people, and who are their bought liars???
Nations have been made and remade many times. and it isn't Chinese Arithmatic, or Jewish Chicken Soup... Revolutions are just hard dangerous work that only the brave and desparate attempt... If for the sake of decency alone, this poor poor pitiful rich people nonsense has got to end... It spits in the face of reality to compare the rich people with poor overworked and underpaid tax payers supporting a government that oppresses them...They think This is their country, and judging by their wealth, America has served them well; and they should help pay for it... But if the price of this damaged and empoverished people is too great, then the rich should be removed from the power to make ever more people poor and hopeless... It is still our country, our commonwealth; and the whole business had better work for us too...The new world order created by the founders has resulted in a more cruel Feudalism than was found in the old world... I spare not a moment of sympathy for the masters who want us only so long as we are slaves...
Comment: #8
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:25 AM
"Almsgiving covers a multitude of sins"

It only makes sense that the devil creates a world devoid of almsgiving.

Comment: #9
Posted by: cathy jones
Tue Feb 18, 2014 8:37 AM
Re: cathy jones... Almsgiving invites a multitude of sins; but as long as sins are not crimes it is between everyone and their God, and for those whose God is money such considerations are only funny...
What Mr. Williams does not get is that if we suffer the cost equally of all the people wasted and tossed away by our economy we will all be more inclined to fix the economy so it supports those it ruins... As long as that cost, the cost of poverty can be borne by the charitable, by the willing, and those with no say in the taxes they must pay; the rich can continue to profit on misery without regard for their effect on this people and this country...
We have been run into the ditch for a long time... Things are not getting better... Our infrastructure is rotting, or educational system is failing, people are at each others throats, and all with the assent of the rich... If the profits they make cannot support the problems they create on the road to profitability, then they rich are creating too many problems to be tolerated...
I remember from a reading in my Bible where Jesus talked about those who denied their own parents support in order to fulfill a pledge to the temple... To whom is our first obligations??? Certainly we should expect the young to support the old, but how many old are there who have given their lives to their jobs, and never could afford marriage or children??? What of those children who answered the demands of economic forces and moved to find work??? Are they obliged to cart their parents away with them??? We are all pressed to the wall, and many are the old who must seek reverse mortgages if they are blessed with any capital in order to make ends meet... More and more the capital of generations is dispossed of so that people can endure a precarious existence, leaving nothing to children but debt... Is this the way it is supposed to be, with the people of this nation drained of wealth and finding with wealth goes freedom??? Certainly, if we had the government the founders invisioned, there would be some consideration for the general welfare, and the government would protect the citizens from a culture of credit that leaves people working as slaves while others are their masters through money...When absolutely nothing gets done in this society without money loaned, and profit paid, and all to support a class of speculators who do nothing but feed off the population, then we have a serious and eventually fatal problem...
Comment: #10
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:17 PM
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