Notes From Babel

Lest We Forget, Men Are Ruled by Laws, Not by Things Bestowed by Laws

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This has been weighing heavy on my mind lately: how could any red-blooded, thinking person—any American—honesty and sincerely believe that one ought to have a right to accept a living from his fellows without having earned it?  I might console myself with the thought this this is an extreme fringe view.  But as Half Sigma admits, “Government-provided healthcare for all citizens would be a form of th[is] inheritance dividend . . . .”  If our legislators—even despite us—push ahead with this huge entitlement program that will almost certainly be impossible to rescind, is there any logical stopping point before we vote ourselves an “inheritance dividend“?

Once again, Tocqueville warns us that economic feasibility is not the only test for doling out entitlements:

One might say that sovereigns in our time seek only to make great things with men.  I should want them to think a little more of making great men; to attach less value to the work and more to the worker, and to remember constantly that a nation cannot long remain strong when each man in it is individually weak, and that neither social forms nor political schemes have yet been found that can make a people energetic by composing it of pusillanimous and soft citizens.

. . . .

Nations of our day cannot have it that conditions within them are not equal; but it depends on them whether equality leads them to servitude or freedom, to enlightenment or barbarism, to prosperity or misery.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Univ. Chicago Press, 2002  (Mansfield and Winthrop, eds.) at 672, 676.

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Written by Tim Kowal

November 15, 2009 at 8:28 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] on my book shelf since my second year of law school.  Prompted a lot of blog posts: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and my favorite one […]

  2. […] roots of the so-called “inheritance dividend” notion, famously advanced by Robert Heinlein, go at least as far back as the writings of Henry George in the late 1870s and early 80s.  Here […]


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