Walter E. Williams

Immorality in government lies at the heart of our nation's problems. Deficits, debt and runaway government are merely symptoms. What's moral and immoral conduct can be complicated, but needlessly so. I keep things simple and you tell me where I go wrong.

My initial assumption is that we each own ourselves. I am my private property and you are yours. If we accept the notion that people own themselves, then it's easy to discover what forms of conduct are moral and immoral. Immoral acts are those that violate self-ownership. Murder, rape, assault and slavery are immoral because those acts violate private property. So is theft, broadly defined as taking the rightful property of one person and giving it to another.

If it is your belief that people do not belong to themselves, they are in whole or in part the property of the U.S. Congress, or people are owned by God, who has placed the U.S. Congress in charge of managing them, then all of my observations are simply nonsense.

Let's look at some congressional actions in light of self-ownership. Do farmers and businessmen have a right to congressional handouts? Does a person have a right to congressional handouts for housing, food and medical care?

First, let's ask: Where does Congress get handout money? One thing for sure, it's not from the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus nor is it congressmen reaching into their own pockets. The only way for Congress to give one American one dollar is to first, through the tax code, take that dollar from some other American. It must forcibly use one American to serve another American. Forcibly using one person to serve another is one way to describe slavery. As such, it violates self-ownership.

Government immorality isn't restricted only to forcing one person to serve another. Some regulations such as forcing motorists to wear seatbelts violate self-ownership. If one owns himself, he has the right to take chances with his own life. Some people argue that if you're not wearing a seatbelt, have an accident and become a vegetable, you'll become a burden on society. That's not a problem of liberty and self-ownership. It's a problem of socialism where through the tax code one person is forcibly used to care for another.

These examples are among thousands of government actions that violate the principles of self-ownership. Some might argue that Congress forcing us to help one another and forcing us to take care of ourselves are good ideas. But my question to you is: When congressmen and presidents take their oaths of office, is that oath to uphold and defend good ideas or the U.S. Constitution?

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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