Friday, February 10, 2006

Under Siege: Voting Rights of Felons or Property Rights of Citizens?

The New York Times misses almost no opportunity to advance the cause of government robbery and other forms of force and violence against the citizens of the United States. Its latest effort, expressed today in an editorial titled “Voting Rights Under Siege,” is to urge the enfranchisement of five million felons.

With exceptions, such as those convicted of income-tax evasion or violations of other interventionist legislation, felons are people who have committed acts of force against their fellow citizens. It is sound policy to keep them from the polls, where they would be in a position to contribute to more of the same, by voting for politicians who would do under cover of the law the very kind of thing that they have done in violation of the law.

For example, holding up a gas station at the point of a gun is a felony. But a tax collector taking the gas station owner’s money—under the threat of armed force—that’s legal. And the money may even serve exactly the same purpose in both instances. The holdup man doesn’t want to work, so he commits a holdup. The government gives money to people so that they don’t have to work, and now don’t even have to pull the holdup themselves.

Of course, it doesn’t actually work out that any fewer private holdups or other private acts of force are committed. Quite the contrary. This is because when the use of force to seize other people’s wealth is sanctioned and legitimized by the behavior of the government itself, the moral barrier to its use is weakened throughout society. The government, in effect, tells the robbers that their behavior is essentially justified.

In an effort to limit the extent of force and violence against its citizens, the Legislature of the State of Pennsylvania is considering a bill that would limit the voting rights of felons. At present, felons have the right to vote in Pennsylvania once they leave prison. What is under consideration is preventing them from voting until the terms of their maximum sentences have expired. In addition, the Pennsylvania Legislature is considering requiring proof of identity on the part of all voters, not just first-time voters, in order to reduce fraud at the polls.

The Times identifies these measures, probably correctly, as creating a voting barrier “especially for groups that tend to be Democratic.” That, of course, is the constituency which it favors. And it is especially concerned because “Pennsylvania [is] a swing state that will hold some critical elections this fall.” What The Times is doing here is fighting against barriers to criminality and fraud. And this from a newspaper that pretends to have high moral standards and regularly puts itself in the position of moral censor of the nation. What hypocrisy!

There are property rights. There is no right to steal. There is no right to vote to steal. A majority voting to steal is no different in principle than a majority voting for a lynching.

The American people need protection from crime, private and government. The starting point of any real protection must be the unmasking of the sophistries and dishonesty present in such mistakenly esteemed publications as The New York Times.

This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that the author’s web site is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved.