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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
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Immoral Beyond Redemption


Benjamin Franklin, statesman and signer of our Declaration of Independence, said: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." John Adams, another signer, echoed a similar statement: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Are today's Americans virtuous and moral, or have we become corrupt and vicious? Let's think it through with a few questions.

Suppose I saw an elderly woman painfully huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. She's hungry and in need of shelter and medical attention. To help the woman, I walk up to you using intimidation and threats and demand that you give me $200. Having taken your money, I then purchase food, shelter and medical assistance for the woman. Would I be guilty of a crime? A moral person would answer in the affirmative. I've committed theft by taking the property of one person to give to another.

Most Americans would agree that it would be theft regardless of what I did with the money. Now comes the hard part. Would it still be theft if I were able to get three people to agree that I should take your money? What if I got 100 people to agree — 100,000 or 200 million people? What if instead of personally taking your money to assist the woman, I got together with other Americans and asked Congress to use Internal Revenue Service agents to take your money? In other words, does an act that's clearly immoral and illegal when done privately become moral when it is done legally and collectively? Put another way, does legality establish morality? Before you answer, keep in mind that slavery was legal; apartheid was legal; the Nazi's Nuremberg Laws were legal; and the Stalinist and Maoist purges were legal. Legality alone cannot be the guide for moral people.

The moral question is whether it's right to take what belongs to one person to give to another to whom it does not belong.

Don't get me wrong. I personally believe that assisting one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets is praiseworthy and laudable. Doing the same by reaching into another's pockets is despicable, dishonest and worthy of condemnation. Some people call governmental handouts charity, but charity and legalized theft are entirely two different things. But as far as charity is concerned, James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, said, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." To my knowledge, the Constitution has not been amended to include charity as a legislative duty of Congress.

Our current economic crisis, as well as that of Europe, is a direct result of immoral conduct. Roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of our federal budget can be described as Congress' taking the property of one American and giving it to another. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid account for nearly half of federal spending. Then there are corporate welfare and farm subsidies and thousands of other spending programs, such as food stamps, welfare and education. According to a 2009 Census Bureau report, nearly 139 million Americans — 46 percent — receive handouts from one or more federal programs, and nearly 50 percent have no federal income tax obligations.

In the face of our looming financial calamity, what are we debating about? It's not about the reduction or elimination of the immoral conduct that's delivered us to where we are. It's about how we pay for it — namely, taxing the rich, not realizing that even if Congress imposed a 100 percent tax on earnings higher than $250,000 per year, it would keep the government running for only 141 days.

Ayn Rand, in her novel "Atlas Shrugged," reminded us that "when you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good."

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



14 Comments | Post Comment
Very well put and broken down to a point where its very hard to argue against. Walter's articles really address the root cause of many of this worlds most important issues.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Mon Jun 4, 2012 9:28 AM
Mr. Williams is right, legaily does not equate with morality. Also, legality does not equate with justice. We have many laws in the United States that are, from a perspective of inalienable rights, totally unjust, as well as immoral.
Comment: #2
Posted by: D.M. Mitchell
Mon Jun 4, 2012 9:36 AM
The ideal updated modern morality under non-emergency conditions would be to not murder, not steal, not lie, not commit adultery if married, and not destroy biodiversity. Unfortunately this absolute morality has its exceptions since we need a military force to defend against foreign aggression and a police force to protect us from internal criminals and money must be stolen from tax payers to fund these communal necessities. Also those that are unemployed and also destitute, especially those with families, need temporary and sometimes permanent support or they can be forced to feed out of garbage cans and sleep in public parks. If you are unemployed and destitute and have a heart attack is your fate to die on the street or do you have a right to emergency medical treatment? In the real world there are extreme human events with problems which have to be addressed in a flexible way. My book WHAT IS JUSTICE found on Kindle and Nook Book address real world problems and makes detailed recommended changes to our outdated laws, especially welfare laws.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Uldis Sprogis
Tue Jun 5, 2012 8:03 AM
I have never heard for sure if Dr. Williams is completely against compulsory taxation all together or just for welfare purposes. In his analogy about robbery the point is that the act of taking without consent is wrong regardless of what is then done with the money. Does he believe that all taxes should be voluntarily donated because to take them by force would be immoral regardless of their intended purpose? If he believes in any form of compulsory taxation it undermines his comment on the idea that theft is theft regardless of what is done with the money after the fact.
Don't get me wrong, I think there is a moral argument to make about a voluntary tax system as opposed to a compulsory one. I know plenty of anarcho-capitalists and even minarchists who believe in voluntary taxation and we can have an intelligent conversation about that. I just wonder if Dr. Williams is in favor of any form of forced taxation because I don't see how his argument would stand up if he is. He has made the rob one person to give to another analogy many times, I just wonder where he stands on the issue as a whole.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Zack
Tue Jun 5, 2012 9:11 PM
I totally agree with Mr. Williams on his column about government stealing doesn't make it moral. The problem with the government tax system has become so corrupt that elected officials do not use revenue with any moral guidance.
So now we have a government out of control that only wants more money to control everything. I have enjoyed all of Mr. Williams columns since I have started following him and I hope he continues to write as long as he can.
Comment: #5
Posted by: janice mccormick
Wed Jun 6, 2012 6:01 AM
I read Walters column when it is published in our local newspaper. This man hits a home run every time, in my book. Today's particular article leaves me with some questions. A. When did the government feel they could squash on the Constitution? Reading quotes from our founding fathers I find government today has totally overlooked why the Constitution was written in the first place. B. John Adams, "OurConstitution was made for moral and religious people." were these men not Christians? We have continued to "bow" down to organizations for fear of being labeled racist. Our founding fathers had Christian values. Why does the President of These United Sstates bow to a Saudi king? To me, I feel he hasn't read the Constitution or, he doesn't understand it! Period! C. You won't be hearing This article in the news, because it goes againt what the government so dearly needs to protect. Show me the money!
Comment: #6
Posted by: Kristi Murawski
Wed Jun 6, 2012 7:25 AM
Re: Zack
Not to nitpick, but it's adultry if you're single and fornicate with a married man.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Derel Schrock
Wed Jun 6, 2012 8:25 AM
Re: D.M. Mitchell... Sir... You are correct, as was Franklin and Adams... Only a moral people is capable of self governing because all moral people already practice reason and self control... A moral person is never an individual, and always sees his or herself in relation to their community... No one is more a member of their community than they accept the morals of their community... Morality is community...
Morality has nothing directly to do with law, for no law can make a man moral and no moral person regards the law so much as their morality...The individual is an outlaw, and we see this from our economic heroes, like Ford, or our political heroes like Washington the traitor, or our heroes of the screen like Kit Carson, Billy the KId, and Jesse James...To be of ones community one must sacrifice something, and be prepared to sacrifice all, and this is true of all forms of relationship... The outlaws of this world, though in the end sometimes driving society forward in progress have also accounted for a lot of death and destruction...
Now; Mr. Adams was correct to recognize that only if people were moral would they not take advantage of the form they were in to serve themselves out of the sacrifices of the many, and our form, our constitution gave people the privilage of serving themselves because of the principals held as truth, that what was good for the individual, that is, the accumulation of wealth and property was good for the whole of society...The presumption of morality is freely given in all forms which are all communities, but we see even in our most basic unnatural form, that of marriage, that the presumption of morality is often unfounded...
This Article is based upon a false predicate, that the accumulation of property amid poverty is moral... IS IT??? The accumulation of wealth is that which leads to great numbers in poverty because all wealth is part of the common wealth, the whole wealth of ones community... If the constitution sees some good in allowing part of the commonwealth in private hands, it must there support the population as though still in all hands...But to say: MY Property, free and clear, and without obligation is a statement of immorality...
A healthy society would work to turn all wealth back to the commonwealth to give all people a fair shot at it, which would give people with talent and ability the honor of supporting their society... And we see what loyalty these rich people have to their community... One prominant wealthy individual rejected his citizenship and moved to Hong Kong... Let him go, keep his wealth, and never let him return... Those people who feed themselves off the commonwealth are one thing.... Some people will never amount to anything or make a contribution equal to what they eat... That is nothing compared to the crime of taking, and then denying wealth from the commonwealth, which is altogether immoral...
It does not matter in regard to morality what a person does in every hypothetical situation... Moral forms are of the spirit, as physical forms are of matter...One does according to their spirit, and if they have no spiritual affection for this people, no love for us, then no amount of preaching at them will do any good... The commonwealth that they acquire is but a game to them, a contest with others like minded...
To us, the commonwealth is the life of this nation, and the commonwealth needs to be made whole, and for this purpose taxes serve well, when the class most in need of sacrifice is not in charge of setting the sacrifice...If the wealthy were moral, the would also have honor, and they would not bear the sight of their own community suffering without sharing what they have taken...
This is no small thing; because while people cannot be taught morality, they can be taught immorality, and the sight of one wealthy and careless in his joys while care is your constant companion with want, will teach the lesson of immorality, of not caring for others... We have become demoralized, and if we were moral we would think nothing of taking from those who have to much rather than seeing the young, especially, injured by having too little...
Inequality is against democracy, and democracy is the public expression of morality, but the want of morality that first sabotaged our democracy in the constitution is resulting in a totally demoralized society capable only of slavery... Each person has to find their honor and defend morality, and not the piddling sort advertized by Mr. Williams... There is no hypothetical morality...The real thing does... The real morality charts the course of our lives almost from birth... Demand morality and practice it... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #8
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Jun 6, 2012 8:30 AM
Re: Kristi Murawski;... There is a lot of flexibility in all forms including the constitution... Once the courts began to interpret it in relation to reality it became more and more rigid, and unable to change, and the separation of powers was also used as an excuse to bless the greatest anti democratic change of all, when the house fixed the number of its members -when the body was intended to grow with the population, and this has allowed the parties to divide districts, and so deny representation to great numbers; but it also keeps each representative from speaking with a clear loud voice since he is also threatened by his minorities... The personal power they took was lost by the people and the institution, and it was all done without a change to the constitution... They found a loop hole and slithered through it; but not one of those people buys the constitution whole, and they are all liars to say they will support and defend the constitution; unless they recognize that the true constitution is the people, and not the parchment... The old form needs to be tossed...We can do better...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #9
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Jun 6, 2012 8:40 AM
What in the world is religion supposed to have to do with mindful, considerate behavior toward others?

Having a governing body that dictates how you "should" eat, think, vote, and live is generally a sign of not being able to govern oneself. Whereas most people consider it fairly obnoxious when a government attempts to dictate what we do with our spare time or what we do or don't allow to be put on or into our bodies, if the same restrictions are dictated by a governing body that purports to be religious, people lap them up cheerfully.
Comment: #10
Posted by: R.A.
Thu Jun 7, 2012 4:28 PM
Re: Derel Schrock
Not to nitpick but I don't think you meant to respond to my comment.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Zack
Thu Jun 7, 2012 7:18 PM
Re: R.A. Sir; ... You have to control people if you refuse to control business or religion... And it is because this is what buiness and religon demand of government...In primitive society people were constrained in their behavior outside of their own group, and free within... What the Native Americans would do in their own communities would scandalize the priests, who almost with the same line tell how morally superior they were...And it really is moral to mind your own business, and it is not sensible, or practical for all problems of all areas and people to be made federal issues... Why should I have a vote on some issue that affects only you??? And if some issue only affects you and a small group of others is not self government your own settling of your affairs without interference...
We act like we need lawyers in our pockets to solve our problems... Let's make a deal... Lets shake hands on it... Let us cooperate... We rely too much upon law which breaks all communities up into fractious individuals, and then these individuals have to waste a great deal of their lives organizing a resistence to wrongs they suffer that must them be made as a federal case... It is stupid... If you have an issue with another, then it is your problem, and justice is not some definition in the law books, but is what ever those in conflict decide it is... But the obverse is true as well... Every issue affecting all people is the business of a national government, and not because they are better at fixing it, because our as constituted is too corrupt, and made that way from the start...Justice is the Genus and Law is a species of it, but when government makes it a point of principal to deny justice to the people, it teaches lawlessness...Eating is just one example since it is leading to expensive to treat disorders and shortened lives that we must all fund...Underlying all of that over eating is a deep depession and unhappiness... But short of dealing with that, government has all the authority it needs to regulate food and an article of commerce... If some one is selling your child poison, you have the right to object... It may be his right to take poison if he alone will face the consequences, but if he will not, or cannot defend himself, then government certainly has the power and the authority to limit his choices to more healthy products...Rather than denying it, they should tax what they consider to be vices, until they howl... Doing nothing simply supports the problem... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #12
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Jun 8, 2012 11:32 AM
Great article, charity is best left to individuals. Politicians steal the hard working taxpayers money to fund their corrupt, unproductive, lavish lives of their big money donors and themselves while paying lip service to the poor. If big government (just another word for Democrats) really helped the poor then why does every blighted, poor city in America vote for Democrat politicians without fail and every single one of them, with the exception of a non-government phenomenon called gentrification, gets poorer and more crime-ridden?
Comment: #13
Posted by: Thetruth
Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:40 PM
Excellent article. Charity is ONLY left to individuals. Our exampler gave it to us, not the government, nor any government.

Look what's happened to some of America's greatest cities, as she implodes from within, just as any country will when it's leaders become corrupt, and fend for themselves, ignoring the God-Given right to service. For when you, or anyone is in TRUE service of your fellowmen/women, you are only in the service of your God. This country was founded upon the wishes of foreigners, that migrated from foreign soil, to find a better way.

As stated, HE.... The Almighty creator has warned that he gives us "Pattern's" throughout time to show us, that these "SAME" patterns continue with Man time and time again, in that WE may be wise, and learn from them, however.... Man ALWAYS forgets who HE/SHE is, when WE become too prideful. Our whereabouts is tossed to the curb, and the Pattern's keep doing the same repetitive measure's over, and over, and over again.

Look at our current situation.... Romney will come in, and hold US... The American way together for a little season, then things will turn sour again.. Not that I doubt Romney's ability, but their is just too much corruption from within.

Pray for righteousness, and become Humble again, as little children.... Then, and only then will things take a turn around.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Jeff Frost
Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:46 PM
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