Grassroots Commentary

Not Yours To Give...Revisited

Charlie Lyon · Aug. 22, 2011

There is a legendary story about the legendary figure, Davey Crockett, who, among his many adventures, served as a Kentucky congressman in the 1820’s. While campaigning for re-election, Crockett came across a farmer who flat out told him he wouldn’t vote for Crockett. Startled by the man’s bluntness he asked why and was told that they each had a significant difference of opinion on their understanding of the US Constitution. The farmer was adamant that nowhere in the sacred document does it give Congress the right to take property from one citizen and give it to another. He recounted Crockett’s vote to approve a benevolence gift to families in Baltimore who’d been forced from their apartment homes by fire that left them homeless and destitute. As noble a cause as that seemed, the farmer explained, it did not lie in their power to confiscate wealth from one American to help another. However well intentioned those acts might seem, once that door is opened there is no limit to what the “well-intentioned” will feel disposed of to take and give.

The right to protection of property is a principle for which the founders were very clear and went to great lengths to limit the circumstances under which the government can coerce private property away from individuals or families, be it land, currency, or other assets.

Many of us are just as startled by the mounting acceptance of “redistribution of wealth” that is gaining traction as more people face daunting difficulties due in large part to factors out of their control. But rather than putting faith in tried and true principles that have made America exceptional, many are falling prey to the emotional siren cry of blaming the “corporate fat cats, or greedy wealthy” who, they’ve come to believe “unfairly exploit workers for profit” and don’t pay their “fair share.”

Let us remember that because of our God-given freedom to create, innovate, explore, own & improve property, and achieve the level of prosperity we desire we are also at liberty to be rewarded for the work of our hands. Great reward produces great effort. Great effort produces great blessing. We all benefit from the achievers among us and we ought to congratulate their reward (or at least thank them for the jobs they create) rather than waste our time in envy, bitterness, anger or coveting.

We the people ought to be just as adamant as the farmer was in confronting Mr. Crockett of his misunderstanding of the Constitution; we ought to work to ensure that our governing officials continue to jealously guard the sacred trust for using the people’s monies. Let us remind our officials as often as we can with great vigor that it is not their prosperity to give away, purchase votes, pad their retirements or build their bureaucracies with layers of complexity.

Many did just that this past week by showing up at our local County Commissioner’s meeting regarding Public Act 88 – an antiquated law that allows county commissioners the authority to impose a millage without the vote of the people. Government goes to those who show up! Let’s continue to show up and be a principled people resisting the insatiable impulse for more government benevolence – well intentioned or not!

By the way, Crockett went back to congress, stopped a resolution to give a (well intentioned) benevolence gift to a military officer’s widow and challenged his fellow members to give out of their own pockets – rather than the public coffers. Sadly, not one responded even though there were many wealthy men “serving the public” in that room, vividly illustrating that giving other people’s money away is not only easier, but far less courageous.