It seems a common misconception: the idea that Robin Hood is the perfect model for socialism and altruism in general. In a conversation this past week, that was the opinion of a friend. We were discussing the odd nature of some teachers in distributing school supplies in a way we weren’t thrilled about. It’s a long story, and frankly I don’t have enough space to write about it.
What was important right now is that my friend, like so many others, had the opinion that Robin Hood “robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.” Frankly, it’s an easy thing to assume considering everyone says just that. It’s just kind of funny that it’s not true.
Robin Hood did indeed rob folks and give it to others, but the whole bit of robbing from the wealthy and giving to the destitute is an oversimplification of the realty that is Robin Hood’s mission in life. You see, the target of his wrath wasn’t the wealthy necessarily, though they were indeed rich, and the recipients of his largess weren’t the poor simply because they were poor.
The truth of Robin Hood is that he was a tax revolt personified. You see, at that time in England, the “rich” were the aristocracy of the medieval world. As aristocrats, they were the government and enacted taxes arbitrarily. The taxed were the peasants.
In the world of Robin Hood, the workers supported a class of people who did nothing on their own and lived off the fruits of other’s labor. These workers, the so-called poor, were supporting a welfare class who essentially did nothing except live in luxury while actually doing nothing. Instead of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, he stole from the tax collectors and returned the money to the people it was taken from.
Fate, it seems, isn’t without a sense of irony. Robin Hood, who many say was based on a real person, was a champion of people against the state and a believer that a man should be able to keep the fruits of his own labor to spend as he sees fit. However, time has mutated his actions into a parody of his own reality. His legacy has been used as a model for many schemes that involve using taxation to take money from those who work and give it to those who don’t. It has been corrupted to justify the exact sort of thing that Robin Hood stood against.
My friend thought for a moment upon learning this. Slowly, his head nodded. Either he was humoring me, or he was truly coming to grasp the idea. Finally, he said he saw my point. You see, the idea of helping out the poor is still a noble cause, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Even the most ardent capitalist tends to donate money and time toward noble causes. Where people like myself put up resistance to taxation in general isn’t so much because of what it will be used for, it’s the fact that it’s being taken from me without my own consent.
Now, before you think that I’m some guy who just hates paying taxes, understand that there are things that I’m OK with paying them for. Police, Fire protection, courts, roads, all are things that I find little to no fault with my tax dollars being spent on. But when governments takes money from me by force, and make no mistake, there is indeed force involved, but when they use force and then use it to subsidize the lazy, I’m going to get worked up.
Some will be reading this and say that taxation doesn’t involve force. To those folks, I ask them to try and not pay and see what happens. If you don’t do it, you will be arrested. Your freedom will be taken away and your property will be taken. If that isn’t force, I don’t know what is. It’s not that different than medieval England. It’s almost enough to make you wish for Robin Hood’s return.
Written by Tom Knighton. Read his blog at SWGA Politics.com. A lifelong political junkie, Tom started out his adult life as a journalism major at Darton College before leaving school to serve his nation as a U.S. Navy Corpsman. Through the years, he has watched government from outside and inside. A former Reagan supporter, then later a Democrat, Tom now finds himself quite comfortable as a card carrying Libertarian and all around smart-elec.