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The Dartmouth
February 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Private Action for the Public Good

It was President Clinton who said once upon a time that "the era of big government is over." I was stricken by the irony of the situation when, less than a month ago, current President George W. Bush said, faced with a massive disaster of both the human and electoral variety, that effectively, the era of big government is back in full swing. But who cares about big government, you ask -- and why is some loony columnist wasting space on the opinion page?

This author pens these words because the Dartmouth community is largely concerned with what could be called "social justice" (a term with which I was until recently unfamiliar and one I'm hesitant to use; I dislike categorizing beliefs into talking points -- but I digress). Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai recently spoke here and touched on the issue, among many others.

I recently was alerted that those of us concerned with "social justice" should scamper over to the meeting of the newly renamed Dartmouth Progressives. The Dartmouth chapter of the NAACP has begun holding its first meetings ever this term. In probably the most interesting thing I have ever read in the pages of the Free Press, I was told there is a covert anarchist society which meets on this campus, and among what it discusses is, rather counter-intuitively, "social justice." "Social justice" as an issue is perhaps one of the most important, dearly held convictions of a large swath of this community -- and they hold those views for all the right reasons.

Unfortunately, their answers are off the mark. The incorporation of this broad-sweeping plan requires what could be termed extensive government action -- high (if not complete) taxation and income redistribution. The Dartmouth community's fixation with aiding those less fortunate is commendable -- it shows a high amount of what one prominent member of this community recently, oh-so-eloquently told us we all lack: character. Again, unfortunately, the basis for the solution under such a plan undermines its initial aims. Here I relay a point I made in a class recently: it is problematic and illogical to construct a system of justice based upon an act of theft.

Here I will likely lose all respect from the overwhelming majority of my readers. Yet I stand by my claim made in a past column that despite its necessity taxation is nothing other than institutionalized, nominally legal theft kept in place by the continual threat of violence. While it may be necessary to a hopefully minimal degree, we must never keep it far out of our minds that those supposedly noble men we send to Capital Hill do nothing but steal our money for the benefit of others. As the nineteenth century philosopher Frdric Bastiat so eloquently put it, "The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else." Despite its commendable aims, any type of governmental action for the enforcement of any programs seemingly required by a modern concept of "social justice" is an undesirable abuse of our system of governance put into place to ensure our existence, our liberty, our pursuit of happiness and little if anything else.

What is the solution? It is what I term "private action for the public good." I detest talking points, but let's face it -- modern politics shows that they work. This idea premises itself on the points made above, and prescribes the following solution: eliminate most, if not all, and certainly at least a lot, of the taxation in the United States that currently goes towards "social justice" or other such government programs. Instead, citizens will encourage one another through forums like those available here at Dartmouth to donate whatever portion of their now-inflated incomes they personally choose to private establishments set up for the public good. Not only will these institutions be more efficient than the government; they will have a responsibility to those who invest in them to ensure results. The end result will be that no American will be forced, gun-to-head, to surrender a portion of his personal, private property to another citizen ever again.

Some might contend that this solution would suffer from the so-called "collective action problem," one of the dearly-held-onto so-called "failings" of the free market system. I respond that this belief predicates itself on a view of people, and Americans in particular, as uncaring, essentially bad people. I respectfully, and strongly, disagree and suggest we as Americans begin pushing private action for the public good, among other things, to ensure that no American ever again has his privacy infringed upon by another hoping to Christianize him, to make him a better person, or to provide for the welfare of the most unfortunate members of our nation. It is the realm of the private sector to do any of those through private donations.