Living in Htrae is a common experience in modern America. Htrae, also known as Bizarro World, was a fictional planet in Superman comics where all things were inverted, the opposite of life on earth. The planet was popularized by the sitcom Seinfeld where in one episode Elaine meets a group of friends the exact opposite of Jerry, George, and Kramer: considered, kind, reliable and intelligent.[1]

That is what some accuse supporters of limited government of doing, living an opposite version of what they say to believe. A comparison of how much money the Federal government takes in taxes from people living in “Red” states against how much money these states receive in Federal funds is a version of the accusation. If the dollar per dollar ratio of Federal aid exceeds taxes collected pundits accuse liberty-minded people of duplicity: “Look, your state receives more than it pays in taxes, hypocrites!” After all, they add, the Federal government is not “stealing” anything from anyone, if anything the Federals are giving away more to conservatives than what they take. How can that be theft?

There are plenty of reasons for thinking that some who say government should shrink are just “talking the talk”; we all know of politicians who go to Washington only to be swallowed by the power that comes from handing out the bacon. Yes, they live by the Bizarro Liberty Code: “Us do opposite of all Liberty things!

However, the generalized comparison of taxes versus Federal aid does not seem to obtain. We can come back from the cube-shaped planet into the real world of political analysis and see that maybe the bizarre world lies elsewhere. One of the problems with the analysis is that it is based on a false notion of property rights.  I am walking down the street and you come down and steal my wallet. Some weeks later I see you again and I confront you.

“Hey, you are the guy who took my wallet the other day!”

“Hold on a minute, sir, I did not steal your wallet. In fact, I took only $100  and added $20 more I took from elsewhere and gave the money to several of your neighbors in need. After I determined they were more in need than you I gave them more than what I took from you!”

In essence, any analysis comparing the amount of money confiscated through taxation to the amount of money offered through Federal aid fails because it assumes that property is collectively held and can be extracted from those momentarily holding it. That collective loot can then be re-distributed by bureaucrats as they see fit. They think that the guy whose wallet was taken should reply, “Oh, I see, you did not steal my wallet, after all. Thank you!”

Only in the Bizarro World of statism can one get away with that! Down is up and theft is charity. Being logical is a capital offence in the world of collectivism. If you steal from a given individual you can only repay by returning the money to him. He moment that you take property from me and leave my home, you stole from me. It does not matter if later, you give the money back to someone else, or if I might benefit in some way from something you created with my property.

How do we know when property was unduly confiscated? Whenever the Federal government extracts wealth from me for purposes other than those enumerated in the Constitution, theft has taken place.  Whenever those funds are used by others to determine who will get them back and what criteria one must meet to get back a portion of what was confiscated, theft occurred. Theft occurs precisely when property is extracted from rightful owners by those who have no right to do so. If the constitution does not allow for a given purpose, then I have a right to keep that money and you have no right to force it from me. You are a thief!

Moreover, in the htrae scenario of statism the higher one’s income is the less one can claim from a number of means-tested programs. Regularly, those who did not earn the money taken by the government are seen as more deserving than those from whom the money was confiscated. Many from the former group vote in favor of the thieves, after all, the good and loving government commissary gave the property to them, so it must be that they deserve it.  States do not vote nor see their taxes taken, individuals do. Within “red” states you have a number of people who vote for statist policies and benefit from them.[2]

Finally, in what form is the supposed Federal aid returned to the states? It often returns in the form of programs or grants. These programs employ people and create systems to determine benefits and track and disburse them. In other words, most of the money taken from individuals is eaten up by the bureaucracies of redistribution, never reaching individuals in the general population. The Federal behemoth gets fat in Washington but its tentacles spread wide across America.

On occasion, corporate power teams up with the state precisely because the former wants a good portion of the stolen goods; why ask the guy with the stolen wallet to buy my products if I can go to the guy who now has it all? Here is where we get the super-villain, the Machiavellian industrialist Lex Luthor of collectivism: crony capitalism.

In the end, there is no hypocrisy in so-called Red states and Federal aid. The hypocrisy is in the statist system that confiscates property from rightful owners and distributes it at will, very often to those invested in the perpetuation of the theft system. Where is Superman when you need him?

 

 


[2] Many smaller and poorer states vote Republican but within those states, poorer people vote Democrat. See http://www.cbsnews.com/election-results-2012/exit.shtml?state=US&race=P&jurisdiction=0&party=G

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