VII. STEALINGrnby Murray N. RothbardrnThou shalt not steal,” along with the other commandments,rnis refreshingly direct, clear, and absolute.rnThere is no need to “deconstruct the text” or for anguished inquiryrninto what God really meant. Evidently, too, God was notrna practitioner of situation ethics. The commandment didrnnot say: “Thou shalt not steal, unless thou feelest that thyrnneed is greater than the owner’s.” Neither did the commandmentrnsay: “Thou shalt not steal, unless thou reallyrnneedest the money.” In particular, the commandment callsrninto profound question the entire existence of the modernrnwelfare state. For God also did not say: “Thou shalt not steal,rnunless thou is a legislator or a duly certified official of thernstate.” There are no exceptions to or exemptions in this commandment.rnHow can taxation be theft? How can it not? Theft is takingrnsomeone’s property by force. If A grabs X’s property by force,rnthat is theft. If A and his buddy B do the same thing, they toornare stealing or committing theft. And even if A, B, C, andrnmost of the neighbors in the community grab X’s propertyrnby force, the act of stealing remains the same. For at whatrnpoint does the number committing the sin negate the sin?rnEven if it is an IRS official who grabs your property, as duly authorizedrnby Congress, the act still remains theft. Whateverrnway you slice it, and regardless of the number of people involvedrnin the theft or of their official titles, Peter is beingrnrobbed to pay Paul as well as the robbers themselves, whornmust of course acquire their handling fee.rnPut another way, this commandment directly implies thatrnthe property rights of everyone in society must be respected,rnthat they must not be invaded. But what is taxation but aggressionrnagainst private property? It is not an accident that onernof the great traditions of Western thought is the likening of thernruler of the state to a bandit writ large. Cicero tells the parablernof the pirate and Alexander the Great. When the pirate wasrndragged into court, the king berated him for piracy and brigandagernand asked him what impulse had led him to make thernsea unsafe with his one little ship. The pirate boldly and trenchantlyrnreplied: “The same impulse which has led you [Alexander]rnto make the whole world unsafe.”rnIn The City of God, the great St. Augustine borrowed andrnexpanded the parable:rnFor it was an elegant and true reply that was made tornAlexander the Great by a certain pirate whom he hadrncaptured. When the king asked him what he wasrnthinking of, that he should molest the sea, he said withrndefiant independence: “The same as you when yournmolest the world! Since I do this with a little ship I amrncalled a pirate. You do it with a great fleet and arerncalled emperor.”rnIn the same passage, Augustine likened kingdoms to “greatrnrobber bands” and the latter to “little kingdoms.” When thernrobber band (“this plague”) grows large enough so that itrn”holds territory” and “seizes cities and subdues people,” thenrn”it more conspicuously assumes the name of kingdom,” thernname accruing to the robber gang “not for any subtraction ofrncupidity, but by addition of impunity.”rnWhen I first became interested in political theory, I eagerlyrnread General Theory of Law and State by the great earlyrn20th-century Viennese legal theorist Hans Kelsen. Kelsen, a legalrnpositivist, tried to set forth a deductive, objective, scientific,rnand “value-free” theory of law and the state. Early in thernbook, Kelsen came to one of the critical questions of politicalrntheory: What distinguishes the edicts of the state from thernorders of a bandit gang? Kelsen’s answer, however, was lessrnthan satisfactory: the edicts of the state are “valid,” whereas thernbandit decrees arc not. Searching fruitlessly for an explicationrnof “valid,” I finally realized that for Kelsen, the orders of thernstate are valid because they are orders of the state, an absurdlyrnquestion-begging solution to the crucial problem. I promptlyrnlost interest in Kelsen’s deductive system. Once again, thernwisdom of the ancients proved far more perceptive than modernrn”value-free science.”rnWe live in an age where we are confronted with wholesalernviolations of the commandment against theft. Every day wernface unorganized violent robbery “from below”; and every dayrnwe are looted systematically and regularly “from above” byrnthe minions of the state, backed by the power of organizedrncoercion. While conservative moralists tend to concentrate onrnthe pervasive violations of some of the other commandments,rnthey should not overlook what has happened to this one. Inrnfact, the current system of taxation and theft provides economicrnsupport for those who break the other commandmentsrnand builds up and sustains the state apparatus that blazes thernpath, leads the cheering squad, and often even provides the financesrnfor these violations. For anyone seeking to restore a societyrnof commandment-keepers, bringing back and enforcingrnthe injunction against theft should be of prime importance. rnMurray N. Rothbard is a professor of economics at thernUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas, and vice-president forrnacademic affairs at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.rnVIII. BEARING FALSE WITNESSrnby E. Christian KopffrnIn the ancient world, the Persians taught their young men tornride, shoot straight, and tell the truth. The Hebrew Biblerninveighs against false testimony. Greek thought returns againrnand again to the idea of aletheia or truth, the possibility ofrnknowing about a world outside our own impressions and desires.rnAnglo-Saxon culture made telling the truth to a juryrnan important part of developing a free state. Jefferson feltrnthat the same standards needed to be applied to the press.rnThe press should be free to tell the truth, but not to lie. Madisonrnhad to explain to his mentor that a standard that punishedrnthat kind of falsehood would soon mean the disappearancernof the press. Our modern world agrees with Madison.rnIn today’s world the press is disappearing, anyhow. Everyrnmonth or so another paper goes under. The process means littlernto the average citizen. We buy the paper for the sales advertisedrnon Wednesday and the TV supplement on Sunday.rnAs long as we are paying for it anyway, we read the sports andrn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn