Doug Smith: Thieves, Robbers and politics

12 Feb
Doug Smith: Author, historian and lead contributor to Free State Patriot
I was a sailor. One thing any sailor will tell you is that we do not tolerate thieves.  A thief on a ship is dealt with quickly by his superiors, lest an accident befall him.
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Life falling overboard holding an anchor.
There is good reason for this attitude.  Ships are notoriously crowed. There is little personal space and almost no privacy. The few personal items we carried; books, letter writing material, candy, coffee cups were cherished and very precious to us. Steal from one shipmate and incur the wrath of all.  If you don’t respect his stuff, you won’t respect mine.
Throughout history, people have cherished their “stuff”.  Handmade knife, corn worked for and tended with sweat and labor throughout the growing season, a pot, a bowl, a pig fattened all year to feed the family for the winter. And just as surely, there have always been thieves and robbers.
(Disclaimer: I have heard it said “There is nothing in my house worth taking a life over.  If a thief wants what I’ve got, it’s better to let him have it. “I disagree. Come to my house to take what I’ve got, what I’ve worked and sweated and sacrificed for, and Ill “let you have it, alright.” Center mass. Two shots.)
And that is, after all, the point. My stuff is not “just stuff.” It is the result, for good or ill, of my hard work, my choices, my investments of the limited number of hours and days of my life. If you steal from me that which took me a week’s work to earn, you are stealing a week of my life. And I will defend it.
Thus it has been with thieves from early times.  A thief makes the judgement that the easiest “work” is to let you sweat and save and sacrifice and struggle for that which he wants. Then, while you rest from your labors, to come and take it, and sneak away. That the result of a week, or a month, of your labor goes with him, and hence a week of your life, concerns him not at all. You have it. He wants it. That is his entire reasoning and morality. Why he wants it does not matter, his desire outweighs your rights.
The robber is a bit more industrious, but no more moral. The robber will not sneak, but will take your stuff, and by the same extension, pieces of your life, by force with weapons or threats. He will not sneak to steal it, he will demand that you surrender it to his desires. Again, his desire outweighs your rights.
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The most energetic robbers in history, and the best, manage to wrap themselves in a mantle of respectability. Pharaoh of all Egypt (give me your corn and work on my projects, or I will send my soldiers to kill you.) King of Kings, Agamemnon.  First Ill beat Athens, then I force Athens to help me beat Sparta, then force them both to help me beat Troy. Henry Fitz-Empress, 2nd of that name, First Plantagenet, most able soldier of an able time, a King at 21, and ruled in his time an Empire greater than Charlemagne.
These energetic robber kings use a tried and tested formula. Be good at fighting. Beat someone up, but promise to let them live if they help you. Then the 2 of you can beat up on more, and rob them of gold, food, animals, labor, and daughters, whatever you wish. Eventually, you have enough powerful, but less powerful than you, robbers, who will join with you in robbing the labors of thousands, or millions, in return for a share of the booty, and support for your ambitions.
Henry II, Plantagenet King of England, was a prime example of this principle. He lived in a fine castle, but he was not a builder: he was a soldier. He ate the finest foods, which he neither grew nor killed: he was, again, a soldier. And he spawned the bloodiest royal House in British history, with countless commoners, and not a few “royals” slaughtered in the name of their ambitions. (See the Hundred Years War)
But it all came down to robbery.  What Henry and his heirs wanted, someone would provide, because his Sheriffs would collect his taxes at the point of a sword.  It was their disregard for the possessions of others that led to one major step forward in people asserting and demanding their property rights from Henry’s son, John, the Magna Carta. (See Ivanhoe, and Runnymede)
But it is all about our “stuff”. If I am free, but must give you all I earn or produce, my freedom is meaningless and my incentive to produce what I can is only as much as you can force me to do for you. Conversely, the more I am free to keep what I produce, the more I will strive to do so, for my own benefit. Free societies, thus, are always more productive and wealthy than slave societies.
So, (apologies to those who are not lovers of history, like me) what does this little history lesson on thievery do for us today?
Well, let’s see if we can find the thieves and robbers today.  If Bill Gates decides to spend a billion dollars to fight diseases among poor countries, he has the money to spend, and has a generous impulse, and does it. Bill is a philanthropist.
If Congressman Leghorn Foghorn decides to give a billion dollars to his district to build the Foghorn Leghorn Bridge, when he makes $ 150,000 a year, where, we must ask, will he get that money?  If Foggie gets $ 2,500,000 in speaking fees to talk for half an hour to the Bridge Builders Association, and the Department of Architecture housed in Leghorn Hall at Podunk State, what could make his words that valuable? If 1000 people in his district get 10,000 bucks a piece for building his bridge, (that would be $ 10,000,000)
But Foggie is sure of a few thousand votes in November because of all the palms he has greased. Palms belonging to people who said in their hearts, we need this. Somebody has to pay us.
Foggie doesn’t have to come up with the Billion.   The IRS and Sherriff will do that for him, from people who live a long way from his district, and have no interest in Foggie, or his bridge, or Local 864U of the Bridge builders, but have to pay up or the Sherriff will take their homes for which they have worked.
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So, in this little morality tale, we can find the robbers, and the thieves, and the serfs, robbed again.
Robin Hood, after all, took from the Sheriffs and John’s nobles to give back to those who had it taken from them. The Magna Carta was forced out of John to respect the rights of his Barons, because he was squeezing too much from them.
No one likes a thief. Some will not tolerate a thief. And eventually, the thieves and robbers are cornered at Runnymede and told “Enough.”
With April 15 coming, and Primaries just beyond that, and a General Election in November, perhaps it is time we all read about John at Runnymede, play a little game of “Who’s the Thief?”, and ask ourselves, “Enough?”

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