Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”     George Washington

January 26, 2006

Think About It

by Eric

Think about the quote below and be honest about it. We call it “social justice” to take money or property from one person and give it to another through the use of the state’s monopoloy on coercive force. But, it is only justice for the person who benefits, not for the person who has the property taken by force. If you were to take state power out of the equation, would it be acceptable to take my money by force and give it to another person so that they can spend it on themself?

Robin Hood was still just a damn thief, regardless of who he stole the money from, or gave it to.

“Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame and danger that their acts would otherwise involve… But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to the other persons to whom it doesn’t belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish that law without delay … No legal plunder; this is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony and logic.”

– Frederic Bastiat
(1801-1850) French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before — and immediately following — the French Revolution of February 1848.
June 1850
Source: The Law, by Frederic Bastiat, 1850

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12 Comments

  1. True enough. Of course, it is harder to argue with Robin Hood if you assume that during his time, the markets were not open, and wealth was largely made by birth, nobility, force, or sometimes by trade for those granted a noble’s monopoly right to engage in the trade.

    When the market isn’t free, all of the “libertarian” rules must be evaluated differently.

    Comment by KJ — January 26, 2006 @ 1:05 pm
  2. If I remember correctly, Robin Hood stole the money from the thieves (government agents) who stole it ( through taxation) from the people and Robin returned the money to its rightful owners.

    Comment by John Newman — January 26, 2006 @ 1:20 pm
  3. As I remember the original story, Robin Hood “stole from the wealthy and gave to the poor”. I have never seen Robin Hood as a libertarian tale, personally, but as a socialist tale.

    Comment by Eric — January 26, 2006 @ 5:03 pm
  4. I agree that if he redistributed, it would be a form of socialism. I only remember the TV show and it seemed to me he gave back to the people the Sheriff stole from. I could be wrong about that, my memory of a show 30 – 35 years ago probably isn’t that sharp.

    Comment by John Newman — January 26, 2006 @ 5:18 pm
  5. Of course, the Sheriff and the other nobles, who are wealthy, are portrayed as evil/bad people and Robin Hood is virtuous for stealing from them BECAUSE he is giving it to the poor. Even as a kid I wasn’t real comfortable with the story. We all automatically equate nobility with being bad and greedy and not caring for common people. Except for the enlightened Robin Hood, naturally. And the whole thing is set right by the wonderfully paternalistic King Richard the Lion Hearted, who returns from the Crusades to discover that Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham are oppressing the peasants and merchants while he’s been gone to war. He confirms Robin of Locksley to his inheritance as some sort of minor noble (Locksley’s father was a noble, Robin followed Richard to the Crusades, John and Nottingham steal his lands). It would be a great adventure story without the whole stealing from the rich and giving to the poor bit. Attacking the Sheriff and his men, great. They are oppressive elitists. A libertarian tale would have Locksley working with the other folks who are oppressed to overthrow John and Nottingham, not steal their money and redistribute it. Instead, we have an oppressive elite that is being replaced by a benign and paternalistic elite.

    Comment by Eric — January 26, 2006 @ 6:25 pm
  6. Robin Hood was the ultimate honest politician. He stole money from wealthy to give to the poor in order to buy their support. He was a damn thief, but think about it, politicians practice a more refined version everyday when they use wealth redistribution schemes such as Social Security and pork barrel projects to buy votes. Robin Hood and his bandits have been replaced by the 535 members of Congress and the IRS.

    Comment by Kevin — January 26, 2006 @ 7:10 pm
  7. Robin Hood had to steal for the poor because the evil Prince “W” John and Sherriff Ashcroft Nottingham refused to enact a publicly funded health care system and was always playing on the peoples fears about going to war with Muslims.

    Which of course is what the King was off doing.

    Comment by KJ — January 26, 2006 @ 8:30 pm
  8. I agree that he was a socialist thief — perhaps a more benign socialist thief than today’s politicians, but still — he gave to the poor who did nothing.

    Then again, I was reading the stories (there’s more than one) about Robin Hood this past week, and there’s nothing in there about giving to the poor — he’s mainly just fighting the oppressive government.

    Comment by Ogre — January 27, 2006 @ 2:28 am
  9. My understanding of the story was that all the “stealing from the rich” and “giving to the poor” were not ends in themselves, but rather the means to an end. That end being the reinstatement of the ‘rightful’ King (Richard the Lionheart(ed?)).

    Of course, I don’t happen to think that Monarchies are terribly ideal methods of government, but if you grant the premise that King Richard is a ‘good ruler’, then I suppose the means (stealing and otherwise harassing the bad guys) are a perfectly acceptable way of achieving the end. However, if you happen to think that one King is as bad as another…

    Comment by Tom — January 27, 2006 @ 6:06 am
  10. That’s interesting Ogre. You are essentially saying that Hollywood changed it when they made the first movie (and kept the theme from there on) to add the steal from the rich, give to the poor theme?

    Well Tom, like I said in one of my comments, I don’t see anything wonderful about a rebellion to replace oppressive elites with benign elites.

    Comment by Eric — January 27, 2006 @ 6:47 am
  11. I’ll take exception with the idea that social justice is only justice for the person benefitting. How is that? If we take it in the context of what is not seen, the opertunities that are missed, especially in the long run, how can it be justice. Is being a ward of the state justice? Is being a slave, even willingly so, justice? I don’t think so.
    In the long run such systems fail, and when they do, the wards of the state usually face some of the most grievious injustices around. It may temporarily help the one who benefits but in the long run it is an injustice.

    Comment by tkc — January 27, 2006 @ 3:57 pm
  12. Oh, that’s certainly true TKC. Perhaps a better way to word it is that social justice is only perceived as just by those who benefit from it.

    Comment by Eric — January 27, 2006 @ 5:46 pm

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