Why Rip Off The Rich?
Tibor R. Machan
This fracas about letting the Bush tax cut expire for those making more than the arbitrary amount of $250K per year is bizarre. Never mind for now that the entire system of taxation in a bona fide free country is criminal--not different, in principle, from a system of serfdom or involuntary servitude. (Taxation had its place in the same systems that were home to these other types of bondage!) But this unrestrained hatred for those who earn more than $250K is rank bigotry, not different from racial, gender and ethnic prejudice at heart.
Well, yes there is a difference, since when men and women become wealthy, this isn’t unavoidable as when they are black or women or from a given background into which they were born. But neither is becoming wealthy something for which anyone ought to be blamed and punished.
It is, after all, no longer the case that behind every great fortune there must be a great crime. That used to be generally true enough when wealth was obtained primarily via conquest, looting, and robbery perpetrated by armies and navies. One of the great discoveries of Adam Smith, the father of modern economic science, is that wealth is much more efficiently created without such methods, by protecting the equal liberty of everyone to produce and trade. Because we are often so radically different from one another, we can easily find opportunities to gain from others while they are also gaining from us. This is one of the benefits of specialization. Understanding this much should be sufficient to reject the notion that anyone needs to be put in servitude to other people so that these others can find what they need and want. A genuine, unbriddled free market place makes that possible, one in which the government with its monopoly on physical force does not try to cherry pick who gets what and how much and when.
Apart, however, of the irrationality of interfering in people’s freedom of production and exchange, there is in this debate about extending the Bush tax cuts to those who make more than $250K a viciousness that should be entirely unwelcome among civilized men and women. This enviousness that many people harbor and which is then taken advantage of by so many politicians--and fueled by their academic instigators such as The New York Times columnist and Princeton University economist Paul Krugman--is neanderthal, barbaric, totally unbecoming of people who live in a complex society and who have only the faintest idea of how others earn their resources. To have cultivated this envy toward those who are economically better off is really no different from cultivating it toward those who have superior talents or other assets in their lives, such as good health and good looks. To pick on such people is totally unjust and pointless.
Some, of course, try to peddle the notion that the very rich really owe it all to society--which is to say, to politicians and law enforcement--as if it were the referees at a game who scored points! But that is a fabrication and rationalization aimed to sooth one’s guilty conscience for harboring the envy of those who happen to be better off. Nothing good can come from it and a lot of ill will and needless acrimony is fostered by it all.
We have a very fine model for understanding economic differences among people in the field of competitive athletics. Sportsmanship is part of it, whereby competitors at all the different levels of achievement and skill live in harmony instead of hating one another and insisting on placing extra burdens on the successful. (Where there is a policy of handicapping it usually serves the purpose of making the sport more appealing to spectators and has nothing to do with equalization!)
I suggest we get rid of this attitude of rich bashing once and for all and shame those who refuse to do so instead of exploiting their attitude for political purposes.