This article originally appeared on the blog of Heretic, the magazine of We Are Libertarians.
Each of us is used to being bribed. It’s not as directly as when members of Congress accept bribes but it is quite real. Let’s start with the bribery we’re both familiar with.
I’ll be blunt, whenever a Republican and Democrat square off for the presidency, while I will likely vote for the libertarian, anybody else, or nobody at all, I actually do have a personal favorite between the two. One that I hope wins in spite of how much I dislike them both. It’s an easy choice. The Republicans usually cut my taxes by almost half, between the tax on my business and then the following income tax. They usually have rhetoric that, as a straight, white, Christian, male, make me feel comfortable. Democrats, conversely, have actually targeted me during tax time. A Democrat in office took away my health care coverage. They make me feel awful for being a straight, white, Christian, male.
I’m being bribed. I make imagination that Republicans actually care about me more than Democrats, in fact, outside of politics, I’m treated pretty equally by everybody. But they know that people like me suffer when Democrats are in charge and prosper when Republicans are in charge (alright, let’s not give them TOO much credit, let’s say suffer LESS when they are in charge).
But the Democrats have their bribes, too. The health care that was taken from me was given to their ilk. The tax money taken from me was given to their brood. They are bribing their people with my wallet and my freedom. Just like my side does to them. It’s just a giant see-saw, we’re all taking turns on which one’s tribe suffers. So why, then, am I not a Republican, pushing for my side, trying to get the maximum amount of time in the power position on this back-and-forth?
Because it’s still bribery. I can’t, in good conscience, rejoice in my tax cut when I know so many others suffer because of Republican policies. I can’t strut around happy to be a straight, white, Christian, male when I know so many others are hurting due to being non-straight, non-white, non-Christian, and non-male. My good fortune is coming at the expense of others. And that’s not fortune at all, it’s just theft.
That takes us to the coronavirus. The bribery has not stopped. Various bailout plans have come before the Senate, all of which hurt someone and help someone else. $1.5 trillion to help stock brokers, taken out against our children. $1 trillion to the poor, at the expense of small businesses. $800 billion to the unemployed, paid for by inflation against the cost of all consumer goods. Some of these plans help me. Some of these plans hurt me. But all of these plans hurt someone.
Congress is engaged in debates right now, arguing about who should pay and who should receive. Like true politicians, the considerations are rarely about who needs the most help, but who will be the largest voting bloc. “Who’s the easiest to bribe? Pay them from the pockets of those who are the most difficult to bribe.”
The elderly are scared. Those with compromised immune systems are scared. The unemployed are scared. The business owners are scared. Drowning men grasp at straws. I don’t blame anyone for wanting or, in most cases, desperately needing a bribe right now. But there’s no reason drowning men should be drowning one another to reach these straws. Solutions need not come at the burden of others.
When you speak to your family, remember ALL of those who are hurting. If you find yourself trying to triage the situation, dictating who should be the focus and who should fall by the wayside, you’ve been brainwashed into speaking like a politician, ready to rob Peter to pay Paul if Paul suits his agenda better than Peter. If you think everyone should quarantine for several months, what will you do to help those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and, if you print money, how will you justify that to the children who must pay it back? If you think everyone should carry on as usual, what will you say to those newborns with compromised immune systems or the elderly who have not had time to prepare for complete withdraw from a world that moves on without them?
I am glad I stopped taking bribes, now more than ever. It’s easy to look at some of these bills and cheer them on, knowing they benefit me. But that’s why bribery is evil; I’m not supposed to ask where the money came from, so long as it lands in my pocket. If you’re ever going to stop being a pawn, you simply have to start thinking about others. You can and should still stand up for yourself. Paying a bribe is as evil as receiving a bribe. But evil means lead to evil ends, especially in government. It takes some creative thinking that corporations, the media, and politicians are unable, or, more accurately, unwilling, to do. But we’ve already seen the markets find these solutions during this crisis, they just require your help and support. They might not be offering you someone else’s money, like the Republicans and Democrats are undoubtedly doing right now, but they’ll offer you something even better; a ticket off of the bribery train. And that freedom is worth a lot more than any money you could take from your neighbors.