“Larceny is a crime involving the unlawful taking of the personal property of another person or business.” Note the terms “unlawful” and “personal property”. Why is taking of someone else’s property a crime? It was a crime ever since there have been laws, and is a crime across cultures and countries. I’m sure you could find exceptions if you tried hard enough, but suffice it to say, if someone stole your stuff you’d consider it a crime, so don’t waste my time with exceptions. It’s even a crime in communist countries, where property, especially the private kind, is sort of a dirty word. But back to my question, why is theft unlawful? I am going with the Christian perspective on this, since I believe it provides the most foundational basis for private property.
God owns everything, and he gives people the responsibilities of stewardship over, or management of property. Why? Stewardship matures us, preparing us for greater responsibilities. The Bible says that God’s people will rule over the New Earth, as they were supposed to rule over creation. We haven’t done a good job of that, but the practice of stewardship over personal property one of the ways to develop the discipline of rulership. When you were a kid, and saw a bike you really wanted, but had to save up for it, how did it feel to finally be able to buy it? how diligently you would care for it, compared to the kid whose father bought him a bike with no effort on his part. Now imagine some kid came along and stole your bike. How would you feel? How well do you think the thief would care for it? A car is a more grown up example, harder to save for, more to take care of, unless it was given to you, in which case you wouldn’t have much incentive to care for it. These simple examples illustrate how stewardship of your property helps mature you. If there were no sanctions against theft, there would be no chance of stewardship.
Protection of life and property are basic functions of government, among the main reasons government exists. So what happens when the government itself is stealing the property God has given you to steward? I don’t mean taxation per se, some level of taxation is necessary. I mean tax policy that deliberately sets those who want to keep more of the money God has allowed them to make against those who want to take more of it from them. Why do we call it greed when someone wants to keep more but not when we want to take more? The Democratic Party for most of my lifetime has been chanting the mantra about the “rich paying their fair share.” I would like definitions of “rich” and “fair share”. How much is that? The top five percent already pay fifty-seven percent of the tax load. What’s really behind that mantra are larcenous hearts. They want to raise taxes selectively on those who have money simply because they have money. They will never define fair share, the phrase is just a way to pander to larcenous hearts. Certain states, like New York, have tried that kind of larceny, and those who could afford to pay could also afford to move their capital, which creates jobs…somewhere else.
Taxation policy is not even the most insidious form of government theft. Unlimited deficit spending and inflation steal more property, in the form of purchasing power, than taxes. The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein once wrote about it this way: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances that permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of society, the people slip back into abject poverty. This is known as ‘bad luck’.” Yeah, for whom?
I could spend multiple blog posts explaining how and why government deficit spending and fiscal policy inflation steals purchasing power, and I won’t. The subject is almost too complicated to follow. What matters for my purpose is to educate on the concept of stewardship and to propose a dialogue about whether the demand for social justice is either “I want to honor God by having increased responsibility for stewardship” or “I want more of someone else’s stuff”; either God is the giver or government is the giver. If God is, there is no limit. If government is, the limit is what those who have been better stewards are willing to have taken from them.