Property ownership is a foundational principle of America. John Adams called property “as surely a right as liberty.” The recently passed stimulus bill, I believe, throws the concept of this right out of balance–to own property means being able to afford property. For example, we have the right to bear arms…does that mean the government should buy us all handguns? And what if it bought certain people guns, but not others? Moreover, what if it taxed you more to pay for that other person’s new-found property?
Cicero faced a similar scenario in Ancient Rome of politicians destroying the equilibrium, and therefore, the justice, of property ownership. Here are a few things he had to say about it:
“When politicians, enthusiastic to pose as the people’s friends, bring forward bills providing for the distribution of property, they intend that the existing owners shall be driven from their homes. Or they propose to excuse borrowers from paying back their debts.
“Men with those views undermine the very foundations on which our commonwealth depends. In the first place, they are shattering the harmony between one element in the State and another, a relationship which cannot possibly survive if debtors are excused from paying their creditor back the sums of money he is entitled to. Furthermore, all politicians who harbour such intentions are aiming a fatal blow at the whole principle of justice; for once rights of property are infringed, this principle is totally undermined.”
But how do we keep this from happening when families are losing their homes and their jobs?
It’s a shame we didn’t listen to Cicero 30 years ago:
“The real answer to the problem is that we must make absolutely certain that private debts do not ever reach proportions which will constitute a national peril. There are various ways of ensuring this. But just to take the money away from the rich creditors and give the debtors something that does not belong to them is no solution at all. For the firmest possible guarantee of a country’s security is sound credit…
So the men in charge of our national interests will do well to steer clear of the kind of liberality which involves robbing one man to give to another.”
It is important to note that Cicero was a wholehearted advocate of generosity; moreover, generosity to the genuinely poor, not those to whom the giver will gain popularity and status by donating. However, he also believed the state is not a charity, and especially so if it is “distributing property” forcibly.
That’s what Cicero was saying nearly 2,100 years ago.
Yesterday it was a much different struggle at the White House. Class struggle was the name of the game:
This is very simple. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs went out of his way today to blast CNBC’s Rick Santelli for his “rant” yesterday against Obama’s mortgage assistance plan. The early press reaction asks why the White House would give Santelli free publicity and elevate him to Official status? Easy: they’d rather the opposition be identified with Santelli and stock brokers than with, say, a Joe the Plumber type (but who actually is a plumber and who has serious real reservations about the mortgage plan). Let opponents of the plan get into a tizzy, and let them have Santelli — whose regular guy creds have to be established — as their spoxman. Because, as it stands, ordinary folks don’t much trust Wall Street these days….
Here’s what Gibbs said
“I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs during a press briefing. “But the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgage, stay in their job, pay their bills, to send their kids to school, and to hope that they don’t get sick or that somebody they care for gets sick and sends them into bankruptcy. I think we left a few months ago the — the adage that, if it was good for a derivatives trader, that it was good for Main Street. I think the verdict is in on that.”
“Mr Santelli doesn’t know what he’s. talking about.”
Well, Santelli knows what he’s talking about.
Santelli, who has been a member of both the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, lashed out at the Obama administration yesterday for “promoting bad behavior.”
“We certainly don’t want to put stimulus forth and give people a whopping $8 or $10 in their check and think they ought to save it,” effused Santelli on CNBC from the floor of the Exchange. “And in terms of modifications, I tell you what, I have an idea. The new administration is big on computers and technology – how about this, President and new administration? Why don’t you put up a Web site to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages, or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water.”
There were some cheers from those surrounding Santelli on the floor.
“This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand.”
There were boos.
“President Obama are you listening?” Santelli asked.
The administration completely emphasizes fear and crisis:
It serves Gibbs and the Obama administration to attack a member of the press with significant private enterprise experience because, to use Cicero’s words, by
shattering the harmony between one element in the State and another,
it furthers their agenda.
Now as it always has.
In the meantime, the market has been voting on the Obama policies: Dow Declines 6.2% In Punishing Week
Via Pat Dollard