Don’t Steal, It’s Illegal!

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Having an understanding of libertarian philosophy has definitely changed my life for the better.  I’ve read a lot of great books, met a bunch of great people, and definitely improved my outlook on life.  One of the few “problems” with thinking this way is that almost everyday I’ll hear a mundane, seemingly meaningless throw-away line in casual conversation and want to write a blog post about it.  These are things I wouldn’t have even noticed or gave a second thought to ten years ago.

This past weekend Mrs. Jones, my son, and I were all out to dinner at one of the several chain restaurants in our area.  Seated at the table next to us were a male and female with 3 kids I’d guess to be between 8-12 years old.  I don’t know if they were all a family or if the guy was taking his nephews out for dinner, I wasn’t really paying too much attention to them….until their giant ice cream sundae caught my eye!  The 3 kids ripped through that thing in about 7 seconds, and I don’t blame them.  It looked really good.

It seemed the kids were satisfied with the meal because I heard one of them poll the table shouting, “Ok, so who wants to go home now?”  All 3 kids raised their hand and got up from the table. The adult male (we’ll call him “dad”) at the table told them they cannot leave until he pays for the dinner.  “Why?”, one of the kids asked.  “Because we have to.” the dad said.  That wasn’t good enough for the kid, so he fired back with another, “But why?”.  The dad answered, “Because it is illegal not to.”

There it is! That’s the line that I wouldn’t have cared to remember just 5 years ago, “Because it is illegal not to”.  What a great opportunity that man had to teach these little guys about voluntary trade!  He gave what I consider to be the worst possible answer he could have given.  If he was annoyed with the question a better answer would have simply been, “Because.”  Instead he is teaching them that what is right is what is legal and what is wrong is what is illegal.

This is a dangerous way of thinking that far too many of us have.  This way of thinking (or lack thereof) is what strips us of our morality and dehumanizes us.  “Because it is legal”  allows us to steal from others through the welfare state, shoot each other through war and find every loophole in the law to take every penny you can from a shop owner when you slip in his store.  This is the reason juries often don’t trust the testimony of witnesses with a record of smoking pot.  After all, smoking pot is illegal, they cannot be trusted.

Instead, we should teach our children that the owner of the restaurant allowed us in his dining room. His chef cooked us a meal and the waitress brought it to us and kept our drinks full, and they’re going to clean up the mess we leave for them. We are simply trading our dollars for their service.  The food/service is more valuable to us than our dollars, and our dollars are more valuable to them than their food/service.

But kids can’t think like that, right?  Their brains aren’t developed enough to use logic and reason!  They also couldn’t speak English or use the toilet, but that doesn’t stop us from teaching it.