Is It Theft?

Suppose I knew an elderly lady who needed prescription drugs but didn't have enough money to buy them. So I walk up to one of you viewers and threaten, "Give me $100 or I'm going to do some kind of harm to you!" Having relieved you of your $100, I purchase that lady's prescriptions. Would you see me as a compassionate individual or just a plain common thief, regardless of what I did with your money? But don't answer yet.

Suppose before I relieved you of your money, I got a majority yea vote among me and ten other people that I should do so, would that help you decide whether I was committing an act of compassion or an act of theft? Suppose it was 100 people who agreed, a thousand, or 100 million people who agreed that I should take your money for the benefit of some other American, would that change anything? In other words, does a consensus or even legality determine whether a given act is right or wrong?

I know what you're thinking: If Congress doesn't take people's money, how in the world is that lady in need of prescriptions going to be helped? I say reaching into your own pocket to help another is compassionate and praiseworthy. Reaching into somebody else's pocket is theft and there's no two ways about it.

I'm Walter Williams

Nightly Business Report
February 2002
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