The Crime of Just Standing There

Yes, I am talking about legitimacy. Does a benefactor of any sort have an intrinsic right to extract benefits (by force if need be) from all his potential passive beneficiaries?

A beautiful woman spends time and money to maintain her good looks. With no doubt, she gets various benefits from that fact. But does she have a right to pull a gun and extract payment from all men who look at her? Because technically, these people have benefited. A beautiful picture is generally a benefit even for cursory onlookers.

An educated man benefits himself, but also other people indirectly. Does that simple fact warrant him to exert political power to extract his “just” reward from his potential beneficiaries?

You build a very nice house in an otherwise casual neighbourhood. That fact raises the value of surrounding land (it becomes more desireable). Do you deserve the right to receive forcefully extracted money from your neighbours?

We all receive indirect benefits from our particular environments, and we all indirectly benefit those around us. Indirectly as well, we might be harmed, or we might harm others. A small child can be a nuisance in a bus, a shop owner might harm other shop owners by taking some of their customers. But that’s just the natural process of human interaction. We cannot (most of us at least) live our lives free of interference, nor completely act without affecting others.

So if we’re stuck together, what means should we use to reduce conflict? Should we pull out the gun at the first sign of disagreement? Interestingly enough, or maybe not, that is the statist solution.

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Before I leave, feel free to check this latest Mises piece. It’s an excerpt from the book – “The Anti-Capitalist Mentality” by Ludwig von Mises (Wikipedia entry). It goes over a few arguments (moral, aesthetic, etc) against Capitalism. Quite worth a read, even if it’s an extended piece. To that I’d like to add that while Mises has a dim view of Asian culture and civilisation, it’s worth to note that great cultures are built with some level of free markets available. Governments, by their very nature – destroy capital and wealth. But you can’t destroy something that is not already present. So the next time you look at pictures of the great pyramids, the Roman Colliseum or the temples of Angkor – know that this is just the tip of a very complex conditions that made it possible. Massive urban civilisations are built on the backs of merchants and antrepreneurs, not politicians and priests.

Enjoy!

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