NOTICE: This Thursday, October 26, at 7 p.m. Eastern. Austrian economics star Pete Boettke will be our third presenter in our online Austrian conference: “How Austrian Economics Impacted My Life.” Register here to receive your Zoom link.
When referring to military aid to the Israeli government, American interventionists often use the pronoun “we.” “We need to stand with Israel in this time of crisis,” they exclaim. “We need to send military armaments and money to Israel.”
This mindset is much like the mindset that undergirds American welfare-state programs. When the federal government is providing welfare assistance to others, it supposedly reflects how good, caring, and compassionate “we” are. By the same token, when the federal government is providing warfare assistance to some foreign regime, it supposedly reflects how good, caring, and compassionate “we” are.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Foreign aid, like welfare, bears absolutely no relationship to how good, caring, and compassionate the American people are.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are two separate entities involved here: the U.S. government and the American people. They are not one and the same. There is the government and there is the citizenry.
Among the best evidence of this phenomenon is the Bill of Rights. It expressly protects the American people from the federal government. If the federal government was the same thing as the American people, the Bill of Rights would make no sense.
Thus, when one refers to actions of the federal government, there is no “we” involved. There is only the federal government that is involved.
With the enactment of the federal income tax in 1913, the federal government acquired the power to extract a certain percentage of people’s income. Through the use of this tax (and other federal taxes), the federal government acquires a vast amount of money.
U.S. officials then decide how to dispose of the large amount of money they have collected from the American people through taxation. They use some of it for foreign aid — in the form of cash or armaments to foreign regimes, including the Israeli government.
That is obviously just a governmental decision on how to dispose of money that has been collected through taxation. Given such, how can the American people be considered to be good, caring, and compassionate simply because U.S. officials have decided to send a portion of their tax revenues to some foreign regime?
Let’s even assume that Congress enacts a law approving the sending of money and armaments to some foreign regime and that the president signs it into law. How does that law reflect the goodness and compassion of the American people? By the fact that people voted in congressional or presidential elections? What if they voted for the losing side?
Of course, it might be said that Americans are showing their goodness and compassion by paying their taxes. But the payment of taxes is based on coercion, which is contrary to genuine care and compassion. If you refuse to pay your taxes, they will come after you with liens, garnishments, attachments, foreclosures, harassment, abuse, indictment, prosecution, incarceration, and fines. There is nothing voluntary about the payment of taxes.
The only genuine system of care and compassion is one in which people voluntarily help others out of the goodness of their individual hearts. That would mean a system in which Americans would be free to keep everything they earn and then decide what to do with their own money, including sending a portion of it to anyone they wish, including the Israeli government and the Israeli people (who are also two separate and distinct entities).
It’s worth mentioning that our American ancestors instituted a governmental system in which there was no income tax, no welfare-state programs, and no foreign aid. That system lasted more than 100 years. Of course, that’s the only system that is consistent with freedom. And it’s the only system that is consistent with genuine care and compassion.