Quote of the day—Henry Hazlitt

One simple truth that could be endlessly reiterated, and effectively applied to nine-tenths of the statist proposals now being put forward or enacted in such profusion, is that the government has nothing to give to anybody that it doesn’t first take from somebody else. In other words, all its relief and subsidy schemes are merely ways of robbing Peter to support Paul.

Henry Hazlitt
May 27, 2016
The Task Confronting Libertarians
[Originally published in the March 1968 issue of The Freeman. Excerpted from The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt]
[While I can see this has potential I can also see that many people feel completely justified in robbing Peter. Still it is worth trying and probably puts the advocate for the statist on weaker ground and will sway some to a more principled position.—Joe]


7 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Henry Hazlitt

  1. “Originally published in the March 1968 issue of The Freeman.” I didn’t think he was still around, unfortunately.

    His small but excellent book “Economics in one lesson” is a wonderful source of insights along these same lines. Free PDF from the Von Mises Foundation: https://mises.org/library/economics-one-lesson

  2. There are two types government. One protects rights, and the other uses coercion (violates rights). One is incompatible with the other. In a mixed system, which we’ve had for a long time, coercion will always win out. Once you’ve tolerated it, then accepted and eventually embraced it, coercion will rule your life. If it can be justified here, then there, then lots of places, the primary role of government then becomes how to “best” use the power of coercion rather than how best to protect rights.

    • The first kind seems to be a unicorn. Some say they have sighted one, but there is no evidence that it exists, or ever did.

  3. Something worth adding:

    The government has nothing to give to anybody that it doesn’t first take from somebody else… at gunpoint.

    Some people forget this when they speak about government as being somehow benign. What happens if the candidate you hate is elected, and a tax is enacted that you refuse to pay? The IRS can send a heavily-armed SWAT team after you if it wants.

    Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out that when a new law is passed, sooner or later the authorities will shoot to kill in order to enforce it. No matter how good an idea for a new law seems, one should always ask: are we willing to see good men and women dying for violating this law?

    As I believe George Washington wrote, government is like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master.

    • The government may also send heavily armed SWAT teams to attack people who have done nothing wrong. Either because the team went to the wrong address, or because someone “swatted” the victim, or because the victim was reported to have violated something that pretends to be a law but isn’t a valid one.

      To Glenn’s point, he’s exactly right, and note that for many years now the Federal government has been cranking out new laws (and regulations, which amounts to the same thing) at the rate of 200 or more pages every single day. Clearly they are trying to make sure they will have all the ammo they might want to come after us.

      • They will arrive in an MRAP dressed in black ninja pajamas and carrying select fire M4s with flash bang grenades and drones overhead. They will shoot your dog and blow up your baby and kill you when they do a no knock raid as you arm yourself for a home invasion. Then they go home without prosecution for the abuse of power. This goes double for federal agents who have zero accountability since they are not even local.

        What the hell happened to our police?

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