It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an intrument of plunder. – Frederic Bastiat
Frédéric Bastiat introduced one of the most important concepts in political economy: “legal plunder,” the government’s forcible extraction of wealth from the populace for the benefit of the ruling class. French monarchs in Bastiat’s time sent out tax collectors to plunder the people, most of whom understood perfectly that the king was robbing them to pay for his extravagances and follies.
As Bastiat well knew, democratic governments also engage in legal plunder, although it is obscured by the myth that elected representatives do whatever is in the “public interest.” Under democracy the people supposedly are the government and therefore all its actions are justified. You certainly can’t steal from yourself.
Not so, declares Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in his book Stealing You Blind. Democracy is rife with legal plunder, Murray writes, and it’s no more justified than if a gang of thugs were to rob you at gunpoint. Politicians long ago figured out how to use government power to line their pockets, and special interest groups long ago figured out that by backing the right politicians, they could get far more wealth out of the public treasury than they could get through production and trade. As a result, Americans are heavily taxed to support “a new leisure class” that produces little or no value. It’s like having a huge tapeworm in your gut, feeding parasitically off the food you work to buy.