This morning, "notorious" Texas swindler and fraudster Billy Sol Estes was found dead in his home in Granbury, Texas. The 83-year-old man had led an interesting life, one full of success both in business and of defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars.
Despite other things he may have been involved in, those millions of dollars make Estes a hero.
Billy Sol Estes was a scrupulously moral man in his personal life, preaching against dancing and other perceived immoral behavior as a Church of Christ lay preacher, but on the other hand he is remembered mostly for his wildly successful efforts to defraud the federal government's cotton subsidy program for millions of dollars.
Of course he is vilified for this, but what is a few measly million of dollars, which were stolen money to begin with, compared to the untold trillions of dollars seized by the federal government from individuals and businesses over the years? An article at the time of Estes' conviction stated that his paradoxical behavior was worse than that of Dr. Hyde of Jekyll and Hyde fame, but compared to the career criminals in the federal government, Estes is almost cherubic in his uprightness.
Of course, intent also factors considerably into a crime. Estes' sole purpose for defrauding the federal government was self-enrichment, an understandable goal. In the federal government's case, however, the intent for which it confiscates wealth is far more nefarious. In addition to the standard personal gain that politicians work toward, the funds looted from producing individuals are employed in disastrous foreign ventures, such as propping up violent dictators, funding revolutionary elements, toppling governments that don't do what the U.S. government likes, and raising and supplying armies to invade all corners of the globe to spread the global U.S. hegemony.
Means also factors into a crime. While Estes' method of committing fraud was lying about crops of cotton, filing claims for nonexistent anhydrous tanks, and breaking regulations concerning cotton production, all non-violent and non-coercive actions, the federal government's ongoing self-enrichment at the expense of Americans is based on force and violence. Estes filed deceitful forms to receive goods that had already been stolen, but the government wields the power to steal and kill from Americans. Estes took advantage of a ridiculous government subsidy program, but the government takes advantage of its monopoly of legitimized violence to enrich itself at individuals' expense.
Sure, Estes was implicated in a whole lot of bad things. His connection with Lyndon B. Johnson and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of people investigating Estes' operation are suspicious at best, and at worst, he may have even been a murderer or conspired to have someone killed — though that isn't consistent with his other non-violent actions. However, the government, the supposed "victim" of Estes' schemes, is on a daily basis involved in killing innocent people, ruining lives through unjust incarceration, or blowing up people on the other side of the world because they may have made the mistake of being born to the wrong person. Even if Estes was responsible for all of the mayhem that surrounded his life, which is hardly logical to assume, he was again an upstanding and honest individual when compared to the violent atrocities carried out by the federal government on a daily basis.
So, while I hope that Estes stood before God as a son and not a sinner this morning, compared to the violence, theft, coercion, kidnapping, and murder of the state, Mr. Estes was a saint.
Article originally appeared at JamesLStreet.com