The Old Testament tells the story of Ahab and his wife Jezebel and how they got Naboth’s Vineyard. (Ahab was the king of Northern Israel around 850 B.C.) Naboth had the misfortune of having a vineyard next to the palace. When Naboth turned down Ahab’s offer to buy the vineyard—refusing to sell because it was his family’s ancestral land—Ahab was so distraught that he lay down on his bed, looked away, and wouldn’t eat. His wife, Queen Jezebel, asked, in effect, “Aren’t you king of Israel?” and promised to get Naboth’s vineyard. Why should Naboth’s right to keep his property stand in the way of Ahab’s greed?
Jezebel sent instructions to the “elders and nobles” instructing them to hold a public meeting and to set Naboth in a high place. Then they should get “two Children of Belial”— that is men who were personifications of evil[i] — to accuse Naboth of blasphemy. Blasphemy was a capital offense in ancient Israel and two witnesses were required to convict.[ii] The plan worked; the crowd was enraged by the accusations against Naboth; he was stoned to death; and at Jezebel’s behest Ahab got up and took the vineyard. It is an illustrative story of a ruler ignoring property rights, turning public opinion against those who resisted his claims to their property, and the political success of using false accusations—even 2,800 years ago.[iii]
Rulers always want the property of others—sometimes merely for self-aggrandizement, often so that they can hand it out to their supporters to gain their loyalty. In our day, it is common for those in power to use those in control (of the media) to find Children of Belial to demonize the intended victim so the rulers can take their property with impunity. In our country rulers don’t actually take the money of others to deposit into their own bank accounts; they take it to hand out to voters who will re-elect them. Don’t be fooled into seeing a difference where there is none: in Ahab’s day they simply plundered the property; today they call it taxes. Plundering and taxes have the same effect—they both result in private property being taken by force from its legitimate owners.[iv] It is done on a massive scale by the federal government.
Jezebel’s strategy only works if you pick the right accusation. Jezebel’s choice of accusation against Naboth was brilliant. She knew that blasphemy was so detested that it would inflame the passions of those present to carry out her selfish will. Rulers, and those seeking to be rulers, do the same today. They artfully choose accusations that will demonize those who oppose them. These accusations are a crystal clear indication of what politicians—whose great talent is diagnosing exactly what will resonate with voters—believe will turn the electorate against their foes. There is no point in making an accusation unless you expect it to work.
So what accusations do today’s politicians believe will be effective? How do you get the country so upset that they will demand that the property of others be grabbed and given to the rulers for redistribution to the compliant crowd? What about accusing today’s Naboths of not contributing their “Fair Share?” Why should anyone be permitted to keep a vineyard when others want a “Fair Share” of it? Of course in our day it is a particularly unjustifiable demand, when the Naboth’s of America (that is the wealthiest ten percent—measured by adjusted gross income) are already paying 70 of the income taxes. If there is anyone not contributing a Fair Share, it is the fifty percent of Americans who pay almost no income taxes.[v] But a false accusation worked so well for Jezebel 2,800 years ago, why not try it today?
[ii] Leviticus 24:16 and Deuteronomy 17:6
[iii] 1 Kings 21. The story foretells a really bad ending for Ahab and Jezebel because God was very displeased.
[iv] Admittedly plundering and taxes are different because taxes are imposed by a legislature elected by those taxed. But see my posts of September 9, 2011 on “Representation without Taxation” and September 16, 2011 on “Compulsory Charity.”