I was first alerted to this by Matt Zwolinski of Bleeding Heart Libertarians. It comes from Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:
The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper without injury to his neighbour, is a plain violation of this most sacred property. It is a manifest encroachment upon the just liberty both of the workman, and of those who might be disposed to employ him. As it hinders the one from working at what he thinks proper, so it hinders the others from employing whom they think proper. To judge whether he is fit to be employed, may surely be trusted to the discretion of the employers whose interest it so much concerns. The affected anxiety of the law–giver lest they should employ an improper person, is evidently as impertinent as it is oppressive.
This comes from Robert Nozick, pages 149-150 in Anarchy, State, and Utopia:
The term “distributive justice” is not a neutral one. Hearing the term “distribution, ” most people presume that some thing or mechanism uses some principle or criterion to give out a supply of things. Into this process of distributing shares some error may have crept. So it is an open question, at least, whether redistribution should take place; whether we should do again what has already been done once, though poorly. However, we are not in the position of children who have been given portions of pie by someone who now makes last minute adjustments to rectify careless cutting. There is no central distribution, no person or group entitled to control all the resources, jointly deciding how they are to be doled out. What each person gets, he gets from others who give to him in exchange for something, or as a gift. In a free society, diverse persons control different resources, and new holdings arise out of the voluntary exchanges and actions of persons. There is no more a distributing or distribution of shares than there is a distributing of mates in a society in which persons choose whom they shall marry. The total result is the product of many individual decisions which the different individuals involved are entitled to make.
[U]nder the Rule of Law the government is prevented from stultifying individual efforts by ad hoc action. Within the known rules of the game the individual is free to pursue his personal ends and desires, certain that the powers of government will not be used deliberately to frustrate his efforts.
Now ponder that in light of what is happening in Cyprus.
This is quoted from Kierkegaard’s Spiritual Writings, translated by George Pattison:
“Every good and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of Lights, in whom is no change or shadow of turning.”
These words are so healing, so curative, and yet how often has the penitent soul understood them in such a way as to let itself be healed by them; how often has it understood not only the seriousness of the judgement it implies but also its merciful grace?
Or, my listener, perhaps you never had occasion to find these words difficult? Were you always satisfied with yourself, so satisfied that you perhaps thanked God that you were not like other people? Did you perhaps get so clever as to understand the deep meaning in the meaninglessness saying that it was good not to be like other people?
I admit that I am sometimes proud enough to be glad that I am not like other people. It’s not a comforting position; to not be like other people is to feel misunderstood and alone, with only the authenticity of self to assuage the deep seated uneasiness. To be like other people, on the other hand, is to deny some part of who you are as an individual, and is like a slow death, a constant drip of water eventually wearing through your artificial skin and penetrating deep within your being, forcing you to make a decision: Is this who I am, or is it not?
This selection comes from Fredrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit:
Nothing is more misleading, then, than the conventional formulae of historians who represent the achievement of a powerful state as the culmination of cultural evolution: it as often marked its end. In this respect students of early history were overly impressed and greatly misled by monuments and documents left by the holders of political power, whereas the true builders of the extended order, who as often as not created the wealth that made the monuments possible, left less tangible and ostentatious testimonies to their achievement.