The State is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.
President Franklin Roosevelt’s State of the Union speech in 1941 proposed four fundamental freedoms that all people should have; freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These first two, the freedom “of,” were already a part of the U.S. Constitution, and merely require for their observance that the State refrain from restricting the people in their various forms of expression. The latter two, the freedom “from,” are of an entirely different nature.
If the State would grant the people a new right, the freedom from “want,” then the State would have to supply the means of furnishing such a right. Since the State can give nothing but that which it first takes, in practical terms, it means that the State will take from some and give to others; or, more precisely, taking from those who have earned it and giving it to those who have not, and, in the process, taking a rather large cut for itself. Fulfilling this new right for some would therefore mean violating the rights of others. But of course, no real right can properly impose a burden or obligation on others. A real right can’t destroy other rights. A real right is inherent in our nature as human beings, or, if you prefer, rights that come to us from God. They are thus known as “natural” rights. Since we are born with natural rights as human beings, the State may not, in its benevolence and generosity, grant them; they already belong to us.
These new economic rights are properly termed entitlements. They entitle some favored group of people or sector of industry to the production and wealth of others. In an effort to dress up these new entitlements in the language of rights, and therefore make it appear unassailable, legal theorists call such entitlements a “positive” right. The traditional rights of free expression and free association, the right to due process, secure property rights, protection from arbitrary search and seizure, and public trial by a jury of one’s peers, are termed “negative” rights by these same legal theorists. Note the cunning and artful use of the language here; “positive” rights carry a strong connotation of moral good, while “negative” rights would appear to be morally bad, inferior, or at least questionable, especially when they interfere with the noble ends of the State.
Nevertheless, Freedom From Want is official State policy. It is enshrined in the tax code as “progressive” taxation (note the crafty use of the term progressive; a more morally-neutral term might be escalating taxation). “Redistribution,” supposedly the aim of progressive taxation, is considered a good thing by those on the receiving end. However it may be dressed up, no matter the lofty aims, it represents the receipt of stolen property, creates supplicants and dependents, and increases the desire of everyone to get in on the game. And thus the desire for economic security — the ‘freedom from want’ — has found expression in a multitude of ruinous entitlements dividing the people into warring factions battling each other for the spoils. It saps the virtue of the people.
In contrast to all this talk of positive rights and entitlements, with its necessary use of violence or the threat of violence, charitable, voluntary giving violates no one’s true rights; no obligations are forced upon others; violence or the threat of violence is not employed to attain the ends, nor is there only one means—through the State—of pursuing one’s charitable goals.
The sole purpose of the State is, or ought to be, to protect and safeguard our liberty.