Column on Revisiting Wealth Redistribution
Revisiting Wealth Redistribution
Tibor R. Machan
Statists often clamor for wealth redistribution, mostly implying that the wealth held by those who make or obtain it in the marketplace, without coercion, is in the wrong hands and must be transferred to other people or projects in dire need of it.
Sounds humane, kind, friendly, generous, compassionate and so on, doesn’t it? The wealth-redistributors can then brag about how they are the good guys and intimate that those who do not want them to do their taking and redistributing are just a callous, greedy lot.
Yet if you look more carefully at wealth redistribution you find that what the dispute is about isn’t really whether wealth should be redistributed. That’s because wealth is nearly always being redistributed. You may get a buck for mowing someone’s lawn but you will not be sitting on it but usually go to the mall or grocery store or movie and make use of it–indeed, hand it over to someone else who then is going to do the same and this process just keeps going on. Some of the stuff for which the wealth is distributed will be consumed but then the consumer will expand his or her time and energy to create some more wealth. It just keeps going round and round, wealth and its equivalent being endlessly redistributed unless the tax-takers disrupt the process.
So if we are all vigorously engaged in wealth redistribution, what’s up with the claim that it is only the tax-takers who do it? It is a lie, that’s what.
What really bugs the taxers is not that wealth isn’t being redistributed by those being taxed but that where the wealth is headed isn’t up to them but up to those who hold the wealth in the first place. The tax-takers don’t like us to have the choice about who will receive our wealth, to whom and for what it will be distributed and redistributed, that’s what’s at stake here. You and I aren’t a good enough wealth-redistributor, they are. Mr. Obama, who declared to Joe the Plumber, and Hilary Clinton who told that San Francisco gathering of well healed folks that their wealth will be redistributed, do not believe your and my choices as to where our resources should go are good ones but theirs must be.
Exactly what justifies this belief on the wealth-redistributors’ part is a mystery to me. Except it may just be the same as that of the bank robber, burglar, embezzler, and any other confiscator of other people’s wealth. They want it and will take it if they can get away with it. That they have absolutely no legitimate reason to believe that their choices of where the wealth should go, to whom it should be redistributed, makes no difference. At least bank-robbers and their ilk don’t insult their victims by making the incredible claim that they are taking what isn’t theirs because their use of it is superior to what their victims may have used the wealth for. Politicians and their cheerleaders, however, are bald faced liars about this and try to peddle the myth of their superior knowledge of what the funds should go for. And since it isn’t their funds–actually, their life and labors and inventiveness–but ours, they pay far less attention to whether it is wisely spend, whether the value of what they use the funds for is well calculated and whether the funds spent is done wisely and prudently. The funds they redistribute turn out to be mostly a waste or precious resources, including, don’t make any mistake about this, other people’s lives shortened by the process.
This is in fact another instance of the tragedy of the commons, only here it is brought about not so much by way of tragedy but out and out villainy and obfuscation. The takers of our resources aren’t better qualified to spend them than we are. They don’t do wealth-redistribution right while we do it wrong. They just want to do it because they can, because perversities of the legal system make it possible.
It is time to bring this ruse to an end. Those people’s scam should be shut down. Their phony authority to take from everyone so they can use it as they see fit–in the name that they are the nice guys who redistribute wealth while we the greedy bunch intent on keeping it for ourselves–must be abolished. They should be sent off to join Bernie Madoff by now.
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