Denmark: legalized government theft from the poor

The news report is here: Denmark legalizes confiscation of valuables from immigrants (CNN)

This new law in Denmark allows the government to seize cash, jewelry, watches, mobile phones, computers, and other valuables (except for things of sentimental value) from “asylum seekers”, i.e. refugees or other immigrants. The law proposes that this confiscation of private property is a payment to cover the expenses caused by their immigration into the nation. But in truth, the law is nothing other than legalized theft.

Human persons have a fundamental right to own private property [Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, 176-178]. The needs of the common good can at times limit that right, allowing the larger community to use or possess what would otherwise be private property, but only in cases of dire need.

Denmark is one of the wealthy nations of the world. Many of the refugees immigrating to Denmark are poor; they are displaced unwillingly from their homes, fleeing with whatever they can carry. The larger wealthy community does not have a dire need for the private property of these poor individuals.

The claim that this confiscation is a payment of expenses is specious. The refugees are not presented with a bill, explaining the services rendered and their cost. Moreover, every nation has a moral responsibility to help persons in need, especially the poor, as a charity to one’s neighbor. A wealthy nation forcing the poor to pay for services which should be given as a type of alms by the community is contrary to the moral law. The love of neighbor requires the wealthy to assist the poor, and that obligation applies to the local community and the nation, as well as to individuals.

Therefore, the confiscation of their private property is theft. It is the legalized theft of private property from the poor by the wealthy. This situation reminds me of the Monty Python sketch: Dennis Moore “He steals from the poor and gives to the rich….”

This law is also an expression of bias (and perhaps hatred) directed at migrants. The recent influx of many displaced persons into Europe and the U.S. has caused the rise of a sociopolitical bias against immigrants, even when the persons immigrating are in dire need because of poverty or war or terrorism or hatred in their own nation.

The love of neighbor is an indispensable positive precept which requires us to treat the stranger and the immigrant with compassion. And this is all the more true when a nation, such as the U.S. or a European nation, has plenty of resources while the immigrants are poor and in dire need.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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4 Responses to Denmark: legalized government theft from the poor

  1. Marcus Aurelius says:

    The assertion…”…every nation has a moral responsibility to help persons in need…” is really just your opinion of the way Governments should behave. Moral acts are not attributable to an inanimate object like a ‘nation’. Perhaps the population (or citizens) of Denmark have moral responsibility to help persons in need, but it’s not reasonable to assign collective moral behavior to a nation. A nation is a political construct.

    • Ron Conte says:

      A nation is primarily a group of human persons. Their government should be of, by, and for the people. Especially in a democracy, the people act through their government. So the people have a moral responsibility to make just laws and to help persons in need.

      A will is a legal construct. But the person writing their will has a moral responsibility to act justly. Political and legal constructs do not absolve persons of moral responsibility.

    • Marcus Aurelius says:

      You say…”A nation is primarily a group of human persons. Their government should be of, by, and for the people”….No, no, no, that’s only true of SOME democracies, it’s stated in the US Constitution, but for most of the world, and for 99% of history, govts. are not instruments of the people’s will, they are in place primarily to manage and control the people…if you want to assert that the population of Denmark is deficient because they are not en masse following Christian morality, I agree—-but let’s make sure that when we assign responsibility we do it in a way that points to real people, not to amorphous political structures…because, let’s be clear, the ‘nation’ of Denmark will not undergo judgment—but the people will….

    • Ron Conte says:

      Even when a government is ruled by a few persons, as in an oligarchy or dictatorship, whoever makes the decisions for the nation bears the responsibility.

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