Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Kleptodemocracy and Klepitalism

By Fred Foldvary

Today's societies and countries suffer from a politico-socio-economic disease: the "klep." This is a mental disorder; those inflicted with klep seek to steal what belongs to others, mistakenly thinking that such theft is morally justified. "Klep" means theft, and a kleptocracy is a government of kleptomaniacs, people with a compulsion to steal. All government chiefs today are kleptocrats, as are the voters who put them in office. Elected governments are kleptodemocracies, the rule by the people who want to be and are, thieves.

Most folks don't realize they are afflicted by klep, because they have been brainwashed to speak gibberish when they talk about economics. The triumph of socialist propaganda was to get people to label a mixed economy "capitalism." Even big-name defenders of private enterprise have adopted this propaganda term.

"Capitalism" mixes up the concept of the market economy or free enterprise with the blended or mixed economies in which government intervention is imposed on markets, interventions which skew, distort, and pervert the prices, profits, and incentives. Market haters can then blame all socio-economic problems on "capitalism," meaning markets, masking away interventions by using the same term, "capitalism," both for "free enterprise" and also for today's mixed economies.

It would be more accurate and clearer to call today's mixed-up economies by the term "klepitalism." Today's economies are afflicted with massive legalized looting by government and by private actors who are given a government license to commit grand larceny. Economists politely call this "rent seeking," but it would be more accurate to call it "rent stealing."

What does klepping consist of? The most blatant theft is the forcible taking of incomer from labor and capital. The taxation of produced income, produced wealth, and peaceful and honest exchanges, is theft. It is theft because human beings are created morally equal, and so any imposition on others creates an immoral master-slave relationship. Any use of force on peaceful and honest human action is morally evil. Any forced taking of labor, the products of labor, and the income of labor, is slavery and theft. Whether it is a private thief or a gang of thugs or a club of kleptos who call themselves "government" does not affect the evilness of theft.

Excessively restrictive and costly regulations are a substitute for taxation, and are also theft. If you are ill and wish to consume a particular medicine, and the government won't let you, it becomes a thief which steals your body and health. If they draft you into the army, this is kidnaping and the theft of your body. If they won't let you buy sugar from Cuba, they steal your liberty and steal the utility you would otherwise get from exchange. If the government man says you may not deliver first-class mail privately in competition with the government, the man steals your enterprising spirit and potential profit. If you want to give legal advice to someone who wants your help, but it is illegal because you don't have the required legal license, the liberty and gains from trade of both parties are stolen.

Thieves, thieves, countless thieves! The dozens of taxes and uncountable regulations are instruments of kleptodemocracy and klepitalism. The social symptoms are poverty, unemployment, congestion, and pollution. The worst of the disorder is that folks afflicted with klep don't even realize it. It is the opposite of a hypochondriac, someone who mistakenly thinks he is ill all the time. The kleptochondriac mistakenly thinks he is morally right to steal the property of others so long as it is done under the rubric of government.

But government is people, like soylent green. If an act is immoral for an individual, by what alchemy does it become morally right when folks call it "government"? Physically, government is nothing but people with an idea. Natural moral law is uniform and consistent; what is right or wrong for an individual is exactly the same for any group regardless of their mental constructs.

How would government get revenue in a righteous world, without klep? There would be user fees, voluntarily paid for wanted services. There would be compensation charges for pollution and tolls to prevent congestion. There would be site-rental payments that pay back value received for civil works that create that rental. Whatever civilian goods and services are provided by government would be in competition with similar private services, with no bias or subsidy for government for provisions such as schooling.

Governmental looting is not a crime of necessity. Government can function quite well, and indeed much better, if it is under the same rule of moral law as individual persons. Klep not only steals, but creates waste and leads to conflict. What is needed is for folks to learn basic universal ethics. They would then be cured of the klep, and they would stop supporting roundabout theft. We would then enjoy true peace, social harmony, and prosperous enterprise.

Dr. Fred Foldvary teaches economics at Santa Clara University and is the author of several books: The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and the Dictionary of Free-Market Economics.