Walter E. Williams
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My recent column "From Whence Comes Income" sparked considerable favorable reader response, not to mention thoughtful reader correction of my grammar error in the title: "From Whence" is redundant. Quite a few readers were a bit confused about my assertion that market allocation of goods and services are infinitely more moral than the alternative.

The first principle of a free society is that each person owns himself. You are your private property, and I am mine. Most Americans probably accept that first principle. Those who disagree are obliged to inform the rest of us just who owns us, at least here on earth.

This vision of self-ownership is one of those "self-evident" truths to which the Founders referred to in the Declaration of Independence, that "All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Like John Locke and other philosophers who influenced them, the Founders saw these rights as preceding government, and they said, "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted."

The Framers of the Constitution recognized that while government was necessary to secure liberty, it was also liberty's greatest threat. Having this deep suspicion of government, they loaded our Constitution with a host of anti-congressional phrases, such as: "Congress shall make no law," "shall not be infringed" and "shall not be violated."

Once one accepts the principle of self-ownership, what's moral and immoral becomes self-evident. Murder is immoral because it violates private property. Rape and theft are also immoral -- they also violate private property.

Here's an important question: Would rape become morally acceptable if Congress passed a law legalizing it? You say: "What's wrong with you, Williams? Rape is immoral plain and simple, no matter what Congress says or does!"

If you take that position, isn't it just as immoral when Congress legalizes the taking of one person's earnings to give to another? Surely if a private person took money from one person and gave it to another, we'd deem it theft and, as such, immoral. Does the same act become moral when Congress takes people's money to give to farmers, airline companies or an impoverished family? No, it's still theft, but with an important difference: It's legal, and participants aren't jailed.

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Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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