The Eighth Commandment: Don’t Steal

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Thou shalt not steal. (Exodus 20:15)

Obviously, it’s wrong to take property from another. This kind of behavior is the kind of thing that destroys economic wealth. I certainly can’t imagine doing business or even having a job when anyone can take anything and claim it as theirs.

I do believe that there are too many in our society who believe that it is OK to take what they need whenever they need it. We have a lot more thefts in our country than need be because we don’t vigorously teach people how to get what they want and need without stealing. After all, there is more than enough in this world, and if the would-be thief would rather spend his time, thoughts, and energy figuring out ways to contribute to society beneficially, they would end up with more material wealth than any thievery could get them.

What’s worse is institutionalized theft. This is when the government takes what is not theirs and does so illegally. We have massive social programs that are simply unconstitutional. I can’t seem to lay my finger on the provision in the Constitution of the United States that allows federal tax collectors to collect Social Security and Medicare taxes and spend them on those programs. I can’t seem to identify where the Founding Fathers authorized the food stamp program, the welfare program, or the housing and education programs.

But even if theft is legal, it is still wrong. A government should never collect taxes for the purposes of giving it to someone else. A government is charged with protecting the general interests of everyone, not paying off the poor with mandatory taxes.

Taking what is not yours is wrong, no matter what the purpose is.

Our material possessions represent our life energy, as Weissbach says. We worked to get what we have, and so whatever time we spent obtaining it is time that we will never get back. We only have so much time in our life, and so it represents a part of our life. When you take that property, it is like you are taking away part of that person’s life.

Imagine living in a society where property rights were universally respected. What is yours is yours, and mine is mine. Individuals in this society would see only one way of getting what they wanted: commerce. They would need to buy, sell, and trade what they had for what someone else had. Every interaction would be a net benefit to both parties. People wouldn’t live in fear and go to extraordinary lengths to protect their property from theft and taxes. Instead, all of their energies would be spent on making things other people wanted, and providing the goods and services people want.

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